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

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



This is my last BB before the AGM.  There will be a short appendix at the beginning of September for members, which will contain committee member's reports and AGM stuff and voting forms, if required.

I am getting a lot of promises for articles for future BB's, please can you try and get these together for next years editor.  (I have a list of about 20 promised articles, and the names of the people who promised them - most of them know who they are those drunken promises in the pub are not forgotten!!!)

Sorry to those of you who were expecting a Five BuddIes article, but due to circumstances beyond my control, the Five Bubbles article and survey will now appear in the next BB.

The next BB will be shortly after the AGM, so make life easy for next years editor and send the articles through now!!


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


Caving and BEC News

Nominations for the 1998/9 Committee - Nigel Taylor

As Secretary I now formally call for nominations in writing for candidates for election for the 1998/9 BEC Committee for the AGM on Saturday 3rd October.  Nominations must be in writing, and be seconded by another BEC member.  Only paid up members are eligible, and to make it clear as I have often been asked, probationary members are eligible to stand.

Nominations must be received by the Secretary by Friday 4th September :

(also this is the date of the September committee meeting) - to both comply with the constitution and enable me to organise and circulate any ballot papers if an election is required. (Constitution 5b-l)  All the present members automatically are re-nominated to stand again unless they express otherwise.

Note from the Editor: -

Reports from Committee members need to be with the Editor by the 29th August.  A short AGM BB Appendix with voting forms and these reports will be posted to all BEC members shortly after the weekend of the 5th September.

Members News

Members should be advised that the committee has given an indefinite ban to a former member John Williams, A.K.A. "Jingles", as a result of his steadfast refusal to either furnish receipts or repay clubs monies advanced to him

New Members

We would like to welcome new members Kevin Jones and Toby Limmer to the BEC.  We also wish to welcome Vince Simmonds back to the club.


Photos are still required for the photo board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL  The links from some of the main caving web-sites are now pointing to the correct site.

Committee Members on the move:

Nigel Taylor has moved to Cheddar, Somerset.  The telephone number is 01934 xxxxxxx.

Nigel's Housewarming

On 18th July, a large group of people descended on Nigel Taylor's new house in Cheddar for an entertaining evening.  Several Barrels and a large quantity of bottles were emptied, and a pig was devoured. Nigel's 'car-park/hillside' became interesting sport later on when people tried to leave.  Andy Sparrow was the first to need towing out, shortly followed by a Series 2 Landrover with no four-wheel drive; the night was finalised by a vomiting policeman!

BEC AGM and Annual Dinner

This will be held on Saturday 3rd October.  The AGM, as always, starts at 10:30am at the Belfry.  Please try to attend this year.  The dinner will be at Langford Veterinary College again this year.

The Dinner Form will be available in the AGM appendix and will also be available from the Secretary, The Hunters and Bat Product in about 3 weeks time.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE send the form to Nigel early this year. I gather he doesn't really want to phone most of the club's membership to remind them this year!!

BEC v Wessex Cricket Match

Don't forget the annual cricket match for the 'Sofa Ashes' will be taking place on 1st August after the lunchtime session (33:30pm!)  Let's see if we can win them back this year!

BEC Stomp

On the 12th September at the Village Hall the BEC are holding a stomp to raise money for replacement of the fire and help with the library.  There will be live music and lots of alcohol.  Contact Roz Bateman for more information.  Tickets will be on sale from Committee Members nearer the time.

Sea Diving

There are a few of us regularly going to the seaside at weekends to go diving.  There are also plans afoot for a weekend in Cornwall in August/early September.  If you are interested in coming along either on the weekend stuff or the weekends away, please contact either Estelle or Quackers.

Burrington Cave Atlas - Photo Picture Competition

I am running a competition for the front cover photograph or picture for the new updated Burrington Cave Atlas, which is due for release towards the end of this year.

I am looking for something that will give the feel of Burrington Combe.

The prize for the winner will be a copy of the Atlas and also a copy of the new Mendip Underground when it is released, so come on all you photographers, get snapping or delve into those archives for that picture.

(I am also looking for suitable photos for inside the Atlas, so if you don't win, you photo could still be in the Atlas, fully credited of course!)

Please send any pictures to Estelle at the editor's address in the front cover - I will endeavour to return all pictures that are sent to me with an SAE or whose owners are regulars in the Hunters.

Burrington Working Day

As per most BEC working events, there were a lot of promises, but very little support!  Many thanks to Roz Bateman, Bob Smith, Mike and Hilary Wilson and Mike's Mum for their help with this.

We had an interesting day, fighting our way through the undergrowth to check that the caves were still there!  There is still quite a bit of work to do, but if anyone fancies doing a bit of surveying let me know - Ed.

Question from Blitz: -

We have had no response to the question regarding 'how many Bertie Bats we have had over the years?' - it would be nice to get a bit of feedback on this.

BCRA Meeting

Regional One-day meeting to be held in Priddy Village Hall at 9:30am on 21/11/98.  Topics include in depth lectures on Swildons and S1. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Details to be arranged.

Burrington Conservation Day

A message from Linda Wilson, Conservation Officer, Charterhouse CC Ltd.

Stuart Sale from the BEC turned up and spent 4 hours down Charterhouse with me and some others stal cleaning.  His help, along with everyone else's, was much appreciated.  For general info we had 13 people in total from the following clubs: - MCG, MNRC, BEC, UBSS and WCC.  One team were in Charterhouse and the rest were in GB.  Helectite Grotto in GB was cleaned and work has started in the White Passage area. Most of the cleaning needed in Charterhouse has now been done.

I'll be arranging another date hopefully sometime over summer so we can start on Bat Passage and will pass the date on to you.

Floods Anniversary

As most of you are probably aware, on 10th July 1968, there were major floods, which caused many changes on Mendip, the most significant being the loss of the 40' in Swildons.

For the 30th Anniversary on Friday 10th July this year a group of people piped some of the water back over the 40' and had a party down there, with strawberries and champagne. Several people had great fun climbing a ladder on the 40' in rather wet conditions!


A Note from your Caving Secretary

As Caving Secretary I have been most disappointed in the membership of this club's response to trips and requests for booking trips in Yorkshire and other areas.  I have had no response to the multiple requests in previous Belfry Bulletins for members to contact me if they wanted trips anywhere.

After a complaint from a member stating that new members were complaining about not being able to get trips, I listed some Mendip and also an OFD trip in the last BB and trips have also been listed on the board in the Belfry.  I have had no response to any of these trips.  I am loathed to get permits for Yorkshire and Derbyshire caves as with the general lack of interest by the club, I am sure that these permits would not be used and we could potentially be preventing other clubs from going into the cave.

Another passing comment is with the Cuthbert's leaders.  I changed the lock on 1st May and despite a letter going to all leaders advising them of the change, and requesting the old key to be returned for replacement, there are still a lot of BEC leaders who do not have the new key.

It is a shame that apart from a small few who are digging and caving, and a few who still go away on expeditions, the club appears to be virtually inactive.  Of those who are caving, very few are putting their trips in the caving log book at the Belfry; this is the club's history, you only have to look at the old logs in the library from the 60's, 70's and 80's to realise that.

The Hut Engineer, Nick, with the help of a few friends, has done a sterling job on renovations on the hut over the last few months, as anyone who has visited the Belfry recently will have seen.  It's a shame that invariably very few members and guests inhabit the hut on a regular basis and use these new facilities; you only have to look at the hut log to see that.

I am not going to list further trips in the calendar as per the last BB, but only advise you here, that if you are looking for company to cave with, a few friends and I cave most Tuesdays and Sundays, give me a call on 01458 446574.  If you want 'off Mendip' trips, let me know and I will try to book them for you.

Andy Thomas


A Unique Glaze

By Chas Wethered

Having been a studio potter for a few years prior to my moving to Mendip I had formulated the idea of using digging spoil to make a ceramic glaze.  I had read of potters using found raw materials in the blending of glazes.  A potter of my acquaintance had used alluvial mud from the River Darent in Kent to make a rather good stoneware glaze.

A first and major setback to my plan was that it took nearly two years to get my workshop built and up and running, it also took a lot of hard to find beer tokens, but once work was completed and the power connected I was ready to experiment.  I had been working with the regulars at Five BuddIes Sink on as many Wednesday evenings as I could manage from almost the onset of digging, so like the rest, knew the dig spoil intimately.  Even surface work dramatically increases the thickness and weight of an oversuit!  It also colours any clothing and skin to a rich red that resembles the Masai warriors of East Africa!  This boded well, there had to be a high iron oxide content and of course due to the site a reasonable amount of lead too.  There were other trace metals mentioned in post digging sessions in The Hunters.

One Wednesday about a year into work on the dig I took a 19 litre bucket and emptied a good bag-full of mud and chunks of rock into it, this was then wrapped in a clean bin liner as Robin was being "overly precious" about the interior of his car. The sample was taken from about 25 to 30 feet down from the second shaft on the Stockhill Wood side of the road. My first task was to top up the spoil with tap water, adding therefore chlorine and fluoride but this happens when all glazes are made up.  I let the mixture settle for a few days and then sieved some of the mud through an 80-mesh lawn (not grass, a sieve) adding more water to thin down; the sediment allowing the maximum amount of slurry through the sieve.  Having discarded rocks and other detritus I now had a second bucket with about 12 litres of red liquid.  I let this settle for a few days then took off 3 to 4 litres of the clear water from the settled slurry.  Then the brew was stirred to the consistency single cream (a finger dipped into the slurry given an even coating).

Two previously made test tiles, Biscuit fired to 1015°C in my electric kiln, were coated in Five Buddies slurry, one thickly the other thinly.  When dry these were placed in the kiln with other ware glazed with several colours then fired to 1285°C.  A day to fire, a day to cool down makes for a somewhat agitated potter.

Opening a Glost fired kiln is a mixture of extreme emotions; anticipation both optimistic and pessimistic, excitement and disappointment are simultaneous.  The order for a special occasion has either cracked, bloated, crawled; pinholed or turned out really well, paranoia?  Maybe.  What about the Five Buddies Sink Glaze?  For once doubts were cast aside; the tiles were now a rich slightly metallic deep plum red, shiny, textured and very opaque.  Thickness of the coating made very little difference.  Test successful so now on to dipping some pots.  I chose to use mugs, as these were likely to sell (more optimism).  So my next Glost firing included four mugs coated like sieving our oversuits in dig spoil refined by sieving but needing no additions of fritting agents.  The only extra was a lip dip in a shiny white glaze due to the rather course texture of the main glaze, unpleasant when drinking. Once again it was with trepidation I opened the kiln to find my fears were unfounded, the mugs were all I had hoped for.  The lip dip made an interesting colour and took away any sharp texture making use comfortable.  I gave one to J'Rat so that others may see it in use at Bat Products and express interest in owning one or more.  Martin Torbett on seeing the prototypes ordered six, I offered mugs for sale at the Caver's Fair in July, single handled and two handled cider mugs with some success.  If you haven't got one yet don't despair.  I have some left and can take orders for customised pots at popular prices (popular to me that is!).


Glaze: An impervious surface on a pot, not necessarily shiny.

Glost Firing: Firing the glaze onto the pot.

Biscuit Firing: A low temperature firing which turns clay to pottery/non impervious such as flowerpots etc.

Fritting Agents: Materials such as sand, which adds silica to clays and glazes to give glass content.


The '68 Floods - Saving Goodbye to the Old '40'

Peter Glanvill, July 7th 1998.

It was the 10th July 1968 - I had done about 50 caving trips by then and 5 trips below the 40 foot in Swildons including my first trip beyond sump 1 the previous summer down to Sump 2.  It was therefore with some trepidation the seventeen year old Glanvill accompanied those 2 'highly experienced' cavers Rose and Chipchase on a planned trip the North West Stream Passage which would be by far the hardest trip I had done to that date.  The weather was thundery and we arrived at Priddy during a particularly torrential storm to sup our pints in the Vic while gazing out over the temporary duck pond, which was the Green.  Still, it cannot rain like that all day the other two reasoned and off we went to pay our shillings to Farmer Main.*  There was a certain tension in the party as we squelched across the fields to the entrance but it hadn't been raining for an hour and nobody was going to chicken out at this point.

Pete and Nick who knew the cave better than I did felt water levels were normal although they were higher than I had ever seen before.  We soon reached the Forty and stood gazing over the edge thinking about floods.  My log notes 'Oliver Lloyd's natural pipe seemed to be doing it's job quite efficiently' - a reference to the then current controversy regarding stream diversion tactics at the top of the pitch. At this point we started to examine the stream and decided it was looking rather turbid.  Suddenly the team unanimously threw a wobbler and we left the cave sharpish our imaginations going into overdrive at every constriction. As old Mr. Main said, steady rain isn't the problem but thunderstorms were dangerous.  Several hours later there was another storm, the cave flooded and the Forty was flushed away leaving us as the last three people to ever watch a stream cascading down it.

(* Albert Main spelt his name without an e; it’s now spelt Maine.)

My next Swildons trip was on the 16 August in a much-altered cave. Hay could be seen hanging from the stalactite above and opposite the top of the Twenty!


The photograph of the entrance was taken three days after the flood. I can be certain of that because that was the next time I was on Mendip when we did Sludge Pit Hole - which had also flooded.

The ’68 velvet Bottom Washout - Photo – Peter Glanvill

Michael Glanvill and the manor Farm Collapse - Photo – Peter Glanvill


Note on the '68 Floods

By Brian Prewer

Yes indeed I did go down Swildons the day after the great flood of '68.  I believe Willie Stanton was the first down on the morning after but I joined a party of local cavers the following evening.

We had already heard that the 40' had gone and finding it somewhat hard to visualise that a pitch could disappear, we set off.  The stream was almost back to normal by the evening but we were amazed by the amount of recently cut hay that had been blown everywhere by the storm.  At one stage, it must have clogged the entrance and caused the whole depression to fill to overflowing!  The bursting of this hay dam and the resulting flood pulse may have been the reason the Water Rift was scoured out.  Arriving at Water Chamber, we soon realised that the Water Rift had been deepened by about 30' with the water pressure finally bursting through the stal blockage about 8' up from the bottom of the pitch.  We then visited the remaining passages in the Upper Series.  It became apparent that with one exception, the whole of the Upper Series had flooded to the roof.  The one exception was the Boulder Chamber in the Long Dry way - how did we know it had all been flooded - there was hay hanging from the roofs of all the passageways including the Old Grotto and the roof above the 20' Foot Pot.  I'm glad I wasn't down that day!


BEC vs Wessex Cricket Match


Saturday 1st August 3pm Eastwater Farm




"How much longer are you going to be in that bathroom?!"


St Cuthbert's Swallet Maintenance

By Becky Campbell

25 April 1998

Present: Graham (Jake) Johnson, Roger (Slim) Haskett, & Rebecca Campbell (token female observer). Graham and Roger fixed a sturdy fixed ladder within the concrete entrance pipes of the cave.  The ladder is fixed to the pipe with several bolts to prevent movement.  It is of solid rigid build, in line with other fixed ladders found further into the system.

Belfry Maintenance


The Belfry has seen much work during the last few months; in fact it is becoming the smartest caving residence in Priddy.  This is totally due to the vision of club members combined with the capabilities and commitment of the Hut Engineer and a small band of regular Belfry residents, supported during the working weekend by still more willing helpers.

The kitchen has been improved beyond recognition, although work is still ongoing.  During April several wall units were acquired at minimal cost to the club.  These supply much needed storage space for members and guests alike.

Estelle Sandford organised the improvement of the gas pipe work. This means that all the original pipe work has been replaced and the second cooker (donated by Walt next door) is now installed. The Belfry's cooking facilities have grown to 12 gas rings, 2 ovens, two grills, toaster and a microwave.

The Hut Engineer (Nick Mitchell) ably assisted by the Deputy Hut Warden (Bob Smith), have also erected a solid 'breakfast bar', which replaces the old table that used to serve as a low work surface next to the cooker.  This smart addition is built from a skeleton of concrete blocks, faced with wood and surfaced with a grey kitchen worktop (all donated by Nick). It is built to a standard work surface level and will provide tidy storage for guest food boxes.

At the same time as the breakfast bar was constructed, the boys installed the Belfry bar.  This matches the breakfast bar and has been furnished with wooden pelmet (also donated by Nick), spirit optics (all kindly donated) and shelves for the glasses (donated by Martin Grass).  It has been built to the highest standards, being exactly the same height as the Hunters bar.  It grows smarter by the week, as work continues by our resident chippy and Hut Engineer, the one and only Nick Mitchell.  There have been only two complaints about the bar, not surprising in a club of 'bar-room mountaineers'.


Working Weekend

16/17 May 1998

By Becky Campbell

A vote of thanks goes out to all present during the working weekend: Nick Mitchell, Graham Johnson, Bob Smith, Nigel Taylor, Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Martin Selfe, Henry Bennett, Antoinette (Henry's companion) Alex Gee, Pete Bolt, Mike Willet, Guy Munnings Roz Batemen, Vince Simmonds, Estelle Sandford and Rebecca Campbell.

Nick's working weekend, saw the much-needed replacement of the bunkroom fire escape door and frame. This was painted during the following week.  Other work undertaken included: painting the front door; fixing the door mechanism on the front door; completion of the main room notice board which is now surfaced with insulation board (no more broken pins) maintenance work and repainting of the Belfry skeleton; installation of an additional electric socket spur in the kitchen to increase the quota of fixed sockets by six; much gardening work and an unsavoury poke at the blocked Belfry drain.

Graham Johnson continued this drain work the following week, only to find that the culprit was a disgusting mesh of female sanitary devices.  Please try to ensure that all such items are put in the bin, not the toilet, in future.  We also have a slight problem with some well-meaning member who is intent on destroying the Belfry cesspit by helpfully (!!!) pouring bleach down the toilet.

For the unenlightened, I feel the need to explain that the cesspit works by the presence of natural bacteria which breakdown the solid matter into a substance capable of soaking away into the surrounding ground.  By adding bleach, the bacteria are destroyed, the solid matter does not decompose and the cesspit fills up rather than retaining a relatively constant level.  Please do not use bleach in the Belfry.

Work on the Belfry has never been isolated to working weekends and with the support of the club's active members; work is scheduled to continue throughout the summer. Amongst the Hut Engineer's many plans, the kitchen still requires tiling and tiling is also to be expanded in the showers.  There are also plans to replace the inefficient water heater in the kitchen with the instant hot water of an ex-shower unit.  Should any members wish to help out please do not hesitate to contact the hut engineer.  He knows more than I do.

There has been an improvement in non-member nights in this financial period and it may be as a result, at least in part, of the improvements to the bunkroom and Belfry floor that were undertaken last year.  With this current zeal by the young membership to invest their own time and efforts in improving the club's most tangible asset, I believe that this trend will improve.  It also gives all those involved something to be very proud of, a pride which others may seek to attain by joining our bar-room mountaineers.


The Amalgamation Song

Tune: Original
Author: S.J. Collins
Source: Alfie

We used to have varieties of clubs and of societies,
We often wonder why it is we kept 'em,
Like the Axbridge and the BEC, the Wessex and the MCG,
The Speleos, MNRC and Shepton.
When we amalgamated on one thing we all insisted,
To see perpetuated names of clubs that once existed.

Chorus:     We're the Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.
                We go caving, climbing, digging, diving, roaming,
                Round from pub to pub.
                we don't care if our thirst we can't alleviate,
                as long as nobody tries to abbreviate,
                The Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.

In order alphabetical our names look quite poetical, 
It seemed a good theoretical solution.
One that we could all agree upon and get committees working on,
When drawing up our present constitution.
We were the Wessex Cave Club now we're members of the shower,
But we can hold our cider now for damn nigh half an hour.

Chorus:     We're the Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.
                Each year although we grumble we keep forking
                Out our annual sub.
                With fright, above the Forty we'll no longer trouble you,
                As long as nobody leaves out the "W"
                Of the Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.

Although we sometimes disagree on points of speleology,
We speak with great authority on boozing.
And after all the pubs shut we, in buildings of antiquity,
Will supervise the art of tea infusing,
And if we're vague on what's defined by vadose and phreatic,
About our title, you will find our views are quite emphatic.

Chorus:     We're the Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.
                We've got six huts on Mendip, where we
                Eat and sleep and cook our grub.
                Whichever one you go to there'll be tea when you enter it,
                As long as nobody leaves out the centre bit,
                Of the Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.

Now we're amalgamated and completely integrated,
We've become co-ordinated as expected.
But with other clubs from near and far we're bound to be particular,
And ensure their applications are rejected.
For even at this moment all our names get people squinting,
When they see our club notepaper with that solid mass of printing.

Chorus:     Of the Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.
                It's not that we're standoffish or enjoy delivering a snub,
                But although a few more clubs amongst our number would be pleasant,
                It would make our title longer,
                Than the darned thing is at present.
                The Axbridge, Bristol, Mendip, Shepton,
                Wessex Exploration Club.



Mendip Cavers Fair Circa 1998

By Mike Wilson

Organisers A. Sparrow, A. Butcher plus a cast of willing unpaid extras!  As is the case with these events on Mendip, very little interest was shown in the Fair right up to the last minute (in spite of the advertising and pre-listing of events well in advance).  On the day registration pottered along steadily with all events being well attended. In the marquee Quipu displayed their wares, whilst outside the Dragon products van provided friendly competition! The campsite (next to the graveyard) was quite full and looked quite homely with all the varied tents in residence. Trebor provided an artistic trip down Cuthbert's, Estelle and myself provided two tourist trips down the same, both well attended!

The highlight of the day was the Das Boot competition organised by the Mendip Mafia, Jake and Vince, assisted by Bob and Nick, etc., the prize being a 50-pound voucher from Quipu thanks to Paul and his wife!  Incidental prizes were gold wellies or tags worth a pint at the Stomp.  The teams set off merrily at 5:30pm i.e. 6:00pm Mendip time, not knowing that a clue was placed in a wet spot in Swildons hopefully they all got wet!  Axbridge C.G. were the winners!

On to the highlight of the weekend - The Stomp.  The band proved to be excellent and provided good quality music all night long.  Andy Sparrow managed to dance with himself (a good sign Andy) and Paul of Quipu watched his wife, ditto 'come on Paul'. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, met a lot of old friends and finished up at the new Belfry Bar, being ably served by Bob (John Boy) and 'gappy' Nick.  We sang along well with Rogers able lead, could have done with some more old 'uns' who knew 'They Words'.  Having gone native for the weekend I had to test the bunkhouse and found it to be quite comfy and fairly quiet!  (On this weekend at least)

I am sure the Fair was a success and many thanks to all the people who put in a lot of free time to assist and organise the event.


The Caver's Fair

By Andy Sparrow

The Cavers Fair has had a chequered history since the first event in the Forest of Dean a few years ago. It was intended to be a more informal and practical event than the BCRA Conference with the chance to do some caving rather than just talking about it.  The second Cavers Fair in Derbyshire was a riotous affair very well supported by local and visiting cavers with all sorts of revelry, fun and games to complement the caving trips, training sessions and special interest workshops.

The next year the event moved to Yorkshire where it proved to be a dismal flop with a very poor attendance.  Then it was off to Wales and Penwyllt for a successful event, but at a smaller scale and without some of the fun.

And so this year it was our turn, with Alan Butcher and myself organising on behalf of the NCA and CSCC.  The problem with arranging a program for this event is the impossibility of predicting what the attendance will be.  Anything from 50-250 seemed possible and cavers being cavers the fact that only 16 advanced bookings were returned was not likely to prove any indication of what to expect.  Sure enough come Friday night the cavers rolled in and the organised sessions rapidly filled up.  Time to employ plan B - recruit local cavers to run assorted caving trips.

Thanks are due to all the good people who volunteered to lead sessions throughout the weekend.

The event ran from the village hall and the marquee outside (which we borrowed from the Folk Festival). Aileen and Butch did a fine job of providing sausage butties and drinks while I attempted to shepherd people off with various instructors and trip leaders.  No real problems but I did have to explain to one lady that sadly she could not take her dog down Swildons for a ropework session.  A few people remarked that the site seemed very quiet during the day naturally, since everybody was off underground!  We had training sessions in Gough's Cave (thanks to manager Mr Hugh Cornwell) covering SRT rescue and ladder techniques, sessions in Swildons on basic ropework, SRT rigging, and cave photography.  Meanwhile caving trips were busy in several systems including Cuthbert's (thank you BEC leaders!).

Everyone was back in time for the Boot Race - well organised by Vince, Jake and Alex.  The race was all about roaming over North Hill picking up the heaviest possible weight of concrete filled wellies from various spots - including a short way down Swildons.  I didn't see the course but those returning looked wet and knackered - I assume by the lack of black eyes that Trevor must have been absent.  The Axbridge came first and picked up the £50.00 token donated by Quip-u (who had a trade stand in the marquee and even managed to sell a few things).  A barbecue organised by the MRO followed and then a truly fine stomp with an excellent band. About 120 cavers from around the country had a really wild time - a great night.

Come Sunday and things eventually began to happen around the site - so I am told.  It was an early start for me down to Split Rock for the great SRT event.  Steve Tomalin (GSS) and myself spent about 4 hours preparing the site with truly devious SRT routes including 'The Big V' and a Tyrolean across the quarry.  About 30 people came down during the afternoon to have a go - or simply watch in horror.  Take a look at the top and see what you missed - you can always go and rig it yourself!

All in all a great weekend and, as Butch put it - 'A triumph of under organisation'.  Thanks again to everybody who did his or her bit.



The Lads Prayer

Our farther,
Which art in barrels,
Ale by thy name,
Thy fill my pot,
Thy will be drunk,
In pub as you are in Belfry,
Give us this day,
Our daily sup,
And forgive us our spillage,
As we forgive those who pass out before us,
Lead us into temptation,
And deliver us from Lager,
For thine in the Butcombe,
The Toby and the Exmoor,
Forever and ever,


Eastwater Cavern - Digging Burnished Passage

Vince Simmonds


Burnished Passage is the most north-easterly inlet in Beechen Series.  This is a continuation of a dig started by Geoff Newton (WCC) et al.

During the period of digging a line survey into West End series was already underway.

These are extracts from my personal log book:

A bang had already been placed.


A trip to Beechen Cliff series to finish the job we were going to do Wednesday. A good trip down to the classic "13 pots" and then up the "Mud Escalator".  A rock, blocking progress, had been banged and was soon cleared and the spoil stacked precariously on one side of a steeply sloping passage.  Cleared some calcited rocks and mud, to turn a previously clean dig somewhat muddy, to reveal a draughting way on, however, not quite passable.  A bang was placed and fired, rocks self-clearing and a quick retreat to the pub because time was getting on.

5-7 -97

Cleared the previous bang at the top of Burnished Passage.  The way on was pretty hopeless.  So banged a constriction in an adjacent small "stal" blocked aven where a gap was visible about 6ft long.  Will have to wait and see what happens here.  Bang sounded virtually self clearing.


Back to Burnished Passage.  Cleared last bang (pretty effective) and had a good nose at what lay ahead. Good echo and draught and looks very good, maybe 2 more bangs to get there.  Even Jake is enthusiastic.  Might leave the survey Friday to come back for another go.

18-7 -97

Another clear and bang job.


After last weeks holiday (walking in Wales) back to Burnished Passage. Still awkward drilling, managed one shot hole before drill stopped working so did the best we could.


Another drill and bang in Burnished Passage.  Still a few more bangs, still looks good.


More drilling and banging.  A previous was not successful so drilled some more holes and tried again.  We were going to go back but were chased out by fumes. An early night in the boozer.


My birthday trip (put it in your diaries) Jake was too hung-over to bother.

Managed to squeeze through and push up tight solution tube about 25ft. Tony Jarratt went into a side passage and squeeze through into an old dig (from the wrong side) and a connection to another aven.

Not the discovery we had hoped for but never mind back to the survey.

The small round trip, to my knowledge, has not yet been completed.

Main Diggers

Vince Simmonds, Graham Johnson, Rob Taviner, Rich Blake, Tony Jarratt, Mike Willett

A brief summary of the line survey so far

A line survey into Eastwater was started on the 2-7-97 by Vince Simmonds, Graham Johnson and Rob Taviner. The main aim was to ascertain the true depth of the cave.  The survey at present (13-6-97) is at the top of" Gladmans Shaft."

However there are some oddities.  Warburton's survey is accurate, although the "Canyon" has some slight differences presumably due to the floods in 1968 washing infill from along the sides. Dolphin Pitch was obviously different because of the collapse of the original route down and subsequently the new route to "13 Pots" area.  The real surprise came when the "Ifold's" area was drawn up; there is a very significant error, which throws the whole of the survey beyond out by some degrees.  It was later discovered that this area has not, to our knowledge, ever been properly surveyed.  Our line survey will be continued into the start of "Southbank" where the aim will be to do a Grade 5 survey (weather permitting).  We then plan to go back and start re-surveying "Ifold' s".  There is a big task ahead so if people wish to assist they can contact Jake, Tav or myself. We are aiming to do the whole survey using the same set of instruments.  Tav has all the drawn up data so far, if anyone wishes to see it they should get in touch with him


North Hill Swallet

Vince Simmonds

NGR. ST55/5359.5084.  Altitude 832ft.

Originally dug by NHASA. Starting in 1965 earning the alternative title of Polar Ammon Pot due to the use of quantities of "Dr. Nobel's chemical hammer".  The breakthrough came in 1971 when "Master's Cave" was finally entered.

Due to its reputation for bad air this cave seems to have been largely avoided for the last 27 years. Since the farm no longer has a dairy herd the probable source of the air problem appears to have gone.

At the beginning of June '98 Graham Johnson and Vince Simmonds decided to venture into the cave with a notion of re-starting the dig.  A few trips followed to carry in bags and tools, during this time there was a period of heavy rain and no sign of any water backing up in the cave added to the enthusiasm

The digging is relatively easy (silt/gravel & some rocks) if not exactly comfortable, there's quite a puddle of water to lie in.

We have located the last survey station and it would appear there has been very little wash-in during the last three decades.

There has also been a tentative prod at an Inlet off "The Master's Cave" that may have some possibilities.

It's early days yet but it looks promising, so watch this space        .


Vince Simmonds, Graham Johnson, Roz Bateman, Paul Brock, Keith Savory, Carol Tapley, Mike Willett.


Wigmore Swallet - Upstream Sump 3 Extension

Vince Simmonds

A climb 10 metres above U/S sump 3 leads to a constricted opening.

November/December '95

Alex Gee and Vince Simmonds went to Sump 3 (Upstream) to put a bang at the top of the aven above the sump pool.

Rich Blake and Vince Simmonds returned a few days later to check the results.  After a bit of hammering Rich managed to squeeze through into a low mud filled passage.  We dug our way to the left to enter larger walking/stooping passage with a small stream. Downstream the passage closed down after a few metres, the stream later re-appears in the main streamway. Upstream the passage continued to an aven, which was left unclimbed due to loose boulders and mud coated walls, and a lack of climbing gear.  After the aven the passage closes down to a sand and gravel choke where the stream enters.

To the right of the breakthrough a low, narrow rift leads for about 15metres to a boulder choke. Although not a big discovery it does open up some possibility that there may be a chance of finding a bypass to the sump, if someone wants to go back and dig it.



Song: Boulder Have a Crunch on Me

Tune: Cocaine Bill
Author: R. Lawder with many other additions
Source: Alfie /GSG

Of all the caves on Mendip's face,
Our Tankard's takes pride of place.

Chorus: Singing, Boulder have a crunch, have a crunch on me
Boulder have a crunch on me.

Two boulders piled up in the air,
Many's the caver who's ventured there.

The leader said, with a puzzled frown,
"Those weren't there on the last trip down".

They came to a boulder painted red,
The sign on it said "Mind your head".

They came to a boulder painted pink,
The sign on it said "Safe, I think!"

They came to a boulder painted blue,
The sign on it said "Lawder's through"

They came to a boulder painted black,
The sign on it said "Blast you, Jack"

They came to a boulder painted green,
The sign on it was most obscene.

I came to a boulder looking lost,
The sign on it said "Sod Frank Frost"

I came to a boulder painted brown,
The sign on it was upside down.

I came to a boulder painted blue,
The sign on it said "Up your flue"

I came to a boulder looking queer,
The sign on it said "Dave was here"

I came to a boulder painted yellow,
The sign on it said "Frost fine fellow"

There's boulders in the roof, there's boulders on the floor,
There's boulders in the stream in Swildon's Four.

See Mike Holland, how absurd,
Pissing along like a clockwork turd.

I came to a boulder covered in shit,
I looked at the roof and added my bit.

I came to the boulder painted white,
The sign on it said ''Frost's alright".




A selection of pictures from the 1998 expedition by Simon brooks, OCC.

A selection of pictures from the 1998 expedition by Simon brooks, OCC.

A selection of pictures from the 1998 expedition by Simon brooks, OCC.


Balch Lecture Poster

Recently picked up at a Wells auction, the above poster has the additional penned information that the lecture was given by Balch's sister Grace.


At the same auction the writer also acquired a watercolour of the Beehive formation in Lamb Leer painted by the late Ruth Murrell and presented to H. E. Balch (WCC president) by the Wessex Cave Club on the occasion of his 80th birthday, 4th Nov 1949.            

Tony Jarratt





A message of thanks to the Mendip cavers whose annual visit to Assynt is keenly awaited by us and all our friends as we acknowledge the contribution you make to the cultural atmosphere of the pub.  Your latest visit in May was like all the others, a riot of fun, good humour and a prolific consumption of our delightful fruit juices and teas (did you do any caving at all?).

I'm sure that Tav, Tony, Richard (gob-shite, rubber man etc etc) Jake, Simon and others too numerous to mention recall the excellent slide show of caving in India, Pakistan and the more remote Assynt and of the hilarious and witty comments banded about between your lot and the fishermen from Falkirk.

A special thanks for the kind gift of your excellent home grown, mature and potent Scrumpy which Raymond found to be an excellent floor cleaner; he's also curious to know how you got the cat to squat over the container!

I'm sure that Richard would wish us to pass on his thanks to the Sutherland constabulary for the Blue Light taxi service which has recently been introduced for those who think that they can find their way home in the dark, a service that I know will be appreciated on subsequent visits.  Advance bookings can be made by calling PHART 999.

We hope that you enjoyed the curry dinner which was remarkable, not only for the quality of our food, but by the uncharacteristic silence that descended the conservatory as you devoured the food, dishes, napkins, table mats and anything that remotely smelled of curry.  That evening in the pub, the usual aroma of roll-ups and cigars was frequently augmented by an additional eye watering fog which some unkind punter attributed to the curry.  Jake however assured me that it did not smell like that when it went in!

I must confess my concern at the time for the obvious fire hazard during the night at the bunkhouse in Elphin and of my horror in the morning when the local radio station reported that the largest and most catastrophic fart ever heard in Northern Scotland was one dropped by a caver (Bristol variety) in the car park of the above bunkhouse on the morning of the 3rd of May 1998.

Suffering from a mixture of spicy food and gallons of ale, the caver gingerly attempted to squeeze one out while bending to pick up his car keys, the resultant flatulent explosion blew his entire digestive tract out of his arse.  Attending firemen hosed down his smoking guts for two hours before paramedics with breathing apparatus could begin the process of pushing them back up.

Incidentally, the wee dog that you tried to rescue returned home a few days later, I suspect that being averse to the aftermath of hot curries it waited until you had gone and the coast was clear.

On a more serious note, we thank you for your continued support and friendship and look forward as always to your future visits.

21 June 1998


The Robert E. Davies Collection

- A note by Dave Irwin

This collection of over 500 photographs housed in a large photographic album was given to J. D. Hanwell in 1986 with the intention of it being donated to Wells Museum. It is an important testament to the work of the pioneer cave divers during the years 1945 - 1955 where their activities found them pushing the frontiers of British cave exploration including such cave systems as OFD, DYO, Swildon's Hole and Peak Cavern.

Though there is a good source of written material available through club publications, and also that of the Cave Diving Group, photographic images display an extra dimension that adds considerably to our knowledge of the work of the cave divers in the early years. It was a time when home-made equipment produced in the garage was the norm using modified ex-naval equipment available in the ex-WD surplus stores.  It worked to a degree and considerable progress in cave exploration was made using this equipment compared with that made to enable Sump I in Swildons Hole to be passed.  During the late 1940s and 1950s, diving equipment was crude by modern standards based upon re-breathing apparatus.  This was very distinct from the aqualung now in common usage - the pressure balanced regulator - equipment whose fundamental design features were developed from military fighter aircraft oxygen/air mix breathing sets in use from the late 1950s and the miniaturised breathing sets developed between 1958 and 1962.  The author himself was involved with the design of the Normalair tilt valve device marketed for aqua-lung divers in the early 1960s which was quickly superseded by the pressure balanced piston regulator designed by various American companies.

The photographic collection amassed by Bob Davies included work by Luke Devenish and Lewis Railton, no mean photographers, which collectively gives a unique record of these pioneering attempts to explore the limits of submerged cave passages known at that time.

The writer has selected a number of photographs from the collection hopefully to illustrate the equipment, individuals who were pushing the limits and general scenes of activity at the surface before, during and after the dives.  It is also to be hoped that the selection will ensure that cavers are aware of this collection to ensure its survival when placed in the museum. Space is the limiting factor and so those photographs illustrated here are only a superficial coverage of the whole.

In the event that this magnificent collection is lost, destroyed or otherwise damaged the writer has scanned each photograph and transferred it to an electronic storage medium - the CD-ROM - in fact two CD-ROMs having a total of 850Mb.  This has the advantage in that it can be copied and made widely available to speleo-researchers and historians.  It is hoped that the CDG can come to some arrangement with Jim Hanwell, or, when the collection is lodged in the museum, the Trustees of Wells Museum, to be able to make copies of the CD-ROMs available to all who are interested in the subject.

The photographs are scanned TIFF files at 300dpi and on some machines retrieval of the images may take some time.  Consequently most of the image files are between 1 and 5Mb.  All the associated pencilled annotations added by R. E. Davies have been included in the scans.

Any 486 computer will handle the files whether using Windows 3.1x or Windows 95 but the RAM needs to be fairly large for rapid downloading of the images.


Above left: Grandfather of all Aflos. Mk.1
Above right: OFD. Easter 1946, Jack Sheppard, Graham Balcombe, TW (?). Cyril Powell.

Below left: DYO, 3rd diving operation: Bob Davies, Ken Hurst, Les Hawes, Phil Price, Lewis Railton.  Photo: Les Hawes.
Below Right: DYO, 3rd diving operation: PHP, Ken Hurst, Bob Davies,


Above:  Wookey Hole, February 1948 – Graham Balcombe in kit.  Photo – Luke Devenish.

Above:  Wookey Hole, February 1948 - ½ Pint (John Dwyer) George Lucy and ‘Sett’

Above:  Bob Davies’ Aflo, 1949  


Above:  Wookey hole, April 1948 – Don Coase, John Ifold and G.W. Mack.  Photo: Luke Devenish

Above:  Wookey Hole, April 1949 – John Dwyer, ‘Digger’ Harris, Don Coase, Pat Ifold, Sybil Bowden-Lyle and ‘Sett’



Funny Expressions!

A French radio station closed its programming day with this note:  "We hope you have enjoyed our nocturnal emissions and will be with us tomorrow for more."

When a French Canadian politician was applauded by an American audience, he beamed, "I thank you for giving my wife and me the clap!  I thank you from the heart of my bottom!"

A notice in a Madras, India, newspaper proclaimed:  "Our editors are colleged and write like the Kipling and the Dickens."

In The Moscow Times an ad under the heading "interpreting" advised, "bet us your letter of business translation do.  Every people in our staffing know English like the hand of their back.  Up to the minuet wise-street phrases, don't you know, old boy."

In a Sarajevo hotel:  Guests should announce abandonment of their rooms before 12 o'clock, emptying the room at the latest until 14 o'clock for the use of the room before 5 at the arrival after the 16 o'clock at the departure will be billed as one more night.

In a hotel in Weifang, China:  Invisible service is available for your rest not being disturbed.

From a hotel brochure in Qingdao:  Hua Tian Hotel is among the few best foreign affairs hotels.

In the brochure of an Italian hotel in the Dolomites area: Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations.  There is a French widow in every room.  We can offer you a commodious chamber, with balcony imminent to a romantic gorge.  We hope you want to drop in. In the close village you can buy jolly memorials for when you pass away.

In a brochure promoting a Sorrento hotel:  Syrene Bellevue Hotel joins a modem functional equipment with a distinguished and smart style of the 18th century.  It is located on the seas, far off the centre a few minutes afoot and owing to a number of gardens and sunny terraces, guarantee is given for an ideal stay in stillness and absolute rest.  The restaurant salon with a large view of the Gulf of Naples, a restaurant service with a big choice, the private beach to be reached by a lift from inside directly, complete the undiscussable peculiarities of this unit.

From a Venezuelan travel brochure:  In this Expedition you will know the highets waterfall in the world.  From Canaima, through the Sabana, the Jungles and the rivers Carrao and Churun, you'll enjoy one of the biggets emotions of this life.  And the facilities Camp.  Guides as natives, all experts, will bring you trough troubles waters, just where a few have made it.  Be you one of them.  Meals in open fire never taste so goo.

On a "family style" restaurant in Hong Kong: Come Broil Yourself at Your own Table.

On a Chinese menu: Mr.  Zheng and his fellow workers like to meet you and entertain you with their hostility and unique cooking techniques.

On another Chinese menu:  Special cocktails for women with nuts

On a Greek menu:  Spleen omelet, fisherman's crap soup, calf pluck, bowels.

Outside a Mexico City disco:  Members and Non-Members Only

Sign on a ferry in San Juan harbour:  In case of emergency, the lifeguard are under the seat in the center of the vessel.

In a jeweller's window in India:  We shoot earholes.

On a long-established New Mexico dry cleaners:  38 years on the same spot.

In a Los Angeles dance hall:  Good clean dancing every night but Sunday.

On a New York convalescent home:  For the sick and tired of the Episcopal Church.

Outside a country shop:  We buy junk and sell antiques.

In the vestry of a New England church:  Will the last person to leave please see that the perpetual light is extinguished.

Somewhere in England in an open field untouched by human presence: Do not throw stones at this sign.

In a Bangkok dry cleaner's: Drop your trousers here for best results.

Outside a Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking.

In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency:  Take one of our horse-driven city tours - we guarantee no miscarriages.

In a Tokyo bar:  Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.

Italian Hotel Brochure:  This hotel is renowned for its piece and solitude.  In fact, crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude.

Rome hotel:  Fire! It is what can doing, we hope.  No fear. Not ourselves.  Say quickly to all people coming up down everywhere a prayer. Always is a clerk.  He is assured of safety by expert men who are in the bar for telephone for the fighters of the fire to come out.

Polish Tourist Brochure:  As for the tripes serves you at the Hotel Monopol, you will be singing its praise to your children as you lie on your deathbed.

French Hotel:  A sports jacket may be worn to dinner, but no trouser.

French Restaurant Menu:  Extract of fowl, peached or sunnyside up.

French Swimming Pool:  Swimming is forbidden in absence of the Savior.

Spanish Hotel Ad:  The provision of a large French widow in every room adds to the visitors comfort.

Madrid Restaurant Menu:  Tarts of the house.

Madrid Hotel:  Peoples will left the room at midday of tomorrow in place of not which will be more money for hole day.

Athens Restaurant Menu:  Chopped cow with a wire through it. *Bowels in sauce** *shishkebab **tripe


Vietnam 97

The Fourth Joint British/Vietnamese Caving Expedition (Phase One).

By Snablet


The expedition was split into two phases.  Phase 1 would take place over 5 weeks, with aims of continuing the work carried out by the 1990, '92 and '94 expeditions within the Troung Soan Massif of Quang Binh province.  The plan was to continue exploration of the Hang Vom cave systems and to locate and explore the top sinks to the Phong Nha cave systems.  Phase 2 would take place over 2 weeks and continue the work carried out by the 1995 reconnaissance trip Cao Bang province.  We were joined in our expedition by cavers from the Geological Department of Hanoi University and local villagers.  This write-up covers the first phase of the expedition, as it was the phase I took part in.

Banged up in Ban Ban

Hieu (Hanoi University) stunned the snake with his Vietnamese - English dictionary - giving proof to the saying "the word is mightier than the sword".  Dr Phai (Hanoi University) grabbed the dazed snake and flung it overboard.  The six wheel drive Russian truck had just driven through another overhanging tree, causing the contents of the tree to shower down on us.  Normally this causes us Western cavers to nearly jump out of the truck in fright of the slithering, crawling and wriggling creatures which fall from above; this in turn, causes great hilarity amongst our local guides and porters.  This time however, it was the locals who were on the verge of jumping out of the truck ahead of us, "it must be dangerous this time".  The journey up the Ho Chi Minh Trail was incredibly rough; the high clearance Russian trucks (used for the haulage of rattan) would regularly ground out along the deep ruts.  The journey is also cramped, half the truck is full of rice, diesel, rice wine and cabbages the other half is filled with 16 people and caving kit. The drive along the trail is broken up by regular stops, mainly due to breakdowns of other rattan trucks as well as ours, but also for lighting joss sticks at every shrine and sale of rice wine to all the other HCM trail users.

We dropped off the Hang Vom team at Kilometre 24, a mere 4 hours from our base camp in Son Trach (Kilometre 0).  The team consisted of Howard Limbert (N.C.C.), Martin Holroyd (N.C.C.), Paul Callister (N.P.C.), Andy Mackie (N.P.C.), Dr. Vu Van Phai, local porters and guides.  We would try to arrange a truck back to meet them in 5 days.  The rest of us, Deb Limbert (N.C.C,), Simon Davis (Croydon Caving Club), Trevor Wailes (Tasmanian Cave Club), Nguyen Hieu and I, travelled on a further 4 hours to the village of Ban Ban at kilometre 48 where we encountered a sign reading (in English)  "Frontier post, restricted area". We were promptly placed under arrest by members of the local garrison.

We were accommodated in the local hospital (The Ban Ban Hilton).  It did have bars (on the windows), although the doors were not kept locked.  We were given instruction as to what we could or could not do, whilst we waited for a decision from Hanoi High Command as to whether or not we would be allowed to proceed onto the top sinks or whether we would be allowed to go home, for that matter. Ban Ban is an extremely idyllic village populated by the very friendly minority Ruc Caroong tribe.  During our 5 day enforced visit, apart from playing a lot of cards, we were invited to a festival of tradition: drinking, traditional music and dancing interspersed with music by Boney M.  We also discovered a bar in the village and providing we were granted permission to cave in the area (we were) the hospital would make an excellent base camp.

Reece to the Top sinks

Jungle walking in Vietnam is always entertaining. If a path exists it will always take the steepest, most direct route to the top of every hill, followed by an equally steep route down. Paths never seem to follow the contours or valleys.  The reason behind this is because the extremely valuable perfume tree only grows on the tops of the highest hills, and the majority of paths that lead into the jungle, go in search of this elusive tree.  (We will have to convince the locals that perfume trees grow by cave entrances).  Personally I reckon our route has more to do with our guides wicked sense of humour. Once, we swapped our 70-litre rucksacks with those of our guides.  Miraculously, paths that avoided crawling under branches and tracking up to the hilltops suddenly emerged.


Hospital in Ban Ban - our Prison for a week and base camp for the rest of the expedition. Photo - Snablet

Three and a half hours into our trek from the hamlet of Ban Ban, we arrived at a sizeable river called Khe Rhy (Grass Stream).  Downstream, in the distance, large limestone cliffs loomed several hundred metres out of the forest; this was the southernmost edge of the Truong Soan Massif. A brief break was taken to enable the extraction of a dozen or so leeches from our boots (leeches don't seem to like water, the deeper the water gets the higher up the body the leeches go). After consultation of our map, we presumed Khe Rhy to be the second top sink for the Phong Nha and Hang Toi systems. If our theory was right, Khe Rhy stream sank at the 'limestone/other type of rock boundary', i.e. the base of the cliffs.

After 1/2 hour of slippery cobbles and falling into the river we arrived at an insignificant sink. A small entrance could be seen, but it didn't inspire us with confidence.  However, a large dry riverbed continued along the base of the cliff. "Maybe there is a flood entrance" - there was.  The entrance of Hang Khe Rhv was of similar proportions to Peak cavern and led off into the cliff.  Our hopes were high.  The active sink was effectively acting as a sieve for this impressive fossil entrance. We hoped that this would prevent the cave from being blocked with forest debris.  Our previous day's experience at the first top sink, when all we found was large log chokes was still fresh in our mind.

"Yoh! Exploration time!"  However there was a small drawback.  On our journey along the HCM Trail from Son Trach to Ban Ban, one of our large tackle bags mysteriously vanished (not stolen, of course, because theft doesn't exist in communist countries).  Unfortunately the bag contained our rope, medical kit and a week's worth of carbide. The remaining carbide was rationed (two carbide lights today and two the next).  Caving along 40-50m wide passages strewn with slippery cobbles on a Petzl gloom is not the easiest of tasks. Simon, Trevor and I surveyed our way in, whilst Deb checked out all the possible leads and the way on.  The entrance series consisted of a wide, meandering bedding-type passage dotted with deep, static pools and cobbles.  I encountered my first bit of Vietnamese wild life (other than several species of leeches and the snake, that is) whilst walking backwards preparing to read off another 50m tape length: my feet where thrown from beneath me and I nearly shat myself.  After much panicking and cursing, I managed to disentangle myself from a 1½ m long by 200 mm thick eel, which I had just stepped on (later, when I told our local guides about the eel, they instantly organised a hunting party and worried whether their pot would be big enough).  800m into the cave, we encountered a T-junction through which the main stream flowed.  We chose to follow the upstream passage, which led past numerous gours, stal and the occasional column.  We deduced that the water (approx. the same amount as in OFD) must have come from the first top sink (Khe Roung).  Upon reaching a long swim we decided to retire back to the entrance camp with 1.8 km of great passage in the survey book and no ends in sight.

Hieu in Back Passage - Hang Khe Rhy.  Photo Howard Limbert


Jet Highway - Hang Khe Rhy. Photo - Howard Limbert

Later, back in camp, we encountered a slightly bigger version of Vietnamese wildlife.  We were awoken by a commotion of shots being fired into the air, pots and pans being banged, and shouting.  Within seconds, a fire worthy of any Guy Fawkes celebration was built and ablaze.  There was a large Ho (tiger) in the camp, and our Vietnamese friends were rightly worried, for in 1992 a tiger had attacked, maimed or killed seven local villagers. The tactics adopted by the cavers was to pull their bivi bags over their heads and hope it would go away.  We moved camp the next day and went in search of the third sink, leaving the exploration of Khe Rhy for a return visit. The third sink was reached by mid morning. Khe Thi, a similar sized stream to the first and second sink also sank into the base of large cliffs.  Hang Khe Thi consisted of a scramble down some large boulders to a lake. Deb investigated the lake to no avail, it turned out to be a large sump pool.  We spent the rest of the day scouring the valley in the hope of finding another entrance.  We camped the night on a boulder pile within the cave surround by two bonfires to ward off any oversized cats.  The following day consisted of a 7 hour walk back to Ban Ban.  The walk did not do much to inspire us to visit the fourth sink; reputed to be a further ½ days walk from the third sink.

Upstream Hang Vom

At kilometre 24 down the HCM trail we rendezvoused with the other team: Howard, Martin, Cal, Andy, Hieu and guides etc. and listened to their tales of caverns measureless. Their first outing into the jungle under the guide of 'Jungle Jim' led them on a wild goose chase in search of Hang Dau Cao.  Eventually, after 2 solid days of trekking through the jungle, their guide admitted that he had never been to the caves before in his life.  Phai saved the day and found the top entrance to Hang Vom. This meant that the rest of the Hang Vom hydrological system had to be traversed (5 caves) to get to the 1994 limit of exploration.  A logistical epic ensued to get 1 guide, 3 porters, and our local committee representative through the cave systems, one of which included a pitch.  Martin became a human cross-channel-ferry, taking non swimming guides, porters and equipment across the many lakes and canals within the cave systems.  The first excursion located and explored Hang Ho (tiger cave) and discovered the entrance to Hang Over. Ironically, the journey from the far caves back to the Ho Chi Minh trail took no more than 2 hours.

Hang Ho: The entrance had been located and the first 200m explored by the 1992 expedition.  The cave was now fully explored and resulted in 1.6 kilometres of superb cave.  Time restraints meant that upstream valley from "Total Internal Refraction" was left unexplored and would lead to more kilometres of passage within the cave, sighted in the distance.  The main route of exploration was along "Monster" passage to exit by "Swift Exit", 100m up the valley led to the entrance of Hang Over.

Hang Over: was explored on the second excursion into the jungle; it was named after Dr. Phai's session on the rice wine, to relax from his negotiations with the army.  Another huge cave, 3.25 kilometres long with passages between 30 to 125m wide.  There is still a possibility of further passage at the bottom of "The Chasm" (un-descended pitch, approx. 25m deep).  The exit from Hang Over enters a doline; Hang Pygmy continues on the other side.

Hang Pygmy: The proportions of this cave made the caving team feel like pygmies.  The 90m wide passage leads past an abandoned village used by locals for harvesting nests from the cave's swiftlet colony. The cave is 845m long and all lit by daylight from its two entrances.  This cave must be close to the village of Ruc Caroon, near where the top sink for the Hang Vom cave systems is located.

The Hang Vom Hydrological system now consists of ten caves interlinked by dolines and limestone gorges. At present, it would be possible to traverse the system from Hang Pygmy to Hang Vom, however, Ruc Caroong is not (yet) connected:




Ruc Caroong (Top sink)

Hang Pygmy

Hang Over

Hang Ho

Hang Watermelon

Hang Dany

Hang Ca (Pitch Cave)

Hang Duat (Maze Cave)

Hang Dai Cao

Hang Vom (Resurgence)





















R & R

For rest and recreation between trips to explore remote caves in the middle of the jungle, we decided to take a couple of days off.  We filled our time by exploring caves at the edge of the jungle.

Vue Tro resurgence valley - a reece. Photo - Snablet

Vue Tro resurgences: Over the course of a couple of days off, 5 entrances were located, all bar one of which either choked or sumped after a short distance.  The cave, which still has some possibility of revealing more passage, was left at the start of a deep and long canal due to lack of swimming equipment.  The locals in the area told us of a large entrance with a beautiful lake within the cave.  Unfortunately, this cave proved elusive despite many hours of searching.

Hang Len Hai Thone Tin (Information Cave): This cave was located within a karst tower at the edge of Son Trach village. The cave was used during the war as a radio relay post and a gun emplacement.

Cha Noi: Motor bikes and taxis were hired to get us as close as possible to the village of Cha Noi (our map showed three sinks at this village).  Unfortunately, we were still left with a 9 kilometre walk to get there.  This resulted in a considerable lack of time to get back to our taxis before nightfall (no lights on the bikes).  We were shown to a fossil cave near the village, which had been used to house an army regiment during the war.  Our time to check out the resurgences ran out. Both Information cave and Hang Cha Noi proved to have very little potential for major cave finds.  However, they do give an insight into the harsh conditions that the Vietnamese people endured during the course of the war.

Motor Cycle recce trip - Ferry across the Son River at Sin Trach. Photo - Snablet

Khe Rhv

Dwindling medical supplies and the extreme remoteness of Hang Pygmy necessitated that the whole team would return to Khe Rhy for a final week-long push on the system and surrounding area.  We hoped that we had not put all our eggs in one basket, only to find ourselves Ghar Paraued around the next corner.

Whilst our local guides, party officials, and army observers entertained themselves making pangolin pie, monitor lizard hot pot, snake casserole and drying 5 kilos of fish a day, we split into 2 teams and systematically explored, surveyed and photographed Hang Khe Rhy.  The cave has everything you want for a tropical expedition.  Its main drain is huge, interspersed with pristine gours, chandeliers, columns and bosses.  It is mostly stomping passage with the occasional long swims, which are interrupted, by cobbles/sand banks, allowing welcome rests.  There is hardly any crawling and only one boulder choke (although it is 300m long).  Hang Khe Rhy so far consists of 10 kilometres of superb river passage called the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which we left wide open at the start of another swim.  Water can be heard flowing over rocks in the distance. We were worried at one point that we had reached a sump (Sump or Glory) after 250m of swimming along a huge passage the roof lowered to only 1.5m.  Luckily it opened up again into a big chamber.  The "Sump or Glory" is the main danger area within the cave. Prior to its discovery, we had encountered a substantial rise in water levels due to rain in Laos.  This made traversing the river passage extremely sporting and hearing survey readings almost impossible.  There are 4 kilometres of well-decorated side passages and inlets, one of which reaches an upstream entrance (Foot and Mouth). There are 3 unexplored side passages in the far reaches of the cave, two of which are so vast they completely dwarf the 40 x 30m river passage, it is like walking out of the cave into the open air on a black night (it was midday, by the way).

Andy in the Pseudo Inlet GOUTS - Hang Khe Rhy. Photo - Howard Limbert

The continuation of the main river passage and the huge side passages is the main objective for the next follow-up expedition.  Khe Rhy's present length of 13.8 kilometres makes it the second longest cave in Vietnam; it has travelled approximately 3 kilometres out of 16 towards its possible resurgence.  Along its route it has picked up three major sinks and there are still the two biggest sinks to find, our hopes are high.

The Rescue

Just before the end of the expedition, Trevor and Cal decided to undertake a 2-day recce of the fourth sink known as Khe Tien (beautiful stream).  They were accompanied by Hieu, Mr. Cuoi (the most highly acclaimed hunter in the district) and his dog.  Late the next day, whilst we were preparing to move camp from Khe Rhy back to Ban Ban, and just after we had burnt the remaining dried food and carbide, Hieu and Mr. Cuoi arrived back at camp alone!  It turned out that Cal and Trevor had entered the cave the previous afternoon.  Soon afterwards, a flood pulse came down the river, washed away their camp and trapped the two lads inside.  The weather had been great that day, hardly a cloud in the sky.  The river flows from some mountains deep within Laos, it must have been raining there.

We had a horrendous walk for 5 hours most of which was in darkness with no trail, to arrive to see the river still heavily swollen, and the remains of their camp scattered through the cave.  We spent a sleepless night by the entrance being eaten by leeches and mosquitoes. At first light, when the river had dropped sufficiently, we searched the cave with trepidation and found it very aqueous, it ended in a lake in a final chamber with no obvious ways on: "this must be a sump".

We dammed up and diverted the river down another sink, we dammed the cave and bailed the sump, and Martin attempted to find and free dive the sump - but all to no avail.  Our only option was to wait.  Whilst waiting we constructed more dams (in case of further flooding) and conducted hourly checks on the sump.  A message was sent back to Phai in Son Trach, with our guide informing him of the situation and to prepare for a rescue.  Howard decided that we would wait another day to in the hope that the water would drop, if it didn't Rupert Skorupka and Tim Allen along with diving kit would be flown out from the UK.

Fifty-seven hours after Trev and Cal became trapped; Simon and I wandered into the cave for the 4am check on the sump level.  We noted that water levels had dropped significantly since we were last in.  As we entered the flooded chamber, we could see a faint glow through the water accompanied by the sound of water gulping, "Yoh! There's air space!"  We both dived through and met Cal and Trevor, sitting in a dry chamber underneath a daylight shaft on the other side.  It was a great relief to find the two lads alive.

We shared a packet of 'Super Noodles' and two Mars Bars between the ten of us, and set off on an 11 hour slog back to Ban Ban.  Along the way we met a detachment of the Vietnamese army, equipped with picks, shovels, medical supplies, food and cigarettes coming to our aid (they were a very welcome sight).  We got back to Ban Ban to an emotional welcome, had a swift half, bid farewell, and hopped on our truck.  This took us back to Son Trach by 4 am the following morning, whereupon we had another swift half, our first food for three days and three hours sleep before catching the 8 am bus to take us to our train back to Hanoi.  We eventually reached Hanoi late the next day, tired and thin.

Synopsis of caves explored by Vietnam 97



Cave Name




Vert. range

Phase One - Quang Binh Province




Hang Ho

Thuong Trach

Bo Trach



Hang Over

Thuong Trach

Bo Trach


103m( +93,-10)

Hang Pygmy

Thuong Trach

Bo Trach



Hang Khe Thi

Thuong Trach

Bo Trach



Hang Khe Rhy

Thuong Trach

Bo Trach


12Om( +58,-62)

Hang Khe Tien

Thuong Trach

Bo Trach



Hang Cha Noi

Cha Noi

Bo Trach



Hang Len Hai

Son Trach

Bo Trach




Phase Two - Cao Bang Province




Nguom Boc Rising

Ban Nua

Nuoc Hai



Nguom Boc Sink

Ban Nua

Nuoc Hai



Nguom Pac Bo

Soc Quan

Ha Lang



Nguom Han

Ban Cong

Ha Lang



Nguom Muong

Ban Thuoc

Ha Lang



Nguom Ram

Ly Quoc

Ha Lang



Nguom Ron

Ban Cong

Ha Lang



Keo Min

Na Dang

Ha Lang



Nguom Khu

Minh Long

Ha Lang



Nguom Khoung

Minh Long

Ha Lang



Nguom Sap

Ban Sa

Ha Lang


31m( +23,-8)

Nguom Ban Khau

Ban Khau

Ha Lang


+ 13m

Nguom Gio

Ha Quang

Ha Quang



The joint British/Vietnamese expeditions have so far explored and surveyed 101.5 km with 35 surveyed caves totalling 72.5 km within the Bo Trach district of Quang Binh province and 72 surveyed caves totalling 29 km in other provinces.


Bradshaw, D.R.1990. Vietnam 90, British Speleological Expedition.

Callister, P. 1997. Fe, Phai, Ho, Hum, A Tale of Vietnam. Descent.. 137 (AuglSept): p28 - 30.

Holroyd, M. 1997. Vietnam 1997. Caves and Caving. 77 (Autumn): p27 - 31.

Limbert, H. 1997. Vietnam 97. International Caver. 20: pll-18.

Limbert, H. et a1. 1994. Vietnam 94, 1992/94 British Vietnamese Caving Expeditions.

Limbert, H.  et a1. 1997. Vietnam 97, Joint British / Vietnamese Caving Expedition.


BCRA Meetings Diary

Compiled by David Gibson, Assistant Secretary (Meetings – version 8/7/98)

Information can be found on the BCRA web pages.  Additional; information about the meeting of the Special Interest Groups can be found on their own web sites.  You can reach all these sites from

Hidden Earth ‘98

18/20 Sept. Southport

The national caving conference organised by BCRA.

This year the caving conference is in Southport in NW England.  Field trips, trade 7 club stands, competitions, talks, discussion groups, entertainment are all on offer.  If you have not yet seen a brochure, contact the booing manager or visit the Hidden earth web site.

Bookings and general enquiries to Peter Cousins

If you want to give a lecture, please contact Paul Mann or Sarah Blundell

Cave Surveying Group field Meeting

17/18 Oct. Derbyshire

A field meeting and training weekend organised by the Cace Surveying group one of the special interest groups of the BCRA

The CSG will be holding this weekend field meeting at the Orpheus Caving club’s cottage in Derbyshire where there will be accommodation for up to 18 people.  Novices and experienced surveyors are welcome.

Enquiries to Andy Atkinson

Cave Radio Group field Meeting

24/25 October Yorkshire Dales

A field meeting and training weekend organised by the Cave Radio & Electronics Group – one of the special interest groups of the BCRA

The CREG will be holding this weekend field meeting in the Yorkshire Dales, where there will be continuing a programme of practical experiments with radio, surveying, photographic and other equipment.

Enquiries to Richard Rushton

Mendip Regional Meeting

21 Nov. Priddy, Somerset

One of a programme of informal meetings around the country.  Talks, trade stands, fieldwork etc.

This will take place at Priddy village hall, where the subject will be a joint study of Swildons Hole and St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.  These are the two longest and most important caves in the area.

Enquiries to Dave Irwin

Cave Science Symposium

6 March 1999, Nottingham - Provisional

Presentations of short papers on Cave & Karst Science topics at Trent university, Nottingham

The 1999 BCRA Cave Science Symposium will be hosted by Dr. A.C. Waltham at the Department of Civil engineering, Trent university, Nottingham (provisionally).  Short presentations (20 or 40 minutes) will be given on a range of cave and karst science topics.  Poster papers and displays are also welcomed.

Enquiries to the lecture scertary, Dr John Wilcock

Yorkshire Dales Regional Meeting

12/13/ June 1999, Swaledale - Provisional

One of a programme of informal meetings around the country.  Talks, trade stands, fieldwork etc

Subjects will include caving developments in the Hambledon Hills, local cave and mining developments.  Caving tripos will be on offer throughout the weekend.

The date and location still have to be confirmed.

Enquiries to Ernie Shield

Hidden Earth ‘99

17/19 Sept. 1999 Provisional

The national caving conference organised by BCRA.

The date (17-19th or possibly 10-12th) and location have still to be confirmed.

Enquiries to Peter Cousins


BEC Membership List at 21/7/98

20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                 Henton, Wells, Somerset
1145 Roz Bateman                 Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset.
1237 (P) Jake Baynes             Priddy, Nr Wells, Somerset
1227 (J) Anette Becher            St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
1079 Henry Bennett                London
390 (L) Joan Bennett               Draycott, Somerset
1122 Clive Betts                     Clapham, Bedfordshire
731 Bob Bidmead                   East Harptree, Nr. Bristol, Avon
1125 Rich Blake                     Priddy, Somerset
364 (L) Pete Blogg                  Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                       Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle       Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                  Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Dradshaw                Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
1217 Paul Brock                     Dulcote, Nr wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Brookes               London
201 John Buxton                     Flitwick, Beds.
956 Ian Caldwell                     Redland, Bristol, Avon
1214 Rebecca Campbell          Wells, Somerset
1014 Chris Castle                   Axbridge, Somerset
1197 Tim Chapman                 Fareham, Hampshire
1197 John Christie                  North Allerton, North Yorks
211 (L) Clare Coase                Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                   Draycott, Somerset
727 Bill Cooper                       Knowle, Bristol
862 Bob Cork                         Penn Hill, Wells, Somerset
1233 (P) Paul Craggs              Cullompton, Devon
870 Gary Cullen                      Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon              British Columbia, Canada.
423 (L) Len Dawes                  Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
1229 Jeremy Dixon-Wright       West Pennard, Glastonbury, Somerset
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                  Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 (L) Angie Dooley               Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                Priddy, Somerset
830 John Dukes                      Street, Somerset
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                  Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
269 (L) Tom Fletcher               Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
1218 Stephen Flinders            Burrington, Somerset
404 (L) Albert Francis              Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin             Staffordshire
469 (J) Peter Franklin              Staffordshire
1159 John Freeman                Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1182 Alex Gee                       Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset
835 Lenard Gee                      St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill             Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill             Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                      Basingstoke, Hampshire
1006 Edward Gosden              Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire
790 (J) Martin Grass               Draycott, Somerset
1009 Robin Gray                     Cheddar, Somerset
1155 Rachael Gregory             Pentir, Nr., Bangor, Gwynedd
1089 Kevin Gurner                  Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                    Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam           Semington, Trowbrdge, Wiltshire
1186 (J) Helen Harper              Wells, Somerset
999 (J) Rob Harper                  Wells, Somerset
1234(P) Roger Haskett            Bridgwater, Somerset
1235(P) Steve Heape              Bornemouth
1117 Pete Hellier                    Nempnett Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol, Avon
974 Jeremy Henley                 Shepton Mallet
952 Bob Hill                           London
1221 Mark Howden                 Street, Sometset
1219 Sean Howe                    Bradley Stoke, Bristol
923 Trevor Hughes                  Holcombe, Bath, Avon
73 Angus Innes                      Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                   Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                      Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                Paek Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
1111 Graham Johnson            Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett               Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
316 (L) Kangy King                 Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston               Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                   Yelverton, Devon
958 Fiona Lambert                  Castel Cary, Somserset
667 (L) Tim Large                    Brislington, Bristol
1199 Alex Livingston               Clevedon, Avon
1180 Rich Long                      Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jnr)     St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
1071 Mike McDonald              Bath
1195 Struan McDonald            Devizes, Wiltshire
550 (L) R A MacGregor           Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus               Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden              Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
704 Dave Metcalfe                  Whitwick, Leicestershire
1044 Andy Middleton              Hardington-Mandeville, Somerset
1194 Nick Mitchell                  Priddy Somerset
1210 Guy Munnings                Croydon, Surrey
1183 Andy Newton                  Shipham, Nr Cheddar, Somerset
1232 (P) Andy Nunn                Uffculme, Cullomton, Devon
553 Bob O’Malley-White          Wells, Somerset
1228 Ben Ogbourne                Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset
1226 (P) Stephen Ostler          Nailsea, North Somerset
396 (L) Mike Palmer                Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                    Orpington, Kent
1134 Martin Peters                 Wells, Somerset.
499 (L) A. Philpot                    Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1193 Emma Porter                  Witmore, Wolverhampton
337 Brian Prewer                    Priddy, Wells, Somerset
886 Jeff Price                         Knowle, Bristol, Avon
481 (L) John Ransom              Patchway, Bristol, Avon
985 Phil Romford                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                       Hookway, nr Crediton, Devon
1208 Stuart Sale                     Romsey, Hampshire
359 (L) Carol Sandall               Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1173 Estelle Sandford             Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                 Cote D’Azur, France
1236(P) Martin Selfe               Bosleake, Redruth, Cornwall
78 (L) R Setterington               Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington          Taunton, Somerset
1128 Vince Simmonds            Havant, Hampshire
1036 (J) Nicola Slann              Draycott, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                     Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                        c/o The Belfry
1203 Bob Smith                      Havant, Hampshire
823 Andy Sparrow                  Priddy, Somerset
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham          Warkworth, Northumberland
1230 (P) Clive Stell                 Bathford, Bath
365 (L) Roger Stenner             Weston super Mare, Avon
1187 Mark Tanner                   Fishponds, Bristol
583 Derek Targett                   East Horrington, Wells Somerset
1110 Gwyn Taylor                   Keighly, West Yorkshire
772 Nigel Taylor                      Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas               Priddy, Somerset
1224 (P) Andrew Thomas        Street, Somerset
571 (L) N Thomas                   Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark  Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
1216 Martin Torbett                 Cheddar, Somerset
381 (L) Daphne Towler             Bognor Regis, Sussex
1023 Matt Tuck                      Plymouth, Devon.
678 Dave Turner                      Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
635 (L) S. Tuttlebury               Buck Hors Rd., Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen             Wick, Littlehampton, West sussex
887 Greg Villis                        Weston super Mare, North Somerset
175 (L) D. Whaddon
1220 (P) John Walsh               Glastonbury, Somerset
949 (J) John Watson               Wells, Somerset
1185 Chas Wethered              Axbridge, Somerset
1118 Carol White                    Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
1068 John Whiteley                Clannaborough Bow, Crediton, Devon
1202 Mike Willett                    Wells, somerset
1092 Babs Williams                Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson             Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)       Keynsham, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton               Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton              Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
877 Steven Woolven                West Chillington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                   South Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1239 (P) Kevin Jones              Eastleigh, Southampton
1238 (P) Toby Limmer             Balsham, Cambridge.


Famous Quotes

“The goal of every engineer is to retire without getting blamed for a single catastrophe.” – Dilbert

 “You don’t know what you cab get away with until you try.” – Colin Powell

 “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufrane

 “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” – Herbert Hoover

 “The meek shall inherit the earth, and the bank shall repossess it.” - ??????

 “Ethical man – a Christian holding four aces.” – Mark Twain

 “Trumans’s Law – If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” – Harry S. Truman.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

7/8/98                        BEC Committee Meeting  

July/August 98            Fishing/Diving Weekend at Prawle Point, South Devon - Date to be arranged – Contact if interested -Robin Gray

??/8/98                      Austria Expedition - Date to be arranged – Contact if interested - Alex Gee - Librarian

21-22/8/98                  BEC Working Weekend -Nick Mitchell

4/9/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/9/98                      BEC Stomp – Priddy Village Hall - Roz Bateman

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

30/9/98 - 14/11/98       ISSA Exhibition, St David's Hall, Cardiff - ISSA

3/10/98                      BEC AGM and Dinner

2/11/98                      BCRA Regional One-Day Meeting, Priddy Village Hall. 9.30am Lectures on Swildons and Cuthbert’s - BCRA

18/11/98 - 28/11/98     A Brush with Darkness - Paintings of Mendip's caves - Wells Museum - ISSA

26/11/98                     Underground painting techniques /demonstration. Wells Museum 7.30pm -Robin Gray

Working Weekend

Cleaning, repairs, General maintenance.

Plenty of work for all!!

BBQ free for all workers

Sat/Sun 21st/22nd August

Meet at Belfry at 10.00am

Contact: - Nick Mitchell

Hut Engineer For Further Details


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

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



For those of you who have not visited the Belfry recently, the mystery photo in the last BB was taken in Cuthbert’s streamway.

I have included a song for the benefit of our Belfry Boy, Bob Smith and his apprentice, Toby Limmer, who has recently joined the club!!

It’s nice to see articles on activities other than caving (see Mike Wilson’s article).  If anyone else has articles on non-caving subjects as well as caving, then please send them to me.  I am particularly interested in responses to Dave Irwin’s article on the 1968 floods.  It would be interesting to hear recollections and have a few photos so many of our younger members can get an idea of what Swildons was like with the ‘old forty.’

Keep the articles coming. I can never have too many!!

The cut off for articles and letters for my last full BB of this committee year is 22nd July.

Last minute news and dates can be taken until 25th July

The next BB is slightly earlier to work round the bits that have to be published 8 weeks before the AGM (nominations for committee etc.)  There will be a short issue out 4 weeks before the AGM which will contain committee member’s reports and voting forms for the committee, if there are enough candidates for a vote.


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


The Belfry Boy

Tune: Sweet Lorraine

Author: P. MacNab

Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol. 92 No 2 February 1978

Well, I'm the Belfry Boy,
I'm every other buggers favourite toy,
Oh how it always seems to give them joy,
To put me in bloody pain.

Oh how they treat me hard,
Kick me all around the Belfry yard,
Lord you ought to see how I am scarred,
From when they shoved me up the drain.

And when a member calls,
I dash inside so they can black my balls,
And splatter me around the Belfry walls,
Till I've nearly gone insane.
            They sit me in a chair
Rub jam and marmalade into my hair
I sit and smile as if I couldn't care,
But later hang my head in shame.

And then they all insist,
That I am something called a masochist,
Especially when they all come back pissed,
And want to play their silly games.

But now I sit and wait,
Because I'm glad to know that some day fate,
Will bring along a brand new inmate,


Caving and BEC News


Photos are still required for the photo board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL

If you try to access it from links from other Websites, you will probably still get the old WebPage. It takes a little while to get other sites to change their links for new addresses.

49ers Party

For those of you who are not aware, there are quite a number of BEC members and other regulars from the hill who were born in 1949 and are therefore 49 this year.  They have decided to celebrate in style Midsummer's night (20th June) with a mass party at the Village Hall in Priddy.  Tickets are available from Tony at Bat Products and Quackers in the Hunters Lodge.  Here is a list of some of the known 4gers: - (apologies to any I have missed (or added!) - list was compiled in the pub!!!)

Mike 'Quackers' Duck, Tony Jarratt, Phil Hendy, Martin Bishop, Pam Watson, Pete Moody, Tim Large, John Dukes, Pete Slater, Wayne Hiscock and also Tricia Walker who sadly died recently.

Committee Members on the move

Nigel Taylor will be moving to Cheddar, Somerset in mid June (-ish).  The telephone number is unknown at present, but will be advised soon.  If you need to contact then the phone number will be listed under Mendip Demrock at directory enquiries.

Nick Mitchell has moved to Priddy, Somerset.  He can be contacted on his mobile.

Sea Diving and Fishing

There are a few of us regularly going to the seaside at weekends to go diving.  There are also plans afoot for a couple of weekends in Cornwall, one in July/early August and the other late August/early September. If you are interested in coming along either on the weekend stuff or the weekends away, please contact either the Estelle or Quackers.

Note also that sometime in July/Aug there will be a fishing/diving/walking weekend at Prawle point, contact Robin Gray for more information on that one.

Burrington Cave Atlas - Estelle

For those of you who are not aware I am updating and revamping the Burrington Cave Atlas. This was originally released as a BEC caving report in 1973, and has been sold out for quite some time.  All profits from the updated report will go into BEC funds, mostly for the library.  Obviously there have been quite a few changes in Burrington Coombe area since 1973, so I am hoping that some of the membership of the club would be prepared to help me in getting some of the information updated.  I am planning a Burrington Atlas working day Sunday 19th July. There is plenty of work to be done, not all caving, so feel free to bring noncaving partners and make it a day out.

If anyone can help me with information or photographs from the Burrington area I would be very grateful. I would like to use different photos from the original, and also will be looking for a good quality cover photo, painting or drawing.  Jobs to be done include:

  • Surveying of several extensions.
  • Checking locations (NGR) and descriptions of cave entrances match the references from 1973.
  • Photography, both inside and out of the caves.

If you can help me out on the 19th July or at any other time, or have information or photos that I can use, please contact me at the address and phone numbers (or e-mail) in the front of the BB - Ed.

Another Question from Blitz

Does anyone know how many Bertie Bats have we had over the years? e.g. on headed notepaper and on the BB etc?  Contact Blitz at the Treasurers address if you can help him.  (If someone can give me/Blitz copies of as many of them as possible, I'll publish them in a future BB Ed.)

Speleoscene No.33

This is available from caving shops and is free, but how about a donation to the local Cave Rescue Service.

Included in this issue is an incident report for last year from the British Cave Rescue Council. Mendip had a quiet year with only 6 underground incidents, of which all were rescued with no serious injuries. There is also information on the Cavers Fair to be held at Priddy on 3-5 July, 1998.  Life-lining systems are studied and the general results are listed in a table of what is kit is recommended in varying situations.

BCRA Meeting

Regional One-day meeting to be held in Priddy Village Hall at 9:30am on 21/11/98.  Topics include in depth lectures on Swildons and St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Details to be arranged.

The Cavers Fair is Coming!

The weekend 314/5th July sees the Cavers Fair being held for the first time in Priddy.  Organised jointly between the NCA Training Committee and CSCC this event is all about getting underground, learning something new, and having a wild time!  You can book a weekend ticket in advance for only £12.00.

For more information on what is going on, see the plan of events later in the BB.


The Mud Sump drain hole was attacked again recently but remains pretty well blocked.  There was a small airspace recently but bailing is still difficult from either side, and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.

It has been free-dived by groups attempting reverse-round trips but this is VERY DANGEROUS as the sump can be up to 10 metres long.

Mendip Technical Group

A meeting was held at the Hunters Lodge on Saturday 31st January 1998 to try and hammer out a bolting policy for Mendip.  General conclusions were that re-bolting with resin anchors will generally only be carried out when existing anchors are no longer safe - i.e. no program of systematic bolt replacement although Rhino Rift is an exception as CCC have already approved a complete re-bolt.  The technical group will not have an independent identity (not another caving committee) but will be a loose association of cavers prepared to get involved. Further details from Andy Sparrow.

BEC Library

There has been a disappointing response to the request for donations to help out with new cabinets for the library.  If anyone wishes to donate contact Alex Gee, but it is looking as though we will be needing to look into alternative methods of raising funds for the library. Another stomp maybe, or has anyone got any other ideas???

Caving Trips

Check out the rolling calendar on the back of the BB - Andy has listed some dates for caving trips, mainly on Mendip.  Please contact him if you wish to go on any of the trips.  Hopefully we can encourage new members to get a bit more involved.

Working Weekend

The recent working weekend saw the same old faces who turn up to most working weekends.  Lots was achieved, including replacement outside door on the bunkroom, work on the kitchen, painting and a general clean up inside and out.  Thanks to Roz and Becky for organising the BBQ.  Next working weekend will be 21st/22nd August, it would be nice to see a few fresh faces there!!!

Club Rescue Practice

Saturday 13th June Tyning’s Barrow Swallet. Meet at the Belfry at 10.00 am. Contact Andy Sparrow, Club rescue team leader for further details.


Scotland 98 - The B(e)are Bones version

By Pete Glanvill, May '98

25th May saw Quackers and I leaving Mendip for the annual Scottish migration it being Quackers first but hopefully not last trip to Sutherland.  It was a no frills journey with only one planned detour to collect (huh!) a dive light from Stuart Kirby's place near Gloucester.  Stuart turned out to be in Wales, the light was not constructed and my cheque was buried under a pile of invoices on a cluttered (that's polite) workbench.  Quackers conducted a major but successful dig to find some bulbs for his light before we departed muttering under our collective breaths.

Many hours burning up the motorways, A9 etc. got us surprisingly early to Taig nam Famh (the Grampian bothy) where despite dire prognostications we manage to elbow out some bunk space before departing for the Alt and a meal.  Eric was presented with a photomontage of Northern Lights and a couple of individual shots of Simon Brooks.

The next morning dawned sunny but with a low cloud base.  I opted for Canisp while Trevor Knief (who arrived the previous night with Peter Rose) opted for Ben More Assynt.  In the end we went our separate ways both getting some good walking in and fine views as the cloud base lifted and the sun appeared.  After the descent we repaired to the Inch for beer and Jimi Hendrix on the stereo.  He was still playing when Trevor and Pete staggered in 3 hours later!

By this time J-Rat, Estelle and Tony Boycott had arrived. Julian Walford appeared in the morning to announce that we had a blocked drain - serious stuff when it's feeding the cesspit. After obtaining some rods from Nicky at the tea rooms Pete Rose wearing rubber gloves got down to it.  Leaving him to it we had to think about caving. By mutual agreement the cave divers decided a good attempt should be made to find a by-pass to sump 6b in Claonaite so the plan was to transport bottles etc. up to the entrance and then do some digging in Damoclean.


Pete Rose giving the cesspit a good rodding.

As we disappeared down the drive Pete shouted the glad news that he had cleared the obstruction and we could again freely empty our bowels into the toilets of Taig nam Famh.

The first of several long slogs up the ANUS valley then took place with Quackers tagging along muttering about peat bogs.

On the way up J-rat and team rediscovered After Dinner Hole and an assortment of old bones.  By the time we reached Damoclean Quackers was distinctly unimpressed but cheered up when we started digging - he hadn't got caving gear!  Several cold hauls later and with several hundredweight of crud dumped on the spoil heap we sat down for soup and cake before packing up and returning to the Alt.

Very little cooking was done this year partly because the food in the Alt is so good and partly because Trevor seemed to have gunned down the contents of a country park.  One evening we had duck, on another pigeons were on the menu and on yet another venison.  Trevor claimed they were road kill put out of their misery but I have my doubts in view of the fact that he arrived at the hut armed with fishing rods, shotguns and probably had the odd Kalashnikov stowed away in Pete's glove compartment.

That night everybody retreated to another bunkroom - the one Trevor was not going to be snoring in. We got away with it for the rest of the week until J-Rat let him in 6 days later to create a serious insomnia epidemic.

Tuesday looked very promising to the point of becoming a shorts day.  This has nothing to do with stuff in optics but that critical point where the weather temps one to bare one's legs.  Not today I decided.  J - Rat and co headed for Traligill with a full programme of attacking Whinging Dog Dig, digging in Birthday Hole and wallowing in Waterfall Rising.  After a brief scrabble in Birthday Hole the wokless team left, before giving WDD some stick and plaster.  Having gained an appetite they had a quick lunch at Glenbain and returned  suitably wokked  up  to Birthday  Hole.   Quackers did sterling surface work again (how could he forget his caving gear) and J-rat was just about to consider inspecting the end and the effects of Tony B's last bang when a loudish aerial rumble brought the proceedings to a halt.  A huge thundercloud had materialised over Conival (think Close Encounters OTTK) and big sparks started flying everywhere.  Wallowing in the streamway of Birthday Hole seemed suicidal so a rapid retreat was made to Glenbain where Quackers was entertained by seeing JRat twitch as he was hit by a secondary strike.  I suppose it's one way of getting your fags lit!

The storm over Conival, (the one that zapped J'Rat)

Meanwhile in Claonaite Julian, Pete and Tony were oblivious to all this.  All went well until we started kiting up at which point a loud crack and hissing from every orifice on Pete's brand new virgin, never used, pristine Oceanic demand valve indicated some kind of catastrophic first stage failure. Dive aborted apart from a quick dip by Julian.  Serendipity as far as I was concerned because I managed to get some excellent pictures of Cavity Wall passage on the way out.  The sun was shining as we wandered down the hill and back to the hut.

On our way to Lochinver we noticed the clouds building over Traligill and took several interesting pictures of the storm creeping over the limestone block.  Down at the harbour we found Jim Crooks removing a knackered engine from his boat - bang went thoughts of asking him for a boat dive.  However he was happy to fill our tanks and we repaired to his shed that was unbelievably tidy apart from a half constructed wood panelled pond made with Jim's usual ingenuity from odds and ends lying around the place.  The usual "craic" developed.  Apparently the last winter had a been a time of strange aerial sightings - not just displays of the Northern Lights but a variety of spectacular UFO sightings (perhaps Pete Rose did see something last year!) of a cigar shaped space ship and silent bright lights in the sky seen by a variety of witnesses.  Sounds like a case for Mulder and Scully.  Eric at the Alt was happy to confirm that, yes, it had been a strange year in the sky.

Bottles filled we did the seafront timber collection crawl before buying pies at the bistro which now boasts a conservatory.  Did you know the proprietor is an ex Mendip caver?  Put my name on the list for mail-order pies - just in case. 

Tony Boycott by the Montego at Kylesku

By the time we had reached Inchnadamph the flood pulse had come through and the river was a raging torrent although the storm was very localised for the trout farm stream at the ANUS valley remained at the same level it had been earlier in the day.

On An Teallach Pete and Trevor aborted their ascent on seeing the approaching storms.  According to the log a vagrant sheep advised them to go no further.  So they retired to a hotel to chat up an Aussie barmaid instead.

Quakers, Tony, Estelle and I rounded the day off with a pleasant sunny dive at Kylesku although Quackers and Estelle had bad attacks of ear pox.  Over the grilled langoustine one of the local barflies admitted to sinking the blue Montego I had photographed last year.  She wants photos perhaps the insurance will believe her now!

The next day dawned seriously sunny.  This was the biz - shorts and sandals on and an early start to attack Claonaite.  The terrible trio of Boycott, Glanvill and Walford headed for the hills.  The Bone Cave route is quicker than walking up the valley to Claonaite is my tip of the year.  Down at Sump 3 all the kit worked and 3 divers arrived in 4 ready for business. Julian and Tony tore off to 5 while Pete took a leisurely trip through looking for possible side passages. Some boulders were pulled out of a hole to the right of the choke at Sump 3 and a possible way on seen - later inspected by Tony and pronounced unpromising. Fawlty Towers looked interesting but loose and PG was not keen on a solo scrabble so moved onto 5 where photos were taken.  He then located a dig off an oxbow just before the ramp down to the pool.  This let him out of having to free dive 5 as Julian's promised air space had not materialised.  After taking some excellent photographs of the area around the sump and armed with gloves plus suitably shaped bits of pebble he began excavating a crawl ending in boulders while Tony went to 7 to engineer a route he thought might get into Treen Scene.  However although he could hear Julian, Julian could not hear him over stream noise and the route looked too tight.

I, meanwhile, was working my way into the boulders armed with a crowbar Julian had found.  Several rumbles and high speed reverse wriggles later a large spoil heap was accumulating over downstream sump 4. I handed the tool to Julian and Tony when they returned.  After a spell Tony handed the weapon to Julian who started to get really mean with the boulders which came trundling down the crawl in increasing size and numbers.  Suddenly Julian vanished and after a tentative look at the walls and roof of this highly unstable passage we climbed into a small ascending breakdown chamber which must be very close to Edward Concretehead in 7.  I decided the extension should be called 'The Rock Machine turns you on'.  A few desultory pokes at the boulders later we decided either bang or more digging energy was needed for further progress.  It was time to slog on out.

Back on the right side of 3 the roar of water was ominously loud and the stream from Rising Damp just before the climb down to Sump 2 seemed to be flowing well. The struggle out against the high water was entertaining and the Sump 1 bypass was a nose in the air job to pass. On the surface the sun was shining but my shorts hung out to warm in the sun were soaked (as was all my gear).  The area had copped a thunderstorm similar to that that had hit Traligill the previous day and we were lucky not to have been trapped by the flood pulse

Tony Boycott at Sump 3 m Claonmte

Other members of the team dug in Waterfall Rising or went for walks.

On the Thursday an enthusiastic team including Peter Rose and Trevor Knief hauled clag out of Rana watched by an inflatable sheep - well you need some home comforts.

Tony, Estelle, Pete G. and Quackers went for a coastal walk out to Kirkaig Point near Badnaban.  This proved to be a superb location for watching sea mammals including seals, porpoises and dolphins.  On the way back we did our bit to keep Scotland's beaches tidy by removing all buoys, boulder nets and digging skips (cans) that we could but having to leave the drums of oil (!!) behind.  Coffee and browsing at Achins book shop was followed by another air fill and twenty questions about the strange bones Jim had found on the beach; the current consensus is that they are a whale's pelvis.

Later in the day another visit was paid to Kylesku for wreck photography and scallops.  Pete found a large lobster - it's still there.

In the Alt that evening we learnt firstly that the services of the GSG dog rescue section were needed at Strath Kanaird and secondly messages had been left at various locations regarding a boat dive in the Summer Isles.  I had been phoning Andy Hobrow at Achiltibuie all week but he seemed to be involved in continuous S&M practices - the voice on the answering machine kept telling me he was tied up. After some fiddling with Eric's phone I got through to Craig Barnes and booked a dive for the Saturday morning.

Quackers at Kylesku - Note the Gaelic underwater god of farts following closely behind!

The next day a strong rescue team went to look for Peggy the entombed Jack Russell.  They found a possibly previously overlooked area of limestone, a small hole and no dog. However J-Rat and Trevor did explore another new cave nearby.  There is a sequel to this tale but I will leave you in suspense.

Claonaite 8 consists of a short series of muddy, roomy but very gloomy tunnels with a side passage ascending to a bouldery choke.  At the far end of a spacious chamber another big ascending tunnel probably ends in a solutional hole.  The streamway is a narrow canal and the contrast to the noise in 7 is striking. The canal ends in an impressively large sump pool into which Simon quietly sank.  We stood shivering patiently until the twitching line and a dim orange glow indicated his return.

Meanwhile a hard team consisting of Tony, Julian (back from a day's work at Dounreay), Simon and Peter were back in Claonaite.  Simon had designs on 8 while the rest of us planned a bypass to 7 some surveying and photography.  Simon and Tony dived the sump while Julian dived into a hole above it and started digging. Pete took photos and by the time he'd packed up everyone including Julian's feet had gone.               

Tony Boycott - Far side of Sumo 3 in Claonaite

He wriggled into the muddy hole Julian had excavated to confront a very awkward squeeze a couple of metres in.  Then his lamp started to go dim!

Feeling a wobbler coming on he reversed out, got a spare light and after some judicious digging wormed his way up a crumbly corkscrew to within earshot of the others who had completed the exploration of Claonaite 8 rather quickly and were patiently waiting for Simon to find Claonaite 9.

The sump seemed to close down he reported but he decided to have another look in view of the amount of air he had. After another cold wait he surfaced to report that the route was choked by a roof collapse but could conceivably be crow barred.  The flow went through the choked section.

Tony, a hard task master, then insisted we survey 8 so with chattering teeth and a borrowed Q-light I crawled up various passages carrying the tape then made up likely figures to shout out.  An attempt to survey out through the by-pass was aborted when I dropped my loaned light through a hole in the floor and Julian had to dig it out!

Eventually all the kit was packed and we headed out with photography next on the agenda.  I got some excellent pictures of the Twin Falls of Jabaroo, the area round the bones and some of the bones themselves as well as Portobello Promenade.

Tony Boycott at the Watershute in Claonaite

The trip out from Treen Scene was painfully slow and we eventually reached the surface after 9 hours underground.

After a trip to the Alt - in shorts by yours truly, some us returned to the hut to savour the scallops lovingly prepared by Trevor earlier.  Here's a tip though Trevor - never boil scallops!  They should be fried with wine herbs and shallots and served on a bed of rice, which is what we did when we got back.

Next day the technical training section of the CDG and BEC went on a boat dive from Achiltibuie with Craig Barnes.  A nice sunny day to travel over to the Fairweather about which I have written before. All dived successfully except for Simon who sustained an attack of cold (from a strategically placed hole in his dry suit crotch) agoraphobia, and negative buoyancy all at once after hitting the water.

After some coffee and cake we chugged across the bay to a rock known as Latto's Island and had our second dive.  We were told it would be very unlikely that we would complete a circuit of the island so it took me a minute or so to realise that the wall Tony and I were swimming past 40 minutes into the dive was one we had passed at the beginning.

Tony Boycott at the Cascade in Claonaite

The underwater scenery was nice with lots of starfish and burrowing sea anemones. We surfaced and seeing the dive boat some way off, headed to the island until we were rescued.

Meanwhile the caving contingent did some surface work, dug or went walking.  That evening in the Alt it was learnt the Peggy the deceased Jack Russell had reappeared emaciated but none the worse for her period of incarceration. The pot will have to be renamed Resurrection.

The Saturday evening could be the start of a long tradition.  Eric and Christine laid on a mega curry session with umpteen dishes which was rounded off by a slide show from Pete and Simon.  Pete showed local slides and Simon showed some of Pakistan but was more successful by playing to the gallery of boozed up Glaswegian fishermen who cheered every time fish was mentioned.  Simon was a little frostier when pictures of Jenny appeared.

The Sunday was Pete and Quackers' last day.  Quackers mouldered in the hut while Peter joined Estelle, Ivan, Tony and the inflatable sheep at Rana Hole for another hauling session.  On the way downhill Estelle, Pete and Ivan had a good job of changing the boulders at the rising - so now you know who did it.

Pete and Quackers rounded the day off by attempting to find the Kylesku lobster.  We failed but Pete found Quackers a large crab as a consolation prize before proceeding up the hill to dive for scallops in the harbour. He also earned brownie points from a local skipper by removing a rope from his prop.

Well that's it from me but Estelle can have fun now doing a re-edit on the rest of the log.


Tankard Hole Song

Tune: Ain't Gonna Need This House No Longer
Author: R. Lawder
Source: Alfie

Last summer a dig was started by some blokes from the other Club,
In a shakehole by the roadside not so far from the Hunters pub,
With occasional draughts of cider, diggers soon had piled a heap,
To the envy of the weegies and the puzzlement of the sheep.

Chorus:            Ain't gonna need this cave no longer,
                        Ain't gonna need this cave no more,
                        With it's stalactites on the ceiling
                        And it's stalagmites on the floor,
                        Ain't gonna force this squeeze no longer,
                        Ain't gonna bang this sump no more
                        'Cos our Tankard Hole is going
                        and it's going to beat them all.

Oh the Entrance it was narrow, so there wasn't much need to shore,
But further down it's ample, twenty feet by sixty four,
It was tedious to climb the pitches and a risk the gulf to jump,
So we built an elevator from the first pitch to the sump.

You can keep your Tratman's Temple, and your Devil's Elbow too,
And your Morton's Pot with stemples, and your Cuthbert's entrance queue
For our Tankard Hole is going, going steadily down the dip,
Taking Swildons as a feeder and St. Cuthbert's as a drip.


Funny Insurance Claims

•           Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have.

•           The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intentions.

•           I thought my window was down, but found it was up when I put my hand through it.

•           I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.

•           A truck backed through my windshield into my wife's face.

•           A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.

•           The guy was all over the road.  I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.

•           I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.

•           The gentleman behind me struck me on the backside.  He went to rest in the bush with just his rear end showing.

•           In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.

•           The accident occurred when I was attempting to bring my car out of a skid by steering it into the other vehicle.

•           I had been learning to drive without power steering.  I turned the wheel to what I thought was enough and found myself in a different direction going the opposite way.

•           I was on my way to the doctor's with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.

•           As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before.  I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.

•           To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front, I struck the pedestrian.

•           My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.

•           An invisible car appeared out of nowhere, stuck my vehicle, and vanished.

•           I told the police that I was uninjured.  But on removing my hat, I found that I had a fractured skull.

•           When I saw I could not avoid a collision, I stepped on the gas and crashed into the other vehicle.

•           The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.

•           I saw the slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.

•           I was thrown from my car as it left the road.  I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.

•           The telephone pole was approaching fast.  I was attempting to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.

•           I saw her look at me twice; she appeared to be making slow progress when we met on impact.

•           No one was to blame for the accident but it never would have happened if the other driver had been alert.

•           I was unable to stop in time and my car crashed into the other vehicle.  The driver and passengers then left immediately for a vacation with injuries.

•           I had been shopping for plants all day and was on my way home.  As I reached an intersection a hedge sprung up obscuring my vision.  I didn't see the other car.

•           I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.

•           I was sure the old fellow would never make it to the other side of the roadway when I struck him.

•           The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.

•           The trees were passing me in an orderly row at fifty miles per hour when suddenly one of them stepped out into my path.

•           I ran over a man, he admitted it was his fault since he had been knocked down before.

•           I ran into a lamppost that was obscured by human beings.

•           The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week.


The 49ers 49th Birthday Party



A Letter From Harry Stanbury On Early Exploration In Stoke Lane Slocker

Harry and Glynn Stanbury
Bude Cornwall


Dear Estelle,

It is a long time ago that I wrote to the B.B. - so here goes!

First - Congratulations on the "New Look" a great improvement!

I had intended to write this some time ago but Glynn is recovering from a serious operation & so my time has been rather fully occupied.

I was very interested in Dave Irwin's article in BB 494 on Stoke Lane & feel that I could clarify a couple of things.

When we made the "recce" trip to Sump 1 it was only the three of us - Graham B., Don C. & myself who went through Browne's Passage to the "dark & horrible pool" the others only went as far as the entrance to Browne's Passage.

We did not take down diving gear - the object of the trip was to assess the feasibility of doing so.

When we reached the "dark & horrible" after feeling about Don eventually vanished from sight - Graham & I waited & waited - Graham turned to me & said, "Well, I suppose we'll have to get the silly bastard out" & with that Don re-appeared triumphant.  Graham & I followed him through & the rest is history.

Regarding the survey. Don decided not to publish the survey because there was a strong movement locally to turn the cave into a show cave.  The survey showed that the Throne Room was adjacent to a shake hole in the field above. The alternative would have been to "throw" the survey by several degrees, but this was regarded as unethical & was rejected.  Regrettably I have no information of the whereabouts of the original drawings.

On a lighter note; for several years I was on the extramural circuit in Bristol & N. Somerset giving caving talks to groups ranging from Scouts to O.A.P.S.  I took them on a tour of Mendip & of course this included Stoke Lane.  When I called for questions at the end one question invariably cropped up "How did that man who went through first know that it was safe to do so?"

I pointed out that he knew it was safe as when he put his arm through first he knew that there was air space because when he brought his hand out it was dry!!

This was usually met with a sagacious nodding of heads.

I hope you can read this, Estelle, I regret that at 82 my writing is not more legible.

All the best in 98



Stoke Lane Slocker - History

By Dave Irwin

The short extract from my notes on the history of Stoke Lane Slocker prompted 'Tommy' Thomas to send some extremely useful info on the relationship between Max Unwin and the newly formed SMCC and of the extraction of the human and animal bones from Bone Chamber in Stoke Lane II.  Harry Stanbury has also made some comments in a letter, published elsewhere in this BB, and, by the time members receive this issue I shall have been to Bude and talked to Harry, as I've done on a number of occasions in recent years relating to early club activity.  The note relating to the diving gear is quite correct and it was a slip of my memory - related to a comment made once by Don Coase's younger brother, Alan.  Many apologies to all readers.  Alan told me that Don felt cheated by the Stoke Lane sump as it was so short!  The question relating to the location of the remaining members of the party, in Cairn Chamber or at the beginning of Browne's Passage is one of the points that Harry and I will be discussing.  All will become clear in the final text of the full version history which commences in the 1880s and records the first descent in 1905.

Whilst we are in a 'remembering mood' perhaps older members may be able to help on a number of queries: -

Stoke Lane Slocker:  In 1949 there were two rescues in this cave, one involved Sybil Bowden-Lyle, of which there is plenty of independent information - what happened to cause the other? No records exist in MRO files and no mention of a problem is to be found in the local papers.  The reference to these rescues come from," no sour jokes please ... a note by Frank Frost in the then Wessex Circular.  No clues have been found in their caving logs for that period.

Burrington digs:  Snogging Hole and Burrington Hole.  References to these two 1946 dig sites are to be found in Volume II of the BEC Caving Log. Does anyone have details of their exact location?  It seems from various comments in the Logbook that Snogging Hole might well be the entrance to the site now known as Pierre's Pot.  An additional note to the entry implies that the digs were started sometime before and the reader is referred to Volume I of the Caving Log.  I have to report that the first volume of the BEC Caving Log is missing does anyone have any information relating to this invaluable record? It contains details of activity during the years immediately after the reforming of the club in 1944; early electron ladder construction and subsequent trials on the 40ft Pot in Swildons among several other importance references.  Any information to either Alex Gee, the club librarian, or to the writer.

Swancombe Hollow Dig:  Dug by BEC members, including the late Dan Hasell, during 1946-1947, the site is in the Swancombe Valley near Blagdon.  Does anyone have any notes that might relocate the site and any details of the work?

The area surrounding the St. Cuthbert's Depression has several features that have attracted cavers in the past.  Bog Hole, originally opened and dug by the UBSS was later continued by the BEC. Where exactly is the site, it is said to be under the farmyard laid by Walt Foxwell but that's only hearsay. Any offers of information. Further, another site, this time a shaft was recorded by the UBSS and an entry in their caving log for the 7th August 1944 contains the following note: 'The shaft opposite the old mine workings was also examined and found unpromising .... '  Where is this?


Thirty years ago - the great flood.

By Dave Irwin

Seems like only yesterday that one of the most talked about occasions in the history of 20th century Mendip caving occurred.  At the time it happened I was caving in Ireland with a bunch of BEC, SMCC and WCC members.  The weather had been perfect and several wet caves had been visited or pushed, including St. Catherine's II with its thrixotropic mud filled passage.  Just before our return we met a party of UBSS who told us of the rain storm that had hit the Bristol area a couple of days previously.  Hardly had we got in the door to the flat in Bristol, with our sodden rucksacks, than Tim Reynolds and I were set upon by Roger Stenner!  'You know about the floods in the area' he commented.  Then suddenly with great excitement he uttered 'The Forty's gone!'  'Settle down Roger.  What do you mean the Forty's gone?  It can't go anywhere.' Gradually, regaining his senses, he told us the story that the Water Rift in Swildons Hole had been scoured out by the flood waters and that no-one any longer needed to ladder the pitch.  A way had opened up near the bottom.

There then followed a few days of intensive caving in the evenings and as a result the BB, published a week after the flood, contained the first detailed article, written by the writer of this note, on the changes that had occurred in the caves about central Mendip.  This was reprinted in the CRG Newsletter and British Caver shortly after.  To amass a good summary of this famous occurrence perhaps caving members who were about at this time would put down on paper their observations and perhaps Estelle could published the lot as joint article in the next BB.  Just to give a gentle nudge, Pete Rose, Nick Chipchase and Pete Glanvill were among the last to see the Forty Foot Pot in action, Dave Turner and Brian Prewer were among the first down G.B. Cave and Swildons Hole respectively - so get pens to paper - or fingers on those computer keys.

Just to whet your appetite here are a few piccies from my photo archive collection of Cheddar Gorge the day after!



Scotland 98 - The Alternative Report from the Log Book

By Estelle Sandford


Pete Glanvill, Mike 'Quackers' Duck (25/4 - 6/5)
Pete Rose, Trevor Knief (25/4 - 2/5)
Tony Boycott, Estelle Sandford, Tony Jarratt (26/4 - 7/5)
Julian Walford (27/4 - 29/4, 30/4 - 3/5)
Simon Brooks, Nick Williams (29/4 - 4/5)
Robin 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Richard 'Rubberman' Blake (1/5 - 10/5)
Ivan Young (1/5 -4/5)
Pete 'Snablet' McNab, Anette Becher (1/5 - 3/5)
Steve Bellhouse, Kate Janossy, Dave Robinson (1/5 - 4/5)
Fraser Simpson (1/5 - 4/5)
Roger Galloway, Liz Millet (1/5 - 3/5)
Rebecca Campbell (4/5 - 10/5)
Martin Hayes (5/5 - 10/5)

On Tuesday 28th J'Rat, Estelle and Quackers went to Whinging Dog Dig and then to Birthday Hole. Firstly to Birthday Hole where an attempt was started on reopening the cave after the winter floods.  We moved all the large boulders, but needed the wok to progress any further. It had been left in the car at Glenbain.  On to Whinging Dog Dig via the Waterslide, V.C.P. and Deeply Depressed (thoroughly blocked).  W.D.D. was given some chemical persuasion, and then back to Glenbain.  After lunch, back to Birthday Hole with the wok. J'Rat dug in the thrust plane while Estelle hauled the spoil out and Quackers built an anti-flood wall.  After PA hours of bloody hard work the digger booted his way through into the streamway, but was then put off going to inspect Tony Boycott's last bang by the resounding echoes of a major thunderstorm. The froth on the roof also discouraged lying in the stream while it was pissing down above!  The team then made a rapid retreat to Glenbain and just beat the rain (but not the lightning as AJ found out to his distress as he lit up and tingled near the power pole at Glenbain.  He has had 2 past "strikes" to his credit already!) With spectacular lightning, thunder, rain and hail hammering the mountains a further rapid retreat was made, this time to an unlit Inch to drink bottled beer as the electric was down. An interesting day (all thoughts of diving/digging Waterfall Rising   were abandoned.)

Wednesday saw a visit to Waterfall Rising by Estelle and J'Rat.  Each did about 20minutes worth of underwater digging, clearing out a lot of the silt that had been washed in over the winter.  Caution beware of swimming towards the waterfall in flood conditions - it nearly ate Estelle.  This dig is very cosy in a dry suit.

After the initial 'callout' on the Thursday night in the Alt, Friday  1st May saw Nick W, J'Rat, Estelle, Quackers, Pete Rose, Trevor, David the Gamekeeper, attending an attempted Dog Rescue.


Ben More and the Storm that zapped J'Rat!

An introduction from Eric at the Alt, who got wind of a dog having been lost in a pot near Strath Kanaird. It turns out the dog actually went missing last week so our chances of finding it alive were slim, but it was a chance for a look at an area none of us had seen before and the gamekeeper was grateful for our efforts.

The land is managed from Langwell Lodge but access is gained by driving up to the hydro dam and walking N.E. onto the ridge.  The area is the normal peat hag, but about 5-10 acres of top of the ridge is limestone with numerous dolines and depressions.  Above 50m level in altitude, travelling NW off the ridge, is a small resurgence where water appears between boulders, could be interesting for a days digging, although we did not have time to investigate.

Work concentrated on the hole that David said the dog ("Peggy") had disappeared down. We worked for about 4 hours, but all we were doing were chasing a hole about big enough to roll a grapefruit down. No sign or sound of the poor dog, and so we called it a day at about 3pm.  Not a bad day nonetheless: splendid weather.  About 50m from Peggy's Demise an open pot about 10m deep was explored by Trevor and J'Rat - through a bedding to a conclusion in a small chamber.  The obvious name is Strath Kanaird Pot.  This could be a new limestone area if Jim Salvona hasn't been there first.

View of Sutherland area from Strath Kanaird

On Saturday J'Rat walked from Ledmore Junction to the obvious limestone area near the pine copse behind Ledbeg.  At 233, 141 is a small open hole in a doline with a possible 10' deep open pot below. Needs digging.  PLEASE AVOID TillS AREA FOR THE TIME BEING as the writer let free a caged crow found nearby and he assumes the local keeper will not be happy! There is some superb limestone pavement and a possible mine or quarry tips in this area.  J'Rat's suggestion was to call the cave "Pot of the Relieved Crow" or something similar.

In the bar (Alt) the day after the failed dog rescue David the Gamekeeper appeared to let us know that Peggy had appeared on the doorstep this morning - very thin and bedraggled but also very much alive.  The digging and noise must have helped in some way.  We were bought beer as a reward, which combined with Christine's mega curry and Simon and Pete's slide show (with Glaswegian fishermen heckling) made a great night.  So, mucho brownie points for the GSG and we'd better re-name Peggy's Demise as Peggy's Pot.

Nick, Kate J. and Steve B spent more time on Sunday prospecting at Strath Kanaird.  Fine limestone pavement, but no real speleological potential.

A bang clearing trip to Whinging Dog Dig on the Bank Holiday Monday.  Removal of the debris gained view into about 12' of low thrust plane. This was pushed to conclusion on the following day, as it ended in a foot sized pool of shite.

Tav and Nick Williams returned to the obvious sink by the footpath just before the footbridge over the Traligill near Lower Traligill Cave.  Hilti'd a couple of boulders and dug down between 'solid' rock walls to reveal a practically penetrable passage for 6ft.   Reasonably promising prospect but looks a watery place. Name awaiting inspiration.   The following day Tav returned with J'Rat and removed a few more boulders to access the 'open' passage revealed yesterday. Just as the team were about to progress, the 'solid' rock roof dropped an inch or so and they had to collapse it over the way on.  To regain the lost ground they dug a round hole down on the other side of the sinkhole and after a couple of hours, uncovered a sizeable open cavity which took the whole stream and looked very good.

Simon Brooks and Tony Boycott on the Summer Isles diving trip

Just as they were about to go in however, the entire sinkhole shuddered and collapsed big style taking one crowbar, tonnes of bloody big rocks and nearly two diggers with it. The way on is now effectively blocked. There is definitely a cave under here but scaffolding is essential as it's a seriously dangerous place.  As it doesn't appear to have a name Tav and J'Rat suggested Earthquake Sink.

Birthday Hole was then blocked at the entrance with loads of boulders and left to fend for itself; it was taking a good sized streamway.

Wednesday arrived and finally Estelle extracted Rich from the bar and got him underground!  Filled up quite a few bags at Damoclean, but the spoil behind the shoring is collapsing in.  Needs a lot of attention before removing move gravel from the floor; scaffolding and cement may be the safest way forward.

Tony Boycott visited Snablet's dig in ANUS cave and gave it some more chemical persuasion.  He also lost his watch somewhere in there, but after a later attempt to find the watch, it was assumed that the bang probably blew it into space wonder what the altimeter thought of that???! ! !

Tony Boycott at Waterfall Rising

Rana Hole was also attacked again and another 60 odd skips in 5hrs or so removed.  A haulers seat was constructed above the entrance using the Mole Hole tripod, a fish box lid and a small boulder net.  The parasol, ashtray, etc. are yet to be provided. There are small holes appearing under the floor boulders.  This should hopefully provide the non-divers route into the Great Northern Time Machine (one day!!).

The last day for most of us saw Estelle and Tony in Waterfall Rising emptying bottles.  Water rose 6 inches while underwater and flow increased considerably.  Reached the bottom of the loop and can look up ongoing thrust plane.

J'Rat and Martin went to ANUS Cave to Jim's Drip Chamber Dig (Snablet's dig).  Cleared bang debris using new skip (left in situ) to find infilled passages trending ahead and uphill to the left.  Banged 3 boulders to enable Snablet to dig the crap out for the foreseeable future.  Tony's watch still not found (Probably vaporised)

The weather had deteriorated and the remainder of the team, were forced to seek refuge in the Alt and the Inch for most of the last 3 days.


Edward Whymper

Climber and Alpine Traveller

By Mike Wilson

I decided to write a segment for the BEC climbing division because: -

1.                  Some people probably know that the climbing division exists.

2.                  I have yet to see anything written in the BB by said division – let’s hope the climbers may respond!

This extraordinary young man was born in London in 1849 and became a wood engraver.  This skill and artistic ability inherited form his father served him well throughout his life.  When he was 20 years old the publishers William Longman asked him to make a series of Alpine Sketches.  The year was 1860.


Edward Whymper, aged 25 years - Courtesy of the Alpine club

The result was Whymper's first visit to the Alps, which fired up his climbing interest in the peaks! Bearing in mind that many summits had not been reached!  His prime target was the Matterhorn and in all he made 8 ascents of varying heights - from 1860 to 1865.  (More of July 1865 later!)  He also ascended Mt Pelvoux!

A sketch of Michel-Auguste Croz by Kay Wilson

The Breche de la Meije - Pointe des Ecrins - the Col de la Pilate - and Mont Dolent!  All of these were first ascents in the French Alps by a young 25 year old Englishman!  Albeit aided by local guides.  He also managed the first ascent of the Grand Cornier - latterly of course, in 1865, he is credited with the first ascent of the Matterhorn with the following guides: - Croz, Peter Taugwalder and his 2 sons (as porters) Lord F Douglas Hadow and Hudson, a top amateur climber in 1860.  He travelled to Paris by boat and train then from Paris by train via Sass and Stalden to Zermatt in Switzerland.  Travelling alone with just a sketchbook and his diary.  Fortunately he had a working knowledge of French, which stood him in good stead during the short 5 years from 1860 to 1865.  A gentleman called Hinchcliff who had recently climbed the Riffelber kindly offered to teach him some rockwork.  He agreed to accept this kind offer which proved to be his first step towards alpinism.

I feel that this mans subsequent exploits are amazing bearing in mind that up until 1860 he had only read about mountains and had never seen any, or attempted to climb some of the highest peaks in France!  He very humbly describes his scrambles in his diaries.  In those days, the 1800s, rich tourists travelled the Alps on mule back but Whymper had to use his legs and hire the occasional guide.  One such guide 'Inho' had agreed to get Whymper from Bionaz to Valtournache via a mountain pass accompanied him to the top of the pass and then refused to go any further, making off with Whymper's rucksack and all his sketching gear.  He was forced to buy all new equipment and (make do) with his sketches!  He returned to Bionaz managed to find the errant guide and retrieve his kit!  Needless to say the guide received an earful for his pains.

Whymper's first serious ascent was Mt Pelvoux 12,973 ft in the French Dauphine Alps.  The start point being the town of Briançon. Whymper then walked up the valley Aile Froide to the village of La Pisse.  Here he engaged a guide (common practice in those days) called Semoind. He then walked up to the Sapeniere glacier and camped for the night with his companions Reynaud and Giraud.  His other companion Macdonald had not shown up. The group then spent a day casting about on the approaches to Pelvoux.  Eventually Semoind admitted he was lost and they returned to the bivvy.  Macdonald was discovered on the next day!  So at 0400 on the 3rd day a second attempt was mounted.  By midday they had reached the snowfields and a previous cairn, the limit of the route 30 years ago.  At 1345 they finally climbed the last precipice and stood on the summit of Pelvoux. The return was not without incident. Macdonald fell at the glacier but fortunately was roped up, also the bivvy was not reached by nightfall and the group spent the night at 10,500 ft in very miserable conditions with no food or cover, just some wine, a spirit lamp, and some brandy and water.  They all contrived to sleep under Whymper's plaid shawl.  The next day the camp was reached and a descent to La Ville was completed. Whymper and his companions all suffered from fleas picked up in dirty inns and guesthouses the problem being discussed from time to time.  His guide Semoind stated (quote)  "As to fleas I don't pretend to be different from anyone else, I have them!"

In 1861 Whymper revisited Breuil and discovered Antoine Carrel, who lived in the village of Valtournanche, he had already attained a height 12,650 ft on a previous attempt at the Matterhorn in 1859.  Whymper also knew that that had been 3 previous attempts at the summit, one by 4 Frenchmen guided.  One by 2 Englishmen unguided who reached 12,000 ft and were only forced back by high winds and bad weather.

The third attempt had been made by Vaughan Hawkins and Carrel Bennen.  The latter was to die in 1864 on a mountain called the Haute de Cry. The 4th person in the party was Professor Tyndall who engaged a poor quality guide but only managed to reach the Chimney above the Col de Lion.  His guide gave up and he was forced to retreat.  Needless to say he resolved to return with a small team and use Carrel as guide.  So ended the first attempt!

There were several more abortive attempts on the Matterhorn by Whymper which are well documented. The final important ascent was on the 13th July 1865 at 5.30 in the morning when he set out in a party of eight: - Croz, Peter Taugwalder and his 2 sons, Lord F. Douglas, Hadow and Mr Hudson. Hudson and Douglas being the experienced alpinists along with Whymper and Peter Taugwalder.  So there were five experienced alpinists and three relatively inexperienced people.  Two being engaged solely as porters.

The first day was taken up by just attaining height in a steady manner and the group decided to camp at 12 o'clock approximately 11,000 ft up.  The afternoon was spent sketching and waiting for two of the party who had gone ahead to recce the route for the following day.  In good spirits they all settled down to sleep 4 in the tent and surprisingly the other 4, by choice(?) slept outside!  At dawn they all started out, 7 going on up and one of Taugwalder's sons retreating back to Zermatt.  The original intention was to leave the two boys at the camp.  Sadly the arrangement was changed, allegedly "over a problem with food distribution".  At 9.55am they reached a height of 14,000 ft, the experienced men leading and step cutting where necessary.  Croz now took up the lead followed by Whymper, Hudson, Hapow, etc.

Hudson was going well but Hadow required continuous assistance, probably through lack of experience!  Eventually a bold step around a corner led the group within 200 ft of the summit. Foremost in everyone's mind was the fact that an Italian group had set off from Breuil on the 11th July.  Four days earlier there had been talk of sightings of "men on the summit".  Croz and Whymper ran neck and neck up the slope and reached the top most ridge at 1.40pm.  "The peak was theirs".  "A great achievement".  They saw the Italian group 1,200 ft below on the Breuil side led by a Signor Giordiano. This group turned back!  But Giordiano tried again on the 17th July with 3 other people and gained the summit!  Whymper's victory had been a narrow one!

Whymper actually stated that Giordiano should have stood on the summit with him, which was generous. The party spent one hour on the summit and then Whymper and Hudson decided on the order of descent (a crucial decision in the light of the following events!).  Croz 1st, Hadow, Hudson, Lord F Douglas, old Peter Taugwalder, young Peter Taugwalder and Whymper last.  At the first difficult section, Whymper noted the additional rope had not been tied to the rocks as had been previously agreed.  They descended for some distance then Whymper tied himself onto old Peter at the request of Lord Douglas.  What happened next is history and tragic, Croz was helping Hadow by placing his legs in the proper footholds, apparently a common practice then!  Whymper states the end of the party, him included were unsighted by a mass of rock but he believes Croz must have turned round to descend a couple of steps himself when Hadow slipped, fell on him and knocked him (Croz) over.  They flew downwards dragging Hudson from his stance and Lord Douglas after him!  Peter Taugwalder and Whymper took stances, kept the rope tight between them but the rope parted between Taugwalder and Douglas.  Whymper was forced to watch his companions fall one by one from precipice to precipice, 4000 ft onto the Matterhorn glacier.  The 3 men left were transfixed by fear and stood for half an hour unable to move.  The young Peter being in front would not go down.  Eventually old Peter moved to a rock fixed a rope and they managed to reach a stance together.  Whymper states (quote) "I asked for the rope and found to my horror it was the weakest of the three and should not have been employed for the purpose which it had been used".  It was just a reserve to be attached to rocks and left behind if necessary.  For 2 hours they descended totally unnerved, fixing hand lines and cutting the rope when necessary.  Finally bivouacking on a ledge and spending a miserable six hours, then at day break descending via the Hornli ridge to Zermat.  On the 19th of July the bodies were recovered but Lord Douglas was never found.  So the first ascent of the Matterhorn occurred and the mountain claimed its first lives.

Whymper suffered a great deal because of the accident and was accused, rightly or wrongly, of "cutting the rope" to save his own life.  If Taugwalder's account and Whymper's are to be believed this is not possible because it would have been old Peter Taugwalder who would have had to cut the rope.

Whymper stayed in Zermat for 8 days then returned to England, "blasted by the Times Newspaper", in spite of the fact that the editor and staff knew very little, except reports from Switzerland with no factual backup.  The Punch Newspaper later apologised for their "scurrilous" attack.

Old Peter Taugwalder, who was exonerated of any blame by Whymper, left his country for America and subsequently returned to Schwartzee in 1888 and died there and Young Peter lived to a great age.  Whymper returned to Haslemere in Hants and spent 6 years writing "Some Scrambles Amongst the Alps".  He revisited the Alps between 1877 and 1886 just walking the valleys and glaciers.

Several visits to the Arctic were made in 1867 and 1872.  He also made 2 trips to Greenland which were regarded as failures in his eyes! The Matterhorn was revisited in 1874. He ascended with the guide Carrel and took photos to illustrate his lectures in England.

Five years later, 1879, Carrel and Whymper went to the Andes.  They ascended Mt Chimborazo, camping at 16,000 ft, where they tried to study the effects of high altitude.  Sadly although having spent 2 weeks at 10,000 ft all three suffered terribly from altitude sickness.  Carrel states "I thought we were dying".  Eventually they managed to camp at 17,283 ft and finally reached the summit "the highest climbed peak at that time".  Carrel and Whymper both suffered frostbite due to poor quality clothing at altitude.  The Andes tour was a success with several more mountains climbed accompanied by the Carrels.

Andean Indians were not Whymper's favourite people.  A dirty and impoverished country with even dirtier natives is how he described them. His views were not improved when he was “ripped off” by a hotel keeper who locked the expedition mules in a compound and made him pay "an exorbitant bill".  Whymper was not a man to be crossed.  Subsequently Whymper returned and horse whipped the man in the main street as revenge!  Poor Carrel was paid off in the port of Suayanquic and warned to "take care". He and Bersagliere went out drinking and gambling, ending up "like you do" at the local police station "penniless the next day".  "A warning to all young climbers" Whymper returned to Haslemere and spent twelve years writing "Travels Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator” (Read it - ED).  The Times applauded the double volume in 1891.  Wood engraving declined as a profession, Whymper used books and lectures as a means of income.  His lectures were well attended and his grand appearance in later years plus his dramatic flair held people spellbound.

Later in life he returned to the Alps several times, wrote 2 guide books on Zermatt and Chamonix.  He married and had a daughter Ethel.

During 1901 at the age of 60 he made several expenses paid visits to the Canadian Rockies (CP railways stood the bill).  He had a free hand but they were not happy trips.  He turned down several ambitious climbs proposed by his guides.  For example Mt Robinson and Mt Assinbourne. His passion and fire had gone.

Whilst never giving up travel he suffered from dizziness and insomnia which (quote) "troubled him greatly".

In 1911 he did the rounds in the Alps finally stopping at Chamonix.  He locked himself in his room, refused all medical aid and died alone 4 days later.

So ended the career of one of England's most controversial climbers of the Victorian age.

Ref. books:-

'Some Scrambles Amongst the Alps' - Whymper.

'Matterhorn man' - Walt Unworth.

'Travels amongst the Andes' - Whymper.


Correction to Last BB

From Roger Stenner

The maps of the streams which feed St. Cuthbert's Swallet, in Frankie and Roger Stenner's article in last month's BB, was not very clear.  Sorry.  If the following key is used, the links between the article and the two maps should be easier to find.

The grid references of points numbered 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 were measured from the original drawings, and the other references are from the survey data, rounded to the nearest metre.
















St. Cuthbert's Swallet Entrance Shaft

Sample Site 1 Mineries Pool Outflow Stream

Sample Site 2 St. Cuthbert's Stream near main stream sink

Sample Site 3 Fair Lady Well

Maypole Sink

Intermittent overflow channel       From


Maypole Overflow Corner

Intermittent tributary complex


Source of former (pre 1985) St. Cuthbert's Stream

Pool, now breached (not numbered on the 25 inch map)

Lower Corner (wall corner near footpath)

Upper Corner (wall corner near Fair Lady Well)

Wall Junction (behind the Belfry)









54368 54331





















(Apologies - the printers couldn't quite cope with the fineness of the maps - Ed)


Attborough Swallet Progress report

By Dave Shipton

A run down of Attborough Swallet over the last 2 1/2 years. Report 22/11/94

Attborough Swallet like Wigmore Swallet is in an unusual geological location, the cave being located in Dolomitic Conglomerate and marl.  A hydrological connection exists between this site and the up stream sumps in Wigmore.  The cave was entered and explored by the Cotham Caving Group in late 1992, previously the site had been dug by W.C.C., M.N.R.C., and S.V.C.C. between 1956 and 1966. The cave is also known as Red Quar Swallet and was originally dug by the MMRC in the 1930s.  (See "Caves of Mendip")

The concrete piped entrance shaft requires a 15ft ladder and a short belay at the bottom.  A short crawl then gives way to a rift, 40ft long and 30ft deep - a 20ft ladder is required.  15ft from here is a bold step across the rift and climb up via a tight and slippery muddy tube (break through: 7-10-92) great care needed on the climb up, this leads into a small decorated chamber - The Attic (break through: 11-10-93).

A drop in the floor leads down a twisting descent through boulders reaching a fixed ladder which gives access to the second chamber (break through: 4-11-93).  There is a too tight dig in the left corner.  A climb through  loose boulders            and scaffolding supports enables access to the third chamber (break through: 16-12-93).  Directly below the scaffolding is a very awkward and tight squeeze down, entering the Quick Link.  To the left is an inlet tube in the roof that gives a draught. This must be close to the surface, but it's too tight after 10ft.


Attborough Entrance - note the digging bags!!!

Directly below in the floor of the chamber is a 5ft drop through boulders and 20ft of narrow passage (Pain and Passion) ending too tight. Going back to the entrance rift and carrying on down through scaffolding to a squeeze leading under the floor into Happy Mondays (break through: 30-8-93).  To the right Quick Link Passage is entered, 40ft of narrow passage leading back to the upper chambers.  Opposite this is a small connecting tube which leads to Cotham Hall.  Carry on down Happy Mondays 20ft, and on the right you can enter Nigel's Dig, 20ft long ending in a mud filled passage. Continue down the narrowing passage of Happy Mondays and you enter Cotham Hall, 90ft long, 12ft wide and 10ft high.

To the right and down a fixed ladder is the Shower Room, continuing down through boulders to a T -junction.  Left is too tight, but connects with the hole in the roof of the left hand lower passage of Cotham Hall; to the right and you enter "Nasty, Nasty" (break through: 1-9-93).  90ft long and very muddy, 30ft along and a standing chamber is reached, with a squeeze at floor level.  Continuing the crawl through and you reach a passage on your right which goes into a small chamber and a very tight duck at the top end (possibly sumped) this enters Mud Hall (break through: 4-5-93) 40ft long narrowing up a slope to a dig possibly heading towards Nigel's Dig.


Attborough Swallet
Red Quar, Chewton Mendip
Surveyed by BEC Sept 93 - Feb 95
Drawn by T. Hughes
Scales 1:200, 1:2500
Entrance level based on OSBM (accepted value 273.16m) on cottage at road to Wigmore farm


Continue down Nasty, Nasty to what looks like the end and then go up and over a mud bank.  To the right is a very narrow squeeze upwards which leads to May Chamber (break through: 1-5-94) a small calcite chamber. By turning left at the mud bank a small squeeze and flat out crawl leads down to a 10ft pitch, Pit Pot (break through: 13-2-94).  At floor level a squeeze leads to a stream way, up stream is too tight.  5ft down stream leads to a tight sump.  The stream feeder is unknown so it will be very interesting to dye test some of the surface inlets around the area to try and find the source.

Back in Cotham Hall the passage on the left hand side gradually narrows down.  Just as you enter there's a small hole in the roof which leads down about 20ft to an on going dig possibly towards Pit Pot.  Continue down the narrowing passage 15ft to a Letter Box on the left, which floods in heavy rain - possible dig?  Just past this is an elbow which enters Twist And Shout (break through 12.10.93) with a very tight squeeze down an 8ft drop, then a 4ft drop and finally a 15ft pitch down the water rift to a sump 6ft long and 3ft deep which leads back under the right hand wall; this is where all the water flows off.  The rift has flooded up to the top in very wet weather.

Just above the water level there is an inlet on the left which feeds from Pit Pot stream way.  This does not dry up in summer whereas all of the rest of the cave inlets do(!?).  Back up the rift in the roof there is a 20ft tight passage leading over the top of the rift, but it is too tight.


Nigel Denmead in Cotham Hall

WARNING:  In very wet weather beyond the Mud Bank, Nasty Nasty will back up and flood, blocking access.

N.B.  The entrance system was B.A.R.A. dye traced to Cheddar Rising in 1973 (travel time 5 days) Wigmore Swallet (travel time, up stream sump, under 56 hours)

Digging by D. Shipton, D. Bryant and P. Evans.

Wigmore Swallet (top) and Attborough Swallet (bottom) in relation to the surface features.  Based on 1886 and 1903 OS sheets and original survey work (1:25000)


Newspaper Headlines

The following is a bunch of actual newspaper headlines.

  • Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
  • Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
  • Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • House passes gas tax onto senate
  • Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan
  • Two convicts evade noose, jury hung
  • William Kelly was fed secretary
  • Milk drinkers are turning to powder
  • Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
  • Quarter of a million Chinese live on water
  • Farmer bill dies in house
  • Iraqi head seeks arms








Some become unintentionally suggestive:

  • Queen Mary having bottom scraped
  • Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
  • Prostitutes appeal to Pope
  • Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes over
  • NJ judge to rule on nude beach
  • Child's stool great for use in garden
  • Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper editors
  • Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
  • Organ festival ends in smashing climax







Grammar often botches other headlines:

  • Eye drops off shelf
  • Squad helps dog bite victim
  • Dealers will hear car talk at noon
  • Enraged cow injures farmer with axe
  • Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
  • Miners refuse to work after death
  • Two Soviet ships collide - one dies
  • Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter






Once in a while, a botched headline takes on a meaning opposite from the one intended:

  • Never withhold herpes from loved one
  • Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
  • Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
  • Autos killing 110 a day let's resolve to do better




Sometimes newspaper editors state the obvious:

  • If strike isn't settled quickly it may last a while
  • War dims hope for peace
  • Smokers are productive, but death cuts efficiency
  • Cold wave linked to temperatures
  • Child's death ruins couple's holiday
  • Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn't seen in years
  • Man is fatally slain
  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
  • Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation






Dicking About in the Desert, or Never Mind the Kalashnikov.What about the Pomegranate Stains?

by Tony Boycott and Peter Dowswell

During late October/early November 1997, Simon Brooks, Peter Dowswell, myself and Daniel Gebauer from Germany participated in the 5th Pak-Britain Caving Climbing Training Expedition to Baluchistan.  Simon has been going to Pakistan since 1989 and has built up a useful partnership with the Chiltan Adventures (sic) Association of Quetta, who were our hosts during the expedition.

Local contacts are essential, as without them the problems of obtaining 'No Objection Certificates' (allowing access to normally restricted areas and providing for native levies) equipment and transport would be virtually insurmountable.

Following a couple of days travel we arrived in Quetta to much razzmatazz at the airport - tinsel garlands, welcoming banner - the full biff.  This was followed by a solemn opening ceremony at the local Provincial Assembly Members Hostel during which Koranic prayers were recited and many fine sentiments were expressed, followed by Suleimani (black) Chai and biscuits. Simon and Daniel were then whisked away to the Pakistan TV studios for an interview - broadcast to over 40 nations by satellite - what superstars!

Quetta (population about 500,000) is the capital of Baluchistan, the largest and westernmost province of Pakistan, and lies surrounded by mountains at an altitude of 1700 metres.  It lies at the junction of the main roads to Iran, Afghanistan and via the Bolan Pass the main more populous Pakistan heartland.  Most of the city is modern, the previous buildings having been destroyed by an earthquake in 1935.  It has the air of a frontier town to it and thrives on the import/export business. Although Pashto (aka Pathans or Pashtun) is the dominant culture it is ethnically diverse and has large groups of Baluchs, Brahuis and Hazaras.


Local transport near Thang Ghara, Kharan

There is a large amount of traffic of all types, including autorickshaws, camels, donkeys, handcarts, bicycles and lorries and a traffic smog tends to hang over the city in the morning and evening.  It is also reputed to be the cleanest city in Pakistan.

The evening was spent discussing the forthcoming programme with Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, our host and expedition co-leader.  This was then typed out for use in obtaining the No Objection Certificate (NOC).

The following morning was spent obtaining the NOC, after the usual prolonged discussions, and then a late start for Sirkii Kaach Cave in the Zarghoon Range.  A long drive along a rough road up the side of a mountain (the norm) led to 'base camp' next to an old cemetery. Having missed the Halal butchery demonstration (a volunteer sheep having been brought in the Land Rover) we continued a further two miles up the track before walking the remaining mile or so in the gathering twilight (also the norm) to the cave entrance.  The cave (previously described as having a chamber 500 feet by 100 feet) turned out to be a vadose canyon in mudstone with an overlying sandstone cap.  Eighty-five metres of cave was surveyed by PO and TB whilst noting various varieties of wildlife - ghundak (spider) cockroaches, bats (the norm) and a porcupine. Returned to camp to devour the aforementioned sheep and returned late to Quetta (the norm).

Pushto hospitality knows no bounds and is a matter of honour for whomsoever you should call upon - it is never too late to stop for a meal - and justice has not been done unless the guests have had three square meals a day.

Daniel Gebauer climbing up into Gundak Crawl in Pir Ghaib Ghara No I

Thursday 30th saw a trip along the Mastung Valley to Mangochar and a couple of caves in the Mountains.  The first (plus a couple of smaller nearby caves) Kaddi Coo char, was an old remnant about 150m above the valley floor consisting of a very impressive entrance, about 10m diameter, at the head of a gully in the cliff, leading to a series of low crawls.  PO & OG surveyed whilst waiting for the rest of the party to arrive with the cameras. The usual dicking about and food followed before departing for a cave on the Jolan road beyond Kalat (having picked up some levymen on the way).  The cave, Ziarat Sheikh Hadje Ghara, was located at the foot of Koh-e-Maharan (Snake Mountain) about 20 km beyond Kalat, and as it was dark by now, took a little time to locate.  The cave itself, although relatively short (29m) was interesting, being a shrine (ziarat) to Sheikh Hadje (and containing his grave) and being quite well endowed with stal.  Survey and photographs were followed by a return to the vehicles where quite a few local tribesmen had gathered.  They were a little unhappy on two counts, one that a few of our party had failed to remove our footwear in the cave and secondly they appeared not to want word of their holy cave to be spread around.  Returned to Quetta late.

Friday saw us off to Kharan in the west of Baluchistan a good 8 hours away by land rover.  We stopped at Noshki, about halfway and were given hospitality by the local magistrate, a friend of Hayat's, and a couple of levymen.  Shortly after leaving Noshki and the main highway the offside front wheel bearing on the landrover collapsed.  Not daunted, this was soon changed at the side of the road and we continued on our way, the land rover again almost coming to grief, soon after, when the road abruptly stopped at the edge of a wadi where the bridge had been washed away, and it came to rest slightly over the edge.  A little manhandling, however, and we were on our way again, over a particularly rough section of road, eventually reaching our destination about 10 km beyond Kharan after midnight.

Rising early the following morning, we surveyed and photographed Thang Gara, a large remnant at the foot of Koh-e-Bajarat, truncated by a wadi.  A very large entrance soon gave way to a rising sandy crawl with the usual bats in residence which pinched out about 100m from the entrance. Some time was also spent surveying/climbing the upward continuation of the entrance rift which rose to a height of 30 metres or more.  Lunch was punctuated by some impromptu Pushto dancing and singing followed by an attempt at teaching them how to do eightsome reels - one of the more surreal moments of the trip!  After looking at a few promising holes in the surrounding area and talking to a local tribesman and his camels, we set off for Quetta, stopping briefly at Kharan to weld a broken shock absorber, Noshki to return our levymen and buy food and then later at the side of the road to eat, eventually arriving after midnight.

Sunday was used to rest and to feed data into Daniel's laptop.

Monday 3rd November provided a day trip from Quetta to the Lak PasslMastung Valley area.  Whilst looking for one cave, some locals guided us to the nearby village of Bathora to examine a different one.

Although initially regarded with some suspicion (people often think caves may contain treasure and can't really understand anyone wanting to look at them for sport) we were eventually shown to the entrance of Kodi Ghara an interesting little cave of 82m, with some odd little chambers and an interesting low crawl, smelling strongly of porcupine and bats.  Then over the Lak pass to an entrance, previously observed, which turned out to be little more than a rock shelter, Ghosabad Ghara.  Thence back towards Quetta for another two small caves, Kassiabad Ghara 1 & 2.  Back to Quetta in daylight!

The following morning we set off on a four day trip through the Bolan Pass to Pir Ghaib, Sibi and the Nari River.  After the usual stops for supplies, we reached the Bolan Pass at about mid-day.

The Bolan is an impressive place, a deeply cut gorge surrounded by high mountains and with the railway and main road south to Karachi running through it. The railway is a monument to Victorian engineering skills and to the many men who must have built it under extremely harsh conditions.  There are a number of impressive tunnels and bridges, although as is often the case in Baluchistan with its flash floods at least one of the bridges was washed away and has been replaced.  One of the more interesting hazards of the Bolan (apart from the huge potential for installing crash barriers at precipitous drops) is the propensity for overladen trucks (mostly extremely colourful old Bedford lorries appearing to carry about twice their design load of 20 tons) to get stuck underneath railway bridges (where they cross over the road) thereby stemming the flow of traffic.  The usual response is for the traffic then to drive up (or down) the river bed until the problem is sorted.

Continuing down to Mach and the local District Commissioner's office we picked up four levymen before going on to Pir Ghaib. Mach has a thriving coal industry seemingly run under the most basic of conditions with the surrounding hillsides riddled with small drift mines with extremely rudimentary equipment and worked by hand.

Entrance to Snake Cave, Bolan Pass

Pir Ghaib is a pleasant contrast, a beautiful tropical oasis in the middle of the stony desert surrounded by date palms and with a warm spring.  A large pool just downstream from where the water gushes from the rock affords an excellent place to swim and relax.  Close by is a shrine to a local mullah (and grave) which was our base for the next two nights, the only disadvantage to this otherwise idyllic spot being the large numbers of hornets.  Pir Ghaib Ghara, at 1.3km Pakistan's longest cave lies in the steep sided gorge upstream and had been pushed to about 680m on previous visits.  It is reached by climbing part of the way up the mountain and then dropping down into the gorge.  The first night seemed rather a noisy affair, with barking dogs, falling rocks and SB's snoring.  My night was enlivened by being wakened at 2 in the morning by a dog licking my face.

The hillside was duly climbed the following morning and most of the party descended to the cave.  Most of the party returned at around sunset that evening apart from Daniel, myself, Simon and Wali Mohammed (Wallo) who decided to sleep overnight in the gorge, having emerged at dusk and decided that sleeping overnight with minimal food and no sleeping kit was preferable to climbing back up the gorge in the dark with no ropes.  The night was enlivened by a move into the lower cave after a careful inspection for snakes as sleeping on the pocket handkerchief sized piece of karrirnat in the back of the rucksacks was too cold, and none of the party succeeded in getting entirely into their rucksacks despite trying hard. 

White Spider in Pir Ghaib Ghara No 1

The additional benefit was an early start surveying the cave and most leads were fully pushed and Friendship Passage and Golden Jubilee Chamber discovered and surveyed.  The number of bats (small horseshoes, species not identified) in the cave was so great that they interrupted the surveying by hanging on the tape, T-shirts, lips, noses, eyelids etc.  Surprisingly no-one became ill (yet!) from such close contact.  The cave was also inhabited by large white hairy spiders, one of which was observed eating a large centipede, and many cockroaches, three of which were seen dragging away a dead bat.  Meanwhile PD endured the hell of swimming at the pool, enlivened during the previous evening by a snake swimming past him (he was assured that they cannot swim and bite at the same time), and some walking.  The rest of the party returned at about 3.00pm, smelling heavily of bat guano, to much applause, and after a swim and some food we departed for Sibi. Being much lower than Quetta, Pir Ghaib (985m a.s.l.) was hot and Sibi (220m a.s.l.) even hotter.  Sibi enjoys the reputation of being the hottest place in Asia with the summer temperature rising to the mid-fifties Centigrade.  We arrived in the evening to a bustling street market and spent around an hour there sampling the local fast food - jelabi, pakora, samosas, roasted peanuts in their shells - whilst Malik Abdul Rahim Baabai, the Chiltan's chairman and owner of our newer vehicle, a Toyota Hilux, made some phone calls.  We then continued to the Nari river, about l0 km beyond Sibi, camping and eating (after the usual slaughter of our live meat) well after midnight.  We also made a quick recce to the caves as a local hunting party were able to show us their location.  Half the party then decided to return to Quetta as Malik had some pressing business to attend to.

After an early rise we explored, surveyed and photographed the local caves before breakfast.  They lie close to the Nari River near the head works for a large irrigation scheme and a few yards from the main railway line to Harnai.  Formed in bands of soft mudstone between the limestone, they are relatively unstable and full of soft breakdown and some odd mudstone formations, altogether quite interesting and in a beautiful location.  The Nari, apart from providing good fishing is also home to small crocodiles. We then headed back for Quetta, stopping for an hour or two in the Bolan Pass to explore four caves there.  A pleasant time was has by all apart from Simon who had a close encounter of the serpentine kind in Snake Cave (Darah-e- Bolan Ghara no 1).  Having forded the river, barefoot apart from sandals, whilst surveying a snake fell out of the roof, disturbed by some cave swiftlets, bounced off Simon's helmet and landed on his feet.  Daniel was somewhat bemused by this incident as Simon swiftly exited the passage declaring loudly "fucking spiders" (his normal expletive). Two of the other caves, Armoury Cave and Chimney Cave both had extremely large bat roosts and the associated aroma.  Further stops at Bibi Nani for water (the land rover was overheating), Mach for chai, to watch the Bolan Mail train go past and to return our levymen, and the Bolan Pass to collect fresh spring water marked a pleasnt journey back to Quetta.

Entrance to Ghosalabch Ghara, Lak Pass

Saturday 8th November we spent the day at Marri Farsch, an impressive 200m wall at the side of a gorge about two hours drive from Quetta, with Simon and Nigel, a local ex-pat, attempting to provide tuition on safe climbing techniques, in between climbing competitions.  Peter and I wandered around the gorge collecting some plants and looking at a large boulder cave beneath the road.  The Chiltans are excellent natural climbers who seem to prefer free climbing. Wallo played along with Nigel and allowed himself to be life lined up to about 80m.  The effect was rather spoiled, however, when John Mohammed (Johno) free climbed up the wall past them stopping briefly to say hello.  Nigel suggested that he and Wallo should proceed back to the bottom as he could no longer lifeline him, whereupon Wallo offered to climb up the next pitch and lifeline Nigel.  Nigel declined and returned to the bottom whilst Wallo duly climbed to the top in the gathering twilight.  All of which reminded us somewhat of Obelix the Gaul.  A chicken and bhindi picnic lunch was consumed in the dark lit by burning bushes, before returning to Quetta.

The following day we headed east in the land rover for Ziarat and Pui.  A late start (usual dick about) meant that we did not reach our first objective, Kan Tangi, an impressive deep, narrow, steep sided canyon until mid afternoon.  An hour's walk brought us to the entrance, about 10m up the smooth vertical side of the canyon and it proved impossible to reach without pegs or scaling poles. Somewhat pissed off, we returned to the land rover in the twilight for chai and to continue our journey.  Next stop was Ziarat, a beautiful little village high in the mountains (altitude 2600m) surrounded by juniper forest, a favourite summer retreat of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) the founder of Pakistan, and in the time of the British, their summer headquarters in Baluchistan.  It is somewhat reminiscent of Switzerland in an odd sort of way, and we had a welcome coffee at the Shalimar hotel before continuing on to Wani, where we stayed the night in the house of a friend of Hayat's.

Another beautiful dawn and early start, looking at Spedar China spring before heading over the mountain to Shirin and Pui.  The spring itself was quite interesting, coming from an attractive looking rift. Disappointingly it yielded only about 10m before ending in a sump pool with the water issuing from a too tight bedding.  Also noted were small fish and a freshwater crab, presumably remnants from earlier times as the spring water runs on the surface for less than half a mile.  The pass over the hill was yet another woolly track up the side of the mountain, although the scenery was impressive as usual. At Shirin there was a slight delay whilst the caves were not found which enabled us to sample the local apples from the adjacent orchards.  Apples from the Pui Valley are renowned for their quality, a claim well justified. On to Pui and with a little local assistance the caves were found, to the south of the village up a small side valley.  Ograha Ghat Ghara 1 & 2, as usual old remnants, yielded about 160m between them and were quite interesting, Ghara 1 having a pleasant domed chamber with a window to the outside.  After a meal we then started back for Quetta at about 4 in the afternoon, and after a three-quarter hour stop to look at another entrance reached a different pass back to the Ziarat valley - a short-cut to Chauter.  Half way up we had the recurrent land rover problem of choked fuel line and rigged the alternative fuel tank - a plastic canister of diesel in the front passenger well with a tube feeding directly to the fuel pump. Stopping on an incline was always interesting as the vehicle did not have a functional handbrake - the foot brakes being only slightly better.  Power restored we continued to the top and started our descent - a series of tight hairpins with a semi vertical drop of about 1000 feet.  This proved quite interesting on a crumbly uneven track as the hairpins were too tight for the long wheelbase land rover to get round, necessitating taking it to the edge and then reversing back.  The added safety feature was Johno at the rear door ready to jump out and put some chock stones in if things got out of control.  Another interesting feature was that when the land rover leaned over too much the Chiltans in the back would all sit on the opposite side as a counterbalance.  Chauter was duly reached and we continued to Ziarat for puncture repair, diesel and more coffee and apples.  A further land rover refinement was no heating in the back.  Being at high altitude it was rather cold - not a problem for the Chiltans who fired up the gas stoves in the back - slightly negated by us opening windows.  At about 10.30pm as we were coming into Kuchlagh, about 20 minutes short of Quetta, it was decided that we hadn't had enough to eat and would drop in on some Afghani relatives for a meal.  After some excellent food we eventually reached Quetta about 1.00am - altogether a most interesting day.

Tuesday 11th, Simon set off with 3 Chiltan members to have a look at some caves on the ridge of Takatu Mountain.  A successful day surveying 3 new caves, Khazana Takki Ghara nos. 1 - 3, total length 57.5m, as usual descending the mountain in the twilight. Daniel, Pete and myself had meanwhile gone shopping for stuff to take home, to visit some of Quetta's many bookshops and to get tickets for Daniel to proceed to Bangkok and for us to fly to Karachi, and failed to get into the archaeological museum.    

Entrance, Pir Ghaib Ghara No 1

Wednesday proved to be another marathon.  In the morning we all went to the Chief Minister's (of Baluchistan Provincial Assembly) residence for a flag presentation ceremony. After the usual photo calls, TV and chai we eventually set off to climb Zarghoon Mountain, Baluchistan's highest at about 11,700 feet to wave the flag in celebration of the Golden Jubilee and the success of the expedition.  Another long drive round the flanks of the mountain on a dirt road eventually led us, amidst magnificent ancient juniper forest, to the starting point at about 8500 feet, at around 4.00pm.  The approach was somewhat fragmented with several groups setting off up the steep boulder strewn slope at different rates and in different directions. The parties more or less reconvened at the gully marking the obvious route up the last 1000 feet of the more vertical part of the mountain.  With only about 45 minutes of daylight left myself and Daniel decided to return to the camp whilst Simon and five Chiltans pushed on to the verglas coated top, eventually reached in darkness.  Whilst we sat round the camp fire burning juniper wood and, in the absence of suitable provisions, experimenting with ginger tea and juniper berry tea (not a life enriching experience) they made their way back in darkness reaching camp at about 8.30.  Food and then back to Quetta about 00.30.

Our last full day in Quetta was prize giving day, with the ceremony to take place at the Serena Hotel at around 6.00pm.  Most of the day was taken up with the arrangements for this and of course making ourselves look a bit more presentable, but did allow for a visit to the archaeological museum.  Although not particularly extensive and lacking the sophisticated display facilities of a modern museum, it was quite interesting, containing exhibits from Mehrgarh, the earliest known site in the subcontinent (7000 BC - 2000 BC) Moenjodaro, the great Indus civilisation, a display of very old and beautiful Korans and a large weaponry section.  Pride of place was given to the blood encrusted scimitar used to assassinate the British garrison commander in 1919.

The prize giving and exhibition of caving and climbing gear was an impressive affair, the Serena being a particularly fine venue.  Verses from the Koran were sung beautifully by Malik's son, many fine speeches were made (recorded for TV of course), extolling the virtues of international co-operation and recounting our achievements, and medals, trophies and certificates were awarded by the speaker of the Baluchistan Assembly to much applause. Tea and savouries followed and we then spent the rest of the evening at the local Chinese restaurant, the Cafe China. Chinese food - quality and style seems to be something of a global constant and a fine time was had by all.

In true Chiltan style we managed to delay going to the airport for as long as possible and were the last people to board the plane.  We had not been looking forward to our overnight stay in Karachi due to the recent troubles.

View from entrance of Kaddi Coochar Ghara

A couple of senior mullahs had been assassinated the previous week and four Americans slaughtered a couple of days ago in retaliation for the trial of the World Trade Centre bombers.  We therefore spent the day at the airport hotel sitting by the pool before our 4.00am bus to the airport (accompanied by armed guard) and the long journey home.

All in all the expedition should be considered a success, with over thirty new caves surveyed totalling nearly two kilometres.  It would have been nice to find more, and with the amount of limestone present there is still good potential for a lot more.  The large distances to be covered take up a lot of time, however, and can be frustrating at times.  The country itself is ruggedly beautiful and the people extremely friendly.  I have no doubt that further work will eventually reveal some larger systems.


Turner, J (1977) First Field Report from the 1976 Speleological Expedition to the Himalayas. Descent 35, p 42-3.

Orpheus Caving Club (1990) Pakistan 1990.  DCA Newsletter 74 p 2-4

Antonini, G (1991) I "Mulinelli" del Biafo.  Speleologia 12 (24) p 28 - 32

Antonini, G (1991) Speleologia glaciale in Karakorum La Rivista del Club Alpino Italiano 2 p 56 - 63.

Bannert, D (1992) The Structural Development of the Western Fold belt, Pakistan King, J & D. St. Vincent (1993) Pakistan.  Lonely Planet Guide, 4th edition

Badino, G & G. Carrieri (1993) Hunza 93 Prima spedizione italiana nel Karakorum Grotte Torino 111 p 6-8.

Brooks, S. (1994) Observations on the karst & caves of the Karakorum International Caver 11 p 11 - 16.

Ducluzaux, B (1994) Karakorum 1993.  Expedition de reconnaissance au Pakistan. Grottes et Gouffres 132 p 24 - 29.

Vacchiano, F (1996) Pakistan. Grotte (Torino) Year 39 no 121 p 56 - 62.


The Undergrounders - Well Almost! CAVING - What's it all about?

By Rich Long

Over the last couple of months my good friend Chris "Zot" Harvey has been back caving with us, no really, he has been going underground, honest, ask Mr Wilson.

Which prompts me to ask, "What is it all about then?"  Is it the deepest the tightest the longest it's still caves I'm talking about by the way, or is it all that and something else, like a ZOT TRIP. When you cave with Chris it's always an experience, I remember the first time he took me down St Cuthbert's, head first down the rift, what a sight to instil into the virgin caver.  OK, so, sometimes he doesn't have all of his kit maybe he's minus a light, oversuit, belt, krab, descender, rope, sling, key to the cave, but he's always got the essentials a big heart, enthusiasm, a love of caving and that bloody helmet with no chinstrap.

For about three years we have been planning to go to Yorkshire and do Swinsto together.  At last we got it arranged, picked Chris up Friday afternoon, me, absolutely hyper with excitement I like going out to play, Zot totally laid back.

"Hello Chris, everything ready?"

"Well, no, can't find me sleeping bag, but I've got me wellies and wetsuit!"

After a short search, organised by Zot's Dad, a wet sleeping bag which had hidden itself at the back of the garage was produced.  I'm not convinced it hadn't done it on purpose as it had been away with Chris previously.

On we go after we pick up Vicky who had also decided to try the trip.  Well after a Thrupe Lane tip with Mike Wilson, me and Chris she had been lulled into a false sense of security.  After a FIVE HOUR PLUS drive, God damn it, and hundreds of, “Don't let the B******'s back in!"  I am a Saint behind the wheel, we arrive in Clapham, at Big Roy's place.  “That was a long time wasn't it,” I said we should have come the other way and not the motorway.   Chris.

After mugs of tea and then liberal doses of beer and medicinal whiskey at the pub, Chris trying to equal Pam and dismally failing.  Bed time.

Next day, it had rained so hard no one in their right mind would go underground, fortunately Roy was in his right mind and it was decided to go hill walking.  Well everyone except Zot, who thought he would be better off guarding the car at Malham.  Fortunately on returning to the car Zot wasn't dead, although I wasn't convinced, he was just asleep.  Well at least I didn't have to give him the kiss of life.  Thank You God.

We dropped in to Horton, but everyone else had gone hill walking.  But we did see a nice locomotive steaming up the valley and across the viaduct, pleasant sight, but I must admit I didn't get quite as aroused as the hundreds of train enthusiasts who could have done with" ... a long cold shower, Boy!" as my old Reform School teacher Herr Hitler would say.

OK as we were so near it had to be the Hill Inn, where upon much coaxing, I attempted the wheel.  Do you find it amazing how quickly a "Go on, you can do it!" turns into a "Too Bloody fast!" the worst thing was some 'Stick Boy' hill walker climbed through with his coat on, "The ******* ******!"

However I accepted defeat gracefully, well, I considered it graceful even if the others didn't.  Next day more of the same.  More hill walking, this time in snow, followed by gales on Ingleborough then beautiful sunshine below Black Shiver, excellent contrast.

Anyway the trip to Swinsto had fizzled out caving wise, but for us it was still a great trip. Wherever we went we met Chris's friends who hopefully became our friends.  So what's it all about?  Not always being underground but being with like minded folk, like Zot who shares everything, who has shown me time and time again "Hey Rich, No Problem, take it easy."   Thanks Zotty, perhaps next time we can go caving?

P.S. The return journey was just as bad going Zot's way.  Haaa!







QuaecumQue Faciendum: Nimis Faciemus

Having noted the above Latin motto on some old Belfry Bulletins I asked for information in the last BB and I was pleased to receive a letter from Alfie Collins explaining the history and derivation of the motto.  He told me that the motto was his idea and dated from the first BEC Song competition.  (Now there is the next question - when was that?)  He said that he was the first person to see George Weston's contribution and thought that the last lines of the song summed up the club's attitude to life very well.

Alfie explained that the word "Quaecumque" means 'whatsoever' and should be in the feminine as the Latin for thing (res) is oddly enough feminine in gender.  The word "Faciendum" is the gerundive of the verb 'facio' which means 'I do' or 'I make' and its gerundive means 'fit to be done'.  The word "Nimis" means to excess and Alfie said that the 'Red Lion' at Green Ore (now re-named 'The Ploughboy') used to have a motto on its pub sign which read "Ne Nimium" which meant 'Nothing to excess' and was a good reason for the BEC not to drink there!  The final word "Faciemus" means 'we will do' and consequently the motto in total becomes:

"Whatever is worth doing we will do it to excess."

Alfie thinks that the motto was dropped when he ceased to be editor after the 1977 AGM and that the modern variant, "Everything to excess" is not what George Weston meant. i.e. some things are not worth doing!

Chris Smart (with very grateful thanks to Alfie Collins)


This particular Bertie was drawn for the current set of Belfry Bulletins, by Chas Wethered.  See the Caving News Page for Blitz's next history question


Meghalaya '98 - A Survivor's View

By Tony Jarratt 1/4/98

This year's expedition to NE India consisted of Tony Boycott (BEC/GSG), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Brian Johnson (BEC), Anette Becher (BEC/GSG), Simon Brooks (OCC/GSG), Jenni Brooks (OCC), Ian Chandler (WCC/CCC) and Andy Tyler (CSS) from Britain. Daniel Gebauer, Uwe Kruger, Ritschie Frank, Thilo Muller and Georg Baumler (Hohlen und Heimatverein Laichingen) from Schwabischeralb, Germany. Yvo Weidmann (Switzerland). Corporals Sher and Gurjinder Singh (probably the world's only Sikh cavers!) and the Khasi stalwarts from the Meghalaya Adventurers Association - Brian Kharpran Daly, Raphael Warjri, Donbok Syiemlieh, Colonel Fairweather Mylliemngap, Lindsay Diengdoh, Kyrshan Myrthong, Valerie Lalvula and others.  Our cooks, drivers, dhobi ladies and local guides kept the whole show on the road and enabled the cavers to concentrate on the job in hand.  So much so that after twenty days in the field, the total amount of surveyed passage (some two thirds of which was original exploration) amounted to over 26.4 km (15.3 miles), almost identical with last year's figure.

Our first discoveries were in the Cherrapunjee area where Krem Rong Umsoh (Ochre River Cave) was surveyed for 370m - leaving an extensive, bat infested upper level unmapped due to lack of time.  Krem Phyllut II (434m) and Krem Soh Pang Bniat (Thorn Apple Cave) where the writer was forced to adopt Mendip tactics to reach a large and as yet unsurveyed river passage heading both up and downstream for several hundred, bat filled metres!  The latter will doubtless provide an important piece of the extensive, segmented system known to exist in this fascinating area near the famous Raj hill station - only recently relegated from its title of "wettest place on Earth" by another Meghalayan town nearby.  While several of the team were busy here, a larger contingent had left by Wankhar Roadlines coach (honest) for the Nongjri area where over 5 km was surveyed in the 6.5km Krem Lymput system and associated caves.  A 24 hour "lurgi" began decimating the Cherra team who were now en route for our main area at Lumshnong in the Jaintia Hills.  Here we took up residence in the Soil Conservation Bungalow (C.B) just north of the village during a torrential downpour not good news when one of our projects was to be further exploration of the 19.2 km long, flood-prone Krem Kotsati / Krem Urn Lawan System running practically underneath the main road!

The following day the weather improved but fearing flooding underground we went surface prospecting beyond the known end of the system.  Here the tight and unpleasant Krem Sohmynken Khnai (Rat Shit Chilli Cave) was pushed by Tony Boycott for 30m becoming too small.  An extra treat here were the black and orange striped Tiger Leeches, one of which made a fatal error by biting the scrawny neck of a cigarette addict.  Smoking became a popular pastime over the next few weeks.

The nearby Krem Umkhang / Kharasniang was again visited in the hope of finding a connection to the main system.  This was not to be but as a consolation prize we didn't get wiped out as we squeezed through a dodgy boulder choke during an earthquake!

During the next few days work was concentrated in and around the Urn Lawan System where several km of fine passages were discovered and mapped.  The terminal choke was passed by the "old English gits" to reach two 10m and one 30m pitches with the sound of a roaring stream echoing up from the depths.  This turned out to be a possible inlet stream becoming too low downstream but providing India's first free diveable sump upstream, passed after some 3m Brian "Nobrot" Johnson.  Emboldened by this success he decided to repeat the performance in a downstream sump back in the main streamway above.  After several tries he spotted the tell-tale silver sheen of airspace some 4m into the sump and "went for it".  As he thrust his head into a 2" high, 3" wide airbell he realised his error, lost his mask, blackened his eye, gashed his face and shit his pants - all at once!  Desperately sucking small amounts of air and large amounts of water (most of which had already been through several hundred villagers) he successfully groped for the mask and reached a slightly bigger airspace.  Bigger maybe, nicer - definitely not.  He was only able to get the mask to his face by continued ducking down and wriggling, all of which activity served to use up the oxygen content of the airbell.  Suffice it to say that he eventually escaped - a bloodier and a wiser man!  His Swiss companion, Yvo, was suitably impressed and the reputation of the "old English gits" improved yet again.

On 24th February we fancied a change of scenery so were driven several km up the road to the village of Thangskai and the 50m deep pothole of Krem Malo.  This is the last resting place of a Tata lorry which descended the pot with seven people on board some years ago.  It was left last year at 467m long with lots of ongoing passages including a fine streamway where the way on led off from "Estelle's Dumping Pond".  This interestingly named feature will crop up again later in this tale.


The entrance of Krem Malo

After being filmed abseiling in by Uwe we mapped 230m of big inlet to a sandstone boulder choke guarded by an enormous spider and named it Mega Heteropoda Passage.  Next, the very attractive streamway was surveyed downstream for several hundred metres until Brian heard an odd droning noise.  Not relishing the 50m prusik out we were delighted to turn a corner and find a low entrance (exit?) in the jungle with the sound of lorries passing on the road above.  On hacking our way up to it a passing local indicated that it was downhill to Lumshnong.

Unbelievably, just round the next road bend was the C.B. - our accommodation - where an astonished Uwe found us partaking of tea and biscuits a few minutes later.  Our high spirits were suddenly dampened when we realised the probable source of the tea water - the village of Thangskai - and via "Estelle's Dumping Pond" to two small springs supplying our kettle and the whole of Lumshnong village!  Oh, the Perils of Expedition caving.

Uwe filmed us re-enacting our exit before we went back in to continue with the survey so as to have plenty to impress the Nongjri team who were arriving that evening.  This cave was later the scene of India's first proper cave rescue when, on a major mapping/filming trip, Jenni got lost while soloing out and peeled off a climb, injuring her legs and back.  Several hours were spent searching the cave, jungle and roadside ditches before she was located by Brian and Simon at the end of Mega Heteropoda Passage and assisted to the surface to fully recover after a few days rest.  At least we found several hundred metres of new stuff while looking for her and had the novel experience of being driven the 200m to the rescue by coach!  This incident concentrated a few minds on the possibilities of expedition accidents - but maybe not enough.

A day off was had by Brian J. and I who accompanied Brian K.D. and Bok on a recce to a different limestone area, Ladmyrsiang, which shows promise for a future visit.  A large tract of jungle covered karst rises from the edge of an open, grassy plain with a pleasant lack of the ubiquitous Tata and Shaktiman coal lorries and their continuous horn blowing.  A few small caves were noted here and there are rumoured to be many more nearby.

Back in Lumshnong we tidied up a few leads left over from last year.  The 15m pot entered from the mediaeval style coal mine, Krem Mawiong, was re-laddered and a further 8m pitch descended to reach a too narrow rift. Near the village our drivers spotted a python and later that day a bear was seen - it had apparently been doing something in the woods.

In Krem Urn Lawan Brian J. and Yvo had traversed above the 30m Old Men's Pot to find an inlet beyond and not the hoped for extension to the main system. Raphael, the team cameraman and talented artist, was being instructed by them in cave survey drawing whilst I did my bit by teaching Gurjinder the subtle arts of digging and pushing ridiculously tight squeezes.

The former was in vain but the latter yielded over 100m of superbly decorated inlet passages heading towards the elusive link with Krem Umkhang/ Kharasniang.

The tata truck at the bottom of the entrance of Krem Malo

 In return Gurjinder taught me how to find our way out of the bloody place after we got thoroughly lost. Later, joined by Ian, we surveyed about 220m in the "Anglo-Sikh Series" but again failed to make the connection.

On 2nd March Annette joined the rapidly swelling ranks of the disabled when she fell off a climb in one of the Chiehruphi caves and severed two tendons in her left hand. Daniel had succumbed to Housemaid's Knee and the lurgi had worked its way through most of the European team members.

Surveying continued in Krem Malo and some spectacular high level fossil galleries and soaring avens were found.  One of the many impressive stalagmites here was shaped like a Saguaro cactus from the classic cowboy films.  In Krem Umkhang/Kharasniang a final connection attempt was made by digging a strongly draughting hole in the floor but this failed due to the size of the wedged boulders.  With several small quarries nearby it may be possible to borrow a "bang wallah" next year to sort these out!  Our attempts were filmed by an incredulous Kyrshan who had never before seen such stupidity.

Meanwhile, a few km up the road at Musianglamare, Andy, Ritschie and anyone else they could pressgang had been doing sterling work in Krem Umsynrang (pushed from 1.67kms to 4.85kms) and Synrang Pamiang (from 1.66kms to 6.21kms by the end of the trip - see below). 

Corporal Gurjinder Singh in the Anglo-Sikh series of Krem Um Lawan

Lots of other caves and coal workings in this area were visited and mapped.  The final 2kms of Synrang Pamiang were clocked up on a 15 hour + overnight trip by Ritschie, Andy, Brian K.D, Tony and I on our last night - well fortified by beer, rum and whisky to deaden the effects of the first 500m of awkward caving.  In my case it also deadened the awareness of a deep, open road drain into which I leapt from the coach to gain a few cuts and bruises.

This magnificently decorated system is very much like a major Welsh cave and the lack of multiple entrances makes for a fairly strenuous trip to the end and back.

Some of the cripples at the CB

A second entrance was found on this trip but being a trial coal shaft entering the ceiling of the huge main passage some 30m. above the floor it was not considered an easy way out. One has a certain sympathy for the innocent miner on the last shift.  The 20m high by 2-3m wide meandering river passage, Collaboration Canyon, which was where we ran out of time showed every sign of continuing in this style forever.  This is a tremendously impressive system which may well challenge Krem Kotsati/Um Lawan as India's longest cave if only the predicted high level passages some 20m up in the roof can be entered.  It even has underground leeches!  On the way out Tony severely bruised his leg and jarred his back after stepping into a concealed hole.  His temper was not improved when he later dropped a large boulder on the same leg. It was a slow trip out for us all and a miserable walk back to the road in a downpour but at least we had got our 2kms in the bag.

Another huge river cave, Piel Theng Puok, was left ongoing after 2.5kms in the Lukha Valley area below and to the south of Lumshnong.  This major resurgence system was explored by swimming in long canals formed behind huge gour dams and has great potential.  Other caves in this area are also ongoing and it will be a major target for next year.

India is now well and truly on the world caving map thanks to the dedicated work of these international expeditions and there is plenty more to be found throughout the state and probably in neighbouring states such as Nagaland.  Despite the proximity to Burma these areas are slowly being opened up to adventurous foreign tourists.

Needless to say we enjoyed the usual excess of superb food and passable booze provided by the Adventurers and despite all the injuries and occasional frustrations with the computers, due to a lack of electricity, a good time was had by all.  Our thanks go to all concerned who made it such a success.

This article has been published in both the Belfry Bulletin and Grampian S.G. Bulletin.

Refs. a selection:

International Caver n.22 (1998) pp.3-15

G.S.G. Bull. 3rd series vol.4 n.4 (March 1998) pp.11-18

B.B vo1.50 n. l (Dec 1997)

B.B vol. 50 n.3 (Apr 1998)

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds, the Caves and Karst of Meghalaya, North East India.  Report of the 1992 and 1994 Cave Exploration/Cave Tourism visits.

Compiled by the B.E.C and O.C.C. (March 1995)


Meghalaya 1998 - Synopsis  Updated

29.05.1998, 13:35 Uhr

16 February – 08 March: Georg BAUMLER, S. Annette BECHER. Eleazar BLAH, Antony BOYCOTT, Jennn, A. BROOKS, Simon J. BROOKS, Ian CHANDLER, Sijon DKHAR, Gregory DlENGODH, Jonas DlENGDOH, Lindsay DIENGlJOH, Clive W. DUNNAI, Richard FRANK, H.O. GEBAUER, Badamut HOO.JUN. Anthony JARRATT, Brian JOHNSON, Refulgent KHARNAIOH, Brian D. KHARPRAN DALY, Uwe KROGER, Babha Kupar MAWLONG, Kyrshan MITHUN, Thilo Muller, Fairwaether W. MYLLIEMNGAP, Gurjinder SINGH, Sher SINGH, Donbok SYIEMLEH, Andy TYLER, Valery VALVUlA, Raphael WARJRI, Ywo, WEIDMANN.

Guides & Informants: Kham (Chiehruphi), Nigel (Chiehruphi), Miniren BAMON (Tongseng), Bhalang DKHAR (Thangskai), Lucky DKHAR (Chiehruphi), Sijon Dkhmr {Nongjri}, Kynsai JONES (Cherra Pdengshakap), Agnes LAKHIANG (Sutnga), Robert LAI (Chiehruphi), Milan LAMARE (Sutnga), Wikyn LYNGDOH (Thangskai), Monris NONGTDU (Sutnga), Zuala RALSEM. (Khaddurn). Langspah RYNKHUN (Nongjin), Stingson SH1ANGSHAi (Chiehruphi).


date from

date to



1997- length



vertical range




East Khasi Hills District












































Sohra (Cherrapunjee)



















Lubon – Lum Bnai


























Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Phyllud – Dam Um








Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Phyllud no 2

















Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Rong Umsoh








Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Soh Pang Bnait








Pynursia: Rana

Wah Sir








Pynursia: Rana

Wah Synrem









Wah Thylong








Jainta Hills District









Citrus Cave








Lumshnong Village









Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 1








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 2a








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 2b








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 3








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 4








Lumshnong: Thangskai









Lumshnong Village









Lumshnong: Mynkre









Lumshnong: Mynkre

Moolich No. 2








Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 1








Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 2









Paltan Puok


















Pdieng Salah









Pile Theng Puok








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Pyrda 1








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Pyrda 2








Lumshnong: Thangskai

Romai Synhin








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Lumshnong: Mynkre










Sielkan Puok









Skei ( Lukha Valley)








Lumshnong: Village

Soh Mynken Khnai








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Lumshnong: Village

Umkhan - Kharasniang








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Lumshnong: Village









Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.3








Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.4








Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.5








Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.6 a-b








Lumshnong: Musianglamare










Urhulu Puok








Accumulated length of the spring surveys:






Cavers Fair 1998

3/4/5th July at venues in and around Priddy.

Organised Jointly by:
The National Caving Association and
The Council of Southern Caving Clubs

Programme of Events

The Cavers Fair is a national event allowing cavers to meet, socialise, improve their technical skills, and tryout specialist interests underground.

Friday 3rd July:


Registration from 7.30pm - midnight

Social evening with slides and cavers get-together.


Saturday 4th July:


Registration from 8am

*Breakfast served from 8am with refreshments available all day *

Times for the following to be confirmed:

Cave art exhibition

Hands on rescue equipment workshop

Underground first aid

Trade stands

Pre-booking is strongly advised - get the sessions you want and save money by booking in advance!

All Sessions Depart From Priddy Village Hall

Transport may be required! Please check in advance. Short caving trips 9.30am

Upper Swildons, Upper Eastwater, Burrington Caves and other venues according to demand.

Longer caving trips 1.30pm

Swildons Sump 1, Priddy Green Sink - Swildons through-trip, Eastwater and other venues according to demand.

St Cuthbert's Swallet 9.30am - 3pm approx. A choice of trips into this classic cave.

Underground Cave Art

with artists Robin Gray and Mark Lumley - choice of venues

Cave Photography Workshop

(provisionally Swildons Hole) session leader to be confirmed

Guided walk

with naturalist Martin Torbett(1.30pm) Cave video

with Pete Isaacs - shoot 9.30am in Goatchurch, edit 1.30pm using digital technology.

Basic SRT

Surface training Split Rock Quarry - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)


Underground in Upper Swildons - knots, belays, Hand-lines, lifelines - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.3Opm) Ladder and line

Swildons Old 40 foot Pot - advanced pitch rigging lifeline systems - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rescue

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users ­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rigging

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users ­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.3Opm)

Novice and youngsters caving trip

Saturday 4th July - afternoon Goatchurch Cavern Compton Martin Ochre Mine

9.30am - short easy trip for mine enthusiasts

Singing River Mine

1.30pm Longer trip in a complex and fun system (10 metre entrance pitch)


Treasure Hunt for competing teams around Priddy area

*1st Prize £50.00 token from Quipu for Leisure*


with local band TUFF E NUFF


Sunday 5th July – morning:

Registration from 8.30am

Refreshments and breakfast

Hymac digging extravaganza, guided walk and caving trips: venues: TO BE CONFIRMED


Underground in Upper Swildons - knots, belays, Hand-lines, lifelines - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm) Ladder and line

Swildons Old 40 foot Pot - advanced pitch rigging lifeline systems - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rescue

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rigging

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)


Variety of SRT routes to try with advice on hand. time 9.30am - 4pm

Sunday 5th July - afternoon


afternoon trips to visit 40' pot washed away 10th July 1968




Pitches for tents in field adjoining Priddy Village Hall available Friday and Saturday night only


Camping is also available locally at Upper Pitts (Wessex), The Belfry (BEC), The Mineries (Shepton).

Book and pay Clubs direct.

Family camping and caravan pitches are also available at Mendip Heights Campsite, Townsend, Priddy although pre booking is advised.


The WCC (Upper Pitts), The BEC (The Belfry), The Shepton (The Mineries), The MCG (Nordach) and the MNRC all have local huts for which pre booking is advised.




Social evening - FREE!!


morning and afternoon session or activity

£5 per person if pre registered

£6 per person on the day


Mendip Team Challenge

small charge for entry payable on the day


Barbecue and Stomp

£5 per person on the door


morning session or activity Split Rock SRT

£2.50 per person if pre-registered

£3 per person on the day


£14 per person













all cheques payable to NCA Training Account


If you are staying on until Monday 6th July contact Tony Jarratt for local digging trips

 Working Weekend

Cleaning, repairs, General maintenance.

Plenty of work for all!!

BBQ free for all workers

Sat/Sun 21st/22nd August

Meet at Belfry at 10.00am

Contact: - Nick Mitchell

Hut Engineer For Further Details

Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

13/6/98                      Rescue Practiceat Tyning Barrow Cave. Meet at Belfry – 10.00am Andy Sparrow

16/6/98                      Caving Trip – Longwood/August Evening trip - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

20/6/98                      The 49ers Birthday Party Priddy Village Hall – Tickets £6 - Quackers, J'Rat Via Hunters Lodge or Bat Products

20/6/98                      GB Conservation Day 11 :00am at GB car park - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

21/6/98                      Caving Trip – OFD Sunday - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

3/7/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

3-5/7/98                     Cavers Fair, Priddy Village Hall, Mendip - Alan Butcher

7/7/98                        Caving Trip – Hunters Hole – SRT Evening trip - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

15/7/98                      Caving Trip – Charterhouse Evening trip – numbers limited - Estelle Sandford Editor

19/7/98                      Burrington Day Work on Burrington Cave Atlas - Estelle Sandford Editor

21/7/98                      Caving Trip – GB Evening trip -Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

28/7/98                      Caving Trip – Eastwater/Dolphin Pot Evening trip -Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

7/8/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

July/August 98            Fishing/Diving Weekend at Prawle Point, South Devon Date to be arranged – Contact if interested - Robin Gray

??/8/98                      Austria Expedition Date to be arranged – Contact if interested -Alex Gee Librarian

21-22/8/98                  BEC Working Weekend - Nick Mitchell

4/9/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

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

30/9/98 - 14/11/98       ISSA Exhibition, St David's Hall, Cardiff - ISSA

3/10/98                      BEC AGM and Dinner

2/11/98                      BCRA Regional One-Day Meeting, Priddy Village Hall. 9.30am Lectures on Swildons and Cuthbert’s - BCRA

18/11/98 - 28/11/98     A Brush with Darkness - Paintings of Mendip's caves - Wells Museum -ISSA

26/11/98                     Underground painting techniques /demonstration. Wells Museum 7.30pm      Robin Gray


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

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee


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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, enough of the apologies.

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

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

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


Meghalaya Photos


Krem Kot Sati in Meghalaya
Photo: Raphael Warji

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


Caving and BEC News

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

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

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

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

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

Man faces Ban from Bat Cave.

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

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

Heating could also be installed for the Winter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEC Website - will shortly be available at

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Press - THAILAND 98

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

Rob Harper


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

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

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


Recent New Caving Books

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

The Complete Caving Manual - By Andy Sparrow  £14.99

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

The Cave Rescuers Manual - Speleo Secours Francais  £6.50

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

Darkworld - Martyn Farr  £15.95

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

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

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

Cave Guide to Slovenia - Ian Bishop  £9.00

Speleo Guide Chartreuse - Jean Louis Fantoli  £15.00

Joke - Courtesy of Sett

What are bats most afraid of?


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


The BEC Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tackle Store Report

From Mike Willett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Where to in Wookey?

By Pete Glanvill, January 1998

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appendix 1 - By Andy Sparrow

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


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


The Eifel Volcanoes of Germany

By Mike and Hilary Wilson

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

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

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

1.       Lakeside

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

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

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

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

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


Village in the Eifel Region. Photo: Mike Wilson


Goodness me.  Has it been that long?

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

by Trebor McDonald

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


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

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

Pete Moody, 1990.

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

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

Rob Palmer, 1991.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ho hum Happy Caving.



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

By Chris Smart

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Welsh's Green Swallet - The Survey

(Or The Mud-pile Strikes Back)

by Trevor Hughes

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

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

29/10/92 - Breakthrough - 61m

30/10/92 - Breakthrough - 23m

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



Cartoon – the Undergrounders



Dragged from Cuthbert's

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Practice Rescues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Challenge!

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

Rigid stretchers

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

What resulted from all this work?

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

Entrance Rift

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

Pulpit Pitch

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

Catgut Series

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

Coral Chamber

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

Traverse Pitch

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

The Basic Routes

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Dave Irwin, Priddy, 31st July, 1997

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

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


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


Notes And Queries On Five Buddles

Roy Anthony Setterington (Tony Sett not Roger)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

1.                  Probably a holding tank.

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

3.                  Snake Pit Hole

4.                  The Waldegrave Pond

5.                  The Cornish Shaft entrance to Five Buddles


BEC Cave Leaders


Chris ‘Blitz’ Smart

Craig y FFynon (Rock and Fountain)

Martin Grass

Dan yr Ogof/Tunnel

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

Ogof Fynon Ddu

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

Pen Park Hole

Jeff Price, Mike ‘Trebor’ McDonals

Reservoir Hole

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

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet

BEC Leaders

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

Guest Leaders

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

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


BEC Membership Reciprocal Rights

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

The revised list of Reciprocal rights is as follows: -

Bradford Pothole Club

Bracken Bottom
Horton in Ribbledale,
North Yorkshire

Contact: Martin Baines

First night £2.00
Each additional night £1.00

Chelsea Speleological Society

White Walls
Llangattock Escarpment
Nr. Abergavenny, Wales

Contact: Arthur Millet

Each night £1.50

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



Fee per Night (£)

Craven Pothole Club

Steve Pickersgill


Grampian Speleological Society

Peter Dowswell


South Wales Caving Club

Ian Middleton




(camping 2.50)

Northern Pennine Club

Andy Goddard


Orpheus Caving Club

Jenny Potts


Rebecca Campbell, Belfry Hut Warden


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


From the Logbook

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

1/11/97 Eastwater – Gonzo

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

2/11/97 Eastwater – Gonzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire hose 30ft shorter than required.

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

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

Took down more pipe and further work required.

14/1/98 Gonzo and Jake  – Eastwater.

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

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


Rolling Calendar

6/2/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

7/2/98                        CSCC Meeting

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

6/3/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

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

3/4/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

1/5/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

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

16/5/98                      CSCC Meeting

5/6/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/7/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

4-5/7/98                     Cavers Fair, Mendip

7/8/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

4/9/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

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

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

3/10/98                      BEC AGM and Dinner

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

Wells museum.          ISSA

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


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

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



Here we are again; it seems such a short time ago since the last one!! !

Since then, we have had an excellent stomp, which raised lots of money for tackle (see tackle report) 26km have been found in Meghalaya (see Synopsis and the article to follow in a future issue) Tuska's (WCC) fall has been captured in a picture, and it appears that some of you have been caving.

Many thanks to the two non-members who have contributed to this issue.  Keep the articles coming, I can never have too many!!!

The cut off for articles and letters for the next BB is 3rd June.  Last minute news and dates can be taken until 6th June.

Regarding the stomp, many thanks to the people who gave the raffle prizes for the stomp and helped with the organisation to make it a great success.  I believe a brilliant time was had by all.

It's nice to see we are getting a few new members this year, hopefully other members of the club will follow Mike Wilson's example and help to encourage the new and prospective members in their caving career.  (See Mike's trip report).

By the way, for those of you who thought we had found a new species of caterpillar in Meghalaya in the last BB, they were wrong, it is actually a spelling error on my part, it should had been a centipede.  Nice pair of legs, pair of legs, pair of legs, etc.!!!


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

No prizes for this one!!!!


See if you can guess where in which cave on Mendip this picture was taken.

Answer in the next issue, and also on Belfry photo-board if you are visiting the Belfry .

Photo courtesy of Pete Glanvill.


Caving and BEC News

Members News

Chris and Gwyn (nee Timson) Taylor are to become parents in September.  Must have been a good Christmas!!!


Photos are still required for the photoboard at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL (clearly now defunct)

If you try to access it from links from other Websites, you will probably still get the old WebPage. It takes a little while to get other sites to change their links for new addresses.

Stoke Lane Slocker

Further to the article in the last issue, the following information has been confirmed by Dave Irwin:

The Stoke Lane human and animal bones have been found.  After a years searching for them I've seen them and they are being photographed.  Eventually they will be dated - Tratman guessed (1955) that they dated somewhere between late Iron Age to Middle Ages. Dating is important to give date for collapse of entrance into Bone Chamber.  More details in the proposed caving report relating to this cave.  Those who thought that Max Unwin was responsible for the loss of the bones were wrong.

49ers Party

For those of you who are not aware, there are quite a number of BEC members and other regulars from the hill who were born in 1949 and are therefore 49 this year.  They have decided to celebrate in style Midsummer's night (20th June) with a mass party at the Village Hall in Priddy.  Tickets will be available soon from Tony at Bat Products and Quackers in the Hunters Lodge.

Mendip Technical Group

A meeting was held at the Hunters Lodge on Saturday 31st January 1998 to try and hammer out a bolting policy for Mendip.  General conclusions were that re-bolting with resin anchors will generally only be carried out when existing anchors are no longer safe - i.e. no program of systematic bolt replacement although Rhino Rift is an exception as CCC have already approved a complete re-bolt.  The technical group will not have an independent identity (not another caving committee) but will be a loose association of cavers prepared to get involved. Further details from Andy Sparrow.

Speleoscene no. 32

This is available from caving shops (Free - but how about a donation to your local Cave Rescue Service).  This issue contains an article on unsafe maillons, information on karabiner/descender loading, training bulletin on 'Safe Abseiling', also general news and access and conservation issues for all the caving regions.

Thailand 98 Update

Following the stop press in the last BB regarding the recent BEC expedition, "Thailand 98" featuring Rob Harper and Tony Boycott.  It coincided with a very short item in the Sunday Times which also concerned Thailand.  I wondered if there was any connection.  I think we should be told!

The Sunday Times article reads .... "A man who tried to make love to an elephant gave an ingenious explanation to a court in Phuket, Thailand, last week.  Kim Lee Chong, a 61 -year-old chef caught standing semi-naked behind the five-ton colossus, claimed that the animal was a reincarnation of his wife, Wey.  She died 28 years ago.  Chong told the court: "I recognised her immediately ..... by the glint in her eye."  He was given 15 years/jail to expunge his crimes, but they say an elephant never forgets.

BEC Motto - Help

When I was looking at an old BB recently, I noticed the Latin motto "Quodcumque Faciendum Nimis Faciemus".  What does it mean?  When did we adopt it?  When did we drop it?  Where did it come from?  Please contact Blitz (see address for treasurer) if you can enlighten him on this.

Caver Training Facility

A caver training facility for Mendip Wells community education have been successful in their lottery bid to finance a new sports hall which includes a climbing wall and specially designed caver training facility.  This will consist of a balcony with rigging points where SRT, ladder and lifeline or rescue techniques can be practised by local cavers. Completion is due in early 1999.

Digging and Caving News

(mostly courtesy of Andy Sparrow's web site)


Someone has dug out Binney's Link (the direct route into the dry ways in Swildons).  The passage was easy enough as a bit of a wriggle - it is now nearly hands and knees size.  This may be no big deal, but the Mendip principle has always been not to make existing passages easier just for the sake of it - after all where does it stop? Possibly the same persons have tried to open the hole under the hollow tree at the entrance - this will be noticed by the landowner who may not be best pleased at the modification of his property.  Anyone out there who knows the culprits please have a word in their ear!

The Mud Sump. The drain hole was attacked again recently but remains pretty well blocked.  There was a small airspace recently but bailing is still difficult from either side and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.  Free diving is not recommended as the sump can be as much as 10m long.

Five Buddles Sink

Update - Work continues attempting to follow the stream.  The cave is draughting strongly.

Dave Mitchell's dig

The dig at Charterhouse is progressing well.  This depression was opened with a Hymac and work continues between stal cemented boulders.

Hunters Hole

There is a massive digging operation at the bottom and much equipment left in situ. Several bolts are stripped and replacing these with P hangers will be an early objective of the new Technical Group.

St Luke's

This is a Wessex Cave Club dig at Nordrach (central Mendip).  The dig was hymaced a couple of years ago since when digging has continued steadily.  At -15 metres a small well decorated chamber has been entered.  There is a slight draught and work continues.

Cairo Shaft

This is also in the Nordrach area.  A 17 metre mined shaft enters about 100 metres of partly mined natural passage ending in a sump beyond a tight section.  The sump appears to be a flooded mine level and will be dived soon.

Frog Pot

This is at Chancellors Farm near Priddy.  A surface dig in a depression has revealed a fluted shaft which seems to be exciting everyone who sees it!  Prospects look very good.  Update - a short length of natural passage (10-20 metres) has been entered.

Eastwater Cavern

The bolt in the boulders above Dolphin Pot is very dangerous.  You are advised to use a long tether around a boulder about 8ft back from the head of the pitch.

Flood Alert

Heavy rain earlier in the year produced very high levels; Swildons was up to the second pipe with local flooding in the fields by the pumping station.  At Thrupe the water went straight down the entrance shaft making the Ferret Run and Perseverance impassable.


Tackle Store Report.

From Mike Willett.

Tackle Master. Richard Blake.
Deputy.  Mike Willett.

Hello all.  Firstly I am pleased to say that the BEC stomp was a success and raised six hundred and thirty nine pounds for the tackle store. Thanks to everyone who attended and to those who helped in the running of it, and a special thanks to Roz Bateman for her hard work in the organising of the event.  How the money will be spent has not been discussed in any detail to date, but we'll keep you informed.  As most of you are aware Richard Blake is back with us, and he has been busy sorting through the tackle and engineering a new system to make tackle easier to access, which brings me to the point of this report.

There is now a new tackle store!  This is the old MRO carbide store situated to the left of the old tackle store. The old store is now a workshop for ladder making, or anything related to digging projects.  Surplus tackle is also stored here, but cannot be accessed through your Belfry key. The new store can be accessed in the same way, through the members cave key box; the new key is a padlock key. The contents of the new tackle store at the moment are:

  • 1 x ten meter ladder.
  • 1 x 18 foot ladder.
  • 2 x spreader.
  • 3 x wire belays.
  • 2 x lifelines (new).
  • 1 x tackle bag.
  • For ease the St Cuthbert’s ladder will also be stored here.





Now for the crunch! If not returned, the tackle in the new store will not be replaced!  This new store will run on trust.  You will no longer have to book tackle out!  Simply take your ladder or anything you require, use it, then put it back after giving it a quick rinse under the hose-pipe.  This is for member's convenience but must be respected.  If abused this system will stop; all tackle will be locked away, and as before will only be accessed through a committee member.  Despite the money raised at the stomp, tackle is very expensive to buy, and no amount we could raise would enable us to buy more tackle to replace ladders left in car boots!  Of course the tackle will be inspected and damaged ladders will be replaced.  Common sense will tell you not to put tackle that is obviously damaged back in the store.  The stock is maintained by a small number of members for the benefit of all. It's your tackle, please respect it, not only for yourself but also for other members of the club.

If people require ladders for digging or long term projects, please contact either Richard or myself as we have some older ladders for this purpose in the surplus store. Alternatively for digs, we could supply you with the materials and equipment to make your own ladders to suit your project.  If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to let Richard or myself know as any help is most welcome.



Wookey Hole,

To my fellow BEC members

Following the publication of my letter in November’s issue of the Belfry bulletin, I was informed by the committee that Andy and Nigel felt hurt by some of my comments, and that some of the committee felt my remarks could be misinterpreted by non-members to the detriment of the club's image.

So in the cause of preventing any possible misinterpretation of my remarks, and to repair the hurt to Andy's and Nigel's feelings, I have agreed to clarify and retract some of my comments as detailed below.

With regard to my comments on the post of Club Rescue Team Leader, Andy and myself have discussed this and he has told me that he felt I was inferring that I was unwilling to work with him in the post and questioning his competence as a caver.

I wish to make it clear that I inferred no such thing and I was only giving the reasons for my resignation.

With regard to my comments on Nigel's proposal, I have now discussed this with Nigel and given him the reasons for my comments.  Likewise he has also assured me that there was no malice intended in his proposal and I fully accept that this was the case.  So I fully retract any comments I made in my letter regarding Nigel's Proposal.

In the interests of not boring you all further I will not go into further detail, just to say that Nigel, Andy and myself have now settled our differences and look forward to working together to further the interests of the club and its members.

Regards Alex.

St Cuthbert’s Swallet Maintenance

Date:  Saturday, 28 February 1998

Attendance:  Graham Johnson (Jake), Richard Blake, 1van Sandford, Mike Willett, Alex Gee, Gareth Leadbetter, Roger Haskett, Mr Michael Duck, Dave 1rwin, Roger Stenner & the Hut Warden (Production Manager, Refreshment Division).

Project:  Replacement of the valve on the entrance damn.

Over the past few months there has been increasing trouble with the entrance damn, culminating with Chris Castle proclaiming that the valve was totally buggered on 24.02.98. Jake and Richard investigated the problem during the Saturday morning and found that the fault was due to general wear and tear which had destroyed the thread on the gate mechanism. Unfortunately, the bolts connecting the whole valve to the pipe behind were rusted in place, making a straight forward replacement impossible.  As considerable water was backing up in the depression, they were left with little choice but to remove the internal gate piece and leave the depression to drain over lunchtime.

The workforce swelled over the lunch period and the crew returned in far greater force.  During the afternoon they split themselves into two sections, one working on the valve replacement problem, whilst the other looked to cutting off water flow into the depression through sealing and improving the upstream damn.

The new valve was bolted onto the old and a silt trap was constructed in the form of a low dry stone wall, which conveniently, also serves to direct most of the water down the soak-away.

Further maintenance work is required to unblock the soak-away, but this will not be attempted until water levels drop during the summer.

Report by: Rebecca Campbell


Charterhouse Caving Company Limited

Update to BEC members in respect of the Company's AGM on 4 April 1998

BEC Representative: Rebecca Campbell

The BEC committee has received no correspondence in respect of CCC Ltd activities this year.  As such the only item that we raised was the matter of company budgeting.  The company has slightly excessive accumulated funds that we believe the directors should keep an eye on, in a move to both set and maintain a reasonable level of reserves. The CCC subscription levels will be reviewed accordingly at the next AGM.

Items of interest to General Membership:

1. Conservation Day - GB Car park

11:00am Saturday, 20 June 1998

The company is going to be continuing the cave cleaning work in GB and Charterhouse on the above date. Volunteers are needed to undertake the work.  All workers will need to bring a Daren drum and tackle bag for water carrying.  I would be grateful if any members who have Daren drums would offer them to the caving secretary for use in this event, even if they cannot attend themselves.

Work in Bat Passage will require conservationists to bring a spare clean undersuit and spare clean wetsuit socks.  Normal permit and key provisions will apply for that day.  As all BEC members are entitled to a one year permit this will cause them no extra cost.  If any non-members wish to attend under the provision of a BEC key they will be issued with a permit free of charge.  We have two GB keys so numbers are restricted.  If you are interested please contact the Caving Secretary, Andy Thomas.

2. Rigging in Rhino Rift

Resin anchors are scheduled to be fitted on the first three pitches during the Summer of 1998.  The type of anchor is non-negotiable for insurance reasons.

Finally, on the subject of Rhino Rift, the club has an official dig site at the terminal choke. Little work was undertaken during this year, but Paul Brock is keen to continue the project.  Anyone interested should contact him, whenever.


Membership Secretary

By Roz Bateman

I would like to thank all members who have paid their 1997/98 subs.  In order to up date the membership list printed in the last BB please note the following additions.

New Member:

1237 (P) Jake Baynes, Priddy, Nr Wells, Somerset

Additional Paid up members:

1125     Rich Blake, Priddy Somerset
868       Dany Bradshaw, Wells Somerset
862       Bob Cork, Wells Somerset
1057     Mark Lumley, Stoke St Michael, Somerset
1226     Stephen Ostler, Nailsea North Somerset
1068     John Whiteley, Crediton Devon
1202     Mike Willett, Wells Somerset

I hope that all life and non members have received their new membership cards.  However if this is not the case please contact myself as soon as possible so that you too can be a proud BEC member.   In issuing the last BB to some life members via post, I asked for all undelivered mail to be returned. Does anyone therefore know the current whereabouts of the following members:

  • D Waddon
  • Dermot Statham
  • Pete Blogg




PS. If anyone who has paid after the 31st Jan. did not receive a February BB, please ask Tony at Bat Products as there are still a few left. Ed.

Club Rescue Practice

Saturday 13th June – Location to be arranged

Meet at the Belfry 10.00 am

Contact Andy Sparrow Club Team Rescue Leader for further details


The BEC In Austria 1951/1960 to the present day.

During the preparation for a frustrating, but enjoyable, and for me, first trip to Austria last year, on which we attempted to dive the sump in Magnum Hohle (a report is under preparation for the next BB).  I spent some time in the BEC library looking through old logs, reports, etc., for material relating to the site and the B.E.C.' s activities in the Dachstein in general.

What struck me was the large amount of work and exploration that the BEC has carried out in Austria and the total lack of any definitive collection of reports, surveys etc.  Any records, surveys, etc., seem to be scattered between reports in the BB, some logs in the library and logs, surveys and photo's in member’s private collections.

After reading the comprehensive data, collated by the Cambridge University Caving Club, on their Austrian exploits, I feel that this is a poor state of affairs.

To that end I have started to collate together all the data contained in the library on the B.E.C.'s Austrian activities, with the eventual intention if possible, of publishing a comprehensive book report.

So if any older members who were participants in the Austrian caving expeditions, (particularly those involved in the early sixties to late seventies trips) have any relevant material cluttering up their loft or information of any kind, I would be most interested to hear from you.

I would be particularly grateful if any of you are willing to donate or loan relevant items to the library for this purpose, and to hear your recollections.  If you are loathed to loan items, it is possible for me to scan the items concerned and return them to you within a short period.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Regards Alex

P.S. We will be returning to Austria again this year if anyone is interested.

I can be contacted at email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to my address listed at the front of this BB.


An Appeal from your Librarian.

Those of you that use the library will have noticed that all is not well, journals and publications stacked on every available surface, boxes of reports cluttering up every corner and it is generally in a disorganised mess.  What is the librarian playing at you might ask?  Well the problem is that we have run out of cupboard space, and this is the subject of my appeal.

Some years ago the late Jill Tuck, left a very generous bequest to the BEC.  This bequest enabled the librarian at the time, Trebor, to purchase the existing library bookcases.

Unfortunately these are now full and the un-filed collection of journals and acquisitions continues to grow by the month.

I feel that as so much effort and expense went into providing the club with smart and attractive bookcases that do justice to their invaluable contents and set the library apart from the rest of the hut.  It would be a shame not to purchase similar or identical bookcases to match the existing ones.

I have found through contacting the original manufacturer, that the same bookcases are still available. Here though is the crux of the matter each bookcase now retails at approximately £200.00 plus VAT and we require three at the very least, preferably 5 or 6 for the long term.

I have asked the club treasurer and the committee if there are any fund's available for their purchase, but alas there is not.

So I appeal to you my fellow club member’s generous philanthropic bunch that you are.  To see if there are any of you generous enough to donate some of your hard earned beer vouchers or any odd spare cash you might have hanging around towards the purchase of some new cabinets.

I will start the ball rolling by purchasing one cabinet myself and I look forward to hearing from those others of you that are willing to assist in the upkeep of the library and its contents, please remember no amount is too small and all donations will be gratefully received.

If you wish to donate anything please either contact myself, or post your donation into the hut fees box in a suitably marked envelope.

Thanking you in anticipation, Regards Alex BEC Librarian

You can contact me on 01749 xxxxxxx or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wind. Vodka And Vomit

by Gonzo

"This is the worst tea I've ever tasted" said Robin, resplendent in his bright cherry floatation suit with matching cheeks, rod and neoprene gloves.

Gradually the cheeks changed to an avocado green and he leaned majestically over the side of the boat to distribute his own special ground bait comprised of vindaloo, sweetcorn, bacon fat, diced carrots, bile, stomach lining and, of course, the tea.

It was late March, 8.30 am, and three miles out in Lyme Bay the sky was leaden, the sea argumentative and the motley fishing party of 5 (those who had actually woken up in time to catch the boat) were grinning from ear to ear, with their rods in their hands as is customary with all Belfryites on a Sunday morning!

Over the next eight hours there were all sorts of entertainment on the good ship Neptune including a 7 lb bull huss, numerous dogfish, pouting, lugworm sandwiches, channel whiting.  Trevor pulling up the anchor when the winch broke, pouting, Butcombe, cuckoo wrasse. Whitbread, more bloody pouting. Gonzo wearing two left wellies, the smallest ling ever, wind, Vodka and vomit.

Arriving back at the Cobb in Lyme Regis everyone agreed that it had been a superb day and we booked the boat for a cracking good tide on Saturday June the 6th.  This will be a day out on the wrecks about 15 miles out (not over-fished, no divers).

If you're a closet angler and you fancy joining us then you're very welcome, empty your freezer and bring beer, butties and a camera to the Cobb at 8.00.

We're trying to make this a more regular occurrence, perhaps 3 or 4 times per year.

The boat costs £180 for the day, rods, reels and tackle included, and will comfortably accommodate 10 fishermen (or fishergirlies!).  To avoid being landed with extra expense when people don't show, anyone who wants to secure a place should send a deposit of £15 well in advance to Robin Gray, Albany House, Cheddar, Somerset BS27 3PT, or put it in his pot at the Hunters.  If you can't make it and we can find a replacement you will get your deposit back, otherwise it will go towards the cost of the boat and bait. In the event of a cancellation due to bad weather, plan B will be a day’s beach-casting and a new date will be arranged for the boat.

We are also organising a weekend down at Prawle Point, between Start Point and Sa1combe.  The fishing here off the rocks is superb, especially the bass fishing at night, the diving apparently is exceptional (don't ask me, I'm not a diver) with very clear deep water straight off the rocks. There is a secluded camp site at Maelcombe House with unspoilt views over the sea which is just 100 metres away, diving gannets and all (twit-free, limited Grockle appeal with the nearest decent beach being 2 miles away).  There are no facilities except water, take your own bog.  2 good pubs are about a mile away at Prawle.  I've seen small boats being taken to the beach from the house by tractor, this might be of interest to the divers in the club.

This trip will take place some time in July or August, dates to be sorted out soon.

I hope that this is all of some interest.  There are certainly a lot of barroom fishermen in the club and it would be good if we could make these sort of meets a regular occurrence and a welcome break from digging, digging and more digging.


Cartoon - Undergrounders



Edmund's Chamber~ Wookey - Further Notes

By John Cordingley (CPC/CDG)

Pete Glanvill wrote a superb article in the February 1998 Belfry Bulletin giving information about various high level possibilities available for further work by cave divers. On page 10 he briefly describes some passages reached by a long climb above Edmund's Chamber.  The ascent to the water surface here is one of the most impressive bits of diving in Britain and the huge aven soaring above is certainly very inviting.  However - a word of caution wouldn't go amiss.  Andy Goddard, Russell Carter and I went there in 1989 and I got "volunteered" to de-kit and go and have a look at the high level dry stuff (see C.D.G. Newsletter No 93, page 35).  I free climbed most of it next to the in situ rope but had to put a jammer on it to protect the final overhanging moves up to the passage.  On arrival at the top the rope was found to be fastened to a single 8mm bolt which was finger tight and would only go in two and a half turns.

Pete had invited us to go and take a look at this area of Wookey and I passed a boulder restriction at the previous limit to explore about another 9m of crawl in a small sloping bedding plane to where it got too low.  It's almost certainly a bang job and there was nothing obvious to aim for and no really convincing draught.  All that remained was to get back down safely which was slightly problematic in that I'd been assured that I could abseil back to water level.  There was no way I was going to trust that bolt and so free climbing back was the only option.  This was eventually managed after several worrying moments but was far from easy. I don't know if anyone has been and sorted out this rope but if not, the next visitors to this particular section would be well advised to ignore the existing rope and re-climb the aven from scratch.  If you rely on the rope and that bolt fails you could fall almost 30m.  There - my conscience is clear ... !


Thrupe Lane Trip

By Mike Wilson

SATURDAY 31st JANUARY 14:00 hrs

Persons present: Zot, MR Wilson, Rich, Vee, Mark, Mike, Toby (Trainee Belfry Boy)

This trip was designed to be a steady bimble on ladders to orientate new and future BEC members into the intricacies of Thrupe Lane.  I had a pleasant surprise when everyone turned up on time, including my right hand man Zot.

We all gathered at the entrance, a positive crocodile by BEC standards, and laddered down the entrance pitch.  Then having tootled down the ferret run, pointing out the Railway tunnel as we went, we then laddered Perseverance pot and pottered down to Cowsh Crawl.  I mentioned that 10 years ago Cowsh Crawl was tight, IT'S NOW AS SLACK AS YER HAT.  The team wandered down Marble Streamway and had a look at Atlas Pot, Zot and I pointed out the various routes and bolt points.  We then toddled back to Butts Chamber had a look at Avalanche Pot, then following some neat little Orange markers, which proved to be Zot's oversuit which was slowly shredding.  Not surprising as he had found it in a ditch somewhere on Mendip.  Clearing up the mess as we went we exited the cave; Toby had a peep at the Railway Tunnel while the rest climbed out. Sadly he declined to have a shower with me back at the shed; I was only trying to save money!! A steady trip with 4 potential BEC members in the group; I intend to jack up another trip on Mendip sometime during the Summer months possibly Stoke Lane or Eastwater Twin Verts the classic way.

I hope other elder members will follow my example this year.


Collecting: Caves or A Crap in Little Tripnell

(as Spooner might have said)

By Peter Glanvill, Jan. 98

The spate of Hymac initiated digs in the last few years seems to have resulted in more digging than caving.  In other words the caves get found, are explored and then quietly forgotten (especially if they aren't listed in a guide for years). While this is great for conservation it does pose difficulties for those who want to know the cave's characteristics before entering it.  I've concluded that any advice from J-rat on a cave's dimensions carries the assumption that I carry cakes and bottles marked 'eat me' or 'drink me' for dimensional alteration during the trip.

Sally in the entrance series in Little Crapnell 

I approached Little Crapnell armed only with information gleaned from one Descent article and some brief chats with one or two visitors to the cave none of whom gave very precise advice. However I decided if somebody could contemplate diving the sump at the end and do the trip out breathing from their bottles due to high C02 levels then it couldn't be too awful.

So, one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago Sally, my daughter, and I arrived at Dave Speed's farm and met the man himself.  The visitors' log only extends to half a page or so, so clearly the cave's fame had not spread far and wide.  There then followed one of those ‘I had a little trouble' conversations with Dave guaranteed to make one think twice about doing the trip at all.  However a recce. trip with Ken Passant a week or two earlier as far as the duck beyond Great Expectations suggested it couldn't be too bad so off we set.


'No worries about carbon dioxide anyway with the recent damp weather', I thought, 'and the streamway will be pleasantly active'.  We dived down the cemented boulders into solid cave.  A coffin lid like slab was the way on with a slither and bump into a crawl past an incongruous galvanised dustbin lid (to protect the drip formations (?)).  The stream is met here and the crawl ends in a climb down through boulders to enter a wide descending tunnel - Great Expectations.  It all looks promising but unfortunately GE seems to be just a washed out shale band.  Beyond is a low gravelly twisting descending streamway which led to the first real obstacle - a low elliptical wallow in the stream a bit like Sump One in Cuthbert’s but narrower.  'Cell off and drag the ammo box' I decided after jamming my head between floor and ceiling.  Once through the first bit it was very straightforward although some minor contortions were required to drop into the rift just beyond into which the water cascades. Sally with her Kate Moss configuration didn't notice it was a constriction; nauseating!

A shuffle sideways reaches a point where the upper part of the passage can be seen to be much wider and formations appear at The Old Curiosity Shop.  The rifty nature of the passage reminded me a little of caves in County Clare although not nicely scalloped.  Another cascade followed ('This is nice' I thought) at which point I was abruptly confronted by a narrow rift passable only at stream level.  A test thrutch with the battery on encouraged me to take helmet and cell off before a snagging wallowing sideways thrash in the water got me through.  My elation didn't last long.  I was lying the wrong way round in a pool facing down a ramp with another squeeze/contortion to tackle.  A few pathetic wriggles later I noticed the stream had gone quiet.  I did a press up - a loud roar from the backed up stream was followed by the realisation that there were two of us, I was leading, and I was the wrong side of an awkward squeeze.  I wimped out and after an interesting reverse thratch (thrash and thrutch) I rejoined Sally.


We had stopped just short of a feature called Ebenezer's Escalator which apparently is 'roomy' and well decorated.  Beyond it the cave sounds like purgatory and according to Estelle probably is although she cannot remember much apart from the pain. (this cave is not a good hangover trip - Ed!!)  On the way out I photographed the very nice chamber above the streamway although this time the damp had got into all the electronics.  Passing the first constriction going out was a doddle, and I certainly would go back again although wearing a wet suit for ease of movement in the constrictions.

Back at the farm we had one of those 'How far did you get?' conversations with Dave Speed when I discovered the blighter hadn't even got as far as I had!  He also told me he is trying to increase the Little Crapnell cave quota to 3 this year when one of the other depressions on his land gets Hymaced. What's the record for number of caves on your land (excluding Lord Bath)?

The previous week Ken Passant and I had visited Honeymead Hole which lies only a hundred metres from Little Crapnell.  There is no detailed description yet available of Honeymead although its total passage length is now a respectable 356 metres with 52 metres depth.  This account is derived from the experiences on our trip and information from a variety of Descent articles.  Honymead Hole is interesting in that the entrance was only located after 30 feet of topsoil had been removed by the standard digging technique. It is unlikely this cave would ever have been found by more conventional means which makes one wonder what else remains buried beneath Mendip.


The concrete entrance shaft drops through boulders to reach a roomy chamber - Slab House with a few stal formations dotted about it.  A hole in the floor was rigged with a ladder which seemed OTT when we descended what was basically a short and easy free climb.  I am told the ladder was to prevent too much pressure on hanging death boulders.  At the bottom a short low section opened into a walking sized rift and within a few metres to another laddered pitch (we begun to wonder if we needed the ladder we had brought).  This again seemed eminently free climbable (especially as the ladder didn't look too hot - more of this later) and at the bottom a narrow rift led into the darkness.

I had a little trouble here and found it easier to do head first as there is an awkward boulder to get over at the far end if you do it feet first (as I did).  At the end a cross rift was entered.  A short but tricky looking drop on the right was ignored in favour of a rift chamber on the left off which led another rather narrow looking rift.  We aborted a climb into the roof when all the foot holds seemed to turn to clag the higher one got and decided to do what turned out be the easy drop back on the right.

Although there is very little water in the cave, at this point we did seem to enter a rather immature twisting streamway which ended abruptly at a pitch partly covered by a false floor with a nice little grotto above.  Yet another ladder hung down the pitch which looked deeper than the rest - and the ladder didn't look quite so superfluous.

A muddy grovel past the pitch opened into a really decent looking rift with some nice stal on the far side (Balcony Pot) and an obvious way on in the floor.  A duck under an arch to the right at the bottom let to an interesting zone of hanging death where the boulders are dry and red (Neptunian dyke (a term which has nothing to do with butch lesbian mermaids)).  Ken and I wormed our way down into the floor following a bang wire and found the cave to end in a too tight rift.  A climb up through the hanging death enters quite a decent sized chamber - Neptune's Hall but the bar placed to prevent one touching the boulders didn't inspired confidence so we made our excuses and left.

Several abortive and one successful flash shots of Balcony Pitch later saw us ready to shove Ken down Keen's Pitch.  This is a nice pitch by anyone's standards and it is disappointing to report that after some nice formations at the bottom the tiny streamway starts to take on Easy Street type dimensions so more excuses and a departure.

On the way out I decided the second ladder pitch would look photogenic.  Several shots later the slave worked and Ken who had been clambering up and down to fiddle with the flash gun after each failed effort started up the ladder for the last time.  2 metres up the ladder broke dropping a surprised Ken back at the bottom yet again.  After this little fiasco we made an uneventful exit muttering about dodgy fixed aids!

Honeymead has numerous interesting side passages and could keep diggers busy for ages particularly as there is no obvious terminal point to dig.  It will be interesting to see if the meadow yields another cave.


Wessex Cave Club Hymn

This is a collection of known verses sung to the same tune and with the same ideas.

Tune: The Church is One Foundation. Author: Many

Source: They Words, They Words, They 'Orrible Words, collected and compiled by Nick ComwallSmith, GSG / Alfie, to name but a few!


We are the Wessex Cave Club, no bloody use are we,
We have a half of cider, and then we have to pee,
And when we're down in Swildons and haven't got a light,
We stand beside the Forty beside ourselves with fright.

The B.E.C. they help us, through every pitch and squeeze.
We like the way they do it with such consummate ease.
And when we are much better at caving we agree
It is our one ambition to join the B.E.C.

We are the Shepton Cave Club, a family clique are we,
Ken Dawe he was our leader, a clever bugger 'ee.
He led us over field and stiles, down potholes vast and deep,
Because we follow meekly we're called the Shepton Sheep

We've dug down South East Inlet, we've dug in Priddy Green,
And in between the digging, we're often quite obscene.
We tell prospective members, with regularity,
To do just as the song says, and join the B.E.C.

We are the Cerberus Cave Club, we are not worth our salt,
Max Unwin is our leader, but that is not our fault,
He lectured us on caving, his wisdom was profound,
He told us that most caves are located underground

Caves are discovered for us, from digging we all shirk,
And when it gets too dicey, other clubs can do the work,
For they can draw the surveys and they can make the maps,
'Cos when it comes to caving, we really are the chaps.

We hold committee meetings, we talk and never cave,
We pass firm resolutions, to show that we are brave,
We very often argue, but on one thing we'd agree,
If only they would have us we'd join the B.E.C.

We are the Axbridge Cave Club, we know we are so good.
We blow up every Elsan, just as we know we should,
But as we go to blow it, in the middle of the night,
When the turds go skywards, we run like f**king shite.

We are the Cotham Cave Club, but not as we may seem,
You show us a cave entrance, and we will start to scream,
For we do not like caving, but give it all the snub,
The nearest we touch caving, is in a Mendip pub.

Additional Foreign Verses

Swildons goes to Wookey, or so they do confide,
There is a sign to say so, on the Sump 1 downstream side,
But this is misconception, there is a brand new sign,
Now Swildons is an Entrance, to Dan-yr-Ogof 9.

We are the Clockwork Cave Club, and South Wales is our home,
And from our native valleys we do not care to roam,
And when we go out caving it is a certain bet,
That we will carry with us a great Meccano set.

We don't go down Pwll Dufn, you'll find no rawl bolts here,
The thought of ladder pitches, it fills us with despair,
And if you go out caving with S.W.C.C.
You'll always find a welcome, if you've got a B.Sc. (in Engineering)

The U.B.S.S. divers, they've found a brand new hole,
They told no-one about it, they did not tell a soul,
And when we found out about it, they said please stay away,
Until they all got stuck there, one dark and wintry day.

We are the Tratmans Fan Club, we are a shower of shits,
We often need the rescue to extract us from a fix,
And when we are in Yorkshire, before we go below,
Our automatic procedure is to inform the C.R.O.

The U.B.S.S. Choir boys, they are a dreadful crowd,
Each song becomes a death march, at volume extra loud,
And when they get a chorus, they chant in ecstasy,
They only trouble being, it's in a different key.

We are the Mountain Rescue, and a bloody fine thing to be,
The only time you'll see us, is breakfast, dinner and tea,
And when we see a climber, we shout with all our might
Per ardua profundo, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go up mountains, they are too bloody steep,
We never go down potholes, they are too bloody deep,
And when we see a caver, we shout with all our might
Per ardua profundo, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

I am a lazy speleo, and a bloody fine thing to be,
My weekends spent on Mendip, in a hut of luxury,
When someone mentions caving, we shout with all my might
Celeriter ad plumen, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go out sumping, it is too bloody wet,
And when we go Black holing, you know how far we get,
And when we see a sumper, we shout with all our might
Per ardua sub aqua, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never help out cave divers, they are a bloody bore,
We set fire to the bat shit, and sleep outside the door,
And as the flames rise higher, we cough with all our might,
Per ignea via asbestos, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go out digging, it is too bloody cold,
And unless Tratty finds it, it's never really old.
But when we find some charcoal, we shout with all our might
Per ardua sub muro, blow you Jack, I'm alright.


Bahamas December 1997

By John Buxton

Some of you will know that I am a geriatric cave diver, and if you have read your BB Vol. 48 No.6. (The 60th) you will know that I have in the past dived in the Bahamas.  This last year in December I went on my 4th expedition, this time I persuaded my wife Audrey to go too of course her baggage allowance did come in useful.  It allowed me to take a full set of diving gear and lighting with me!  All I had to use of the equipment on the boat were weights, cylinders and a reel.  Nevertheless by the time I had 6 torches and a dive helmet, a l2V Nicad dive light (by Stewart Kirbythe fancy coloured one!) and 4 demand valves and all the usual equipment that seems to be essential for serious cave diving these days, we found it quite a load.   We had to use most of our clothes as padding for the more delicate parts of the equipment such as chargers.

I had extolled the virtues of this type of diving, and found out not long before our departure that Robbie Warke from Devon was going on the same expedition.  We had not talked in detail but we found ourselves at Heathrow waiting for the same AM Virgin flight to Miami.  We chatted and found that Robbie was on a different connecting flight to Nassau and we did not see him again till the next morning. International luggage can be "booked through" from one Airline to another, so we had no problems with luggage to worry about; but schedules for change over have to include a certain time for the luggage to travel from one airline to the next.  We had allowed about 2¼ hrs and booked on American Eagle who fly a frequent service to Nassau.  Robbie had booked on Bahamas Air with about l½ hrs between the two timings. Unfortunately the Virgin plane was an hour late mainly due to head-winds.  We had a leisurely walk through the airport to the AA departure area and found that due to violent electrical storms (which apparently started half an hour before our takeoff time, and half an hour after Robbie left - he got to Nassau on time!) most flights were on hold.

Following on from this, one or two planes went unserviceable mainly from weather problems.  With the available day crews running out of hours, efforts were made to get crews who were off duty.  The weather gradually improved, and postponed and delayed planes began to load.  We had now been waiting from 5.0pm to midnight.  We got on a flight that was packed solid - some of the passengers had actually been loaded onto a plane that turned into a shower cubicle just before take-off!  We left about 1.0am and arrived at Nassau about 2.0am.


Brian and Graham in “The Victor’s Pose’

Finding a Taxi who knew where we were going was not easy, we had to share and do a detour through a very upmarket residential area with a security man on the gate.  We had an interesting search in the dark for a "canal basin" sort of mooring at the bottom of someone's garden.  Knowing that it was in sight of Nassau Scuba Centre helped our location directions quite a lot!  Eventually we found our boat the "Ocean Explorer" tied up No.3 from the shore.  By 2.30 in the morning we had carried all our luggage on board over the two yachts, the movement woke the skipper Gene who came down and showed us our cabin.

The following morning we staggered out for breakfast and were introduced to the crew and the two divers who were already on board.  One, of course was Robbie Warke, and the other one was introduced as "Brian"; it was late that day before I realised his other name was Kakuk.  He had explored Guardian Hole in North Andros to a depth of 420ft. amongst many others.  Friday had a fairly easy start, Robbie told us during breakfast he had got to Nassau airport by about 5.30pm the previous evening; but his luggage had not made it!  He soon departed by taxi to do some luggage hunting.  We were also waiting for Kevin Mack and Murray Bilby to arrive from America. I had met them both on previous trips.

Eventually Robbie and his gear were aboard and as nothing much was happening he and I decided to assemble our kit and sort out our buoyancy in the canal, which was fairly clean salt water (with a sea fish population which was quite friendly).  We were allocated cylinders from the large selection on board and we fitted them with the Side Mount attachments for our style of diving.  When the rest of the party had arrived with their gear, we set off for Andros under the early afternoon sun.

When we got into the deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean Gene put on speed and we had a reasonable trip, only rolling a bit when we turned towards the Andros shore and were across the wind.  Progress was halted three times while fish were removed from fishing rods; these had lures which were pulled through the water by the boat.  The first one was a "Wahoo" a local delicacy, and Gene had just started to fillet it when the engine was shut down again.  (The person operating the boat can hear the reel scream when the fish hooks itself, and immediately shuts down the engine to a tick-over).  Those in the know immediately rush to the stem to watch.  The second event had two rods in action with a fish on each. These turned out to be "Wahoo" also.  With three large fish on the stem the cameras were busy - 3 at one time was a first!

Brian's scooter in its 'parked' mode

By the time all three were filleted the stern was a rather bloody mess and the fire hose was exercised to restore order.  When all was clear and we were on our way again another rod started to scream and again the engine was shut down.  A volunteer was called for who had not landed a fish before.  Never volunteer they say! I did.  I was fitted with the pukka leather harness with a socket at the front to hold the butt of the rod (rather like Anna who carried the Banner.. ... I).  I began the familiar process (to those who have seen it/or on the telly) of pulling in, relaxing and winding in, pulling in, relaxing and winding in etc; and I had pulled in some 50Mts. out of some 150Mts., and was thinking this is not too difficult, when there was a terrific pull and despite all my efforts line was pulled off the reel against the brake at quite a rate.  When the pull stopped I started winding in again, and again a vigorous pulsing pull could be felt, but not as bad as before.  I carried on winding and it got easier, I thought the fish was tiring. It definitely was!  When in gaffable range it was seen that a gigantic mouthful was missing from the middle, and the tail piece had gone.  In fact after photographs, it was thrown back into the sea!  It was decided by the experts present that it had probably been nibbled by a large Wahoo - identified by the shape of the bite.  I hesitate to think what would have happened if it had hooked itself.

Quite soon the sun was sinking in its usual Tropical splendour and dark came quickly.  Gene with the skilful use of Radar, Depth-sounder, the odd flashing light and a lot of local knowledge, navigated through the shoal water.  We ended up anchored near the Benjamin Blue Holes, just south of Lisbon Creek.  We moored there for the night.

The following day, i.e. just after midnight, we started our standard routine for the rest of the week. Dive the holes as the suck dies away, if possible, so that the change in direction helps on the swim out.  Kevin and Murray, who both dive back-mounts were paired up together.

Brian was really a one man diving crusade, he had a large customised Aquazepp with twin cylinders underneath it, and it had a stab jacket wrapped round it to adjust its buoyancy as needed.  He himself carried two side-mounted cylinders also mounted on a slender stab, jacket, and usually took with him, a cylinder of oxygen to leave at a suitable place for decompression.  This left Robbie and myself to form a pair.  Robbie had not done any long deep swims before and so he was introduced gently to our first dive.

Benjamin's No 4.  This is the "Cousteau dived here" cave where they all used underwater flares - yes I am old enough to have seen it the first time round!  The dive starts as a wide inclined bedding plane; this soon steepens into a vertical rift where the line runs at about 36M.

The S. line follows the easiest route along a deep rift descending to 46M before rising up to the Stal Chamber.  We turned the dive here after admiring the scenery with my 50 watt light.  We had Nitrox 40 available on all dives for decompression and/or extra safety as we decompressed on our air computers.  Most of our dives followed the same routine.

Our next dive was to be the North passage, but having followed the jump line down we could not find the N. line - so we did the S. passage again.  Robbie said that he enjoyed it probably more than the first time. I found that these big rifts were a bit overwhelming when I first met them.  On most of these dives we were dropped by the RIB in pairs, but sometimes as the boat swung on the anchor with the tide it was much nearer, and we swam back on the bottom at about 3M.

The author after swimming back to the boat from a Blue Hole

The next dive was to be Stargate, - arguably the most awe-inspiring underwater decorations most divers are ever likely to see.  It is an inland Blue Hole, where the diver jumps in and climbs out.  The kit is pulled up by pulley.  Apart from the formations it has a Halocline where the freshwater lens sits on top of the lower salt water.  This has an interesting effect on vision at the junction and also produces a rotten egg taste in the water - hydrogen sulphide. The water gives a greenish hue to daylight filtering from above.  We set out on the S. passage; Murray, Robbie and myself in procession, and found the line, a blue English style poly-prop. on the R.H. wall at about 30M deep.  We followed the S. line, admiring the decorations as we went, until the large passage ends at a narrow rift on the RH. side. There was Brian's scooter parked on end by the wall and a faint haze where he had swum off into the rift. Murray elected to swim down too, but I being the cautious one, decided that as there seemed to be two lines in there already, and Murray had added somewhat to the silt, two was company, so I indicated to Robbie we should hold fast where we were for a while.  When Murray had not returned after a couple of minutes we swam back up the line and by the belay into the greenish twilight zone beneath the entrance and looked for the North line.  It was not easy to spot, it was a white American style parcel-string belayed on a white flow stone sheet.  The delay in finding it allowed Murray to catch us up.  We swam rapidly along the line, admiring as we went as our air supplies were approaching turn round point.  We did get to the Cathedral like end of the chamber and then swam back to the green zone and slowly ascended to our Nitrox deco cylinders hanging on ropes, put in by the shore party.  I had dues of some 35 minutes decompression (we had been at an average depth of 40M for some time) but as usual I did extra. Robbie had a definite twinkle in his eye after this dive.

The next dive at 04.30 I declined, and slept in.  Brian had another go at Benjamin's No.2, in case he got to No.4 the jump line was left in. Early the next morning I volunteered to take out the jump reel and the marker buoy, so the others would not get large deco penalties.  Brian took me out in the Rib., I had put one cylinder only on my wings and extra weights, but as the hole was in full blow I had to swim hard vertically down the rift. The whole operation took only 9 minutes, but I got to 36.2M!

The next dive was Atlantis where the entrance shaft soon opens up into a very large chamber.  There are three labelled lines in it, so divers have a choice.  Robbie had already elected for a bit of depth so we started on the Highway line and when we were above the deep line we dropped down to it.  Both of us decided at the same time that 57M was enough, and we ascended to the Highway line and followed it towards Murray's chamber. Thirds beat us to it, so we never got there.  The next dive we decided to do Murray's chamber first! but as we kited up Robbie felt "proper poorly" and retired to bed with Aspirin etc.  So left to my own devices I dived solo down the Middle line, this goes down to an arch at 72M and ascends a big white (coral) sand bank.  I went a short way up the sand slope and decided I was far enough for a first time look.

The next dive was Funnel Hole which was discovered and first explored in 1996.  Robbie, after twelve hours in bed declared himself fit.  We turned right (S) along the rift and swam to the end of the line at 68.2M, another deepest for Robbie.  Deco was done in the early dark on a sand slope in front of two large Brain corals and quite a selection of fish.  The next dive was the left (N) passage and again we found the line we had laid in 1996 was in good order, leading down to a mere 65.6M. Deco was made more interesting by a large crab sitting on one of the Brain corals "knitting".

Towards the end of the week we had two quiet calm sunny days, and as the morning sun and the tides coincided, we could see the Blue Hole effect of rising water over the coral heads.  A snorkeler was despatched to check out potential sites, and about six were considered possible and put on the GPS for further investigation.  The last three dives were devoted to some of these new holes, some were named after Alena, the crew member who did the first recce by snorkel, and two were named after Brian Kakuk who was once stationed at the mothballed Autec base on Highpoint Cay.  He could have swum out to some of the holes from the shore in ten minutes! Robbie and I tackled Ellenita No 3 (I am not sure we got the right spelling on the boat).  It was also called "The Cheese Grater" by those who looked at it!  We had a thrutch but failed, we only got down to 12M.  It had a maze of small passages at the top.  Brian had a go later and achieved 146ft (he dives in Imperial units!) he thought he had missed the way on.  We had a go at Ellenita No l  next. Murray and Kevin had tried with back-mounts and had managed about ten feet.  When we started the cave was still sucking gently, and our progress was hampered by our own silt - this was a virgin cave with a fair bit of soft silt on the floor of tightish bedding planes.  Robbie decided he had lost the way on and we turned, as we exited the flow changed and he saw a clean water passage on the right, but by then I was wriggling out of the entrance.  We had achieved a depth of 22M which in England would be quite promising, but in Blue Hole terms was a comparative failure!

Our last dive together was to be Brian's Remorse (North of Highpoint Cay).  Robbie and I started together, but having found a suitable dumping spot for the Nitrox cylinder, I looked around for him and saw him back at the RIB (he had bunged up ears from his bug of three days ago).  As he had the exploration reel, and surfacing would have seriously reduced my air supplies I carried on down and followed a descending line put in by BK a few minutes earlier.  (He was still on the other end of it).  This followed a steeply descending rift which narrowed here and there and was blocked by wedged rocks and coral.  These had made useful belay points for the line.  I was now quite deep, 70M+ so stopped my descent at a largish blockage.  I could see lights coming up from well below me and soon BK appeared.  We exchanged greetings and after an exchange of courtesy (after you; no after you!) we exited in convoy.  RW met us at 55M on our way back, having sorted out his ears. I did a deliberate stop of 2 minutes at 35M and carried on to the entrance shaft to decompress alongside BK- but due to his long deep dive he still had an hour to do when I left.  In fact we both did our dues at 6M where we had a comfortable lie, BK entertained us both by teasing a young Grouper from behind a rock-rather like a pussycat!

I was now to leave the boat and so there was a feverish washing of gear in fresh water and it was all hung up to dry and was packed with some twenty minutes to spare.  At Lisbon Creek we were ferried ashore to catch a taxi to our hotel on Andros, for a short stay.  Of course the phone on the quay would not work; but fortunately Leroy Bannister was at home in the Aqua Marine Club and we used his phone.  Leroy provided accommodation and transport for George Benjamin when he was diving the Blue Holes in the 60' sand 70's. Leroy is now a very old Bahamian, but still has a fund of anecdotes.

Well, that ended my diving holiday; I will attempt to persuade Audrey to describe her impressions.


Janet’s Last Munro - (after the Famous Scottish Poet McGonagall)

From Kangy King who caved with Janet in the 50's

This is the day that Janet has completed her last Munro
Even though she thought she might not have done so a short time ago.
The SMC who seem to have little else to do but revise their lists
Decided to find some more which had been lost in the Scottish mists.
Greta and Janet learnt about this to their consternation just as they were due to finish
And had to fit in a lot more weekends of climbing in order not to diminish
The success of this memorable day when we have all got together
To celebrate Janet's mountaineering triumph against allsorts of awful weather

Even though the SMC had thought that they had found a way
To lengthen the list from 277 to 284 they could not gain the day
Against a very determined lover of the Scottish scene
Who can remember all the mountains upon which she has ever been,
Though it must be said that her memory understandably was not too clear
About whether in 1955 or perhaps later she had climbed Am Basteir,
And I am happily the result of her honest doubt about her labour
Because Janet phoned me to ask if could remember climbing it with her.
This I must say I could not do because according to my log we hadn't
And so we decided to meet after 42 years to climb when it became apparent
That I, a woeful sassenach, needed to experience the splendours of a Northern height
Which I must admit exceed those of the South in quantity and also might.

The most part of the latest Munros were tops, not a separate massive,
And when Janet faces the challenge of the hills she is not passive.
These tops were usually on a splendid ridge which no one of sensibility could resist
So that is why she has respected her original schedule and we are able to get blathered
And enjoy the hospitality that has been given to us here
Both now and later on with things to eat to soak up all that beer.
So friends both recent and quite old now gathered to praise a feat
Which many would admit is a very fine one not easy to repeat
Please lift your glasses and drink a toast with me.
Here's to Janet, mountains, her good companions and present company!

CHEERS (Thank you Mr. McGonagall, R.S.K., September 1997)


White Pit - Prophecy Pot Extensions

By Tony Jarratt


Discovered on 4/11/92 White Pit has seen a great deal of effort put in to extend the cave over the last five year notably in Waist of Thyme, Brian's Attic, Talus IV and above Masters' Hall.  The one place that has received little attention since its discovery by Andy Sparrow on 1/12/92 has been Prophecy Pot - the lowest part of the cave.  It was visited by a large team the day after it was found and on the next day the writer and Trevor Hughes dug here, following loose rocks and gravel downwards, but decided it would be a long term job. A month later the writer returned with Rich Blake but they were again put off by the large amount of spoil to be moved.  Due to CO2 problems throughout the cave the bottom of the Pot was only rarely visited over the next few years and it was only after the proposed abandonment of Estelle's Anticlimax dig that it was once again investigated with a view to digging on 3/4/97.

Four days later the writer and Jeff Price were wielding a pick axe at the lowest part of the floor until thwarted by calcited breccia and boulders.  Probably due to the increased airflow from St Alactite's Hall air conditions were good and the expected mud flow from the Waist of Thyme spoil dump below Forty Backs had not materialised.

On 12/5/97 the writer, Rich Blake, Quackers Duck and Tony Boycott were laboriously hammering away at the floor when they were astonished to feel a distinct draught.  Three solo trips by the writer (one involving a dropped tackle bag, broken drill connections and an ear sliced open by a falling ammo box lid) gained several feet of depth and necessitated the use of bang on the calcited rocks.  A tarpaulin was used to deflect fly-rock from the formations in the Pot above.

He returned again on 2/6/97 with Jake Johnson and Tony to lower the dig another four feet to draughting holes in the floor.  A second, very noisy, charge was fired.  This was cleared on a solo trip on 16th and the dig was banged again the following day.

The 20th saw the writer and Stuart Sale clearing this and filling up the inlet passage at the base of the Pot with spoil leaving very little dumping space without encroaching on the gours opposite.  A return was made on 22/6/97 along with Estelle Sandford, Nick Mitchell, Mike Willett and Guy Munnings and despite a plague of light pox the dig reached over ten feet in depth.

The next day the writer installed four sections of scaffold pole in the hole and carried on digging downwards under a rain of large rocks peeling from the walls.  The draught and echo gave intimations of a large void nearby.

The first breakthrough came a day later when the writer, Estelle and Jake banged the floor and, following a fag break in Masters' Hall, returned through the rapidly dissipating fumes to dig down into a small and heavily calcited chamber below the choke. A couple of ways on needed bang to progress further.  More raining rocks and the onset of closing time saw a late exit from the cave by the elated diggers.

"Our great hopes of yesterday were not fulfilled but once the floor choke is removed I am sure we will be off again!" - A. Jarratt, MSS log, 2/12/92.

The delightfully clean, calcited boulders were drilled and banged on 25th 28th and 29th June, the latter trip being notable for the sudden increase in the outward draught just as we had finished laying the charge.  The writer, Tony B. and Estelle were suddenly enveloped in bad air pouring up from below the dig and were lucky to get out of the cave before they were affected too much. Despite this the charge was fired on the way out!  A temporary new lock was then put on the entrance and the cave left alone for two days until exploration fever stupidly got the better of the non medical pair of the trio!  Candles were taken down and they burned with a bright, yellow flame as the bang spoil was confidently cleared giving no indication of CO2.  Unfortunately other noxious gases (nitrous oxides?) were present and as a fresh charge was laid on the one remaining boulder preventing access to a 10 feet deep by 4 feet wide black hole these took effect on the diggers. Another slow and worrying retreat was made with lots of resting on the way out - at one point to fire the charge. Jane Jarratt was about to raise the alarm as the gassed ones staggered down the drove to West Cott.  Not wanting a third dose of fumes and despite knowing that the way on now had to be wide open, a longer period of time was left for them to clear.

The breakthrough trip came on 6th July when the writer, lubricated with Guinness got firmly wedged in the hole opened up by the last bang.  After being extricated by Tony B and Estelle, he widened the rift to allow the three of them plus Jake to squeeze down into a "walking sized" phreatic bore passage heading steeply down-dip for some 20ft to a choke with a nice grotto above.  At least there was plenty of room in the extension to open and imbibe the bottle of Vintage Brut brought along for the occasion! (note 1)

The following day Andy Sparrow and the writer dug at the choke until the poor air conditions necessitated the usual slow retreat.

On July 9th a larger team continued digging here in improved circumstances and two further trips on the 16th and 21st saw more rock and mud being dumped in the phreatic tube.

The next breakthrough came on 23rd July when the final boulders in the bottom of the calcited choke were barred out to reveal a 12ft climb down into a 15ft long, 6-8ft high phreatic alcove with the only feasible way on being back under the dodgy breakthrough choke.

Estelle, Rich and the writer returned on the following day with a scaffold pole and long crowbar to attack the choke which was eventually passed after some very hairy boulder redistribution to reach another large phreatic tunnel.  This went steeply down-dip, apparently directly to the Swildon's/Wookey Master Cave! Estelle was given the honour of the discovery but after only some 25ft or so the cry "Bastard, bastard" rent the air as a nasty little, un-diveable sump pool loomed up!  Cancel one Master Cave.

The air at this point is decidedly stale and the draught seems to have been lost in "Follow Through Choke" (tastefully named in honour of Richard who was at this time somewhere on the surface contemplating the purgative effects of a surfeit of Butcombe!)

The writer and Estelle returned on 3rd August to vainly probe the Choke in three different places - all of which seem to be dangerous long term options.  At this point we are some 250ft deep with about 300ft to go to the streamway.  The total length of the extension is around 100ft of quality passage, most of which was surveyed to BCRA grade 5c on 13th August by Trevor, Tony B and Estelle until the bad air drove them out.  The job was finished by the latter two and the writer on 30th November when more air samples revealed conditions to be much improved.  An attempt at digging the choke is being co-ordinated by Jake, to whom all volunteers should apply.


Sparrow. A. Feb. 1993 Descent 110 p.11 (Discovery)

Sparrow. A. Dec. 1992 Belfry Bulletin 466 46 (4) (Discovery)

Jarratt. T. Aug. 1993 Belfry Bulletin 468 47 (2) (Waist of Thyme)

Anon.    Jan. 1994 Belfry Bulletin 472 47 (5)  (Access procedure)

Jarratt. T. Mar. 1995 Belfry Bulletin 478 48 (3) (St. Alactite's Hall Simmonds V. & survey)

Jarratt. T. MSS Logs Vol. V 1992 - date.:

Hughes T. MSS Logs and unpublished survey and other diggers MSS logs.

Note 1   Tony Boycott took some air samples with a Drager analyser at the bottom of Prophecy Pot with the results as follows:

617/97             Way in              Way out

C02                  1.5%                 3%

CO                   Nil                    Nil

Nil                    Nil                    Nil

He suspected that the O2 level was lower than normal but had no means of measuring this.  He repeated the readings on 1317/97 (CO2 only):

                                                            Way in              Way out

            Bottom of Prophecy Follow         2%                   2%

            Through Choke                          4%                   4.5%


Wigmore - The Criticism has Landed

By Trevor Hughes

A recent e-mail to the editor from Graham Mullan (UBSS), prompted this computer illiterate handraulic surveyor to study the Wigmore Report and answer his queries in a personal reply and in these pages as the enclosed errata sheet.

The text of the report is, by and large, correct - the odd figure may be quibbled over in the statistical pages, but that is small beer (i.e. for the Wessex).  What lets the report down is the quality of presentation of the surveys.

Keith Savory's geological work is first class, but the survey plans/elevations have no scale. The map facing page 3 does not use the best available information on the downstream passages - The 1:200 sheet (available from Bat Products) gives the better overview.

The Surveys at the end of the report have an incorrect scale - it should have been 1:707 (i.e. 1:500 x -...12 as a result of the photo-reduction from A3 to A4).  The north point of the plan is drawn at 342.5° mag. and the downstream sump passages have been rotated without due explanation.  The foreshortening as a result of the radio location on 4th April 1993 has not been incorporated into the survey plan.

In my reply to Graham I referred him to the original published surveys and reminded him that source material is essential for serious research (I enclosed to him the BB 1:500 and original 1:200 master in my reply).  The small scale surveys used in a caving report are essentially a guide and not a means to an end, but I do feel that more care should have been taken in the preparation of the report's surveys and on that issue, Graham voices a very valid point.

I hope the errata sheet is self explanatory. If anybody is still in the dark then proffered beer and snuff will entice a more comprehensive reply - especially in the Hunters!!

Caving Report Number 23 - Wigmore Report Errata Sheet

Facing Page 3:

Delete: Not to meaningful scale - proportion only

Insert:   Scale 1:3125

Add:     Grid is Ordnance Survey, North point is O/S.

Facing Page 12:

Insert:   Scale = 1:300

Facing Page 13:

Insert:   Scale" = 1:300 N (mag. 1991) = Page long axis

Between Pages 13 and 14:

Insert:   Scale" 1:320

Facing Page 24:

Delete: Scale 1:500

Insert:   Scale 1:707 (141mm reps 100m)

Facing Rear Cover:

Delete: Scale 1:500

Insert:   Scale 1:707


1.                  North point as drawn is 17.50 west of N (mag 1991)

2.                  The downstream passages from sump one have been rotated to fit the page.  The major orientation is 0800 mag.

3.                  The length of the passages/sumps does not take into account of the radio-location carried out 34m downstream of sump 9.



·        In a Tokyo Hotel:  Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please.  If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notice.

·        In another Japanese hotel room:  Please to bathe inside the tub.

·        In a Bucharest hotel lobby:  The lift is being fixed for the next day.  During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

·        In a Leipzig elevator:  Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.

·        In a Belgrade hotel elevator:  To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.  If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor.  Driving is then going alphabetically by national order. 

·        In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.

·        In a hotel in Athens:  Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 AM daily.

·        In a Yugoslavian hotel:  The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.

·        In a Japanese hotel:  You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

·        In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:  You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

·        In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers:  Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.

·        On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:  Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

·        On the menu of a Polish hotel:  Salad a firm's own make; limpid red beat soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion.

·        In a Hong Kong supermarket:  For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service. 

·        Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop:  Ladies may have a fit upstairs.

·        In a Rhodes tailor shop:  Order your summers suit.  Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation. 

·        Similarly, from a Soviet Weekly:  There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.

·        In an East African newspaper:  A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.

·        In a Vienna hotel:  In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.

·        A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest:  It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.

·        In a Zurich hotel:  Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.

·        In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist:  Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

·        A translated sentence from a Russian chess book:  A lot of water has been passed under the bridge since this variation has been played.

·        In a Rome laundry:  Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

·        Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand:  Would you like to ride on your own ass?

·        On the faucet in a Finnish washroom:  To stop the drip, turn cock to right.

·        In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.

·        On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong:  Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.

·        Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: Stop:  Drive Sideways.

·        In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today -- no ice cream.

·        In a Bangkok temple:  It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.

·        In a Copenhagen airline ticket office:  We take your bags and send them in all directions.

·        On the door of a Moscow hotel room:  If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

·        In a Norwegian cocktail lounge:  Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

·        At a Budapest zoo:  Please do not feed the animals.  If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

·        In the office of a Roman doctor:  Specialist in women and other diseases.

·        In an Acapulco hotel:  The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

·        In a Tokyo shop: Our nylons cost more than common, but you'll find they are best in the long run.

·        From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.

·        From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:  When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

·        Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance: English well talking.    Here Speeching American.


The Bleadon and Hutton Caverns, West Mendip

A re-assessment

by David J. Irwin and Christopher Richards


Each of the known sites on Hutton Hill, near Weston-super-Mare, is defined and placed in their historical context. Details of previously unrecorded events during the 1970s are given.

In modern times the naming and association of Hutton Hill caves to historic accounts has been confused and frequently misleading.  It came about following the discovery of three caves on Hutton Hill in 1970, 1973 and 1974 by the Axbridge Caving Group and Archaeological Society (ACG & AS). Each cave was subsequently extended on occasion by the Group until work ceased in 1976.  At the time of the opening of each site the ACG & AS thought that they had relocated the two long lost Hutton caverns first recorded and excavated by Alexander Catcott [1725-1779] in 1757.  The earliest of the two discoveries, known by a succession of names, was later identified to be the lost Bleadon Cavern and it was also soon realised, as a result of extensive research by Richards and Shaw, that the site known as Hutton Cavern (1973) was not the lost bone site but a previously unrecorded cave.  None of the caves relate to Catcott's notes and the numerous names by which these sites were subsequently known led to serious confusion.  Details of the fourth Hutton Cavern site, not associated with the Catcott caves, discovered in 1974 by ACG & AS are given for the first time in this paper.  The 1970 and 1973 caves are correctly listed in the Mendip cave guidebooks as Bleadon Cavern (note1) (ST35/3606.5813) and Hutton Cavern (ST35/3603.5816) respectively.(note 2,3)  Incorrect naming of these caves in other published material has led to the current muddle.  The caves are discussed separately and a bibliography is given for each is given in Appendix 1.


Five caves are known to exist on Hutton Hill in the immediate vicinity of Maytree Farm and to avoid further confusion they will be designated Hutton Cavern -1, Hutton Cavern - 2, Hutton Cavern - 3, Hutton Cavern - 4 and Bleadon Cavern.

Hutton Caverns -1 and - 2, were opened by ochre miners in the 18th century and recorded by Alexander Catcott following a visit on the 10th June 1757.  Both sites are now lost.

Hutton Cavern - 3 (ST35/3605.5816) is described in Barrington and Stanton.  The entrance to this cave was sealed on instructions of the landowner in the late 1980s.

Hutton Cavern - 4 (ST35/3506.5818) were opened by ACG & AS in 1974 but the entrance was sealed by ACG & AS in the same year.

The fifth site is now known to be the lost Bleadon Cavern (ST35/3606.5813 )

A sixth site, not associated with the group just identified but has a similar name, is Hutton Hill Hole (ST35/3424.58l4).(note 4)  This was first opened in 1994 by the Bracknell and District.

Caving Club/ACG, (note 5) and is a separate site lying some half mile to the west in Hay Wood and is not considered further in these notes.


Hutton Cavern -1

A certain Mr. Turner of Loxton (note 6) sent Catcott a small collection of Elephant's teeth & bones which made him aware of a bone 'pit' on Hutton Hill then recently opened by the ochre miners.  Catcott received the bones sometime between 27th August 1756 when he returned from a visit to Tenby in South Wales and the 23rd October 1756.  On this date Catcott wrote a letter to a Mr. Price which was subsequently published in the Gentleman's Magazine? (note 7) In it Catcott explained that he intended to excavate at the site at Hutton in the near future.  The planned excavation was delayed until 10th June 1757 when he travelled from Bristol to Hutton with his friend and companion, Mr. Gore.

Catcott and Gore entered the cave with the miner who had found the bones and by the end of the expedition Catcott had gathered together a sizeable collection of specimens. (note 8) During that day they met William Glisson, (note 9) an ochre miner from Loxton with whom Catcott was already associated following his visit to Loxton Cavern during the previous month.  Glisson informed the two men that the mining activities on Hutton Hill had commenced about 1739-1740.  He added that during the course of that time the miners had opened up a number of similar holes.  Catcott entered in his diary' ... The whole hill is full of Swallet holes.'

In the first edition of Catcott's.  A Treatise on the Deluge [1761] the bone site at Hutton is not mentioned for he had concentrated his literary efforts on an explanation and proof of the Deluge as told in the Scriptures. (note 10)

It appears that it was not until about 1761 that Catcott wrote in some detail of his visit. (note 11) This was in a letter to an unknown recipient. (note 12) Seven years later Catcott published a supplement to the 'Treatise' in which the first published account of the cave is given. (note 13) Hutton Cavern was also included in the account of his visit to the cave in the 1768 edition of the Treatise and which has been reprinted on a number of occasions.

The cave had been entered at a depth of about 25ft where a 20ft square bedding chamber was entered floored with a mixture of ochre and bone material.  A three foot square tunnel led downwards for about 50ft into the second chamber, this being about 30ft x 15ft followed by a further descent of about 10-12ft into the final chamber.  Catcott, in a letter to an unknown recipient, noted that the there were great quantities of bone and that: (note 14)

…the whole exhibited an appearance not much unlike the inside of a Charnel House. We staid in this place two hours and being well provided with implements dug out a vast number & a great variety of bones and teeth and different species of Land Animals, but finding the Roof began to yield and the sides much weakened we thought it not advisable to continue any longer but proceeded to return ... but with full intent to revisit the place as soon as it could be secured and propped up with wood-work. Before this was effected the whole fill in and the cavity rendered inaccessible.

Catcott is not known to have returned to Hutton Hill and the cave remained 'lost' until about 1828 when David Williams considered the possibility of re-opening the site. Catcott's geological collection had by that date been given to the Bristol City Library.

Williams, Rector of Bleadon, a local geologist and archaeologist had carried out extensive geological excavations at the famous Uphill Cavern, near Weston-super-Mare and becoming aware of Catcott's work in the Hutton Hill bone caverns, made an attempt to locate the site.  By this time many of the 'pit' entrances had collapsed making it difficult to determine which pit was the entrance to the bone cavern.  Help was forthcoming in the form of Catcott's unpublished c.1761 (note 15) description of Loxton Cavern then in the possession of an old friend, Mr. Richardson of Farleigh which proved of great assistance to Williams. (note 16)  An approximate location of the entrance was given as being .

.. about three hundred paces South of the Gate of a field called Down acres in the parish of Hutton.

Finding scraps of bone Williams became hopeful that he might well have found the spot. However, to start a major excavation would be a costly exercise if it were not the Catcott cavern.  Luck was with Williams when an old miner, William Jones, confirmed that the pit in which he had found the bone was indeed the place; for his help he was paid one shilling by William Beard.  Permission was given to excavate and, in conjunction with William Beard, work began on the 19th of September 1828.  John Webb and Isaac Coleman were employed to re-open the cave and when it was successfully achieved the men were kept in partial employment carrying out exploratory work in the cave. (note 17)  Confirmation that the cave they had opened was that explored by Catcott is given in Williams' account (note 18) of 1829.

After working some time, we opened what may be termed three chambers in the fissure, the floor of the one above forming the roof of the room below, consisting of huge fragments of rock, that have sunk away and jammed themselves between the strata, their interstices being filled with ochreous rubble and bones.

Beard's Notebooks (note 19) contain further details of the excavation and on occasion a number of important visitors went to the site including George Henry Law [1761-1845], the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1829 and Sir Richard Owen [1804-1892] in 1850. The bones were distributed to William Buckland, the Bishop and to various institutions. Many specimens found their way into the collections created by both Beard and Williams. (note 20) Williams wrote a note to Rutter stating that the excavation was brief, lasting only six weeks. However, though Williams may no longer have been involved at the site Beard continued, albeit intermittently, the search on Hutton Hill, employing both Webb or Coleman, on separate occasions, until January 1831.  When work ceased the entrance was allowed to collapse and its location lost and remains so to this day.


Fig 1 Elevation of Hutton Cavern  1 : published in both Rutter and Phelps.

On February 16th 1829, David Williams wrote to William Patteson, Vicar of Shaftesbury, outlining his work at various bone caverns in the West Mendip area including Banwell Bone Cavern, Uphill Cavern and Hutton Cavern.  The letter was published as a pamphlet by John Rutter later that year. (note 21)  It was this work that was the source material for Rutter's description of Hutton Cavern and other sites, in his 'Delineations' and the 'Banwell and Cheddar Guide', both published in 1829. (note 22,23)

The Rev. William Phelps (note 24) in his 'History and Antiquities of Somersetshire', published in two volumes, relied on the Catcott, 1768 edition of the 'Treatise'.  A survey of the cave was drawn by Williams (note 25) and a wood-cut prepared from it by William Barnes (note 26) and used in all the 1829 publications of Rutter and in Phelps' 1836 'History and Antiquities of Somersetshire'.  There have been several reprints of Catcott's 1768 description of Hutton Cavern, three of them appearing in British Caver. (note 27.28)  During the first half of the 20th century at least two searches were made to locate the lost Catcott cavern but to no avail. (note 29.30)

Hutton Cavern – 2

Fig 2. Surveyors notes for the Bleadon Cavern 1833 survey.  Reproduced with permission of the Somerset Record and Archive Service .

This site is lost and was first recorded by Catcott in his diary entry for the 10th June 1757.  In it he wrote: (note 31)

About 40 yards West from the last hole [Hutton Cavern - 1] was opened another, of a similar nature, with ochre, bones etc. - @ about as deep. From this was dug a large long head of an animal; about 3 or 4 feet long: 14 inches broad at the top or hind part & 3 inches at the snout.

A mention of this site is made in the 1768 accounts of Hutton Cavern - 1 by Catcott. (note 32)

One of the men, that had been at work in these pits, brought me a collection of small bones that he had found in a pit adjoining .. The same person assured me that before I came down, he had found in digging in the same place the head of a strange animal that he believed was near three feet in length.

A similar account appeared the same year in a Supplement to the 1761 Treatise. (note 33) Since that time no definite mention of this cave is known except for a passing mention in Richards' 1974 paper. (note 34)

Hutton Cavern - 3

Hutton Cavern - 3 was originally an old mineshaft that was excavated by the ACG & AS and first entered in 1973.  The only published description of this site appears in Barrington and Stanton. (note 35) Initially it was thought, again, to be the lost cave - the Hutton Cavern - 1 known to Catcott.  However, it soon became apparent that this was not the case and, although it had been extensively mined for ochre, no previous record of its existence has been found.  The distinctive three superimposed chambers in the cave known to Catcott, Beard and Williams were not present and further no bone material was found in the ochre and other deposits.  The following account places on record for the first time the sequence of exploration.

In March 1973 an old mine shaft was cleared of infill by ACG&AS. This led into a natural cave passage, steeply sloping, reaching a depth of about 30ft below the surface where there were extensions left and right.  The sloping passage, and the extensions, were heavily choked with natural breakdown and ochreous fill together with detritus thrown into the shaft. To the right (north-east) digging led to the discovery in June of a small passage level at first and then rising over rocks thrown down through a blocked up mine-shaft connecting with the surface.  To the left (south-west) excavation was hindered by overhanging masses of loose debris up against the bottom of a steeply dipping limestone bed.  In September work was abandoned and the entrance shaft into the dig re-filled.

In May 1974 a filled-up shaft lying a few feet south-south-west of the first was cleared and part way down a passage was found leading away in a south westerly direction but partially choked.  Digging led to a breakthrough after about 15 feet on 12 May into the roof of a roomy passage extending south-west for about 25 feet.  The work of the ochre miners was obvious and there were signs that a bone deposit had been dug out.  From the point of breakthrough, and around a corner, a roomy chamber headed north-east and sloped upwards to a choke that lay at the bottom of the shaft that had just been dug out.  The candle-smoked initials "D W" were observed in the roof of the chamber.  Was the Rev. David Williams responsible for these?

The diggers thought that they had relocated the upper chamber of Hutton Cavern 1, and decided to look for a way on beneath the mass of debris on the floor of the chamber.  To do this the shaft first dug out in March 1973 was re-opened for the lowest point of that dig lay beneath the debris in the new chamber.

Efforts were made throughout the rest of 1974, and in 1975, 1976 and 1977 to find a deeper extension, not only under the chamber but in other places in the system.  It was during 1976 and 1977 that the Hutton Scouts became involved.  The shaft first attacked in May 1974 was sunk deeper to connect with the chamber so spoil could be hoisted to the surface.  However, no extension was found and the idea that Hutton Cavern - 1 had been found, evaporated.


Fig 3. Bleadon Cavern 1833 survey.
Reproduced with permission of the Somerset Record and Archive Service

Hutton Cavern - 4

A site, not previously recorded in Speleo-literature, was discovered in 1974 and lay a short distance from Hutton Cavern - 3.  This is the first time details of its existence have been published.  Its length is about 100ft and an overall depth of 35ft.

The site lay about 17 yards north-east of Hutton Cavern - 3. Digging by ACG&AS began in December 1973 and an infilled mine shaft cleared.  At a depth of about 10 feet a breakthrough was made on the 13th January 1974.  A small passage, showing signs of blasting, sloped down into a domed phreatic chamber about 6ft high and with a floor paved with stones by the miners. In the floor was a shaft about 15ft deep neatly walled around at the top with "deads" sunk into an ochre pocket.  No bone deposits were observed.  The entrance shaft was filled in again on the 10th February 1974 by ACG&AS.


Fig 4. Bleadon Cavern 1972 survey

Bleadon Cavern [Or Hutton Cavern Ii]

At the centre of all the confusion is Bleadon Cavern.  When it was re-opened in 1970 it was thought to be the 'lost' Hutton Cavern -1 and understandably called Hutton Cavern. (note 36)  As a result of further investigation following the publication of the CRG Mendip Bibliography Part II prepared by Shaw, (note 37) it became clear that the site was not Hutton Cavern - 1.  In 1973 the discovery of Hutton Cavern - 3 threw the thought processes into turmoil. The following year after an intensive study of available sources Richards reassessed the historical evidence of the 1970 discovery and published a paper on the subject in the Wessex Cave Club Journal. (note 38)  In this he re-named the site Hutton Cavern II in the belief that it was the second site excavated by Beard and Williams in 1833 and known to them as the Second Cavern on Hutton Hill as well as it being known as Bleadon Cavern.  Richards, though, went further and allied this site to the second site outlined by Catcott.

…we do not have the classical Lost Cavern of Hutton but we have re-found the lesser of the two caverns no discovered at about the same time (c.1740)…

No evidence has been found to suggest that this is the second Catcott cave, even though it had previously been entered by the ochre miners, other than assuming that only three caverns were known to exist at the time of Catcott's visit.  This must be wrong for the Glisson evidence shows that a number of caves had been found between c.1740 and 1757.  It could be any of them.

However, the matter did not rest there.  Confirmation that the site was the lost Bleadon Cavern came as a result of a study of a cave survey residing in the archive collection at the Somerset Record Office that had been produced in January 1833.  This survey was compared with that produced by ACG & AS shortly after the cave was opened and similarities were recognised by Trevor Shaw. (note 39)  The cave had been finally proved to be the re-discovery of Bleadon Cavern [or Beard's Second Cavern] a site first opened between c.1740, and as will be shown, not later than 1746, and excavated for the first time in 1833 by Beard and Williams.

During the exploration of the site a lower series was found. This was a new discovery unknown to the pre-20th century explorers.

Bleadon Cavern is unique from the other known Hutton Hill caves in that the cave plan area straddles the boundary of the parishes of Hutton and Bleadon and was known by this name simply because the entrance to the cave lay in Bleadon Parish.  During the Beard-Williams excavation two entrances were opened, the first in Hutton Parish.  This proved difficult to remove the bones so Beard ordered a second shaft to be opened - this lay in Bleadon Parish.  The 'Hutton' entrance was then sealed and re-opened by ACG & AS in 1970. The Bleadon entrance has not been re-opened but its location is known from underground evidence.  Relating this site to the 18th century discoveries by the ochre miners is difficult.  It may well be one of the many caves discovered before Catcott visited the area or it could be the second 'pit' noted in his diary [Hutton Cavern - 2]. All that is known is that Catcott's second cave [Hutton Cavern - 2] is 40 yards west of Hutton Cavern - 1 but as the latter site is lost there is no fixed point from which to start measuring. However, what is fact is that the cave had been worked by the ochre miners for the remains of a candle and smoke-marked date of 1746 were found by the ACG & AS explorers.  Thus the cave had to have been found between c.1740 and 1746 based up on Glisson's evidence.

On the 4th of January 1833 Beard commenced work on the 'second cavern' or Bleadon Cavern and worked at the site in two sessions.  The first was from 4th January- 2nd February 1833, and on the 15th January John Heal of Shipham was employed to produce a survey of the cave for which he was paid five shillings.  At the end of the first session Beard entered the following into his account book:

2nd Febry 1833
Paid Isaac Coleman for 6 days work        £ -        9          0 [nine shillings]
Gave him [Isaac Coleman] to have some Beer when I
finished my researches at Hutton & Bleadon hill where
I discovered a Multitude of bones             £ -        1          0 [one shilling]

Beard also knew the cave as the Second Cavern: (note 40)

Friday the 4th of Janry 1833.  I discovered the second cavern of Bones at Hutton hill.

Much material was removed and at the end of the first excavation Beard had amassed a sizeable collection and of sufficient importance that Buckland thought it necessary to visit Banwell to view them. Beard records the visit and identifies the landowner's name that is indecipherable on the survey of the cave.

Also on Friday the 26th of April 1833.  The Revd. Dr Buckland and the Revd D. Williams and the Revd. Mr. Lunn and Mr. Hyde Whalley paid me a visit to see my collection and last discovery which extended from the Ochre Pitts on a part of Hutton Hill under the boundary wall into Mrs. Fears allotment in the parish of Bleadon the distance of about 250 feet they was much pleased to see it.

Indeed was they?

Work recommenced again on 7th September and finally ceased on the 22nd March 1834. (note 41)

Miscellaneous Sites

Though Catcott discusses Hutton Cavern - 1 in his various papers he added that subsequent to his 1757 visit that Glisson had found several other bone bearing pits but none were identified; the subsequent discoveries by ACG & AS are probably some of these. (note 42)


Strangely Phelps makes no mention of Bleadon Cavern though he records the activities of 1828 in Hutton Cavern -1 based on Rutter.  The discovery of bones in this cave are referred to in many local topographical and guide-books of the middle 19th century.

Buckland (note 43) reprints the Catcott 1768 account of Hutton Cavern - 1 and Dawkins (note 44) mentions it as an important bone site.  A problem is found in Knight's (note 45) account of the Beard-Williams excavation in Bleadon Cavern - this site is confused with the bone deposits found in a quarry close to the village.  The date given in Knight for the discovery of Hutton Cavern - 1 is given as 'about the year 1650' and should be discounted.

Balch too, totally confuses the situation in that to his knowledge there was only one bone site in the area and that in a local quarry.  Balch (note 46,47) compounds the problem by merging the bone finds from both Bleadon Cavern and that from the quarry which he calls Bleadon Cave.  It occurs in his Mendip: its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters fold-out sheet entitled Man and the Wild Beasts on Mendip.

Gough in his Mines of Mendip uses Rutter and Knight as his historical sources and a reference is taken from Catcott's Diaries of tours.  Bryant & Philpot use Rutter and Phelps for their source material. Finally, the listing of Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites published in 1989 should be amended to associate various papers to the correct sites. (note 48)


Bleadon Cavern

Anon, 1970, Mendip News (Hutton Cavern) Cer SS Ntr 6(24)4; brief note on reopening Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip: the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

Haines-Nutt, R. Frank and Mulvey, Christopher, 1963, Not in Barrington - or Oldham WCC Jnl 7(90) 199-207(Jun)

Irwin, David J. and Jarratt, Anthony R., 1993, Mendip Underground: a caver's guide [3rd ed] Castle Cary : Mendip Publishing, 240pp, illus., surveys, maps

Knight, Francis A. 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

Richards, Christopher, 1970, The lost cavern of Hutton - its rediscovery: a preliminary account. ACG Ntr 115-118(Sep), survey

Richards, Christopher, 1971, Notes on the 1970 Hutton Cavern Survey. ACG Ntr 90-91(Dec) Richards, Christopher, 1972, Notes on the 1972 edition ofthe Hutton Cavern survey. ACG Ntr 2526(Jul)

Richards, Christopher, 1972, Hutton Cavern : a reconsideration in the light of recent discoveries. WCC Jnl 12(142)110-118(Aug), survey

Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part II Books, pamphlets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans. 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Hutton Cavern No.2: a plan of 1833. WCC JnI12(144)199-200(Dec), survey

Bleadon Cavern and Hutton Cavern - 1

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1865, Notice of carnassial and canine teeth from the Mendip caverns, probably belong to Felis antiqua. Gool Mag, Ser 1 2,43 Read before the Brit Assoc. - ref also Rep Brit Assoc (34(1864)

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1869, Rodentia ofthe Somerset caves [abstract] Q Jnl Geol Soc 25,444 Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1869, On the rodentia ofthe Somerset caves. SANHS Proc 15(2)5157(1868-1869), figs

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1870, On the rodentia of the Somerset caves. Q Jnl Gool Soc 26,124-131, fig

Stoddart, W.W., 1870, The quaternary deposits ofthe Bristol neighbourhood. Proc Bristol Nats Soc, Ser 2 5,37-43, map

Hutton Cavern - 1

Anon, 1870, Beedle's popular visitors' handbook of Weston- super-Mare; with walks, rides, and drives in the neighbourhood. Weston-super-Mare: T. Beeble, 128pp, map, illus. Bristol Ref Lib Green Collection 7223 B.L. 16B2

Baker, W., 1850, Geology of Somerset SANHS Proc 1, 127-139 (1849-1850)

Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

Balch, Herbert E., 1948, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus.

Bryant, T. Charles and Philpott, R. Antony, 1962, Hutton Cave. WCC Jnl 7(83)22-25, survey Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Description [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by c.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. Originally belonging to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

Catcott, Alexander, 1969, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] Brit Cav 52,36-37 Knight, Francis A, 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip.  London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

Platten, Gerard [ed], 1948, Lost Mendip Caves Brit Cav 18,26-28

Oldham, Anthony D., 1963, The Caves of Mendip 2nd Edition. Additions, Errors, Corrections, Etc. WCC Jnl 7(88)153(Feb)

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1864, Notice of carnassial and canine teeth from the Mendip caverns, probably belong to Felis antiqua (syn Pardus).  Rep Brit Assoc (34) Trans Sect, 69

Tratman. Edgar K., 1921, Field work Proc UBSS 1(2)95-97(1920/1921)

Williams, David, 1829, Some account of the fissures and caverns hitherto discovered in the western district of the Mendip range of hills comprised in a letter from the Rev. D. Williams ... to the Rev. W. Patterson. Shaftesbury: John Rutter, 16pp, surveys: mentioned. Ref Men Bib Pt II, No.867

Hutton Cavern - 1 and Hutton Cavern - 2

Catcott, Alexander, 1748, Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf 1 138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3

Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement to a book, entitled a treatise on the deluge. Bristol: printed by Farley and Cocking, iv + 65pp, illus.

Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A treatise on the deluge ... London: printed for the Author by E. Allen, 421pp, illus.

Hutton Cavern - 3

Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip : the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

Hutton Cavern - 4

No details of this site has been published

Hutton Hill caves - unidentified

A[   ] ,F S, 1859, Mammalian Remains Geologist 2,219-220: extract from 1756 letter by Peter

Collinson to Gents Mag 1757, p.220 - discovery of Elephant's teeth

Stanton, William 1., 1950, Extracts from a diary of a schoolboy in Mendip. Part 1. Brit Cav 21,6572(Winter)


Our thanks to Chris Hawkes for the loan of a copy of Phelps, 1836, and to Ray Mansfield whose comments were invaluable.

D.J. Irwin, Priddy, Somerset.

C. Richards, North Somerset Museum Service, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

30th August 1997

Revised by D.J. Irwin,

8th February 1998


1.                  Originally the site was called Maytree Cavern after the name of the adjacent farm - a name not now used. When the ACG & AS researches commenced it was thought that it was the second site mentioned in the Catcott diary account - hence for a time it was known as Hutton Cavern. It was later realised that the site was in fact the lost Bleadon Cavern.

2.                  Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip : the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar:

Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

3.                  Irwin, David J. and Jarratt, Anthony R., 1993, Mendip Underground: a caver's guide [3rd ed] Castle Cary: Mendip Publishing, 24Opp, illus., surveys, maps

4.                  Norton, Michael, 1995, [Hutton Hill Hole] ACG Ntr [20](Summer/Autumn)

5.                  The Archaeological Society and the Caving Group decided to separate in 1976 for reasons relating to caving insurance. Since that time the caving section has been known as Axbridge Caving Group.

6.                  Possibly Rev. Turner, who was rector of Loxton at this time.

7.                  [Catcott, Alexander], 1757, [letter], Gentleman's Magazine Vol.27, Pt.1, p.199

8.                  Catcott, Alexander, 1748-1774, Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf 1138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3

9.                  Catcott described Glisson as 'Lord Royal of the Hill'

10.              Catcott, Alexander, 1761, A treatise on the deluge ... London: Withers, xiii + 296pp, illus. general

11.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Description [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by C.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. Originally belonging to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. The location of the Catcott original letter is unknown, presumably lost.

12.              Stephens, J., 1761, Proposals for printing by subscription a work entitled The Natural History of Somersetshire. [dated February 16th, 1761]

13.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement to a book, entitled a treatise on the deluge. Bristol: printed by Farley and Cocking, iv + 65pp, illus.

14.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [as above]

15.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [see above]

16.              Williams, David, 1829, Some account of the fissures and caverns hitherto discovered in the western district of the Mendip range of hills comprised in a letter from the Rev. D. Williams ... to the Rev. W. Patterson. Shaftesbury : John Rutter, l6pp, surveys

17.              The first shaft opened was not the bone cavern but a passage leading away from it. The original shaft was subsequently found but considered unsafe and so a third was opened up. These are shown in the survey that appears in the Williams (1829), Rutter (1829) and Phelps (1836) publications cited elsewhere in this paper.

18.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

19.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865. [Manuscript Note Books on the caves at Banwell, etc.] Taunton: Somerset Record Office, ref. no. D/P/ban 23/25.

20.              Bishop Law's geological collection was sold at auction in Weston-super-Mare on the 27th September 1860.  The fate of this collection is unknown.  The Beard and Williams' collections were purchased separately by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1864 and 1851 respectively.  The collections are now housed at the Somerset County Museum, Taunton but are not currently on view for the condition of the bones is in need of urgent restoration work. This is in the hands of specialists from the Natural History Museum specialists.

21.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

22.              Rutter, John, 1829, Delineations of the north western division of the county of Somerset, and of its antediluvian bone caverns ... London: Longmans, xxiv + 349pp, map, illus.

23.              Rutter, John. 1829, The Banwell and Cheddar Guide ... Shaftesbury: J. Rutter, [iv] + 78pp, surveys, illus.

24.              Pelps, William, 1836 and 1839, The History and Antiquities of Somersetshire. London: printed for the author by J.B. Nichols and Son. 2 vols [Vol. 1 published in 1836, Pt.1 - xiii + 192pp, Pt.2, vii + 599pp and Vo1.2 published in 1839, [3] + 272pp], maps, surveys, illus.

25.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

26.              Richards, Christopher, 1971, Notes on the 1970 Hutton Cavern Survey. ACG Ntr 90-91(Dec)

27.              Catcott, Alexander, 1966, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] British Caver (43) 15-19

28.              Catcott, Alexander, 1969, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] British Caver (52)36-37

29.              Tratman. Edgar K., 1921, Field work Proc UBSS 1(2)95-97(1920/1921)

30.              Duck, Jack W., 1937, Report for 1937 MNRC Rep (30)45-51, survey

31.              Catcott, Alexander, 1748-1774, [see above]

32.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A treatise on the deluge ... London: printed for the Author by E. Allen, 421pp, illus.

33.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement [as above]

34.              Richards, Christopher, 1972, Notes on the 1972 edition of the Hutton Cavern survey. ACG Ntr 25-26(Jul)

35.              Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, [see above]

36.              For a time it was known as Maytree Cavern after its close proximity of a small-holding - Maytree Farm.

37.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part n Books, pampWets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans. 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

38.              Richards, Christopher, 1972, Hutton Cavern: a reconsideration in the light of recent discoveries. WCC Jnl 12(142) 110-118( Aug), survey

39.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Hutton Cavern No.2: a plan of 1833 .. WCC Jnl 12(144)199-200(Dec), survey

40.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865, [see above]

41.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865, [see above]

42.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [see above]

43.              Buckland, William, 1823, Reliquiae Diluvianae. London: John Murray. 1st ed., vii + [i] + 303pp, maps, surveys, illus. [1824, 2nd edition: no text change, identical pagination]

44.              Dawkins, W. Boyd, 1874, Cave Hunting. London: Macmillan & Co., xxiv + 455pp, maps, surveys, illus.

45.              Knight, Francis A., 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

46.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

47.              Balch, Herbert E., 1948, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus.

48.              Mansfield, Raymond W. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1989, Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol areas. Recent bibliography. Proc UBSS 18(3)367-389(Nov)





Meghalaya  1998  - Synopsis


03 February - 08 March: Georg BAUMLER, Susanne Annette, BECHER McNAB, Eleazar 'Leo' BLAH, Tony BOYCOTT, Jenni,  A. BROOKS, Simon James BROOKS, Ian CHANDLER, Sijon DKHAR, Spindro DHKAR, Gregory DIENGDOH, Undsey DIENGOOH. Clive W. DUNAI, Richard FRANK, H. Daniel GEBAUER, Kirmm C. HIWOT, PASSAH, Tony JARRATT, Brian JOHNSON, Refulgent KHARNAJOR, Brian D. KHARPRAN DALY, Uwe KRUGER, Kyrshan MITHUN, Thilo MULLER, Fairweather W. MYLLIEMNGAP, Langspah RYNGKHUN, Gurjinder SINGH, Sher SINGH, Donbok SYIEMUEH, Andy TYLER, Valery VALVULA, Raphael WARJRI, Yv0 WEIDMANN.

Guides & Informants: Kham AA (Chiehruphi), Nigel AA (Chiehruphi), Miniren HAMON (Tongseng), Lucky DKHAR (Chiehruphi), Sijon Dkhmr (Nongjri), Kynsai JONES (Cherra Pdengshakap), Robert LAL (Chiehruphi), Wikyn L YNGDDH (Thangskai), Zuala RALSEM. (Khaddurn). Langspah RYNKHUN (Nongjin), Stingson SH1ANGSHAi (Chiehruphi).

date from

date to



1997- length



vertical range




East Khasi Hills District








Dam Um (Nongthymmai)
















Phyllut No.2








Rong Umso ( Ochre River Cave)







Soh Pang Bnait ( Thornapple Cave)































































Mawkanong (W. Thylong)
















Wah Sir








Wah Synrem








Wah Thylong








Jainta Hills District























Lumshnong: Thangskai








Lumshnong: Village








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 1







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2a







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2b







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 3







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 4







Lumshnong: Mynkre








Lumshnong: Mynkre

Moolih No. 2







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 1







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 2








Paltan Puok







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Pdieng Salah








Pile Theng Puok







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi








Lumshnong: Thangskai

Romai Synhin







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Sielkan Puok















Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Synrang Pamaiang







Lumshnong: Mynkre

Thloochrieh ( Monkey Cave)







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi
















Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Umlawan No.3








Umlawan No.4








Umlawan No.5