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

Acknowledgements: Chas for cartoon and Bat on front, Tony Jarratt and Andy Sparrow for the diggers page, Chris Smart for details of the mines lectures, Mike Wilson for Balch's potted history, Andy Farrant and the Union of Bristol Geological Department for the Geological report of St Cuthbert’s, Roz Bateman for the membership stuff and Andy Thomas for the caving secretary's notes.


Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



Hi and welcome to my first Belfry Bulletin as editor.

For those of you who are not aware, the Belfry Bulletin is now a team effort with Tony Jarratt, Alex Gee, Mike Willett, Andy Sparrow, Dave Irwin and myself all giving assistance in the production of the BB's for the next year.  Hopefully with six of us to nag you all on a regular basis we might get a few more articles!!!  Seriously, we need articles, any length, any format (band-written, typed. fax, e-mail, disk), any subject vaguely related to exploration, caving, climbing, etc., so come on guys (and girls) get writing.  Any news and views are also welcome.

We can take just about any format of file, either on disk or to my e-mail address as above.  I have a program for my scanner, which can read. Typed or faxed documents onto file and also a program that I can talk to my computer and it will convert into words. Technology ebb!!!

Any real editing beyond spelling and basic grammar (and changing swear words for ••••'s) will be returned to the contributor for checking before publishing.

Please feel free to send or ring me with comments on the BB; any ideas and suggestions for layout, general pages, etc. would be more than welcome - I'm no expert, I've never edited a journal before???!!!

Cut off date for submission of articles for the next BB is 6th Dec.

A suggestion: As a way of trying to cut costs in postage of the BB, I would like to be able to e-mail to as many people as possible, their Belfry Bulletins.  It would be in HTML format, which means that you would be able to read it from any Internet browser (Internet Explorer/Netscape Navigator). It would be set up so that you can print it out in the same page format as the posted copies.  Please e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are prepared to give this a try.  (The best thing about doing this is, you can have your BB the same day I send it to the printers!!!)  Why not try it, if you don't like it, let me know and I will get a copy posted to you.


Note for speleobibliophiles: BB 483 should also be numbered as Vol 49 no2, BB 484 was misnumbered as 483, BB 487 is also Vol 49 no 6, and this sequence should be followed through up to BB 492 which is also Vol 49 no 11, making this one Vol 49 no 12. Apologies for the cock up!!!

Also note: At the time of printing most of the BB, there were no minutes for the AGM.  There mayor may not be minutes with this BB. Nigel has apologised if there isn't, as he is very busy at work at the moment.  Many thanks to Nigel if there is.


Caving and Belfry News

The Wigmore Report is out now, and is available from Bat Products.  Priced at £4.50 to members and £5.50 to non-members.  Written by Mike 'Trebor' McDonald, Tony Jarratt and Keith Savory, this report covers detail on the digging, diving, geology and hydrology, with some 'interesting' digging shots by Pete Bolt. (Can someone please review this report for the next BB - Ed)


Wanted: Photos for the Photo-board at the Belfry. We are after caving photos from anywhere in this country/the world.

Please Note: Can you send copies not the originals, as we cannot guarantee being able to return the photos.  Also when we have finished with the photo on the board we would like to be able to put them in a photo album in the library.  Can you please send them to the Belfry.


On Friday 17th October, there was a rescue in Dallimores Cave, in the Oxford Extensions. A young man from Southampton University was stuck in the tight bits.  (Fortunately it was the weekend of the Wessex Dinner, so there was no shortage of anorexic dwarfs.  After a couple of hours the victim came unstuck and came out under his own steam, none the worse for wear.


There are plans afoot for the BEC to have an actively updated web site (rather than the advert we currently have).  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on this please contact either Andy Sparrow or Estelle Sandford.


For those of you who don't regularly read" The News and Sun" newspaper published in Waukegan, Illinois then you may have missed the August 8, 1997 issue!


Bats attacked a military patrol in Ecuador's Southern Amazon rainforest, injuring 17 soldiers, health officials said Thursday. Health director Jorge Murillo told a news conference eight children died of rabies and 24 needed medical treatment after a similar bat attack several days earlier in the region, known as El Tigre."

Makes you wonder, eh.


There are also plans for another attack on Cuthbert’s Sump 2.  Alex Gee is working on the plans for this.  Anyone interested should contact Alex.

Thanks to Nigel Taylor for organising a brilliant Annual Dinner.  A Vets college was probably very apt for the BEC!!!  (Just -don't ask where the beef and chicken came from, particularly as their incinerator had broken down!!)

Now for a whinge, the cut off date for this dinner was a week before and Nigel had 34 paid by then - less than a fifth of the membership.  63 phone-calls later and there were 95 at the dinner.  A major thanks to Nigel for all this extra hard work and a thanks to Langford Veterinary College for extending their cut off date to the day before the dinner for us.  From this poor initial response, do you as the membership; really want a dinner next year??


Andy Sparrow has set up a 'Mendip News' web page (see diggers page for extracts) which contains up-to-date caving news.  The address is:

If you have anything to add or update please contact him at: [removed]


Mendip Technical Group?

Many Mendip systems are in urgent need of rebolting, (11) but currently no dedicated body assumes responsibility for this.  One way forward would to be to form a Mendip Technical Group under the auspices of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs (CSCC).  This will be proposed at the next CSCC meeting on Saturday December 6th (10.30, Hunter's Lodge, all cavers welcome). The group could work along the following lines-

* open to all interested cavers

* under the direction of CSCC training and equipment officers

* assess all current anchors

* prioritise new placements

* organise training

* install and maintain anchors

These are just suggestions and further input is requested, either bye-mail to Andy Sparrows web page, or by representation at the meeting.


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 local cavers can practice SRT, ladder and lifeline or rescue techniques.  Completion is due in early 1999.


Diggers Corner

Hazel Nut Swallet:

A BEC dig in the Biddlecombe valley just outside Wells.  There has been a recent small breakthrough into short length of decorated passage. A way on is visible and work continues enlarging the low and squalid passage.  Cave is about 35ft long at present. See Mike Willett or Nick Mitchell for details.

Five Buddies: (second entrance)

Progressing downwards through mixed debris. (mostly old garage and domestic rubbish and old drums and buckets).  Depth 5.8m below manhole entrance to rocky infill immediately below and hence to the horizontal passage entered from the other side of the road once this has been cleared. (The hedgehog crossing is nearly complete!!!)

Barrow Rake:

In temporary abeyance.

White Pit:

Bad air (4.3% CO2!!) continues to be a hazard below Prophecy Pot and the area should not be entered without consulting BEC diggers.  Recent work has entered 100 feet of large passage below Prophecy Pot.  This terminates in a sump which will make future digging a problem.


Swildon's Entrance is now apparently stable after the series of collapses that began a few years ago. Following the stream now provides a safe route between a solid roof and floor which bypasses the 8­foot climb. The Z bend route to the Dry Ways remains closed.

The Mud Sump drain hole is still blocked and the recent wet weather has reduced the airspace. Bailing is now very difficult from either side and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.

UPDATE - Mudsump is currently sumped.  It has been free-dived by groups attempting reverse­round trips but this is VERY DANGEROUS as the sump is getting gradually longer with rising levels.

Also in Swildon's Sump 12 has been revisited and the underwater passage has been enlarged.  It is hoped that a route can be forced up towards airspace very soon.

Hunters Hole:

There is a massive digging operation in the bottom by a BEC team, and much equipment left in situ. Progress is slow but ongoing.

Cairo Shaft: (WCC dig)

A new dig in a partly natural lead (??) mine at Fernhill Farm near Compton Martin. 120ft of passage rediscovered and ending in a possible sump.  Named after Rich Blake's present location as they didn't want to name it after his underpants!!!  (That's what they told Tony Jarratt - honest!!)

Frog Pot:

Kate Lawrence and WCC dig at Chancellors Farm, Priddy.  The team is 20ft down in a promising water worn rift. Imperial College CC dug this in the 60's.

GB: (WCC Dig)

Les Williams and co. are digging a draughting tube on LHS - 3ft in so far.  Visitors, please mind the formations.

Dave Mitchell's dig: (WCC)

This dig at Charterhouse is progressing well.  This depression was opened with a Himac and work continues between stal cemented boulders.

Gruffy Field Mine Shaft: (CCC dig)

Graham Mullan, Tony Boycott and co. are digging this.  It is draughting well and may be a future connection to Charterhouse.

Tyning's Farm:

The owner has requested NO night-time parking at the stables please.  Daytime parking is still available at £1 for those who want a bit more safety for their vehicles for GB and alike.

Bolting Update:

Bolt Update Resin anchors have been installed on the Entrance, New Atlas and High Atlas pitch heads in Thrupe.  The climb to Ladder Dig in GB will be resin anchored very soon, and work will begin on Rhino Rift in the autumn.  There are two stripped spits in Hunter's Hole one over the main pitch and one above Far Right Pitch.  Coral Cave has recently been SRT bolted.


From the Log Book

From the Five Buddies Log Book: (Lives in the Hunters, should anyone want more information)

28/8/96 Estelle, J'Rat, Trevor, Nick, Mike

Lots more clearing of slag, earth and rocks.  Five van loads were taken and dumped by Trev, who was questioned by the local policeman as to what he was up to (as if a large, hairy, overalled figure dumping heavy sacks in a remote location at night could be at all suspicious!) Another 3" nut and bolt were found but nothing else of interested.  The place was infested with tiny frogs. (J'Rat)

29/12/96 Estelle, Trevor

It has collapsed!! approx. 8ft from the road.  Everything beyond the false roof has come in.  It's frozen solid, inside and out.  No digging or even bucket emptying possible.  Heaven help when it thaws!!  We now have cones and scaffold frame to stop people from parking there. (Estelle)

30/12/96am Trev, J'Rat, Quackers, Martin, Roz Bateman, Phil Collet

In the morning J'Rat phoned Mr Harris of the C. Council, who was grateful for the collapse information, but not too concerned.  He asked to be kept informed.  Phone number in back of book.  We then dug and cleared rocks and spoil from the choke and filled the two collapses with assorted bags of frozen debris, etc. (J'Rat)

9/6/97am J'Rat BREAKTHROUGH!

Filled about 20 buckets at the end (which were later taken to the surface and dumped) and heaved out a huge pile of rocks (which were later dumped in the hole below the miners wooden beam).  After an hour or so I opened up a hole straight ahead giving a view into a narrow, tall chamber under the road.  A lot of time was then spent making it safe enough to gently creep through (at exactly noon) keeping a very wary eye on the 'hanging death' above!!  The chamber was the start of 50ft of dry, apparently natural stream passage possibly modified by the 'Old Man' in places and ending in a mud/rock choke which looks relatively easily diggable.  'Old Man' timbers littered the floor and in places protruded from the walls.  No other artefacts were seen, apart from a small amount of black lead slag.  Several small phreatic passages were noted at roof level with layers of sediment showing that the place has been flooded in the past.  There are dodgy looking boulders in places - beware.  The entrance needs concreting ASAP.  We are now behind the main choke, which can be made safe.  The road will now not fall in!!  Some underground and surface tidying before I returned, suitably smug, to the pub. (J'Rat)

NB The half bore of an Old Mans shothole near the breakthrough point indicates that the cave passage was enlarged TOWARDS the entrance.  Did they get in via the filled shaft across the road?

From the BEC logbook - From the few that have been written up!!!

18/5/97 Trebor and Barnsy 7hrs

Continued digging in Swildons sump 12.  Making progress widening the tight squeeze at - 6m, 25m in.  This is to make digging/banging the rift beyond safer so that falling debris does not block the retreat.  Bale-out tanks left at 9 to ease the carrying.

(See logbook for sketch)

Cowsh Avens smelling a bit more than last time.  On exit we wandered into a thunderstorm blitzkrieg with lightning crashing around us. We had to lie in the field and wait for it to pass.

To date there are no trips in the log since 5/7/97.  Come on everyone, you should be writing up your trips; it's part of the club's history. (And it gives me something to put in the BB!!)


Mining Lectures

The following are a selection of lectures and courses put on by the Universities of Bath and Bristol and available to the general public.  Unfortunately you have missed one of the best, which included an excellent afternoon's guided tour of the workings of Monk's Park underground quarry after a morning session on the geology of Bath Freestone, but here is a selection of the rest.


A free lecture by Richad Maggs at the University of Bath from 5.15pm to 6.15pmon Wednesday November 5th 1997 in Room 8 West 1.1

Drawing upon contemporary achieves, photographs and artefacts, the lecture will map the rise of the Somerset coalfield and illustrate life in the communities it supported in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Richard Maggs is Chairman of the Radstock, Midsomer Norton and District Society.


A Mathieson BSc Wednesday 3 and 10 June 1998 from 7pm to 9pm at Abbey Church House, Hetling Court, Westgate Buildings, Bath and outdoors on Sunday 7 June 1998 from 10am to 1pm

Tel 0117 xxxxxxxx Fee £16 Course reference S97COO5SIA

Bath Stone forms the landscape of the surrounding flat topped Downs of the University, where it was quarried and mined.  Most of the rocks in the Bath originated beneath the Jurassic Sea, but there were also local mines with evidence of earlier rain forests and traces of volcanoes.


J M Day FSA 8 meetings weekly on Wednesdays from 7.3Opm to 9pm starting 8 October 1997 at the Faculty of Law, Room 3.33, Wills Memorial Building.

Tel 0117 928 xxxx Fee £32 Course reference B97H002RC.

Mendip Mining of Lead and its use in the Roman Baths is well known, but Bristol methods of lead production pioneered locally and later adapted to copper in the late seventeenth century lack proper appreciation in their history and archaeology.


Joanna L Wright BSc PhD. 6 meetings weekly on Thursdays from 7.3Opm to 9pm starting 15 January in the Department of Geology, Room G25, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol.

Tel 0117 928 xxxx Fee £24 Course Reference B97FOO5S1.

Caves can be very interesting sources of information - they can preserve evidence of ancient climates, they act as sediment traps, with rare fossils, and they are also important in the water cycle, acting as underground reservoirs.  This short course will explain some of their mysteries.


Peter Stanier Day-school in Salisbury 29 Nov 1997 Fee £20 Tel. 0117 9287153 Course Reference W97D014SIA Sorry I haven't got any more details at present!

Might see you at one of more or these?

Chris Smart


Joke Page

A vampire bat came flapping in from the night covered in fresh blood and parked himself on the roof of the cave to get some sleep.

Pretty soon all the other bats smelt the blood and began hassling him about where he got it.  He told them to go away and let him get some sleep but they persisted until finally he gave in.

"OK, follow me," he said and flew out of the cave with hundreds of bats behind him.  Down through a valley they went, across a river and into a forest full of trees.  Finally he slowed down and all the other bats excitedly milled around him.

"Now, do you see that tree over there?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, yes!" the bats all screamed in frenzy.

"Good," said the first bat, "Because I didn't!"

After Christmas Sales

A young man wanted to purchase a gift for his new girlfriend, and as they had not been dating for very long, after careful consideration, he decided a pair of gloves would strike the right note: romantic, but not too personal.  Accompanied by his girlfriend's younger sister, he went to Nordstrom and bought a pair of white gloves.  The sister purchased a pair of panties for herself.

During the wrapping, the clerk mixed up the items and the sister got the gloves and the girlfriend got the panties.  Without checking the contents, the young man sealed the package and sent it to his girlfriend with the following note:

"I chose these because I noticed that you are not in the habit of wearing any when we go out in the evening.  If it had not been for your sister, I would have chosen the long ones with the buttons, but she wears short ones that are easier to remove.

"These are a delicate shade, but the lady I bought them from showed me the pair she had been wearing for the past three weeks, and they were hardly soiled, I had her try yours on for me and she looked really smart.  "I wish I was there to put them on for you the first rime, as no doubt other hands will come in contact with them before I have a chance to see you again.

"When you take them off, remember to blow on them as they will naturally be a little damp from wearing.  "Just think how many times I will kiss them during the coming year.  I hope you will wear them for me on Friday night.

"All my love.

"P.S. the latest style is to wear them folded down, with a little fur showing,"


Q: How does a woman hold her liquor?

A: By the ears.

Q: What's the difference between men and jellybeans?

A: Jellybeans come in different colours.

Q: What's the difference between American beer and making love in a rowing-boat? 

A: They're both f**king close to water.

Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes?

A: No idea.

Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?

A: Still no idea.

Q: What do you call a dear with no feet, legs, torso, neck or head?

A: A hat rack.

Q: What have Soya beans and a vibrator got in common

 A: They're both meat substitutes.


If you have any better jokes for this page then please send them to me.  If the general consensus is you don't like this page, I'll ditch it.  (Anything I put in is an experiment at this stage)


Caving Secretary’s Corner

From Andy Thomas,
Tel: 01749 xxxxxx

I am compiling a list of meets for 1998.

If anyone would like an away trip, would they please get in touch so I can arrange it?

Also anybody wanting Mendip meets, please contact me so I can compile a rolling calendar.

Finally I would like to hear from anyone interested in leading any Mendip trips for new and prospective members.

For those who have time off on a Monday, Tony Jarratt is always looking for assistance with digs. (he might even go caving if you ask nicely).

One other question: Is anyone interested in a Berger trip sometime in the next couple of years? Let me know and dependent on numbers we can plan accordingly.


The Exploration Club Song

Owing to the lack of people at the hut, after the annual dinner, who knew the words to the clubs anthem, here they are.  Read, practice and prepare yourself for next time - no member of the club has any excuse!!!

(Sung to the tune of the Red Flag)


We are the Exploration Club
We roam around from pub to pub
To die of thirst we have no fear
As long as we have lots of beer
So raise your foaming tankards high
And drink them down 'til they are dry
We are the Exploration Club
We roam around from pub to pub

If you hear a tally ho
In the middle of the night
Don't take afright
Dear Belfryites
For it's only a drunken mountaineer
A bar room mountaineer

We are very seldom sober
We are always half-seas over
And when we've had enough for four
You'll never find us on the floor
It's up to the bar and shout for more
We're the bar room mountaineers


A Potted History of H. E. Balch 1869 -1958

For the younger members of the BEC-

by Mike Wilson

Herbert Balch lived in or around Wells for the most of his life.  He started work as a post office messenger boy and finished up as Head Postmaster in Wells!

He was mainly an archaeologist and became Honorary Curator of Wells Museum for 62 years! His main interest under­ground was Wookey Hole, the secondary one Lamb Leer.  Balch was the first person to float upstream, with his friends, to the Fifth Chamber in Wookey.  A 60 feet fall in Lamb Leer Main Chamber rendered him unconscious and nearly ended his career in caving.

In 1901 Balch and some friends had a look at St Swithin's Stream on Mendip (Swildon's) unfortunately he did not join the group on 16th August 1901 who were the first to enter the cave. Three cavers; Roger Troup plus Harry and Frank Hiley from Wells had the honour.

Balch made contact with a Dr Baker after reading an article in the climbers' journal by Baker.     They subsequently did some Mendip exploration including Eastwater Swallet.  In 1907 Balch and Baker published 'The Netherworld of Mendip', the majority being written by Baker the padding by Balch.

Balch subsequently made a few trips in Swildon's to the Forty Foot Pot.  But in a dry spell in 1921, while his friend Baker was in the Alps, Balch and 14 others managed to reach Sump 1.  This became the natural barrier for the next 15 years.

On a personal note, Balch was lucky in having a base on Mendip near Rookham.  His friend Mr Powell, the headmaster of the Blue School in Wells, had some railway carriages moved by teams of horses to a field near Rookham - a pretty spot.  The carriages were 26 feet long and had been moved from the Somerset and Dorset line at Binegar.  Balch bought one of these carriages from Mr Powell, called it his Summer Palace, and used it as a base for digging and caving on Mendip.

The coach formed a section of a bunga low with a corrugated iron roof and porch. The family carried on using the coach every summer, even after his death in 1958. It was eventually bought by a local vet who used it as his home.

He has now offered the carriage to the Somerset and Avon Railway Company because he is building a new bungalow on the original site.   The Balch carriage is now at The Forge Exhibition Centre, Marcroft Wagon Works, Rad­stock.  SARC transported the carriage from Rookham.  Their intention is to restore it and keep it as a historic piece.


Unfortunately I cannot find any relevant information regarding the second carriage which was rented out to cavers and. walkers.  I believe it will be possible to view the Balch coach in the future by applying to SARC in writing.  Anyone who wishes to take a stroll and discover the original site, now a bungalow at Rookham, the map reference is 550448 sheet ST44/55 Wells and Wedmore.

The only other coach of this type in the South West is somewhere in Cornwall.  Let's hope that this piece of caving history remains in good safe hands, it is in amazingly good con­dition for its age.



St Cuthbert's Swallet - young or old?

As you may be aware from the article I wrote in the BB last year, myself and Pete Smart have been working on a project, one of whose aims was to estimate how old the Mendip landscape is.  Studying cave deposits provides one of the best methods of obtaining a handle on the age of the surface topography, as caves are protected from the effects of erosion and weathering, can be related to surface topography and water-tables, and contain datable material in the form of stalagmite.  Dating stalagmites from caves in the Wookey Hole catchment allowed us to estimate the age of these caves, and to determine whether caves such as Swildons Hole and St Cuthbert's originally drained to Cheddar or Wookey. This project hoped to resolve a long running debate which Derek Ford initiated back in the 1960's after his ground-breaking studies in the major swallet caves.  He originally suggested that Swildons Hole drained to Cheddar. However, dye tracing of Swildon's to Wookey by the MKHP, seemed to rule this hypothesis out.  However, as I explained in the previous B.B. article, some of the high level passages in Swildons Hole may have originally drained to Cheddar, with the stream subsequently being captured to Wookey. In St Cuthbert's, the lack of distinct groupings of high level abandoned passages at certain elevations suggested that there was no former drainage to Cheddar, and that the cave has always drained to Wookey.  The only way to potentially resolve this debate was to actually try estimate the age of both Swildons Hole & St Cuthbert's by dating the stalagmites within it, as they provide a minimum age for the cave.

In order to do this, a careful sampling program was undertaken with the help of Estelle Sandford and Chris Castle.  Most of the samples were obtained in Pillar Chamber and the Rabbit Warren area, from suitable un-anaesthetic flowstone.  These were dated using Uranium series dating methods at Bristol.  The sample locations and ages obtained are shown in Fig. 1.


As is shown in Fig.1, most of the ages are relatively young (geologically speaking!) nearly all are less than 120,000 years old, which is the time of the last interglacial.  By comparison, the oldest stalagmites in G.B. are over 780,000 years old.  The bulk of the dates occupy (within 2 sigma error) the Middle Devensian interstadial, a warmer interlude during the last glaciation, between 25 and 60 ka (ka = 1000 years).  No particularly old stalagmites were found, even though a concerted effort was made to only sample those stalagmites which appeared from their location or relation to gravels deposits to be the oldest.  This suggests that St Cuthbert's is relatively young when compared to other swallet caves such as G.B. Cave.

Also of note is the evidence of an almost total sediment fill in St. Cuthbert's.  A broken stalagmite within the gravel fill gave a date of 41 ka, thus implying the gravel is younger.  It appears that much of the cave was infilled with gravel during the last (Late Devensian) glaciation.  Thus, much of the early phreatic network was modified following gravel influx, under paragenetic conditions.  Paragenetic development occurs when sediment deposition within a phreatic passage smothers the passage floor, preventing dissolution by the stream. Instead, dissolution only occurs on the passage roof, thus the passage enlarges upwards, forming a phreatic rift or half-tube.  Alternatively, if other routes are available for the water, perhaps along suitable bedding planes, an interconnected maze of passages with phreatic half­tubes in the roof will result.  This is exactly the case in the Rabbit Warren, where there is still evidence of a total sediment fill, such as in the Railway Tunnel.

From this, I would suggest that St Cuthbert's is a relatively recent cave system, which has always drained to Wookey Hole.  Its large size and big chambers result from several factors.  The first is the large catchment, which may have been substantially larger in the past.  Secondly, the cave is developed on a plunging anticline which has open joints suitable for cave development along its axis.  Thirdly, this anticline has been fractured by at least three thrust faults (one can be clearly seen in the Rocky Boulder Series - ask Chris Castle or Dave Irwin!) as well as the major Gour Hall Fault, allowing rapid penetration of water and cave development.  In addition, the stream has sunk in several places around the depression, thus forming a complex of vadose shafts (which can develop very rapidly, c.f. Thrupe Lane) and phreatic tubes at depth.  These routes were then subsequently modified, enlarged and choked during the Late Devensian under paragenetic conditions.  Finally, enlargement of this passage network has caused extensive collapse, aided by the numerous fractures and bedding planes.

All these factors helped create a large cave system in a relatively short space of time.  Swildons on the other hand appears to have some old stalagmites (>350 ka), although a much larger sample collection is needed before we can reliably demonstrate that Swildons is indeed older.  The lack of suitable datable material in the upper levels such as S.E. Inlets doesn't help.

It is at Wookey Hole where the most interesting results were obtained.  Here, a comprehensive suite of samples was collected from all the dry parts of the cave, plus some from Wookey 21, thanks to Keith Savory. Uranium series dating has revealed that the upper parts of the high level passages above Chamber Nine are older than 350 ka.  By calculating the average rate of base-level lowering at the resurgence (12 cm per 1000 years) from U-series dates of stalagmites, the age of each passage can be crudely estimated.  The earliest passages (above Ch. 9) had developed at 'around 350-400 ka, but these passages are relatively small and cannot have drained a large area.  It is possible this was the resurgence for the early St Cuthbert's system.  It wasn't until much later (c. 175-200 ka) that the main show cave passages developed, possibly following the capture of the Swildons Hole water.  The modern river passages have developed subsequently, and are in the process of being captured to Glencot Spring today.

The data suggests that St Cuthbert's is probably too young to have drained to Cheddar, and the water has always resurged at Wookey.  The upper levels in Swildons may yet prove older than Wookey, but the lack of datable material in this key region prevents us being able to draw any definite conclusions. I hope I have shed a little light on the age and origins of the St. Cuthbert's and Wookey systems.  Some of this may be a little contentious, but hopefully it'll stimulate a bit of debate!  Although this dating project suggests some ideas, it by no means proves that Swildons Hole originally drained to Cheddar.  To prove it right or wrong, we've got to find the passage - get digging!


Thanks to Chris Castle and Estelle Sandford for showing me around St. Cuthbert's on often slow and tedious sampling trips; the BEC committee, Wookey Hole Show Caves and English Nature for permission to sample, and to Keith Savory for obtaining the Wookey 21 samples.





Age & Error



Wookey Hole


New Grottoes.  Balch’s Trench




Detritally Contaminated



New Grottoes.  Balch’s Trench




Unreliable, sev U bkthru



New Grottoes.  Stal. grill







New Grottoes.  End of path







Ent. Series. East passage







Chamber 21 half way along




U Breakthrough, low yields



Resample of WH-05-06




To be dated



Ent. Series. Far bedding plane




To be dated



Passage dir above Ent. series







Passage dir above Ent. series




Unsuitable for dating



Ch.9 taped grotto base







Ch.9 top level far choke







Ch.9 Alcove top climb




Det cont, uncorr.



Ch.9 base top climb







Ch.9 lower level












Rhino Hole


Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

(Proctor et al.


Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

1997, UBSS


Top of layer 6



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates



Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates



Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68











Long Dry Way




Low U Yields



SE Inlets, Keith’s chamber




Low U Yields

Dates only)


St Paul’s samples (average age)




Unpublished data; P Smart



Streamway (loose clast)




Det Corr. DC Ford et al








St Cuthberts


Wire rift, base upper false floor




Unsuitable for dating



Wire rift, base lower false floor







Mud Hall climb to Pillar Chamber







Mud Hall climb to Pillar Chamber




Unsuitable for dating



Fallen Slab near Quarry Corner







Entrance to Harem Passage


c. 5



(Odd ratios)


Climb into Long Chamber




Anomalous age? Unreliable



Climb into Long Chamber




Poor Yields



Upper Long Chamber




No date – anomalous ratios








Smart et al*


Continuation Chamber - base




*230/23, Det corr

unpub. data


Continuation Chamber – middle




*230/23, Det



Continuation Chamber – middle




*230/23, Det corr



Continuation Chamber – top




*230/23, Det corr



Dining Room middle (top)




*230/23, Det corr



Dining Room middle (base)




*230/23, Det corr



Dining Rm middle (rolled clast)




*230/23, Det corr








Det. Corr means corrected for detrital Th232 contamination





U breakthrough means contamination of U spectra by Th





Age is given in ka (thousand years) +/- 1 sigma error












FIG.1 Uranium series ages for selected samples from the Priddy and Wookey caves

FIG.1 Uranium series ages for selected samples from the Priddy and Wookey caves



Meghalaya 1995 - Or the 'Not another Puncture Trip

By Estelle Sandford

The state of Meghalaya lies in Northeast India, south of Assam and north of BangJadesh. Anglo-German teams had undertaken two previous trips.  These were very restricted, as Meghalaya had a Restricted Area Permit applied to it, which involved a lot of paperwork to get in.  A total of 23 km of cave had been surveyed on the previous trips.

We were advised that this permit had been lifted and we should have no problems this time.  Simon had also had contact from a group called the Meghalayan Adventurers, who wished to join our expedition this time.


British: Tony Boycott, Estelle Sandford, Simon Brooks, Jenni Brooks and Chris 'Blitz' Smart.

German: Daniel Gebauer.

Meghalayan Adventurers: Brian Kharpran Daly, Lindsay, Kaiman C. Hiwol Passah and George Lyngdoh.

Locals: Santu Bhattachmjee, Charles Slong, Spindro Dhkar, Roy, Oda.

Tuesdav 14th November

Estelle, Simon, Blitz and Tony met at Tony's house for the final re-packing.  Tony drove us to Heathrow during the night.

Wednesday 15th November

We arrived at Heathrow at 5 am, everything went very smoothly and we were soon on our Royal Jordanian Flight.

Thursday 16th November

After stops in Berlin and Amman, we finally arrived at Calcutta Airport at 7 am, only to find there was a taxi strike on.  This meant that we had to pay 4 x the usual amount in order to get into the city and to our hotel, the Astoria.  Jenni arrived from Sri Lanka and Daniel from Germany and met us at the hotel.  We went into the city and booked our flights to Guwahati, Assam and visited Mr Pattanailc at the tourist office; he confirmed that the restricted Area Permit (RAP) for Meghalaya had been lifted and we should have no problems.

Friday 17th November

Caught early flight to Guwabati. and then got 2 taxis to Shillong.  We arrived at the Orchid Hotel, then went to register at the Foreigners Office.  Brian and Lindsay met us at back at the hotel and we discussed the plans for the trip.

Saturday 18th November

Brian turned up with our tour bus; we were expecting a minibus not a big bus!  We loaded up and started the journey to Chenapunjee, which is in the East Khasi Hills; this was made more interesting by a landslide on part of the road.  It was fun watching the overloaded trucks attempting to slide across the collapse, and we had no problem with our very under­loaded bus!  Although we didn't need the RAP, it seemed that the local officials didn't actually realise this and we had to sign in with the S.P. at Cherrapunjee before going to the Circuit House, which was to be our home for the next few days.  (There are Circuit Houses in most large villages for visiting officials to stay in and they have what's known as a Choki Da to look after you and the house. These Circuit Houses cost a few pence to stay in plus the cost of food.)

Sunday 19th November

The Choki Da brought us 'bed tea' at 7 am, and baked beans and sausages appeared for breakfast at 9 am. (The first and last time we had an English style breakfast!!)

We loaded the kit up, and went down some very scary roads, with big cliffs on one side, to a village called Laitkynsen.  After walking for about an hour, with beautiful views over Bangladesh, we were shown three entrances by our guide before descending the fourth.  This was called Krem Japund (cave of the rice pond) it has two entrances, a stream sink and a big daylight shaft.  We went in the stream sink, thankfully, as when we got in the cave, we found that there was a krait: (a small black, very venomous snake) at the bottom of the shaft. 

There was also a large quantity of fat frogs (where there's frogs there's snakes!!), and we surveyed and photographed and came out.  The next cave was Krem Wah Sbnong (cave of the village stream) this turned out to be a riverbed with a roof of boulders, which reappeared about 10m away.  Next we went into Krem Wah Sang (cave of the forbidden water), this was a sloping cave which ended in a l0-15m pitch, which was very slimy with no decent places to hang a rope from, as the rock was very crumbly so we couldn't put a bolt in either.  We couldn't descend this pitch so we went and checked another entrance, which turned out to have a voice connection with Krem Wah Sang, but was about 25m deep shaft.  Went back to the circuit house for the Choki Da special- curry!

Monday 20th November .

'Bed tea' at 5:30 am. We had an early start to Mawsahew to look at a cave reported to have 9 entrances and also several other caves nearby. The Cave of the Nine Entrances had seven low entrances which all joined inside.  Simon Jenni and Daniel surveyed that one while Estelle, Tony, Blitz, Brian and Lindsay went to Krem Hidrum, which was a large resurgence entrance. The size soon diminished to a rift and then a crawling rift, so we surveyed from that point to the entrance. The total was 250m, and the cave had a good selection of hand-sized spiders, several bugs for Blitz to collect, and 2 bats, which the locals took back for dinner.  We went an interesting cross-country route back, where we had to cross a dry riverbed because they hadn't finished building the bridge!

Tuesday 21st November

We went to a village called Mawlong today, where we had been told there were several caves.  The first one, called Krem Lyngar, was next to coalmines. We went inside the entrance and decided we would come back later.  We were next shown a second cave, Krem Soyshympi, which had a wide, 15m deep shaft. We rigged the entrance for SRT, although it was mostly free climbable.  The cave opens up into a big chamber with three ways off.  We followed the main passage, which was 30m wide in places; unfortunately it choked after 250m.  There was a stream level below the boulders, which could be followed for 50m either way but sumped at both ends.  We split into 2 teams so one team could check out the other two passages at the bottom entrance.  Estelle, Tony, Brian and Lindsay went down the first of the routes, which had another entrance just round the comer (or rather a big hole in the roof).  This appeared to be an inlet passage and it continued for 400m until it got too tight to follow; the passage had lots of nice formations and also big spiders.  We went back to the main chamber and checked the other one out. This one went for 100 in a mainly boulder floored passage and ended in a big boulder choke.  We went back to where the others were just finishing surveying the big passage, and again split up, so one team could do some photography and the other could attempt to catch Cray fish using a tea strainer!  (The Cray fish are blind and transparent, so you can see what they had for breakfast!)  We finally caught one, using the lunch-box Chris had used to bring all his sampling kit into the cave.  Back out the way we had come in and back to the bus for the rough ride back to the circuit house.

Wednesday 22nd November

We had arranged to meet a guide at Wahlong today to visit several caves near to the village.  We descended a lot of concrete steps, which passed a grave-stone of a chief of the village, who rather than get captured by the British when they invaded, tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the cave near to the grave-stone.  He got caught up on a tree and was captured by the British; his skull was smashed on the spot where the gravestone is.  Our guide obviously didn't want us to go down that particular cave, but we threw rocks down it, which took 6 seconds to land, so it must be quite deep.

After some serious jungle bashing we were taken to Krem Sohshiat, which started off as an arch in a big doline.  We hunted around the doline for leads and Tony managed to find the only going lead. It started small, but before too long opened up into walking passage, with a lot of very beautiful formations and cave pearls.  The end was a stal-blocked wall, with no way past; we surveyed 100m and photographed some of the formations.  We also found a bear skull by the entrance and some relatively fresh faeces in the cave.

At the bottom of another doline, we found an entrance 15m wide and 3m high; this was called Krem Mawrandah.  The cave sloped down to a big chamber with a stream in the bottom and over a slope to another big chamber ending in another stal wall, after about 100m total.  Back up the steps to the road (the village's main orange plantation is at the bottom of the steps!) and after some 'cockroach crunchies' and tea, went back to Cherrnpunjee.

Thursday 23rd November

We went back to Wahlong to pick up our guide, then on towards SheIla (border post) and stopped at Icchamati, where we took the bus up a really interesting track, where we continued until the bus driver found a spot where he could turn round.  It didn't look as though many buses use that track! This area proved to have some very small caves, we surveyed Krem Mawjapuh 1 to 27m and Krem Mawjapuh 2 to 50m. Back to the bus and back up the road to Wahlong, where 10 minutes walk down the steps, from the road, we were shown Krem Shlemkhla.  After the mornings caving, we were a little disillusioned, so we only put helmets and lights on and kept our walking clothes on.  That was a big mistake as this cave proved to be quite long with a streamway and some low passages to get past the formations.  Most of the cave was big meandering walking passages with lots of formations which couldn't make up their mind which way to grow, after earthquake damage, and it also had a higher level which we didn't have time to survey but was estimated to be 200m+.  (it's a shame the guide didn't show us this one yesterday, but we generally found that the locals showed us small caves first and kept the best for last. I guess we needed to find the Khasi translation for 'take us to the big cave first please’!)

Friday 24th November

We split up into 2 teams today, so Krem Shlemkhla could be explored further and a cave an 'hours' walk from Laitkynsen could also be explored.  Estelle, Simon, Chris and Brian went to Laitkynsen and after 1¾ hours walk, down 25,000 worth of steps, we arrived at Krem Synrnng U Jriem (bedding cave of 'Jriem' male's name).  Reasonable sized, well decorated, walking passage, led to a big chamber, where a river could be heard; we located the stream and while Chris and Simon surveyed the chamber and looked for ways on, Estelle and Brian investigated the stream. Downstream was choked with boulder, so we followed the upstream end.  The first part was knee deep in sand and waist deep in water so it was named Kalahari streamway (ask Simon if you want to know the other reason for the name!!) it continued in varying sized passageway, through very well decorated sections, with many inlet passages joining it.  Stalactites blocked the main way on, so we checked out what appeared to be an outlet passage, which got quite deep, then ended in a swamp. Collected Simon and Chris and we surveyed and photographed the streamway and the rest of the cave to 400m.  Walked all the way back up the steps; it was a long way, particularly once dusk and finally darkness set in.  The other team had surveyed and photographed the rest of the cave, but not actually found any more passage than yesterday.

Saturday 25th November

Simon and Tony did a quick tourist trip down Krem Mawmluh.  We finished packing up the bus and drove to Pynursla to the circuit house. A letter had not arrived, so we weren't expected, but after some discussion they let us have one room between the eight of us.  The weather was really miserable; rainy, windy and very cold, so our newly purchased tamocoles really came into their own.

Sunday 26th November

Packed up kit and started on the road to Nongri, where Brian and Lindsay had previously visited 2 caves, one of which was estimated to be over a km.  Unfortunately the bridge at Rana was out.  After this years monsoon and hadn't been rebuilt yet.  We went back to Pynursla for tonight as it was too late to get anywhere useful.

Monday 27th November

Early start and we were soon on the road to Dawki.  We had to stop at Muktapur to get a tyre mended, as we had had another puncture earlier. We got permission to travel along the Bangladeshi border road, and carried on to Pdengshakap, in the Jaintia Hills, where we stopped to ask about caves; we were told of several nearby. Eventually we got to Tarangblang, which was our main spot.  We were shown two caves; Krang Manik, which had a big boulder slope entrance and Krang Jawbaw which was a wide shaft, estimated to be 30m+ deep.

On the way back towards Pdengshakap, we tried to find a cave that had a signpost at the side of the road, Krem 'Pubon' Lashing, (pubon means limestone).  We couldn't find it, but when we asked in Pdengshakap we were told it was a big one, and Charles Slong (the headman) would guide us the day after tomorrow.  We continued to Jowai, to the circuit house there, via visiting George Lyngdoh who had arranged it for us.  We were fed copious amounts of whisky and beer, which after a mostly dry trip to date, succeeded in getting us drunk very quickly.

Tuesday 28th November

Late start this morning, partly due to hangovers and partly due to a broken bus, which needed repairing. Eventually we got away and went back to Tarangblang to explore the 2 caves we were shown yesterday.  Estelle and Tony took SRT kits to descend Krem Jawbaw, while everyone else, including most of the school children and their teacher went to Krem Manik.

Tony rigged off two trees, but the rope only went ½ way, if that so he rigged off the strongest looking one of the two, but the rope was still 15-20m off the floor.  Tony went down as far as he could, to try and get an idea of what the cave had to offer; it looks good, with two big passages going off in opposite directions.

Estelle and Tony joined the others in Krem Manik, which was surveyed to 280m and ended in a loose boulder pile, which was impassable.  We were shown to another cave, Krang Bheh which Tony descended on the rope; he descended about 5m, touched the wall and it fell down, so he decided not to proceed. As it was too loose.  We stayed at the S.D.O.'s house at Amlaran for tonight. An interesting night, the S.D.O. refused to let the boys sleep in the same room as Estelle and Jenni, but as he got more and more drunk, he didn't notice the boys creeping in one by one!

Wednesday 29th November

Went to Pdengshakap and picked up Charles Slong, who was to be our guide for Krem Pubon Lashing.  We climbed down a path in a depression and arrived at the cave entrance, which was big.  Charles had arranged for a water pipe to be put in at the entrance, so we filled up our carbide and went in.  We split into two teams: Estelle, Tony, Jenni, Kaiman, Lindsay and a local boy took the stream route which we were told was about 100m in. while Daniel, Blitz and Simon surveyed from the entrance.

The entrance opened up into a massive sloping passage, where you couldn't see the walls, or the floor at the bottom of the slope.  We went back up what seemed like a mountain, and back down the other side, where we came to a stream.  The 'mountain' was rumoured to have been caused by dynamite fishing in the streamway! We started surveying at the point where we met the streamway, and followed it to its bitter end, a total of 600m. The streamway passed through very friable sandstone, with many oxbows and inlet passages; there were also several dodgy climbs down and also a lot of false floors.  Eventually the stream disappeared into boulders.  We got back to the start point and assuming the others would have got to that point we followed where we thought they should have gone, until we started to run low on carbide.  It turned out they'd surveyed over a kilometre to our first survey station and not got this far.  The route we followed was a big breakdown chamber into a canal, which went into sharp limestone, and into a boulder choke, which is probably passable.  When we arrived at the entrance we were met by most of the village, who had brought us a feast; the food was much appreciated and also excellent.  Simon and co. were too late getting out so they had their feast back at the village, as the villagers had taken it back as it was going cold.  Simon and co. found a major passage on the left hand side of the entrance passage, which they eventually had to leave as a going lead as it was getting late and they were running out of carbide.

Thursday 30th November

We had a new bus driver today who had a major attitude problem and was reluctant to do anything we asked him, including actually drive us!  We had been told of a potential site at a village called Lumshnong, so after a long bumpy ride on the bus, we arrived in the village.  We were shown to a washing hole, known as Krem Kot Sati, which obviously had passage going off it.  There were two ways off the entrance, both involving swimming, but we were told that the downstream end has another entrance in Spindro's backyard. Tony, Simon and Chris went for the big swim upstream, while Estelle, Jenni, Lindsay Kaiman and Daniel went to the entrance at Spindro' s backyard.  Daniel and Jenni started surveying while the rest of us went downstream to photograph and explore.  Kaiman couldn't swim at all so wouldn't go out of his depth; Lindsay was an excellent swimmer, so he went off in front to investigate when we reached a point where we were getting well out of our depth.  Lindsay reported back, a small waterfall followed by what looked like a sump. We completed the survey by swimming the last bit and tying it in to where the other team had started.  Simon and co. had found over a kilometre of classic limestone passage, with two more entrances and many leads still going 'big­time'.  We have a mission for tomorrow!

Friday 1st December

Off to Lumshnong again, where the first place we went was an impressive looking sink called Synrang Taloo. The GPS told us that one of the entrances they had found yesterday, was 400m South of the sink.  We walked up the road toward the village and spotted a large steaming hole, 50m away from the road, known as Krem LaIut.  We entered this one, and it was confirmed as being the top entrance they'd found yesterday.  Just inside the entrance was a canal going north; our swimmers, Tony and Chris, swam about 300m using a robber ring and a blow up Dolphin, until the Dolphin went down on them!  They found an area with more inlets and outlets, but with the equipment we had with us, this passage was unsurveyable; boats or life jackets would be nice! Estelle, Daniel, Kaiman, Lindsay and Tony went downstream to survey the side passages; we surveyed 400m in two interesting shaped side passages known as the Western Inlets.  We didn't even explore passages we had to bend down in, as there was more than enough big passages to keep us going for today.  We abandoned one area where the water got too deep to survey in, particularly when there are non-swimmers around.  The water was very cold so after nearly 6 hours caving we came out.  Simon, Brian, Chris and Daniel had found another entrance, surveyed a big oxbow and taken lots of photographs.

Saturday 2nd December

We went to the village of Lakadong, where there was reputed to be several eaves.  Our bus driver with the major attitude problem was doing everything he could to avoid driving to Lakadong, including swapping a good tyre for a bad tyre so that we didn't damage the new one!  The road to the village was abysmal and we had to walk the last mile or so to the village.  We were just starting to think that Lakadong was a waste of time, because the headman told us there were no caves there but there were some at Umlat, which was the next village, but he'd show us an insignificant shaft anyway!  The shaft was 50-60m deep in limestone, and there was another one nearby.  After the walk back to the bus we found our driver drunk, we tried to sober him up a bit with tea, but he drove anyway, and it was actually better than when he was sober! It was definitely one of those bad days; we ran out of diesel on the way back and had to go and find some and then the bus broke down and we had to wait 2 hours while we got it repaired.  We eventually arrived back at Shillong at 3:30 am after spending 18 hours on the bus today!

Sunday 3rd December

We couldn't get our return tickets confirmed, as it was Sunday, so we had a lazy day in Shillong, followed by a nice meal at the Unicorn Hotel with several members of the Meghalayan Adventurers Association.

Monday 4th December

We still couldn't sort out our air tickets, so we left for Tura anyway.  The trip to Tura involved travelling along the border between Megbalaya and Assam, which bas a lot of problems with bandits, so we drove very fast without stopping until we reached a safe village for lunch.  We finally arrived at the circuit house in Tura at 3 am, woke up the Choki Da and he found us some rooms.

Tuesday 5th December

There was a bandh (strike) on in Turn today, so no vehicles could move and the whole of Turn came to a standstill.  We went and saw the Deputy Tourist Officer and his wife kindly sorted out letters to local officials and police for us.  We next visited a friend from the last expedition, Santu, where we had tea and chatted.  He arranged to get our tickets sorted out.  We had a bit of a party at the circuit house, with Santu and some of his mates.

Wednesday 6th December

We finally got out of Tura and off to Baghmara, and then onto Siju.  We arrived at the new I.B. (Inspection Bungalow) and made ourselves at home.  The I.B. was so new they had to unpack crockery and furniture for us to use.

Thursday 7th December

After breakfast, we ordered a bamboo ladder for Siju eave and went to look at some other sites at Middle Siju, until the ladder was built, we investigated several sites but there was nothing significant.  Back to the I.B. and then the 5-minute walk to Siju eave taking our newly made ladder with us.  Siju eave is an impressive resurgence eave with a lot of bats in the chamber just inside; you definitely don't want to look up with your mouth open, the ceiling moves and it rains bat guano.  We tried lowering the terminal sump by moving boulders, but eventually admitted defeat and went to the place we'd brought the ladder in for.  Tony and Simon surveyed the 200m of really sharp rift passage, while the rest of us did some photography.

We had a visit from a reporter, land surveyor and environmentalist; there is a conservation issue over the area around here.  As a company wants to build cement works, which will destroy the area for fishing and damage the cave life.  Many locals are trying to do what they can to stop it.

Friday 8th December

We walked up the track to the Chibenala river valley, where we already had caves known to the group. Simon Daniel and Brian went to Chibenala Dobhakol to finish off the survey and photograph.  While Tony, Chris, Roy and the two policemen (who had appeared to have taken the day off) went into one cave and Estelle, Lenni, Kaiman. Lindsay and Oda went cave hunting upstream.  We found four small caves, of which we surveyed three, two of which were very insignificant; the third was the longest at 150m long. Simon, Daniel and Brian had had Topofil problems but managed to survey 150m and take a lot of photos.

Saturday 9th December

Went to Nengkong to continue work on Tetengkol and Matchekol.  Daniel, lenni, Brian and Roy went to continue the survey in Matchekol. while Estelle, Simon, Chris, Tony, Lindsay, Kaiman, Oda and a policeman went into Tetengkol.  Tony didn't get very far; he was feeling really ill, so he went back out.  The rest of us continued up into the Planetarium, which should have been an easy climb but there had apparently been movement since last time and the 'Henries' looked a bit dodgy.  We managed to get up and continued to look at a pitch, which had been left last time.  Estelle abseiled down the 15m pitch, to a crawling sized, rift passage, which soon got too tight to follow.  Estelle rejoined the rest and we continued on into Paula's Parallel Universe where there were 2 unfinished leads.  Chris, Kaiman. and Lindsay surveyed one, while Estelle and Simon surveyed the other. The second was really gloopy mud with gravy like substance floating on the top; we surveyed 80m to a junction, but we'd run out of time and had to go back.  The villagers at Nengkong are insistent that we are back by dark.  So the elephants and tigers don't attack us! We found the others sat outside their 'frog'.  Matchekol was definitely no 'princess'; it ended in a boulder pile at 200m. (Chris and Simon have a saying with the caves, that 'if you kiss enough frogs you'll find a princess!')  We had a sample of the local rice beer, which tasted quite nice really.

Sunday 10th December

The bus driver had a nasty dose of gastro enteritis and was very ill (probably due to too much rice beer) so we had no choice but to cancel our Tetengkol trip for today.  At least we have Siju cave close at hand, so we spent most of the day in there, taking lots of photographs and had another attempt at lowering the sump, which still failed.  Chris and Simon went into a previously unsurveyed inlet in Siju and found 200m, which took our total cave for this trip to 9.003km.  As this was our last days caving, we sorted out our carbide sets that we were leaving and gave Brian a lesson on how to use them.

Monday 11th December

The driver was still sick, but just about OK to drive, so we packed up the bus and started back to Tura. The bus had a puncture, and also the fuel filter gasket blew so it had to be replaced!  We were supposed to be on local TV but due to the bus problems we were too late.  Tony was being ill again so he missed out on an excellent meal at Santu's.

Tuesday 12th December

Off to Guwahati to catch the flight home.  As a farewell gift to us, the bus had one more puncture!  Said farewell to Brian, Lindsay and Kaiman and caught our flight to Calcutta.  When Chris phoned home, he was told that Heathrow had been closed for the last couple of days due to snow and freezing fog.

Wednesday 13th December

Had a nice meal and chat with Mr Pattanaik from the tourism office, and then visited the Hogg market.

Thursday 14th December

Estelle, Chris, Tony and Simon left for Amman, while Lenni left for Sri Lanka and Daniel left for Thailand.  We get a night in the airport hotel, which is only 2 hours time difference to us, so it gave us a chance to get our body clocks back to normal.

Friday 15th December

Left Amman, and onto Berlin, where we were delayed for over an hour while they repaired a puncture on the plane!  Eventually we left Berlin and arrived at Heathrow, and once we'd finally got Tony's car going, and driven back to Mendip, we arrived in the Hunters for an evening session!


B.E.C. Membership List as at 26/10/97

1212 Julian Aburrow                  Southampton, Hampshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1150 (J) David Ball                     ConeyHurst, Billinhurst, West Sussex.
1145 Roz Bateman                    Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset.
1151 (J) Ruth Baxter                  Coneyhurst, Billingshurst, West Sussex
1227 (P) Anette Becher             St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
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 Bradshaw                  Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                  London
1196 Dave Bryant                      Salford, Bristol, Avon
201 John Buxton                       Flitwick, Beds.
956 Ian Caldwell                        Redland, Bristol, Avon
1214 Rebecca Campbell            Wells, Somerset
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1062 (J) Andy Cave                   Dordogne, France
1142 (J) Ange Cave                   Dordogne, France
1197 John Christie                     Brompton, North Allerton, North Yorks
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Draycott, Somerset
1204 Julian Collinson                 Pemboa, Helston, Cornwall
1175 Ali Cooper                        Ainsworth, Nottinghamshire
862 Bob Cork                            Pen Hill, Wells, Somerset
1123 (P) Paulr 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 (P) 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                   Upper Radford, Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1182 Alex Gee                          Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
1006 Edward Gosden                Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Draycott, Somerset
1155 Rachael Gregory               Pentir, Nr., Bangor, Gwynedd
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
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnett Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol, Avon
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet
952 Bob Hill                              Port Gentil, Republic de Gabon
373 (J) Sid Hobbs                      Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
736 (J) Sylvia Hobbs                  Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1221 (P) Mark Howden              Street, Sometset
1219 (P) Sean Howe                  Frampton Cotterell, Bristol, Avon
923 Trevor Hughes                     Holcombe, Bath, Avon
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Buxton, Derbyshire
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
667 (L) Tim Large                      Brislington, Bristol
1199 Alex Livingstone                Clevedon, Avon
1180 Rich Long                         Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1057 Mark Lumley                     Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jnr)        St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Brsitol, Avon
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
1172 Sean Morgan                    Clevedon, Avon
1210 Guy Mannings                  Croydon, Surrey
1183 Andy Newton                    Shipham, Nr Cheddar, Somerset
1232 (P) Andy Nunn                  Cullomton, Devon
553 Bob O’Malley-White            Wells, Somerset
1228 (P) Ben Ogbourne             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset
1226 (P) Stephen Ostler            Nailsea, North Somerset
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
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
1178 Ivan Sandford                    Priddy, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Cote D’Azur, France
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Taunton, Somerset
1036 (J) Nicola Slann                 Draycott, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          c/o The Belfry
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
1084 Richard Stephens              Wells, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
1224 (P) Andrew Thomas           Catcott, Nr Bridgwater, 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                          Uphill, Weston super Mare, North Somerset
175 (L) D. Whaddon                 
1220 (P) John Walsh                 Glastonbury, Somerset
949 (J) John Watson                  Wells, Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Wells, Somerset
1185 Chas Wethered                 Axbridge, Somerset
1118 Carol White                      Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
1068 John Whiteley                   Heathfiled, Newton Abbot, Devon
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1087 John Williams                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chillington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     Eastville, Bristol, Avon

A Message From Your Membership Secretary

Please send any membership correspondence to: -

Roz Bateman,  Wookey Hole, Wells,  Somerset

Dear Members

A membership secretary for the 97/98 committee, I would like to welcome you all to renew your B.E.C. membership before 31/12/97.  There is an additional £4.00 payment for all membership fees, which reach me after 1997. The 1977 AGM resulted in a £2.00 increase in membership fees for 1997/98.  Please complete the form below and return all cheques/forms in the envelope provided with this BB.  Thank you.

We all hope you will enjoy your continuing membership of the B.E.C.



Rolling Calendar

09/11/1997        Pwll D CMG Meeting,     10.30am Gwetsy Bridge, Gwynmawr

14/11/1997        BEC Committee Meeting

15/11/1997        MRO Quiz Night, Priddy Village Hall, 7pm.  Teams of 6 Cash Prizes. 
                        £20 per team to include supper (Alan Butcher to register teams)

05/12/1997        BEC Committee Meeting

06/12/1997        CSCC Meeting

02/01/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/01/1998        Cavers Stomp, Priddy Village Hall organised by Axbridge Caving Group. Tickets from Hunters/Bat Products £5 in advance.  £6 on the door (Gwen Cindy Andrea)

06/02/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

07/02/1998        CSCC Meeting

06/03/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/04/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

01/05/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

16/05/1998        CSCC Meeting

05/06/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

04/07/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

4-5/7/98            Cavers Fair, Mendip

07/08/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

04/09/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/10/1998        BEC AGM and Dinner


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


I have included the reports at the front of the issue so that those of you that can't be bothered with them can skip through to the articles.

Please also note the dinner booking forms at the back.  Please complete these asap and return them if you are coming. I know from my experiences last year that the organisation is a nightmare only made worse by late returns.

Anyway I hope this issue gives you all some suitable early morning, small room reading pleasure.

If not. .. you can always use it to w*** your a-*!!!!


So the last BB of the Club Year, and my last one too!  See my report for further details of this.  Things have been a bit slow at the Belfry of late, the same crowd of regular members has been around but there’s a lot of people that we haven't seen for some time .... what has happened to you all .... you are missed.

I know that Andy and Ange Cave have departed these shores for France on a permanent basis, I don't think for a minute that it's the last we have seen of them though.  I am sure you'll join me in wishing them all the best in their ventures over there.  Various members have their address details should you wish to contact them.

For my sins I will be moving back up to London shortly for Career reasons .. (yes even I have to work from time to time).  This probably means that you will see more of me on Mendip as since I have been living in Gurney Slade my visits to Priddy have become fewer.  Funny old world innit?

I know that our regular diggers have been active recently and that J-Rat continues to unearth artefacts (alien or otherwise) from Five Buddies Sink.

I have also finished my diving project in St Cuthbert’s.  Thank you to those that helped with this .... and to my critics ... I suggest you learn to read because then you would understand why I was doing it!!!

I will write up a full report of my activities for a future BB.

Also in this issue you will find Dinner Booking forms.  Thanks must go to Nigel Taylor for organising this again this year.  I did it last year and it is bloody hard work.  I hope that the attendance is worthy of the effort he has put in.

Lastly I am sorry to see Jeff Price, Mike Wilson and Hilary Wilson standing down from the committee this year.  They have all been keen and valuable members for some time and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.  I am sure the membership would echo my sentiments and thanks to them all.

Anyway that's the lot from me.  Hope to see you all soon.  Regards and Good caving ..... Jingles.


Membership Secretaries Report

I will not be as verbose this year, mainly because I do not have much to report.  The sending out of addressed envelopes to all last years paid up members worked really well, with a plethora of returning to me before the end of the year and then the usual dribble for months after that.  Ah well I suppose nothing is perfect.  I propose doing the same again with the first issue of the as after the AG.M.

Just to remind you all that the cut off date for memberships is the end of December so you will receive no more gratis copies of the as after that, if you have not paid your subs.

On an actual membership front this year has been very disappointing with only a total of five new members joining the club, 3 in January of this year and two at the last committee meeting in September, I would like to formally welcome you all to the club.

I still have not found an effective piece of software to manage the names and addresses yet, even after trying various routes; perhaps someone will finally suggest a package that will do the job.

I am standing again for re-election to the committee and hope to be re-elected to the post of Membership Secretary as I'm fairly sure no one else wants to do it!

See you at the AG.M.

Richard Stephens (Dick-Fred)
Membership Secretary.


From the Belfry Table Number 21

Don't forget, the A.G.M and Annual Dinner, Saturday 4th. October 1997.

The Dinner will be held at Bristol University Veterinary School at Langford House, Langford, Somerset, details appear in this BB with the booking form.  A 53 seater coach will leave the Hunters Lodge at 7.00pm, book with your dinner bookings, but as always, pay on the coach, cost will be £2-50 a head, which after drivers tip deduction will leave a sum towards the Post Dinner barrels at the Belfry!

The Club extends its' deepest sympathy to Carol and the family of Life Member Alan Sandal (240). In keeping with the feelings which prevailed at his funeral on Friday 15th August, I will simply wish his spirit excess wherever it may be.

Alex Gee, Rich Blake and Quackers have just returned from a fortnight in Austria where they holidayed and caved with Mr. & Mrs. Snablet et All!  All very brown, rumours of caverns discovered measureless to man have not yet been heard on the hill, is that why they are so brown?

Talking of Caves, Angie and Andy have bade farewell to the UK and emigrated to a fine caving area of France.  Bob & Maryika Hill and family send greeting from Gabon to all, in a recently received letter.

I have designed new BEC Tee-shirts and car stickers, and in the first instance these are available from Tony Jarrett at Bat Products {Thanks Tony!] or directly from me in case of difficulty, though please remember Postage will be extra!

Tony Boycott tells me that recent CO2 readings were again high in WHITE PIT.  Take extreme care if you visit this cave at present.

A new borehole drilled this week from the base of Westbury Quarry encountered a possible cavity with water at 240 feet, but sadly unless you are an aggregate producer, no indication of other cavities before that depth.  Drilling started at 170.29 m(Above Sea Level) circa 562 feet.  The borehole is for ground water and scientific monitoring so may yield interesting information in the future.

The EXPLOSIVES USER GROUP will run the first officially accredited training weekend on the 24th/25th/26th. October 1997 on Mendip.  Primarily for existing licensed holders across the UK it is intended to expand this training for potential and would-be licence holders at a later date.  The group’s action is intended to forestall future legislation that may well be brought in for mandatory training for all such handlers of explosives.  At present explosives handlers in the quarry industry are the only persons who by law must have detailed training and examinations, however it is known that the Construction Industry is soon to be brought into a similar scheme, so hopefully the Caving world will be ahead of such legislation and have their house in order, enabling exploration with the 'gentle art' to continue for years to come!.

Goodbye from the Table, ... see you at the AGM?

Nigel Taylor, Hon.Sec.
Friday 29th August 1997.


Report of the Hon. Secretary 1996/7

Let there be no pretence, I am very concerned about the state of the Club.  An independent observer might draw the conclusion that apathy rules!  Did anyone read the minutes of last years AGM published in the BB last December, did or indeed does anyone care?

I should love to paint a glowing portrait of the state of the BEC, but this would be false.  Akin to most clubs, general interest from new blood in joining clubs is diminishing.  Whether this is due to lack of interest or finances, or a general fall-off in society in general - in a need to belong to a body or club, - I cannot but surmise.  What I am concerned about is the general interest in the state of the club by existing members.  Are we getting it wrong?  Surely at £24 per year, indeed at £20 if you pay early, it cannot be the costs that are putting members off.  Try organising a function and support is less than worth the effort, with the exception of the Annual Dinner.  Perhaps we are not giving you the member what you need, .... but are you telling us what you want.  It is no good some individuals saying:  "We do all the hard caving for the club, why should we have to do anything else!" What makes a club, 'The Club', is the spirit generated by the varied mixture of persons who make up the membership, the variety of individual characters, skills, sense of humour or lack of such, or whatever.  Surely it was that essence that made you the member join the club in the first place.

Thus, as human beings we have all the frailties and faults of any other human beings, and as club members we differ in our abilities and characters.  So then why, oh why has this last year seen the intense bickering and sometimes vicious back biting that seems at times ready to cause rifts within the club.  It is most sad that this is most evident within the committee.  Work has not been done by some for various reasons, others can be critical of this, but let us keep aggro out of this please.

As Secretary, I feel that my role is often to sit-on-the-fence, not to negate standing up and being counted, but rather to prevent discord in the club.  I try to put my personal views to one side and take the view of what is best for the club.  I certainly 'Ain’t no angel' if you'll excuse the language, but I try, and trying is what being a member, and most especially a committee member is all about.

Attendances at meetings are often arduous, especially after a long weeks work, but they are part of the role.  So is playing your part in being a member of a committee, being prepared to make and agree on decisions and stand by the agreed policies of the Club.

Because of the errors made in our electoral process last year, the AGM brought all candidates onto the committee.  Such an action, gives a committee position with no responsibilities for some. Please do not draw the inference that I am criticising any such individual, but, perhaps future AGM's might consider giving back up roles to the 'floating members' so that certain heavy workload positions are supported by deputies, thus giving such a floating member a role and actual responsibility, which hopefully in turn will give them pride and pleasure in playing a part in the running of their club. In practice I feel that the smaller the committee, the easier it is to obtain constructive agreement on decisions, and to ensure work is effectively tackled.  Set against this is the argument that I have put forward myself in the past, that if someone is keen enough to stand for election then especially if they are younger or new members, then let them stand and be given a chance.

I especially wish to make a point of thanking on both my beha1f, and also that of the club, three people who have decided to step down from the committee this year.  Mike and Hilary Wilson and Jeff Price have served for several years on the committee, always giving much support and time on behalf of the BEC. often with no praise for their unstinting efforts.  They have worked quietly away in the background, and could always be counted upon to 'produce the goods' be it by way of their attendance at meetings, working weekends or as part of the organising team for functions.  To my view they epitomise the spirit of being a club member, and their intended departure is to the detriment of the club.  I hope they may still reconsider and remain as candidates for the committee.

To those members who are saddened by my views, I offer no apology.  I will not gloss over a situation which at present is far from healthy. I have said in several "From the Belfry Table" articles in the BB. it is your club, play a part in it, please!!!  Introduce a new member, help run a stomp or a barbecue, organise an away meet, offer your services, just please .... whether you are an old timer who already 'has done your bit' or a new member don't just sit there, ...... we need you, and hopefully you need the club.  That way we can look forward to an even brighter next sixty plus years, we will keep the name of the BEC in a state to be proud of and an envy of many other clubs. Only together with effort and your support do we go forward.

Nigel Taylor
Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club, 1996/7
28th. August 1997.


Belfry Bulletin Editor's Report.

John Williams.

This has certainly not been the best year I have had as Editor.  I have exceeded the number of issues that I promised to produce at last years AGM but there have been problems with the distribution - for which I will take responsibility ­and I know some of you have felt let down by this. I can only apologise to you - I have done the best I could under extremely difficult circumstances. Thanks must, however, go to J-Rat who has been invaluable in the distribution of the BB.

There has been much local criticism of the BB this year and surprisingly little support from the membership both in terms of articles and help offered but never received.  This has to be the slowest year I have had in terms of articles from the membership.  I thank those of you that have written something, and remind the rest of you that it is very easy to sit in the pub and criticise the BB for being too thin or lacking in interesting articles .... but what have YOU done about it recently??? I know for a fact that there are several members sitting on articles at the moment and would predict that the next editor will receive a sudden rush. Personal??? .. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Alfie told me that editing the BB is a thankless task - I am inclined to agree with him.

I was in two minds about taking the editorship on again this year anyway but was swayed at the AGM, maybe I should have stuck to my feeling, who knows.

I will not stand again as editor this year as my heart is no longer in it and I know that there are others who are keen to have a go.  I will not stand in the way and would wish the next editor every success with a difficult and demanding task.

It seems to me that there has been great division within the committee this year and I would personally question the motivation of some of the members.  I urge the membership to think carefully about voting this AGM as it is my opinion that the club is in grave danger of taking a dive and that very careful action is required on the part of next years committee.  The committee are the representatives of the club and not there as individuals, personalities should be kept out of club business, this has patently not been the case in the past year.

For my part I wish to take a step back from all of this.

Should the club wish me on the committee again this year I am happy to stand but I do not wish to take on a major office ....... perhaps a floating position.

I have put in much over the last four years and have largely enjoyed the responsibility and duty but I feel it is time for a change.



Tacklemaster's report.

Mike Wilson.

Tackle users this will be my last report as Tacklemaster.  I have decided to stand down!!  My hope is that a fresh look at the job will improve the poor ladder and rope state of the store!!

I would like to thank all the club members who have booked tackle out and returned it after use!! To the unknown persons who remove tackle - don't book it out and retain it - I would say that your selfish actions cause a great deal of hassle to other club members. - YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!

This year has been quiet, the store has averaged 2 - 3 ladders in stock plus 4 spreaders and one lifeline - this is a parlous state for stock.

On the plus side - the Cuthbert's ladder has reappeared after a 4 month absence (I found it in the drying room - where it had mysteriously materialised! - ed!!) and we have managed to fabricate a steel ladder for Ogof Draenen.  This has been delivered and left in the cave ready for installation at Balcony Pitch.

The rung stock is down to 6 ladders worth and there is enough wire and crimps ditto.

My thanks to Jeff Price for drilling the Daenen ladder sections.  This was a great help.  Rich Blake has expressed interest in the position of Tacklemaster next year and I feel his pugnacious style would suit the job.

For inventory see below.

Tackle Inventory 1997.

Total previous ladders:                21
Total Scrapped                          4
New Manufactured                     0
Total 1997-09-07                        17

August stock count                    3
Accounted for (digs)                   6
Ladders missing                        8
Spreaders                                 3
Wire belays                               4

Stock lifeline count at August      1 x 75m Dyn

All other ropes have been missing for several months.  This means they were NOT BOOKED OUT!!

Exploration Stock.

Stock ladders                0

(One transferred to St Cuthbert's)

Ropes                1 x 18m Static
                        1 x 20m Static
                        1 x 36m Static
                        1 x 35m Static
                        1 x 33m Static
                        1 x 67m Static
                        1 x 54m Static
                        1 x 40m Static

N.B. To my knowledge all these ropes are over 7 years old and untested!!

I feel the club should invest in some new ropes and ladders!!!!


Caving Secretary's Report.

Jeff Price.

Members have been active abroad in the past year in France, Germany, Austria, India and diving in the Philippines.  (Don't forget to write up articles for the BB please).

The year has also seen a different approach to the meets list.  As requested there was a Mendip Diary, aimed at new and prospective members. Thanks to everybody who showed willing with this.  I also added several Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales dates.

Some of the Mendip meets were poorly attended - so maybe next year we should have a rethink!!!

Pen Park Hole is still hugely popular.  If you wish a trip get in touch with either myself or Trebor - it is excellent.

Midweek digging has been, as ever, popular - Barrow Rake, Five Buddies Sink and White Pit yielding more passage.  Several members are digging and resurveying Eastwater Swallet.

St Cuthbert’s trips calmed down during the summer - that is usual.  Winter is on the way so it should get busier from now on.  There is still some cleaning to be done - so if anyone wants a trip I am sure a leader will oblige.  We still have to fix a permanent ladder in the entrance for insurance reasons.

I.D.M.F. Report.


Mike Palmer.


Bobby Bagshaw.

And the current Caving Secretary.

No applications were received ...... See accounts for balance.


1997 Annual Hut Wardens Report

Compiled by Rebecca Campbell

This final report follows the interim report written in March.

The remainder of the year has indicated little upturn in the hut's affairs.  Very few guests have stayed on the Mendips in general and the continued lack of residency by members has only served to exasperate the situation.

The collapse in hut income has not been as recent or sudden as indicated in the figures above.  It was noted by Ivan Sandford in his 1996 Annual Hut Wardens report that residency was dropping off alarmingly.  This trend has continued and the hut remains relatively unused at weekends for overnight usage.  I would be grateful if more people paid day fees for general use of the hut, such as day time visitations or post-public house gatherings.

As mentioned in my interim report I do have a strategy for increasing hut usage by visiting groups. I have obtained a list of university addresses to whom I intend to send information on Mendip opportunities and the Belfry.  My main concern at this time is that there has been a considerable time lapse since many university caving clubs visited the Mendips.  As a result it may be assumed that any students who came with those previous parties have now left to follow their careers. This will mean that some clubs may have grown ignorant to the absolute splendidness of our pleasant climate and awesome speleological challenges.

In terms of general day to day maintenance the hut continues to be supported by a diligent minority. Thanks go to the guardian angel of the oil tank, the Friday afternoon gardener and every caver who takes the time to swab the decks of the changing room after a caving trip.


Hut Usage


% of HuUTotallncome

% (Decrease)lIncrease
























33.11 %






















 Day Fees









 Hut Totals









 Hut fees as % of total income









 Other Income









 Cuthbert’s Fees









 CCC Permits









 Cuthbert’s Reports



























 T-shirts & Stickers


















Total income









The projects mentioned within the interim report have not been put into action as yet.  This is primarily because every member of the core team worked so hard in the first few months of the year, that I haven't had the heart to ask people to give up their summer to continue the Belfry refurbishment. Besides which, both myself and the hut engineer have been noticeable by my absence this summer due to business and social commitments.

In the circumstances we remain in need of the following:

Kitchen work surfaces for completion of the kitchen cupboards - wall mounted Microwave

Shelving wood for constructing a large rucksack/kit storage unit in the bunkroom

Dry stone walling stone

Large wall mounted water heater

Please contact Glenview if you have any of the above and we can arrange collection, if necessary. Suggestions by all members for improvements to the hut are more than welcome. (Tel: 01749 xxxxxxx - answer machine).

As many of the local members are aware, I have left Glenview and now reside in Wells.  I have maintained regular contact with the cottage and recommend that it continues to be used as the hut booking line, with the blessing of its current residents, Ivan Sandford and Nick Mitchell.  This continuity will reduce any communication problems as Glenview has remained the abode of the Hut Warden for several years.


Club Rescue Team Leader.

Things have been very quiet rescue wise (hooray).  I have been bullying people to attend the MRO lectures organised by Dany and these are due to start again shortly.

I am in the process of compiling a rescue list of personnel to hand to Brian Prewer, if you wish to be included on this please contact me on 0976 925 307.  Since becoming team leader in March I have not had time to organise a rescue practice because of business commitments but I am organising one for October as I now have more time.

I wish to continue in this post if the membership re-elect.    Cheers Alex.


The End of an Era?

John Buxton.

Editor's Note:

Although not a BEC member Rob Palmer was known to many of us and had been involved in projects with various Club members over the years.  Not least his involvement with the Cheddar Pushes as well as the Andros project.  It seems appropriate to include this article by John Buxton - still an active member of the BEC as well as the COG.

When I came back to active diving and read the literature 'The darkness beckons' etc. I started to daydream as I read about the Blue Holes of the Bahamas.  Later we inherited some money and diving holidays became a possibility.

I saw an advert from an address in Somerset about a blue holes foundation organised by the same Rob palmer I had read about. With some nervousness I rang the telephone number and an American lady answered.  (Stephie Schwabe ... Rob's wife).

I explained my geriatric age and was told no problem, the magical ‘DQ' apparently worked.

Eventually I arrived at Nassau airport 4.8.95 and after collecting my luggage a very fit looking man I immediately recognised as Rob collected me and carted me off in a huge taxi. We travelled around the town and more diving gear was collected en route.

The next morning the boat 'Ocean Explorer' was full of gear and bodies and we set off South.  As we went about the unpacking of gear, Rob came round and without too much emphasis explained I didn't really want to use an ABLJ ... 'Try out these "Wings"'.  These were carefully assembled and explained to me and indeed they did work well.

This year was my third expedition and again the magic was working well.  Rob, besides being an extraordinarily capable diver was also a very good judge of other divers' capabilities.

I now had my own wings ... suitably modified to accept side mounted cylinders.  Rob suggested dives I could do with other people or even by myself. I was doubtful about some of them but he was right.  I did do most of them.  The one I turned down I later regretted as I did a more difficult one subsequently. When I hoisted myself aboard the RIB for a deep dive with three large cylinders round me, Rob was quite happy when I told him I had indeed practised swimming with such a load, but he did meet me at -60m on the way back just to make sure.

On his third trip due to the cancellation of my second week on the boat, Rob invited me to accompany him to Grand Bahama.  He organised digs and we dived each day in the Owl Hole - Mermaid Hole complex. This is a marvellous system of decorated chambers and passages. During this period we developed a rapport and discussed each dive before and after, and talked frankly of shortcomings ... mine of course!!

We did a longer dive with a stage bottle on the last day.

Rob left on Thursday 24th for the Red Sea.  He was to be away from home for five weeks and was not really looking forward to it as he had so much BHF work to do at home.

When I heard the news of his death I had a great feeling of sadness for Stephie, followed by a hollow feeling that summers will not be the same any more.

JSB 22.5.97.

Editorial Comment - Rob Parker.

The sad news of the death of Rob Parker reached us a short while ago.  Like Rob Palmer he was not a BEC member but was known well to many of us and his involvement on projects on Mendip is legend.  Anyone who has seen the 'Nosey Parker' video will attest to this.

Many of us also used his climbing facilities in Bristol .. a warm welcome was always there for fellow cavers and divers.

Like Palmer, Rob parker was at the cutting edge of cave diving and had been for many years.  He was involved in international projects such as the Blue Holes and the Wakulla Springs project.

To me he was something of an inspiration ... indeed like John Buxton it was in reading of the exploits of people like this that I became interested in caving and cave diving in the first place.  I was lucky enough to meet and spend time with some of my 'heroes in print' and Rob was one of them.

I am sure the club will join me in passing on condolences to his family.

The Cave Diving fraternity has suffered a doubly tragic loss .... two of the foremost divers have passed on.

May they be remembered fondly ..... their exploits certainly pass now into the realm of caving legend.



Librarians Report

This is my first year as librarian and I wish to continue in this post, if I am re-elected.

I have examined the library contents and have identified the following problems that I have started to tackle.

Lack of cupboard space:- The cupboards are now full and there is no more room for the storage of new acquisitions.  I have been trying to source some free or cheap upright drawing chests for the storage of surveys, as this would free up floor space for the installation of some more cupboards.  So if any you work in drawing offices etc and can help to obtain some please do so.

Deterioration of the old Logs and Journals:- I was dismayed to find that a lot of the old logs had started to rot because of the damp conditions, so I have started to leave the heater on in the winter and this seems to have dried them out, I have also found the log for 1947-50 in a right shit state, and it is currently being rebound and photocopies made.  This is being carried out by Jeff Price who has kindly arranged to have it done for nought, thanks Jeff.

In addition there have been several acquisitions for the Library this year.  Two books that have been purchased :- Sheck Exleys "Caverns Measureless to Man" and Dave Irwin’s et al "The Mendip Cave Registry".  We have also received several book donations from Jim Smart, Jeff Price, Jingles and Dave Turner.

We have also been given a Computer by Henry Bennett and this has been upgraded by Estelle.  Thanks Again.

That's all Folks.

Cheers Alex.


Supping Tup's Arse in Dentdale!

The weather the week before Whitsun was terrible, more like April showers than May Sunshine.

In spite of the poor omens Hilary, Babs, Jeff, Rob and myself decided to carry on with the now semi permanent 'old codgers' charabanc trip to Dent in Yorkshire.  Estelle arrived early on Friday and met up with John Christie and BOB the belfry boy on Saturday. They all managed to slip a trip into Red Moss cave.

The B team did a circular walk up Funters Gill around to Nun House arriving back in Dent in bright sunshine.

Sunday we all teamed up with 'Dobber John' Christie and the Craven group.  Birks Fell was the objective and after a lengthy walk from the busy car park, we managed to go as far as cascade pitch.  I managed to get jammed in a tight slot just before cascade.

We exited and walked down to Buckden Zoo car park complete with 1000 grockles.

Drove off to the George and Dragon in Dent for beer and food and a boasting session.

We all checked Clive's wrists for handcuff marks then IDNA tested the digs on his back to Estelle’s nails!!!

Tuesday ... good weather ... walked from Horton to Ling Gill and High Birkwith Farm circular route - 11 miles!  Plenty of wildlife including the Lesser Spotted Purple Headed Red Peeker (?) Usually found behind a wall!

Again returning on bloody stumps for beers and brags at the Sportsman's.

We also decided that Grolsh lager stubbies should have a new logo .... "Take my top off and give somebody one!!"

Weds ... Jeff and Babs with Hilary and Mike 'portering' pottered up to the GG Bradford meet in glorious sunshine - I was relegated to carrying a rucksack with food and beer. Said hello to Whitemeg who was suffering from an acute case of knackered tentitis.

Back at Dent - alone at last - we kept falling over Willet and his Wifelets.  This huge rooster with several hens put Mike Willet to shame.

Finally the grouse moors walk to Coverdale was the height of the week's walking.  An excellent bird watching walk of 11 miles or so over two moors and taking in the Coverdale valley.  The weather was hot and sunny ... if anything .. too hot!!

Hilary caught the sun and was dubbed 'Rudolf the red necked rambler!' 

AHH well back to the Sun Inn for B&B (Beer and Bullshitting)

Friday .. pottered around then trundled back down the motorway in an empty charabanc to Keynsham.

P.S. Tup's Arse is the local brew ... Ram's Bottom!!!

Mike Wilson.


A Fortean experience in Assynt

As we rolled up the drive to Taig na Faimh there seemed to be an ominous number of cars already present. Yes, you've guessed it, the hut was double booked again with every inch of bunk and floor space taken up by climbers cavers and walkers.  After a meal at the Alt at which Eric was presented with a photographic record of his Waterslide trip last year (as well as one of a zonked-looking J-Rat wielding a Bosch drill at the sump) we decamped to the old hut for a tolerable night's snooze with the mouse turds.  Sunday dawned sunny and the BEC/GSG contingent consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Snablet, Graham Bromley, Tavand J-Rat headed for East Block in Claonite while Julian Steve Cuddihy and I after a call to Jim Crooks took the Lochinver run.  Pete Rose Trevor Knief and Andy Tyler did what everybody else wasn't!

At Lochinver we did a passable Steptoe imitation along the harbour front pitching timber into Pete's trailer - sufficient for the entire week.  Jim, looking not a day older, had re-stocked his shed with more junk than last year and after brushing out several gallons from the floor inside grumbled about the state of the roof as did I after emptying a gallon of water over myself from the fireman's helmet which had lain just under the leak. After a verbal trot through the immune system as derived from a recent Horizon programme he'd seen he told us the tale of the dead colonel, the moose's head and the 'Del-boy' diver. Apply here for further details as well as the one about the yuppie rat catcher.  All slightly Fortean.

The pie shop has increased its range of pies but the proprietor didn't know whether to look disgusted or pleased with a recommendation from Michael Winner who had passed through last year.  He was feeling sulky that Winner could conclude he ran a chippy from looking at the bistro's exterior.  I also discovered he (the proprietor not Michael Winner) used to go caving on Mendips. For all I know he might be a BEC member ­perhaps he could be persuaded to join the GSG and we'd get a pie discount. One can dream!

After this it was time for caving and Steve's introduction to Claonite and bottle carries. This was probably a bad idea as regards persuading Steve he could manage sump 3 and beyond.  I was so un-together I nearly managed to free dive sump one instead of doing the by-pass. After dumping the bottles (which we never used and I only got back from Simon two months later) we crawled into East Block for photography. On the way I realised why I hadn't been there for 7 years and that the French caving term 'penible' sums it all up very nicely. Bumped into J-Rat's team exiting the other way muttering about fumes.  Inside East Block Julian failed to find the start of Infinite Improbability while I started the photography.  Three failed slave flashes later I was far from gruntled but eventually I got it mostly together and retreated with some reasonable shots of East Block and the passage leading to it.  We even managed some photos on the exit to add to the collection.

Down at the Inch J-Rat was busy in conversation with a fat American (if that isn't stating the obvious I don't know what is), a man from the Outer Hebrides and others.  He was the only one who seemed to know the words to the songs!  Before we became totally incapable we returned to the hut and a soya spag bog.

The next day the diggers i.e. Julian, J-Rat and co headed for Damoclean while Pete persuaded Steve to sherpa for him in the Waterslide on the promise of a sea dive later.  The carry up the hill and down to the sump went like clockwork.  Pete was full of confidence armed with Pete Mulholland's lucky line reel and a 50 watt mega light. ‘45mins maximum' he said before submerging leaving Steve with a loaned nicad and Steve's spare.  Steve after a few minutes of listening to the roaring stream and watching the line twitch started playing with his spare light - which failed to work.  A few minutes later the light Pete gave him started to go dim ......

Meanwhile Pete was forging his way into the sump confident that his sherpa retention system would work.

At the constriction a bit of thrashing soon got him through and rather than fiddle with the belaying in the poor vis (his megalight failed when it saw the constriction) he stomped (no fins this year) up the large ongoing passage beyond the narrows to quickly surface in ongoing dryish thrust plane - Straight Flush - which clearly acts a flood overflow.  A quick belay of the line was performed and he was back into the sump finding the constriction as usual to be a doddle on the exit although the line was a bit tight at this point.

He emerged to greet a relieved Steve who groped his way out behind him to the welcoming sight of day. A kit sort out at the hut saw our heroes reassembling at the Kylesku ferry slip for Pete's first sea dive of the season.  Needless to say there were lots of kit cock-ups with feed hoses not fitting etc. and Pete was not a happy man when he found his flash gun lead was in Somerset - so no underwater snaps.  We dived at slack water and after passing some surprisingly recent car wrecks steamed over to the wall and along for a couple of hundred metres or more.  A good fun dive.

After a phone call from the bar of the Kylesku Hotel in order to get my daughter to post my flash gun lead we had the usual dive debrief to the customers in the bar with an update from the bar staff on what vehicles had currently been dumped. Apply here for the Fortean tale of the car unintentionally push started into Loch Glencoul by a passing Dutch tourist. I then returned a pint mug to the bar found 'en dive' and now home to some wee encrusting beasties.  We settled down to an excellent meal of moules for me while Steve continued his assay of Scottish curry making skills.

The diggers had plodded on at Rana Mole Hole and Damoclean.  Poor Tav and Graham struggled to the end of Infinite Improbability only to find a miserable 10 feet of passage beyond the banged boulder whereupon it closed down irrevocably.

The next day dawned damp again.  The Damoclean diggers dug Damoclean while Pete Rose, Tav and Trevor headed north to the Allt a something Gaelic area to look at something Tav thought might be something diggable.  Steve and Pete decided to go diving again, this time at Achmelvich on Malcolm Stewart's commendation.  If the sea temperature had been 10 degrees higher it would have been like the Caribbean but it wasn't and it wasn't.  A surprisingly short and painless swim on the left of the bay to the far side of the inlet which is crossed by a wire led to the start of the dive.  Following the kelp festooned wall and swimming over pure white sand we slowly gained depth and at 9 metres Steve spotted a lovely red and orange lump sucker guarding its nest.  Their other name is 'sea hen' and certainly with its reluctance to move an inch from its nest it lived up to its name.  Slightly deeper we found a young angler fish before leaving the weed zone and swimming over boulders before turning back at 21 metres.

The next day Steve Pete Trevor and others went to Sandwood Bay while feeling guilty that I had not done any digging I decided to join Julian and Tav up at Damoclean.  The proceedings began with a lamp pox farce which ended in me having to go back to the hut from the trout farm to get a battery which was charged then finding the cable burned through when I got back. Eventually I cobbled together a working light and met them at the dig.  After 5 minutes of sack hauling I crawled into the dig whereupon all present announced the end was undiggable and that was it for the day.

Still I got some nice record shots of Tav the dig and the usual apple cake shot.  On the way down we did our bit for the Millenium dig on the rising.  I am sure if a team tried for a day you could get somewhere here provided Scottish Heritage did not mind!

Peter Rose and co saw mysterious and Fortean lights in the sky on their return from the north.  We also heard about the cow which sank the trawler.  And so ended another day.

High water levels thwarted attempts on the Traligilliink up so instead the digging team continued work on a piece of the jigsaw known as Birthday Hole which lies upstream of Tree Hole on the way to Flood sink.  Steve and Pete took advantage of a weather window to walk up Quinag while Trevor Knief tried Ben More Assynt.  The Quinag pair were rapidly overtaken by two older walkers wearing running gear but plodded on in dignified fashion to enjoy the view.  The sun was out but as we reached the first summit the wind speed seemed to have risen.  We started cautiously along the ridge and descending into the next col the wind roar had reached the intensity of a large waterfall.  Pete snapped a ptarmigan pair huddled to the ground and very unkeen to take flight however closely we approached.

I had never walked in such a high wind and on the next section of ridge found it a frightening experience.  Meanwhile on Ben More Trevor had turned back from the summit repelled purely by the violence of the wind.  We drank our coffee and watched the walkers we had seen earlier bounding across the northern arm of Quinag propelled by the wind.  When we came to do the same section we found, with the wind behind us, we had to lean backwards to make stable progress!  A couple we met on the summit were decidedly anxious.  She was small and seriously concerned about being blown off.  The views onto Kylesku and to the north were superb and the sun still shining but ominous cloud was building in the south and west and we were glad to descend to the small lochan which nestles beneath the northern crags where downdrafts created spectacular short lived water spouts.  We walked back to the car periodically violently buffeted by the wind and headed for Kylesku and a relaxing (?) dive to round the day off.  That's what I like about the area; long days in which you can do lots of different things fairly easily.

Entering the water we found a fair outward current was running so descended cautiously to the car wreck zone.  This time I had my camera so an assortment of shots of Steve with car interiors and exteriors was rounded off with a visit to the near end of the wall now that the current had switched off.  A recently dumped blue Montego currently rests on the bottom parallel to the end of slip looking for all the world as if it had been driven there and parked - very Fortean.  Look for the article on the site in a forthcoming edition of SportDiver.

In the bar we met the couple we'd encountered on the ridge.  They turned out to be divers - from Plymouth!  They were on their way to Scapa Flow and reluctantly turned down our invitation to dive with us in the Summer Isles - something I had promised Steve to lure him up north.  We had another excellent meal (Steve had the balti and I the langoustines) while having an interesting chat to the pilot and navigator of the helicopter parked by the bar.

Simon Brooks arrived in the early hours raising hopes of a visit to Northern Lights but meanwhile Steve and I were planning to do a boat dive from Achiltbuie.  We rendezvoused with Andy Hobrow of Atlantic Diving Services on Badentart Pier and had a pleasant trip to the site of the Fairweather with just Andy and his dog for company.  Andy had a fund of diving yams to keep us amused and if you get the chance to go out on his boat I can recommend it (see article in Scubaworld magazine July this year - Summer in Scotland).  The Fairweather is a trawer which sank in 30 metres after being holed on rocks.  It settled flat on the bottom and none of its gear was salvaged.  Now covered in a cloud of plumose anemones it provides opportunities for cave divers to do some wreck penetration including the wheel house and cabins.  If I do it again I will take side mounts but no way was I swimming about in there with a back pack even if the open water lads think nothing of it!

After a pie cash and petrol stop in Lochinver Steve and I then went looking for Uamh an Tartair behind the hut.  After a spell thinking it had upped and gone on vacation I found it where it always had been.  I told Steve it would be a dry trip because there was a sump by-pass.

Fortunately for him the canny blighter had been on enough trips with me to wear his wet suit.  The 'dry by pass' was a body soaking crawl in the stream.  The base of the dry shaft is spectacular and it's a shame the cave finishes so rapidly in the rift beyond.  More slides have been added to my Scottish cave collection. Meanwhile most of the rest of the team including Trevor 'the brewer's friend' Knief and Pete 'twittery old git' Rose were going great guns at Birthday Hole.  A breakthrough was made into some stream cave through a grovel dubbed 'a Wok on the Wild Side' after the unorthodox digging implement used. Pete Mulholland watch out.

Simon was persuaded that evening that we ought to attempt a trip into Northern Lights the next day. Fraser Simpson made up the team and we managed to self sherpa down the sump.  We were determinedly armed to the teeth with megalights and cameras. Nothing was going to stop us this time! As it happened I decided to let Simon and Fraser through first and had an embarrassingly endless 3 minutes trying to get through the constriction with an irritatingly over buoyant kit bag. The others waited patiently as I humped my way down Straight Flush in arthritic seal mode.  Although the line was out in the next very spacious and straightforward sump (voice link through it) the one beyond still had its line in place suggesting that in high water turbulence is moderated in the Straight Flush area.

Once out of the water we de-kitted although as you can see from the slides Simon in commando mode kept his weights on so it wouldn't be too easy.  We soon left the stream running in the lower part of the thrust plane and followed an elliptical switch back tunnel which eventually ascended to pop through the floor of a much older passage which clearly flooded only very rarely - Northern Lights.  The stalactite formations here are incredible and would stand out anywhere in Britain. Mostly pure white calcite they consisted of small forests of straw pillars and zones of stal bosses with in places helictites and superb curtains.  Progress can only be made haltingly with instruction from those before and behind.  One noteworthy feature of the tunnel is the number of broken and re-cemented stalactites including a bizarre formation I called the Skean Dhu (spelling I suspect is suspect).  We sent Fraser down one side passage Pete and Tony had avoided for fear of damage using the Golden Shot technique ('left a bit down DOWN! that's better now forward WHOA! etc etc) but it turned out to be an oxbow.

A low roar ahead suggested we were re-approaching the stream and after passing some false floor we arrived at the top of Royal Flush, a descending potholed thrust plane down which the stream thundered excitingly exiting through a small watery and decidedly uninviting hole.  We crossed the plane for the time being to a small hole at the top which seemed to close down.  However peering through a gap at the top of the plane I could see a well decorated chamber. Fraser looked skinnier than me so I sent him through first before following leaving Simon who modestly didn't want to strip.  The chamber we entered (Pillars of the Establishment - an ironic reference to the recent General Election result) contained a number of massive stal columns and at the top a grotto off which a stal encrusted crawl could be seen leading. This is probably the last chance of a dry link to Lower Traligill and I think it will be worth sacrificing some straws to push it.

On the way out we took the time to photograph as many features as we could.  Some of them you may have seen and hopefully further visits will add to the collection.  Future visitors will have to be careful and it is not a place for large parties. Some tape judiciously placed must also be taken.

Getting out was uneventful and sealed the end to one my red letter days of Scottish caving.  Fraser, for somebody relatively new to cave diving, had no problems at all and did really well.  The GSG cave diving team is expanding fast!

Sadly the last day had arrived.  It was foul and plans by Pete Dowswell and co. to visit Claonite 7 were soon aborted in favour of more hut maintenance/construction. Steve and I decided to go diving at Achmelvich.  I wanted to photograph the lump sucker having marked its position in the sand under Steve's sceptical eye.  Entering the toilet at Achmelvich in perve mode (2 men, rubber suits and KY jelly) we emerged cocooned in our dry suits and made for the sea.  The lump sucker was there as I had expected and after several snaps and a poke around we returned to the surface.  It was chucking it down so keeping our dry suits on we drove to Kylesku where we had heard you could get scallops if you knew where to look. Andy was right - there were scallops galore and after getting 3 or 4 dozen we surfaced to sort them out and chuck back the little ones for another day.  We watched them hurtle over the head of yet another diver staggering ashore with a full bag so how long the 'secret site' will yield them in these numbers is debatable!  The weather had really gone down the tube by this time so it was back in the car with the suits on and off to the Inch.

The petrol attendant at the Inch accused us of cruelty as she filled the tank!  We decided to push the 'where can you wear a dry suit' lark further by entering the bar where we were served without question.  The trouble is after the second pint the lack of what is known as a courtesy zip on my suit helped me discover whether Steve was a true friend (my suit zips at the back).

Back at the hut a long session of scallop gutting ended in a truly fitting climax to the trip with a mega scallop meal.

Who's for the next trip? Next year weather permitting, an attempt will be made to dive the links in the Lower Traligill Traverse and revisit Northern Lights to push downstream.

Peter Glanvill August 1997

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

1996 - 1997 Committee

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers and good caving .... Jingles.


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

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


From the Belfry Table

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

MRO activities & lectures dates coming up are: -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that note, definitely time to leave the table!

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


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

By Alex Gee.


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

1)                  The support of the BRC membership.

2)                  The support of the Committee.

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

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

5)                  Enough serviceable tackle being available.

6)                  Adequate advertising for the day.

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

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

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

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


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

Cheers .... Alex Gee.


Priddy Folk Fayre

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

Acts include Friday:

Old Rope String Band,

Fred Wedlock,


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

Saturday features dance displays, craft fayre and the ever popular

'Festival of Mendip Talent'

(featuring many local musicians)


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

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

Plus more.

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

Tickets and info from Jingles. Or Bevis/Jacky


Dan and Stella Hasell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Ramblings In The Philippines

January 1997


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

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

9th January

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

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

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

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

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

11th January

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

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

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

12th January

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

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

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

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

13/14th January

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

Monday 20th January

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 21st

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

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

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

Wednesday 22nd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 24th

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 25th

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

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

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

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

Tuesdav 28th

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

Wednesday 29th

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

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

Thursday 30th

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

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

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

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

Friday 31st

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Extracts from the BEC Logbook

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

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

11.1.97 - Swildons                    Estelle, Nick, Guy, Mike Willett

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

11.1.97 - Eastwater                   Jeremy Dixon-Wright, Ben Ogborne

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

12.2.97 - North Hill Swallet                   Mike Willet & Goblet (Anthony Butcher)

No bad air because cave was very wet, so we were able to get to the end.  Nice sporting trip.  A good worthwhile dig at the end, if some sort of silt trap installed and if air breathable.  Would make good winter dig.

Jan - Feb 1997 - Dominican Republic              Rob Harper, Helen Harper

1 .        Cuevas los Patos - Los Patos, Barahona

Caves in cliff above river resurgence at beach level.

Large entrance and passage approx 30m in length leading to second entrance and several low crawls all ending in bat guano chokes.

Rift entrance above comes into roof of left about 10m in from 1st entrance

2.         Marble Cave, Cabo Samana

Single large chamber, approx 20x20x15m, easily visible from track. Possible high level extension over stal. flow approx. 10m up.  Needs ladder bolt.

There are other small caves in the area

3.         Los Haitises National Park

Three caves entered on standard tourist trip.  All stunning and well worth revisiting.

4.         Cueva del P***t, Parc Nacional del Este

Follow the track until it is no longer negotiable except on foot.  Then follow the only path and the wooden signs to the cave.

Entrance leads to 15x15m well decorated fossil passage to second entrance. Side passage to another entrance.

There is a continuation of the cave on the other side of the entrance depression.  All in all about 500m.

 (Transcribers note - apologies for any spelling errors, writing style most interesting)

09.02.97 - Wookey Hole                        Tim Chapman, Clive Steel

CS & TC carrying tanks to 24, TC dived terminal sump to 51.7m to gravel choke.  Time 5 % hours.

22.02.97 - Manor Farm                                     Nick Guymer, Mr Wilson, Mick Wilson

Trip to NASA Gallery dig. Quite wet. Formations in good condition.  Farmer still in charge of entrance fees.  Time 2 % hours

01.03.97 - Stoke Lane Slocker              Becca Campbell, Mike Willett, Guy Mannings, Nick Mitchell

Water fairly high and f . .f . .f . .freezing.  Formations stunning.  Secca's first trip down and Mike Willett very helpful in sump.  Especially when he tried to drain it for her!  Very good trip, enjoyed by all.  Time: Approx 2 hours


Interim Hut Warden's Report


Submitted to the Members of the Club by Rebecca Campbell

I have decided to publish this report to the members of the Bristol Exploration Club on the grounds that there have been significant changes within the first six months of the club's current financial year.

January 1997 saw extensive work undertaken on the hut.  The floor was painted throughout.  Alpine bunks were installed in the bunkroom.  The kitchen gained a new sink and work surface, together with tiling around the sink area.

The response to this work has been very promising.  Visitors have commented on the comfort of the new bunks and the changes to the hut have instilled a greater degree of cleanliness in its users.

I must offer my thanks to the individuals who gave up not just 2 weekends, but in some cases long hours during the two weeks the work took to complete.  Special thanks go to Richard Blake, Ivan Sandford (Hut Engineer), Nick Mitchell and Alex Gee (Librarian), who painted the Bertie Bat.

The Hut Engineer and myself intend to continue improving the hut, throughout our terms of office.  We would be grateful if any club members can procure the following items:

Kitchen work surfaces for completion of the kitchen Microwaves

Fridges of standard size for fitted kitchens

Shelving wood for constructing a large rucksack kit storage unit in the bunkroom

Dry stone walling stone

Large wall mounted water heater

Please contact us if you have any of the above and we can arrange collection, if necessary. Suggestions by all members for improvements to the hut are more than welcome. (Tel: 01749674795)

Ivan Sandford mentioned the withdrawal of visiting cavers from Mendip generally in his annual report last year.  To add to this dilemma our active Mendip caving members have continued to move into the immediate area, which as can be seen from the table below has had a fairly catastrophic effect on the income from Members.





























Day Fees







CCC Permits







Cuthbert’s Fees








71. 04













Fig 1. Table displays hut usage during the first 6 months of the 1996/97 period together with comparative figures based on the hut usage for the first six months of 1995/96.

In the circumstances, the committee made a decision to raise Hut Fees by more than the R Dors Index. The new rates are:

Members (sleeping indoors or outside)                 £ 2.00

Non-Members - Indoor accommodation                £ 3.50

Non-Members - Outdoor accommodation             £ 2.50

Reciprocal Club Members                                   As per BEC Members

These new fees will come into effect as of Sunday 9 March 1997.

I know that this is a large increase, but there has been no increase in the level of fees for some years and inflation alone accounts for much of the amount.

I should also like to take this opportunity to request that more of the more mature members, and that means all of you, considered staying at the Belfry instead of driving home and abstaining on the booze at the weekends.  To bring the current level of income up to last year's totals, I (being a very sad accountancy type person) have calculated that we need to attain an average level of 15 member nights per week and 11 guest nights per week, for the last six months of the year.

On the other hand, I must stipulate that the hut will remain, as in the past, a cavers' caving hut. Children under 16 (actually, not mentally) are not welcome without prior arrangement with myself.

I am in the process of addressing the hut's marketing strategy and although I can guarantee that this will remain a bad year for the Belfry, I hope to increase the property's future prosperity significantly for the 1997/98 season.

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

1996 - 1997 Committee

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



So .... here is a rush release BB for you all. Some of you will have only just received the previous two issues, for this I apologise as there have been problems with the distribution which, touch wood, are now sorted out.

I have had various problems this year but will be able to keep to if not better my intended target of 4 issues as minuted at the AGM last year.  What would be nice is some help from people instead of the constant criticism and hindrance that I am coming across with monotonous regularity.

Publishing the BB is a very time consuming excessive ... as next years editor will no doubt discover. This is made no easier by members sitting on articles as I know some are doing.  Even less helpful is the backbiting that's been going on.

Well I can put you out of your misery by announcing that I don't wish to continue as Editor next year.. .. Full details will be in my end of year report and I will see to it that there is at least one more BB this year even if I have to write the whole thing myself.

The people I am referring to here know who they are .... a shame the majority of membership doesn’t…my message is simple…..grow up!!!   Enough said.

There are plans for a tidying up / working weekend in the early part of August details to be confirmed at the next committee meeting.  The shed and general area are in need of some care and attention to say the least so all help will be appreciated.  I daresay there may be a pig roast or piss-up of some kind afterwards.

Its been fairly quiet at the Belfry recently and I understand that bed nights are down so the Club could do with the presence of some of you .... be nice to see some faces we haven't for a while anyway.

Lastly, sadly for those that don't know Rob Palmer passed away as the result of a diving accident recently.  Although not a BEC member Rob was known to many of us and had often visited the Belfry over the years.

Our condolences go out to his family.  See also article within.

That's it for now as I have to run to the printers now ...

Take it easy ...... Jingles.


From the Belfry Table

An Apology

I start with a full and unreserved  apology to David IRWIN.

In my last BELFRY TABLE article I sought to give publicity as requested by Dave IRWIN, to a new Mendip Cave Bibliography.

In error, I misinformed the readership by stating that the work was being published by Dave IRWIN.  From our conversation, I cannot explain how I came to assume, that as he was a major contributor to the work, he was indeed the Publisher, a title which I meant purely as a loose description to publicise the work in the space available in my article.  David has telephoned me recently and strongly pointed out my error and advises that the work is published by "The Mendip Registry", and it is to these persons that I also apologise for giving the credit to the wrong person. I am sorry for the distress.  David has apparently suffered, and did not realize the sensitivity attached to this issue.

Nominations For The 1997-1998 Committee:-

As Secretary, I now formally call for nominations in writing for candidates for the election of the 1997-1998 BEC Committee, for the AGM on Saturday 4th. October.

Nominations must be in writing, and be seconded by another BEC Member.  Only paid-up members are eligible, and to make it clear as I have often been asked, probationary members are eligible to stand.   Nominations must be received by the Secretary by Friday 5th September.  (Also this is the date of the Sept. Committee meeting).  To both comply with the Constitution and enable me to organise and circulate any ballot papers if an election is required. [Canst:5bl]

 (Jeff PRICE our Caving Secretary is the only member standing down, and all the remaining members automatically are re-nominated to stand again).

AGM & ANNUAL DINNER, Saturday 4th. October 1997:-


The DINNER this year will be held at Bristol University Vet School, Langford House, Langford.  Just a short hop from Burrington Coombe for those of you who are lost off the Hill!  Details to be published later, or speak to me.


Congratulations yet again to Jay-Rat and his team, now well across the road and under the Forestry at Five BuddIes, Well Done!


At time of writing, White Pit is about to go again albeit foul air is causing a major problem to the small band of diggers.  There is some talk on the hill that the increased use of P.E.T.N cords being responsible [See article}.


Andrew Sparrow is to be congratulated for his professional and most excellent latest work. Published by the Crowood Press Ltd, and written by Andrew this valued book runs to 192 pages.  He obviously has put much work and great effort into this volume, and its contents start with 'The Formation of Caves' through the varied subjects of getting started and trip preparation, equipment, techniques, hazards, emergencies, leadership, exploration, mines, cave diving, photography, etc, and end with a chapter on where to cave, further reading, bibliography, glossary and index.

The articles are well depicted in the line drawings of Annette Findlay, and in the main, the photographs of Paul Stillman with contributions from Chris Howes and Clive Westlake.

The book is written in an authoritative but readable manner, and avoids the dryness of many other manuals. My only comment, and I appreciate cost had a bearing on this, it is a shame that it was not printed in a hard back edition, perhaps when he re-prints?

A nice touch is Andrew’s generous acknowledgements to those who assisted him, and his dedication of the book to his wife Joanna.

Available from good bookshops and Bat Products at Wells, "The Complete Caving Manual" Copyright Andrew Sparrow, is available as a soft bound edition and retails at £14-99. Published by The Crowood Press Ltd, ISBN Number: 1 861260229.


This event postponed from May will now be held at Westbury Quarry, courtesy of Pioneer Aggregates Ltd, on Saturday 19th.July 1997.  Starting at 10.00, numbers will be limited, for further details contact Dany Bradshaw or the organiser Nigel Taylor.  The technical day, intends to cover the placement of anchors in other types of rock, such as Box stone sandstones, and Conglomerates / Draycott stone.  These will later be attacked with explosives to give the users an idea of the effective quantities required for such work. A special non-explosive rock breaking device will also be demonstrated by a commercial firm. Offers of assistance will be welcomed.

Please Note: Hard Hats & Suitable safety footwear mandatory.


Same date as above, and starting at 3.00pm, this should run on after the Westbury event, so there is no clash, why not attend both, details of course from the Little people, to whom I extend my condolences in advance!


The Committee depressed by the dilapidated state of the Belfry and site will host a clean-up on the above date.  WILL YOU HELP? IF NOT, WHY NOT? NO HELP ... NO MOAN!!!!!.

Well at long last, that's all for this month, can I leave the table now please?

Nigel Taylor, Hon. Secretary, 1996/7.  Belfry Table No. 20, Saturday 5th. July 1997.


Swimming! in St Cuthbert’s.

Over the past year various trips to Lake Chamber have been undertaken by myself, Mike O'Driscoll, Pete Mulholland and Adrian Hall.

The object of the exercise was to re-examine the passages and terminal sump on the other side of the lake.

What was surprising was the amount of flak and piss taking this has engendered.  Yes we may well be reinventing the wheel here ... but so what. People still climb Everest...and go to the North Pole ... "Because its there!" ... so why not us .... besides you never know .... you might find something.

About a year ago Mike, Pete and I went down and laid a dive line through the lake in order to belay high up on the far bank to assist the climb on that side. It is steep and very muddy so with a hand line is accessible in low water conditions.

I returned a couple of months later when the water was low and was able to free dive/duck through without tanks and got into the high level series on the far side. The ascent is very muddy and tube like.  Ascending 15 odd feet up past a loose squeeze round a boulder into a small chamber. There is an aural connection to the passages on the other side of the lake but this is very tight indeed and also quite pretty so I wouldn't try it.  Heading off to the left along the obvious route a narrow rift is reached. This time I turned back here as I’d only gone down to pick up my bottle anyway.

I returned twice over the next few months and made some experimental dives but made no further progress, then again I wasn't really trying I was playing with kit configurations and this seemed a good excuse to go for a swim.

Nothing happened for some months then as I was away in Yorkshire and then had hassles that prevented much activity.

Late in June this year myself, Pete and Adrian returned along with a couple of others to do some photos and get to the end.  The water was surprisingly high and very cold but we got through the lake and de-kitted. It's a bloody awkward place to remove diving kit even with single rigs so much swearing was done.  We trogged up to the chamber and to the rift where I squeezed through a higher bypass and gained entry to the last rift.  Ten feet along a very muddy passage ... tight too it opened out on the left to a descending rift 15 feet wide by 6 feet across and about 25 feet deep down to the water surface.  A great site ... a beautiful blue green sump pool; clear enough to see ten or so feet down into.  We all agreed it had "dive me" firmly emblazoned across the surface.

Up until now I have been unable to ascertain whether this has been dived before .. .it is recorded in the Cuthbert’s Report and looks like it was surveyed in the early seventies. I can't remember the names of the two concerned offhand but nobody seems to know what happened to them (any info gratefully received).

We plan to go back in the near future and dive .... even if only to have done it.

Looking down on the sump pool and at the survey it appears to go down then off to the right and depending on water levels my guess would be a depth of about 5m ish.  We will need to have a double rig for the diver for safety reasons but it’s not too bad a kit hump anyway.

As I said at the beginning we are not really fussed if someone has been in there before as its great fun anyway .... and it keeps you in practice.

I'll write some more up when we've done the next dive ...... .Jingles.


"Foul Air in Cave Digs. in which Explosives cords are used as an excavation agent"

As mentioned in my earlier "From The Belfry Table" Article, WHITE PIT diggers are experiencing considerable foul air problems.  There has been talk upon Mendip that cave exploration techniques involving explosives may be a contributory factor to this problem.

Foul air has long been a diggers nightmare, on Mendip, digs such as North Hill swallet, or Sanctimonious Passage in Hunters Hole and other such sites have produced large volumes of carbon monoxides, often exacerbated by the ingress of cowsh and sewerage giving rise to C02 and other noxious gases.  So the problem is not new, but, has some other activity now brought further hidden dangers to the cave-digger?

Are the plastic coated Explosive detonating cords now in regular use amongst the 'Bosch drill' brigade of cave diggers contributing to a new off-shoot of the problem?

These, detonated in the dig at White Pit at regular intervals may perhaps be the cause of plastic coating residues or gases combining with the muds in the dig spoil, and leaving residual gases other than standard Carbon Monoxides and Dioxides. It has been sensibly suggested by Vince Simmons that someone from the scientific side of the sport might make a worthwhile study of this problem.  I am not aware of any commercial knowledge or data regarding this, other than that given below, and I also agree that such work is worthy of support. PETN itself is Cardio- Vascular depressive, and I wonder if this could be adding to the user’s problems?

Certainly the chemical compositions of the polymers often left exposed from their shotholes might contain benzenes and other such material, and the quantities being fired at two or three strands per hole, giving larger M.I.C (Maximum instantaneous charge) than the older method of single strand cord in smaller diameter shotholes, obviously gives a greater amount of such exposed material, in addition to the greater explosive content in grams/metre.

Detonating cords contain PETN as their explosive agent, Pentaerythritol tetranitrate [PEIN] is wrapped in polypropylene countering yarns, which is then overlaid by plastic sheathing.  The common such cord used in caving is a white coated 12gr cord made by ExChem Explosives, and sold by them and through ICI Explosives (Dia: 5mm, +\-0. 2mm,6, 500 m/sec).  It used to be of 10gr content but now this is not readily available.  It is also the industry "Standard" against which LEDC and HEDC are further classified.  HEDC, High Energy Detonating Cord, is encountered as 20gr, 40gr, 80gr and 100gr.  These weights being the actual explosive content of the particular cord in grams per metre LEDC  [Low energy detonating cord] is found as Pentaflex 6 cord, however this contains 3.5gr/metre and not 6gr!!  When initiated by a detonator, the cord achieves a V.O.D [Velocity of Detonation] of between 6,000 and 7,000 metres per second.

Generally on Mendip 12gr cords were the norm.  In recent years licence holders have been able to obtain both 20gr [Red/Blk],40gr [Brown,8.2mm dia+\-0.2mm, 7000m/sec] and 80gr [Yellow/Green dia: 11.2mm+\-0.4rnrn, 7000m/sec] weights.  Often two strands of 20gr and a strand of 12gr are used in the same shothole, giving a 52gr/metre MIC.

ExChem Explosives give advice in their excellent range of product literature as follows:

"When explosives are detonated in circumstances other than those recommended by the manufacturer, unacceptable levels of other noxious gases including Carbon Monoxide and the Oxides of Nitrogen may be produced"

The ExChem 'Safety Information Sheet EXP6 [Update 1.7.1993] states:

"Avoid contact with other materials, in particular acids and bases & organic & inorganic, powerful oxidising or reducing agents, ammonia, nitro phenols, sulphur, gunpowder and other mixtures containing divalent sulphur, which may cause decomposition of the explosive core".

And further under the heading VAPOURS':

"Vapours-No vapours, but excessive exposure to P.E.T.N powder should be avoided, since inhalation or ingestion could lead to headaches".

This last paragraph however to my mind suggests that this refers to pre-detonation and not post detonation.

I shall shortly confer with ExChem Explosives regarding the subject, but would welcome all and any comment on this important safety issue, and now seek to generate discussion and research on it as suggested by Vince Simmons.

Nigel Taylor. Bristol Exploration Club, and MIExpE [Saturday 5th. July 1997].

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

1996 - 1997 Committee

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

                               Estelle Sandford



Hello again, and a happy new year to one and all.

Well the cold weather is here again and Mendip has been rather quiet of late, of course that might have something to do with everyone being skint after Christmas though.  So consequently there's not a lot of news or gossip.

Congratulations go to Trevor Hughes and his new wife Kate, who were married on 21.12.96.  The event (??) was well attended by the caving fraternity and everybody got drunk what a surprise.  A brave woman it is indeed to attempt to tame the 'Biffo' good luck Kate.

As you will see from the previous page I have now moved to South Yorkshire (Gurney Slade in fact) and can be reached at that address.  I am also contactable via email..... as is the club, as those of you who surf the web will already know.

I am currently writing a BEC page for the WEB so that we will be visible via internet.  The Wessex beat us to it unfortunately, but what with all the revamping etc ... we will have something worthwhile to put up there.

Once again I am short of material for the BB and any contributions would be welcomed.  I recently heard a rumour that people are unwilling to supply articles as they feel that they are over edited.  I would just like to state that this is not the case, the greatest lengths I have ever been to is to correct speleling and grand mar when it are dun rong!!!  Given that as usual nobody says anything to me, I can only take this with a pinch of salt, but please rest assured it is not the case.

Jeff Price informs me that there is to be a regular series of 'led' club trips.  These will be publicised in the BB and also posted at the Belfry.  The Committee would encourage any members, particularly newer ones, to participate in these events.  A common complaint is that the BEC never goes caving .... just digging. (Okay okay I know we are an exploration club and all that. .. but we can still go caving.)

Alex Gee has now moved to the area, the latest in a long line of 'immigrants' to Mendip .... who'll be next we wonder. I believe he has set up camp in the Library at present! ! ! ! ! !! (NOT!!)

Guess that's it for now ..... see Y'all around ..... Jingles.


Temporary Belfry Closure.

The Belfry will be closed to members and visitors from Saturday 18th January to Sunday 26th January due to refurbishment. During this period there will be no access to the premises. Alternative arrangements should be made with the Shepton or Wessex clubs.

These refurbishments to the hut are to improve the standards therein.  Ideas for alterations were taken from members who expressed a willingness to participate in the work.

The hut floor is to be coated throughout with a tough epoxy resin designed to withstand farmyard conditions.  (Which is probably quite appropriate given the number of 'animals' there are in the BEC .. !!!)

The aim is to improve the general atmosphere of the hut by joining the two bunkrooms into one and including alpine style bunks in order to increase the bed capacity.  In the past we have lost bookings as there have been insufficient bed spaces available and thus we have been unable to accommodate. Three single bunks will remain for those that do not wish to sleep in the alpine bunks.

Finally the club now possesses a spin dryer which extracts most of the water from wet kit.  This will be installed in the changing room. We hope these measures together with the planned alterations to the kitchen will make the hut more welcoming and successful in 1997 and beyond.


From the Belfry Table

I start by wishing all members and their partners a happy New Year 1997!

A further welcome to two new members, Ben Ogboume, and Jeremy Dixon-Wright, both of whom, fresh from Wells Cathedral School, are off to Imperial College and Manchester Universities respectively.   Hopefully in turn they will encourage further new members!

Alex Gee has presented the Committee with an interesting "Discussion Document" Which follows on the AGM theme of New members and what can be done to attract them to the BEC.

Hopefully Alex will publish this letter in the BB. Here is a valid point, we must all try to come up with workable suggestions on this, or better still, each one of us should try to introduce at least one new young prospective member to the Club.  All caving clubs appear to be in the membership doldrums at this time, but as we embark upon our next sixty years, let us at least try.  Abusing a well known expression, "It will have been better to have tried, and not to contemplate failure, than not to try at all."

Five Buddles Dig:" Not such a sylvian scene", more a sinking feeling?  Jayrats valiant efforts to open cast the Miners Arms to Hunters road are progressing well.  Tony has just effected some smoke tests between this site and the Forestry Dig, I suspect the fumes were more correctly attributed to a motor car being swallowed down into his netherworld as it drove past the dig!  Seriously careful where you park!

The Christmas mail brought a cheerful newssheet from Bob & Mariyka Hill and family.  They are now living in Gabon, and mail can be sent via: "Mr. & Mrs R P& M Hill, Shell Gabon, ODE/12, P.O Box 10235, London, SWI9 3ZN.  They send their regards to all who remember them, and extend an open invite for "An African Experience".

On behalf of the BEC, can I also thank several Life members and most especially Merv Hannam for their (and his) most generous donation to club funds recently received.

The Belfry will be CLOSED From Sunday 19th. to Saturday 25th. January 1997, in order to effect a major revamp and tidy-up of the Hut.  No caving or use of the Hut will be available during this period.  I have been told that Alpine Bunks are now the rage, and that you all want them, and so the Female bunk-room which has doubled as a members bunk room for several years is to be demolished, thereby creating one large bunkroom.  I ask, is this Deja' vous?

Committee Meeting Dates for 1997 will be at 8.00pm, on the First Friday of each month.  No departure from this schedule is planned.

Unfortunately Rob Harper has resigned his post as Club Rescue Team Leader, and accordingly, if you are interested or can suggest someone else who fancies this position, please advise Hon. Secretary so it can be discussed at the next available meeting!

Similarity, Chris Smart has stated his intension not to stand again as Treasurer, so interested parties should make known their interest now.  Please take both of these notices as the" Official Club Notice"!

Jake-the-Rake?  Well, Jake of Barrow rake dig, reports with misty eyes that his dig is going!  Well, at least it is going down the dip, but perhaps the application of Dr. Nobels Linctus is the main culprit?

Regards, Nig. Taylor, Hon. Sec. 12th.January 1997.


Life After Reynolds?

I'd heard it described, of course.  And shivered disinterestedly in the way that you do when you hear a horror story that's exclusively someone else’s.  A comparative novice is safe from that sort of thing.  No one would dream of asking you even if you wanted to go.  It didn't occur to me to want to want to.

A bright spring day, a mini bus bouncing along the lane Charterhouse, and I'm hugely looking forward to the famed extremity.  Andy Sparrow, two chaps from Swansea and myself to survey Upper Reynolds and then Andy and I intending to follow Pete and Alison Moody and Richie Websall as they survey Lower Reynolds to the end.  Apart from hopefully establishing 'the deepest on Mendip' there's also a chance that the end, banged the previous weekend, might be wide open into the oft-imagined 'caverns measureless'.  Despite Richie's modest description of "the hardest trip I've ever done •••• I felt the bones creak ••• " I'm completely sumped with unwary enthusiasm.

My first visit to Longwood. Straight down to the bottom end of the streamway with P and A long invisible in front.  We arrive there so quickly that parts of my mind are still up on the surface with the sheep and the clouds and the sunshine.  Start to survey next to a sign saying 'DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DIVERT THE STREAM OR YOU MAY DROWN PARTIES BEYOND'.  Upper Reynolds is naturally awkward and I've hardly settled down before our clyno packs up.  Andy and I are perfectly happy to leave surveying and go after the other three. A few feet above the vertical slot known as Fanny's rift (the end of the cave before P and A's four year effort. Before that there was only the famous story about the Portsmouth midget.  What a fine imagination someone has) the Swansea types decide that this isn't their particular brand of masochism and leave to seek the rest of their party elsewhere in the cave.

Leaving our survey gear and the traditional Mars bars at the top Andy and I slide briskly down the few feet into the larger space below.  Vague surprise to see two helmets left at the bottom but press on keenly; head first, right hand side into a slot a foot or so wide at the bottom and two or three high.  Slightly downhill and narrowing from the top so we're soon lying down; quite easy progress despite the bang debris.  In the widest places it's just possible to lie flat.  Overall getting steadily tighter but friendly surveying voices are not far beyond.  Harder to turn my head to see the Sparrow wellies a couple of feet in front and it's beginning to feel like a serious undertaking.  The sunshine well forgotten by now but just another caving trip; after all, I expected it to be tight.  Andy’s taking off his cell; do the same when I’m in a wider bit.

Up with the others and Richie says he thinks he'll give the end a miss this week.  (Afterwards I'm to wonder, quite seriously, how on earth he managed it the first time.)  We pass Richie by wriggling over him as he lies out flat in one of the 'wider' stretches. Anywhere else it would be funny as our noses meet but nobody laughs.  Richie smiles but then he faces towards out.  When he's clear from under me I take off ~~ helmet and put my cell in it; it's unlikely that my head will go into the next stretch otherwise.  In the narrowing crack above the mud covered bang wire mutely reminds the imagination that the whole passage floods to the roof.

Fifteen feet away Andy is just reaching the first duck and beyond Alison’s voice offers cheerful suggestions.  As far as I am concerned she could be on another planet.  To turn my head and look back would be impossible.  Confidence is evaporating and determination is being forced to work hard.  Four inches is a good pull and I suddenly realise that I'm panting stertoriously through hard gritted teeth.  It's not important.  Moving about a foot a minute.

Not really a duck at all but enough water to remember the mud in the roof.  Nonetheless an almost comfortingly large space; on through and into the slot in front.  Arm aching from pushing that cell along and I'm wishing fervently that I'd left the helmet back with Pete and Alison's that we so casually passed by.  The cell keeps falling out frustratingly and I’d leave the helmet here and now if I'd then be able to pass it.  Impossible to reach back and put it behind me.  Continuous squeezing for up to twenty feet at a stretch and the wider spaces between would pass for a squeeze anywhere else.  I'm pressed on both sides like the fly between the two sheets of glass and fighting down the panicky feeling that I can't move, that I'm trapped, and I keep telling myself that I can move, I am moving; I wriggled in there and I can wiggle out.  Panic rises again and I force it back firmly.  Andy's a little further ahead of me now and I do not want to be left behind.  Andy's voice carries genuine anguish and he obviously feels much like I do. "Bloody cell.  Bloody cell!"

Another lifetime and another twenty foot squeeze.  Inch by inch sharp edges tiny fossiles just in front of my eyes.  Having a helmet with me seems utterly ridiculous; I couldn't move my head enough to bang it even if I could get the thing on.  Sheep, clouds; even our Mas bars have ceased to exist except as a dim memory.  My whole being taken up with the next six inches.

All nightmares come to an end eventually and from somewhere in front I can hear Andy reaching the larger section at the end.  I'm downright angry with him for getting there first and leaving me still stuck in here. Except that I’m not stuck of course and finally at last I'm up to the squirt where a neat spout of water pours down on my head as I drag myself out of the horrible into the huge.  It's far from huge; twenty feet high and at the most about eighteen inches wide.  The stream foams away along the floor and would indeed carry off my cell if I let it. I've dropped my belt somewhere but I couldn't care less.  A few feet of semi-crawl under some jammed boulders to the angled constriction known as the Slot.  Andy's standing up on the far side but despite my determination to be stood next to him the slot proves very awkward and even more narrow.  (Here Richie heard his bones creak; Pete and Alison had to pull him through.)  For me breathing out does the trick and I'm finally standing next to Andy, the rock still very black, very sharp and very muddy right up to the roof.  He looks pale but his eyes are bright; he has to raise his voice above the noise of the stream. "If it goes anywhere after this they ought to call it 'Life after Death Series'.

The rift is still too narrow for us to pass one another.  There doesn't much point in crouching down and being climbed over so we shunt along to the end, Alison leading.  A very sharp left hand turn and there's Pete banging about with a lump hammer. Below, a sump pool in the width of the rift; above, a broken edged hole blocked by rocks and gravel beyond.  Any attempt to dig would bring the whole lot down on the digger so we shunt back round the corner to catch our breath before the return.  Upper Reynolds is two hundred feet and over an hour away.

I'd just through the slot when P and A decide that they'd like to go back first to survey the bit we missed and establish a depth.  They ask us if we'd take the lump hammer back with us but we politely refuse.  They don't press the point.  The next moment they're through the Slot and overtaking me by going above the jammed boulders through a hole I've just discounted as being too small.  They're so relaxed that the place ceases to look awkward even in my eyes; I feel much happier about it all now anyway having done it all once.  Even so, I take a deep breath to 'gain composure' and the hole I have to force myself into hasn't actually got any wider.  Pete and Alison are disappearing into the distance at a pace that's difficult to believe.  At that moment Andy calls out from behind that his cell has failed, and a few moments later that he's suddenly realised how ill he feels.  No wonder he looked so pale just now.  I wriggle on to a point where I can hold my light up and shine it back towards him, and then rest happily until he's almost up to me; moving on each time so that he can rest in the 'wider' bit. After seventy feet or so like this I can actually look back towards him when I'm holding my light up.  Despite the problems things are far better than they were on the way in; one interesting moment when I drop my cell into the duck pool and it disappears completely.  It's easily found again by feel and the retreat goes on.

The wide open spaces of Fanny's rift and the sound of Pete, Alison and Richie surveying comes from above. Our mars bars are the immediate target; it's over two and a half hours since we left them and we've moved a total of about four hundred feet.  We spent about ten minutes at the far end.

Slowly behind the others as they survey back to the stream, and then the rest of the cave just like part of the walk back to the car except that by the time we reach the surface I'm flailing away like a man asleep.  In the back of Richie's mini-van Andy and I are virtual zombies.  Good hot shower followed by food; I'm still exhausted but completely on top of the world.  I might even want to go again.  If asked.

This article was written by Andy Cave .... quite some years ago.  As I recall it was about his third proper caving trip or something similar. Talk about a baptism by fire.

The lad evidently hasn't learnt the lesson yet as he still insists on jetting off to parts foreign in search of ever more life threatening situations.  Still I guess it beats the hell out of growing old gracefully.  Why bother when you can do it disgracefully.


Knots and Stuff

The Bowline

The Bowline Knot is one of the most used loop knots.  This variant is most used in the world.  Probably due to its simplicity, security and its relationship with the Sheet bend. Keep the cross point in step A between a finger and thumb and make a clock-wise turn with your wrist.  Without the loop between it is the same knot.

If the loop is expected to be heavily loaded the bowline is in fact not secure enough.  There is a rule of thumb which states that the loose end should be as long as 12 times the circumference for the sake of safety.

The Dutch Marine Bowline / or The Cowboy Bowline

Only the Dutch Marine uses this variant of the bowline.  And, of course the Dutch Marine sailor says this one is superior. The loose end is not so easily pushed back by accident, they say.  Until I see a proof in favour of one or the other, I think it is just a difference in culture.

The Dutch also tie this with a loose end as long as 12 times the circumference for safety.

Double Figure-of-eight loop.

Double eight is a knot used by climbers.  It is easy to tie and safe as the bowline.  There is a discussion if there should be a stopper at the end of the loose end or not.  Speed of (un)tying is a safety factor itself.

The first way of tying is equal to the way of tying the Flemish eight, but now in a double rope. The 'loose-end' is the loop.  This way is only applicable when the loop is 'empty' during tying.

The Double Figure-of-eight loop

If the loop is to be tied round something (your self for instance) you first tie an eight then lay the loop and double the eight.  It is important to have enough rope for the loop.  It requires experience, so start practising.


The figure-of-nine knot can be used as an alternative to the figure-of-eight.  It is very similar to a figure-of-eight with just an extra turn before finishing the knot.  It is a little bulkier than the figure-of-eight but has greater strength. Strength: 70% (normal), 55% (abnormal)

Caving Knots


This can be used for tying a rope around a belay but is most often used for tying the end of a safety line rope around a person when belaying them up a climb or ladder.

This knot does have a tendency to loosen and can come undone so it is a good idea to use a half hitch to secure the "tail" of the knot to the loop. Strength: 50% (normal)

Yosemite Bowline

This is a variant of the basic bowline which gets around the problem of the knot loosening itself by taking the end of the rope and threading it back through the knot.  This is a neat alternative to using a half-hitch to secure the end of the rope and the resulting knot has the strength of a figure of eight.

Alpine Butterfly

A good knot for rebelays or for tying rub points out of a rope.  Its main advantage is that the two strands of rope emerging from the knot are at 180 degrees to one another rather than emerging in the same direction as in a figure-of-eight for example.  This makes it a good mid-rope knot and good for rebelays because it has greater strength than a figure-of-eight if the rebelay fails.

Double Figure-of-eight on the bight

This double loop knot is most commonly used for rigging V-belays.  The nature of the knot means that it is reasonably easy to adjust the loops by moving rope from one of the loops to the other.

Prusik knots

A classic prusik knot is shown on the left, and a Kleimheist prusik knot on the right. Either of these, along with other prusik knots, can be used to prusik up a rope.  The rope used for the prusik-loop should be a fair bit thinner than the rope to be climbed.

The Constrictor Hitch

The constrictor knot is important as temporary whipping and as permanent binding from which you need more than on in a row, but not in line (when you should use the strangle knot). Laid well, it is virtually impossible to untie without tools (needle or knife).  Never use it if you need to untie it. It is almost the strongest among the 'simple' hitches. Only the double constrictor is stronger.  Because the constrictor may be tied in a bight, it is often preferred over the strangle knot.

Laid in the bight, it is possible to use the constrictor virtually everywhere where a permanent hitch is needed. In fact, it is my favourite permanent hitch.

One of the best applications for this knot is the temporary whipping of rope strands during marlin spiking. With one yarn, you easily can whip more than one strand at the time.  Once tied, you pull them strong all at once.

When you cannot place the knot around the object after the knot is formed, you have to tie it round the object.  This may be difficult if you did not leave enough room to put the end through.

For tying a fence rope, you can tie the constrictor in this interesting way. It allows working it up with to one end while you maintain a limited force on the other end.  So, you easily make a straight rope fence (As long as your posts stand firm)

The Constrictor Knot

The Transom Knot

The Transom Knot (Constrictor)

Tied this way the constrictor is an excellent cross knot, called the Transom Knot. (I used it for my kite when I was a kid).  If you want to secure it, use two closely laid overhand knots in both ends, or simply use a good kit or glue.  An extra knot above this knot does not have much effect. If more strength is required, tie another Transom Knot on the back.

The Transom Knot (Marlin) 


Tied this way the Marline Hitch is an even better cross-knot as the previous version of the Transom. It is not possible for the half-knot to work itself between both rods where it is not held by the overlaying rope. Therefore, it is a better cross knot than the constrictor-version of the Transom.  (Thanks for the comment!  I wish I knew this as a kid.  On the other hand I did not have any trouble with the constrictor version.  But I agree this is better.)

The Noose

The strangle-knot is an excellent knot to be used a running knot for a snare.  The pull is easy adjusted.  The more force is applied from inside the loop the more firmly the running knot prevents opening of the loop.

The Scaffold knot or Gallows Knot.

The third noose is based on the Multifold-Overhand-knot.  As its second name already suggests it has a dark history. It is also used as a knot to tie angles to fish line.

Never play hangman. It can really kill.

The Scaffold knot or Gallows Knot.

The Hangman's Knot.

This knot is used for the gallows as well.  The force to close it is adjusted better as with the gallows knot.  And because it is bigger in the neck it is believed to break the neck more easily.  That would make it more merciful as the gallows-knot witch kills by strangling. The Hangman is also used as a knot to tie angles to fish line.

Never play hangman. It can really kill.

The Hangman's Knot

The Reverse Eight-noose.

This is (so far) the only 'wrong' running noose I know.   Applications for it to tie a package and ... for tying YoYo's.  Experts use one loop to make it possible to let the yoyo spin on the end and to call it up with a little firm pull.  The yoyo has to spin fast and the noose has to be trimmed carefully. Starters use two loops and tie it firmly.

Use eventually an overhand-knot on the cross-marked ends.

The Reverse Eight-noose

The Multifold-Overhand-knot

If you make more than two turns in the overhand knot it will be fatter.  (But hardly stronger.)  In twined rope it is important to work up the knot very carefully.  (It will not only look neater, it will prevent ‘kinking’ which will weaken the rope even more!)

The (Flemish) Eight

This knot is larger, stronger and more easy to untie than the overhand knot.  It does not harm your rope as much the overhand knot does.  So therefore sailors use this knot in most cases. (! not for bend support, where the smaller overhand is used, or in rope, a permanent small stopper).

Knots on the end of a rope or yarn.

There are a lot of situations where you need a knot like this.  Every application has its own special demands for knot properties.  So you have to choose carefully.  You can use a stopper to prevent a rope or yarn from unfolding, but please do that only in cheap rope/yam.  Use a proper whipping in all other cases.

The Overhand Knot

The Overhand Knot or Half Knot

This is the simplest knot. Therefore probably the most used. The knot is very useful to support knots in yarns.  The loose ends become a bit thicker.  When this support makes the total bend too bulky you have to look for another bend. The overhand knot is not strong, so you do not use it in situations where you might expect great force.  It also reduces the strength of the rope or yarn by about 50%.  But as an "anti-slip-knot" it does not have to withstand a lot.

The Double Overhand knot

The double overhand knot is beautiful, thicker than the common overhand knot, but not any stronger. Only use it with caution.  The double overhand knot is also called the blood knot if it is used at the end of a whip.  This knot has several ways of tying and in principle two ways of working up. Both ways of tying shown here also show both results.    The blood knot shown in the middle is the preferred way of working up the second way of tying marked with the crosses.  The blood knot is very hard to untie after it has been under stress.  If you put an object through the cross-marked hole the knot will work up as the strangle knot.  It is useful to learn this way.


Blasts from the Past

Some entries from club logs of yore!! no order at all!!)

24.3.63 Goatchurch  M. Palmer

Mike and three weegies, spent a very pleasant afternoon thrutching around in Goatchurch!?!?! - found one stray dog (presumably not a weegie??) - which was escorted to Wells Police station.

17.2.79 Swildon's 9  C. Batstone, A Jarratt.  4hrs 50mins.

Intentions were to dive to 12 and attempt to re-climb Victoria Aven.  Sadly the fair.  (What???) Batspiss was struck by Pox at the 20 and exited honking and farting.  AJ continued in lonely fashion;  deposited 100' of rope and diving kit and free dived back out, suffering light pox from sump 1 to entrance.  Lost diving knife somewhere beyond 1.  (Reward).

Millions of evil shrimps lurking in the stream way FROM 4 onwards.  Incidentally it takes 20 seconds to free dive sump 3 and also 20 seconds for sump 2.  Interesting porn photo in St John's Bell!!!

5.8.72 Swildon's Hole   M. Waller, McAnus, J. Durston, Bazza. 1.5hrs

Down to sump 2 leaving Martin and McAnus there.  Bazza and myself went through sump 2 for the first time.  It is about three miles long and takes about 10 hours to pass!!! Excellent trip.

13.8.72 Stoke Lane Slocker   J. Durston & 3 PCG.  2 hrs.

Gentle wander down to see Queen Victoria, diving the renowned crystal clear waters of sump 1 en route.  Most enjoyable.

P.S. Can anyone recommend a good grot removing shampoo??!!

26.11.72   Coral Cave   Tim Large, Nigel Taylor, Basset, Chris Howell.

This must rate as THE outstanding official club trip of the year because ...   a) six persons other than the leader actually started, b) we actually DID go caving!!!

25.8.88 Wookey Hole Trebor, Stumpy, P. Brooke, 

Wookey 20.   Looked at 20.   Looked Okay!!   Nice one.

22.11.80 R Payne. Swildon's Hole   Quackers, Batspiss, Biffo, D. Glover, E. Gosting, P. Crawley, 40' and 20' pots ....

The above people having nothing better to do decided to go down the dreadful Swildon's via the forty and watch the weegies.  Descended the forty in the classic manner with the requisite amount of Anglo Saxon expletives.  Went downstream to the twenty where we met Don Vesper & Bill Matthews who invited us to the MCG for beer. This curtailed any further thoughts of serious spaeleology - which wasn't the original intent anyway.  Returned back up the forty and out via the old grotty and long dry way - much to Pete's disillusionment as this lovely piece of passage seems to have grabbed his parts that other passages don't reach!!!  Time 1.5 hrs .... Bring back the forty!! !

From the frontispiece of the '60 - '61 logbook ....

"Why write illegibly in this log, when with some care, you could be .... BLOODY INDECIPHERABLE??

26.8.61 Nine Barrows Swallet   P.M. Giles, P. Franklin,  'MO'

.......... SHORING!!  (Ring any bells Jarratt?????)

6.8.88   Lionel's Hole  Brian Hippy, Stuey, Steve, Jingles.

The 'Try to find the round trip' trip.

Great muddy fun on a sunny day.  Got to end of Bishops Bypass after countless wrong turnings and dead ends.  Steve, having no oversuit (he'd had an oversuit oversight!!) was soaked, cold and very pissed off.  So we turned round and went out again ... not realising it would have been easier going to carry on!!!

25.8.88 Swildon's Hole. Trevor, Snab, Dave Shand & a multitude of Germans.

A scattered ramble in the vague region of Swildon's 1 as far as the sump, Barnes Loop and other such places ... trying to explain that we were meant to be going round Wookey Hole.

4.5.89 Daren Cilau  Gonzo, Tony Boycott et al.

A 'Doctor's opinion of rescue possibilities' trip to the sump with an overnight stop at Hard Rock. Verdict....  Don't break a leg or you won't come out....But we knew that already!!!

11.2.60 Lamb Leer Cavern  G. Pointing, D. Paddy, J. Giles

Photographic(!) (Without side lighting) to the cave of falling waters.  Met a party of MNRC tribesmen who put on the winch for us, exceeding the 30m.p.h. limit!!!!

11.6.61 ACHTUNG!!

This page is reserved for Mr F. Darbon’s account of the Swildon's II OP Jun 17 1961 (later added in pencil) ... Well .. We’re still waiting!! (There is no further entry on this page)

12.12.82            Swildon's Hole Batspiss, Edric, P. Hodgson.

Sunday afternoon bimble down to sump 1.  Cave was a trifle aqueous to say the least.  Edric was quite impressed with his new wetsuit - even to the extent of going through sump 1, which was covered in a layer of evil shitty foam ...... ???????