Less well-known than many of Mendip’s other
major cave systems, St. Cuthbert’s Swallet offers much to those whose
interest extends beyond mere sporting activity. Not only does it
contain fine pitches and streamways but it has numerous large chambers,
some beautifully decorated, intricate phreatic mazes and up to seven
It is without doubt Mendip’s most complex cave system
and, not generally realised, it contains perhaps the finest and
greatest variety of formations in the area. Among its displays are
found magnificent calcite groups such as the ‘Curtains’, ‘Cascade’,
Gour Hall with its 20ft high gour, ‘The Beehive’, Canyon Series and the
‘Balcony’ formations in September Chamber, all of which are without
peer in the country. There are also superb mini-formations including
floating calcite crystals, over twenty nests of cave pearls, and
delicate fern-like crystals less than four millimetres long; a variety
that few other caves can boast.
Access is strictly controlled by the Bristol
Exploration Club. Conservation was the prime reason for wishing to
control access to the cave. To achieve this aim it was decided by the
BEC at their 1955 Annual General Meeting to introduce a leader system.
St. Cuthbert’s Swallet was one of the first caves in the country to be
so protected. This action has often been the centre of controversy.
However, the fact remains that, after fifty years, the cave is
essentially still in pristine condition and proven justification for
the leader system.