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THE BELFRY BULLETIN Vol. 1. No.5 July 1947

THE BELFRY BULLETIN Vol. 1. No.5 July 1947

This is the First report of the new discovery in Stoke Lane Swallet. This will, I think, be one of the most important on Mendip for some considerable time. The report of the ‘Trap Divers’ will follow soon. _______________________________ STOKE LANE SWALLET By P.M. BROWNE Browne’s Passage An exploration party from Bruton, led by myself, made an important cave discovery in Stoke Lane Swallet, one of the least know caverns on Mendip. The members of the party were P.M. BROWNE, D. SAGE AND T.H. UMEACH. During the three hours of our exploration we had the luck to be the discoverers of a new and very interesting series of low tunnels and encrusted grottoes, totalling about 250 feet in length. This new system, now known as Brown’s Passage, doubles back upon the known cave and thereby introduces several very interesting hydrology problems, which I trust will be solved in the near future. Immediately after the discovery I arranged an expedition with the Club for the following Saturday. Accordingly the second party to enter the extension, consisting of D.A. COASE, R.A. SETTERINGTON and I, arrived at the little village of Stoke Lane at about 3.00pm on June 7th. During the preceding four days a considerable amount of rain had fallen on the surrounding land and so, on arriving at the cave mouth, we found the volume of water entering it to be far greater than it had been on the previous trip. In normal weather the entrance of the swallet is dry, or nearly so, but that day the water was thundering over the boulders and pouring into the narrow opening, and on into the darkness beyond. All being in readiness for the adventure I abandoned all thoughts of personal comfort for the following four hours and crawled into the uninviting gateway, to the strange world under the hills. Within a few seconds I was forming an admirable substitute for a leaky drain-pipe, with icy water pouring up the legs of my boiler suit and emerging by means of vents and other outlets somewhere above the knees. A sudden step enabled us to stand in a narrow keyhole shaped passage, in which the stream foamed and boiled around our feet. Suddenly the passage widened and lowered forcing us to crawl along an arch shaped tunnel of a type very characteristic of this cavern. On the floor the stream flowed through a series of muddy, leech infested pools. At about 30ft. from the entrance the roof rose slightly and we found ourselves on the brink of a large swiftly flowing stream, the main stream of the cavern, coming in from our right. Crawling in the water beneath a low arch we entered a long, narrow rift at the end of which was the first chamber. The murmuring river flowed through the chamber and vanished under a huge boulder at the far end. Looking back along the rift by which we entered this place we saw the lights from the rear of the party beautifully reflected from the surface of the rushing water. Now began the discomforts of the journey. Climbing over huge blocks of limestone we left the stream and struggled upward through a small and very muddy aperture to a steeply inclined bank of wet, glutinous mud. Below us, on the left, the stream again appeared from under a low arch. From here we had as it were the choice of two evils. One method was by following the water, the level which was just above one’s neck; and the other by what is known as the Muddy ox-bow. I enquired whether it was to be mud or water and the unanimous reply was mud please. At the top of the slope we literally slid through the door shaped opening which gave access to a small muddy grotto preceding one of the most uncomfortable portions of the whole cave. Those who have been through the Devil’s Elbow in G. B. Cave will be able to visualise a similar tunnel, entered through choice of two holes bored through a mass of solid mud, the floor covered by a pool of stagnant water. Dropping into the glue like mixture of mud and water I began to move forward, using my forearms as skids and my feet as barge poles. A sharp bend brought us to a long, narrow, and comparatively dry tunnel, at the far end of which I crossed the stream, which once again came rushing past from a large passage on my left, and turned to watch my companions wallowing through the mud-lined tunnel.


BB5. 2 A short tunnel led us to a second chamber, the floor of which was strewn with large cubical boulders. Creeping through a low arch in the opposite wall, we began one of the most painful crawls I have ever undertaken. The floor was covered by a thick bed of sharp pebbles, over which we crawled beneath a seemingly endless series of very low creeps. At length we came to a fork on the passage. On the left an ascending tunnel led through the ‘Grill Chamber’ to ‘Pat’s Coffin’, and on our right a roundish passage, followed by another short and painful crawl, bought us again to the main steam. From this point we followed the rushing water for about 50 feet along a high passage, in which we noticed some exceedingly fine formations, until it again became necessary to make use of another ox-bow, the walls of this one, together with the floor and roof, being coated with crystalline formations. In a few more yards the main stream vanished into the wall for the last time (Until the opening of Stoke Lane II). On the left we followed a small stream, which soon vanished through a narrow fissure in the right wall, along a low tunnel at the end of which a short vertical squeeze, followed by a long sandy tunnel, brought us to a high narrow chamber, the floor of which was heaped with a pile of massive rocks cemented together with mud and stalagmite deposit. Straight ahead, a large tunnel stretched away into the gloom, and from it a small stream usually flows, to disappear on reaching the edge of the boulder pile. Some weeks ago this chamber was the scene of the new discovery now known as ‘Browne’s Passage’. Climbing over the pile of boulders to the far end of the chamber, we dropped one by one through a narrow, irregularly shaped hole in the floor. Twenty feet of awkward crawling brought us to a small chamber with a pile of very unstable boulders, behind which a low tunnel led us to a high sloping grotto with excellent formations. Following a low water-worn tunnel, from the roof of which hung a cluster of well formed straw stalactites, we suddenly found ourselves on the brink of a black and mysterious ‘lake’, covering the floor of a low, wide chamber measuring some 15 feet across. From here we crept along a narrow, arch-shaped tunnel for a considerable distance until we were suddenly faced with the ‘Nutmeg Grater’, a very nasty squeeze. On the return journey we found a by-pass to this section of the tunnel, but this unfortunately this offered us no greater degree of comfort than the ‘Nutmeg Grater’ itself. A fine series of round, water-worn arches led us to another long and sometimes low tunnel, at the end of which we crawled out into a chamber called’ Cairn Grotto’. (The limit of the first exploration). The grotto was about 25 feet in height, and two possible exits could be seen leading from it. One was an ascending mud tunnel giving access to a sloping mud grotto. The other was a narrow rift, in which the water was about three feet deep. Entering the latter of these two extremely uninviting passages, I dropped into the icy water, beyond a low arch called’ Disappointment Duck’, under which I was forced to submerge to my neck, the tunnel suddenly turned to the left and I found myself in a small chamber in which the water was about five feet deep. A short distance beyond this the walls closed in and the roof dipped below the surface of a dark and horrible pool. Spluttering and cursing, I made my way back to my two companions in ‘Cairn Grotto’. On the return journey we explored the remaining section of the known cave, an ascending series of tunnels terminating in a small, low chamber. Somewhere in the vicinity of the ‘Nutmeg Grater’ one of the party was found to be crawling up the narrow passage with what remained of his trousers hanging round his ankles! After the journey back to the open air, which took us over an hour, we took great delight lying in a nearby waterfall, after which we changed into warm dry clothing once more. On Sunday June 22nd. the sump at the end of ‘Brown’s Passage’ was dived by D.A. Coase, T.H. Stanbury & F.G. Balcombe. Beyond it was found over 400ft. of cave. On June 28th and 29th, D.A. Coase and other members of the B.E.C. together with myself, again dived through, and beyond was discovered one of the largest and most beautiful caverns in the West of England. The largest chamber is about 100 feet long, 80ft. high and over 70ft. wide. //=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//


BB5. 3 THE MYSTERY By Llesah. I have here a question, the Editor said, From the Belfry one Saturday night, I’ve been racking my brains and shaking my head, But I can’t get the answer quite right. We’d be telling some tales, as we do when we’re out, And this is what puzzles my head. Why, when ‘Postle’ called a Boy Scout a Boy Sprout, Did his Lady friend fall out of bed? %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% BEYOND THE CAIRN CHAMBER by The Editor. First of all I must apologise for this article which must, of necessity be very sketchy. I have seen the large chambers, but as I did not intend to write this myself I kept no record of my impressions and I have left the Pukka article by D.A. Coase in Cornwall. You will remember Pat Brown’s description of the 3ft. puddle, which is the dreaded ‘Trap’. This is plunged rather more easily than, its appearance would indicate, and beyond one enters a tunnel about 5ft. wide and high, with water about 2ft.deep. Down the stream we paddle until we reach the Boulder Ruckle; which is the floor of the first large chamber. From here the cave opens out into a total of 9 large chambers, some of then very beautiful. In one of those chambers is a high scree slope which is littered with bones, some human, some anima1. Some of these bones have been tentatively identified by an eminent archaeologist. There is evidence of Ox, Sheep or Goat, and Deer, (Probably Red Deer). The human bones present are from at least two skeletons, one of an adolescent and one adult. Leading off this chamber is the ‘Throne Room’. This is the most beautiful Grotto I have ever seen. It is lined with formations of all colours and dominated by two large stalagmites, one "The King formation which is joined to the roof and the other, ‘The Queen’, which is astonishingly like the statue of Queen Victoria on College Green. Part of this chamber is a beautiful smaller Grotto, now called "Princess Elizabeth’s Grotto’, which has a stalagmite floor studded with clear pools filled with ‘Coral’ formation which form a delightful contrast to the noisome water of the stream in which we have wallowed to reach this beauty. In another chamber, connected by high and low level passages to the ‘Bone Chamber’, is an amazing curtain formation whose edge unlike the more normal curtain, is a cylindrical "carved' pillar more than 20ft. high. Until the end of July this termination of the new series was a trap, but early in August, Pat Browne, exploring off ‘Princess Elizabeth’s Grotto’ discovered a rift which, he thought bypassed this obstacle. This was confirmed on Aug. 10th, when a small party took a ladder in and carried the exploration a little further. They have almost reached the river again, but they are stopped by another small vertical. This very short account will give members some idea of the extent of the new system. Exploration is going forward, and we will be starting on the work of removing the bones as soon as we have found another entrance (or exit). The Editor’s Notes. The Belfry We have no report from the Belfry Warden for this issue, but as all active members will know, the hut has proved its worth this summer. On August Bank Holiday, 25 bods had breakfast there. In connection with this day’s work, the A.U.T.A.H.W. has suggested that in future, should such a crowd turn out, at meal times all members shall collect plate, knife, fork and cup from the assistant cook at the first shutter on the left, and the Head cook will issue rations at the door.


BB5. 4 From the Bristol Evening Post we cull the following:Exploring bravely underground, Some members of a Club have found By squirm an wriggle, squeeze and crawl, The finest Mendip Caves of all, And chief among the wondrous sights, Are stalagmites and stalactites. Which lackadaisically grow An inch each thousand year's or so, While now of all the blooming cheek, They're working on a five day week. ********************** CONTRIBUTIONS. We have received some contributions for future Bulletins from a few members and should like more. If your article has not appeared, don’t be discouraged, it will. *********************** The Secretaries graph which is well known to members, has now reached the unprecedented length of 7ft. 6ins. (unfinished). In the years to come provided that any future secretary does not condemn it to use in the detail, the Editor hopes to see this monument of perseverance used as wall paper for the B.E.C. Mendip Club House. C.R.G. We have lately received from this Group Publication No.1, Parts 1 & 2. Part 1, Cave Fauna Preliminary List by M. Hazelton & E.A. Glennie. Visit of French Cavers to Mendip. A party of about 15 Frenchmen have been staying on Mendip as guests of the Wessex Cave Club. We learn from the local press that they have discovered a new Cave Animal ‘something like a caterpillar’, believed to be new to science. Back Numbers. Back Numbers, when available can be collected from H.Q. for 3d, each, or by post.4d, per copy. A.U.T.A.H.W.—acting unpaid assistant Hut Warden. THE MYSTERY Perhaps she was trying to drop off??!!!

Belfry Bulletin Number 005  

This is the First report of the new discovery in Stoke Lane Swallet. This will, I think, be one of the most important on Mendip for some con...

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