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The

Belfry

Bulletin

THE JOURNAL OF THE BRISTOL EXPLORATION CLUB Vol 4. No.33

March 1950

Personal Congratulations to Johnny Pain and Miss Pam Richards on their recent engagement. You’re a lucky guy, John. *************************************** Future Programmes At a recent Committee meeting it was decided that the following members would be responsible for the arranging of trips and the distribution of the Programme Cards: - F. Young, J.C. Weekes, R. Cantle, R.J. Bagshaw, and K. Dobbs. If you have any ideas for trips contact any of the above or send them to F. Young, whose address will be found at the end of this BB. ************************************** It's a long time since the poets of the Club did their stuff!! If this should be called poetry the Editor hasn’t a clue, but, here, for what its worth is an Epic entitled:Binder. Binder, which makes the Caver wise, And fit for holes of every size, Is that delicious brew that Sett transmutes, From water, paraffin and caver’s boots; That hateful liquor, with its gruesome hue Ruins the taste and turns red Litmus blue. Anon. *************************************** Penguin Parade. by G.W. Ridyard. Of the many books published and reprinted during 1949 by the Penguin Book Company there are three which are worthy of note by B.E.C. members. One is a handy reference book and the other two are simple instructions to Geology and Archaeology. Many club members take more than a passing interest in books on travel and exploration in various parts of the earth, and I expect that they, in common with myself, have come across words that are strange to them and which are not found in the home dictionary. W.G. Moore’s ‘A Dictionary of Geography’ supplies this need, for it covers a great many words from all corners of the world,, giving clear definitions and examples of similar phenomena. Apart from local geographical uses, but connected with many sciences, including geology, meteorology, astronomy, physics and other subjects. The line block illustrations are good and there are 22 photogravure plates which are of an exceptionally high standard. I find that this book has a certain fascination for me. I look up a word and read the description and then I go on reading as though I am reading a book, which is, I think, praise indeed for any compiler of a dictionary.


BB33/2 My second choice is Prof. A.G. Trueman’s ‘Geology and Scenery in England and Wales’. This is just the book for those who are in need of a simple introduction to Geology. The book is written in clear, bright English by a first-class geologist who although he is writing primarily for the layman does not ‘talk down’ to his reading audience and he maintains your interest through out this fat little volume. He starts with a description and explanation of the comparatively simple geological set-up of the Cotswolds and he tackles the more complex areas as the book progresses. The book has nearly a hundred line block drawings and tables, and has an adequate glossary of technical terms at the back – it is also very fully indexed. Verdict – extreme good value. The third book, perhaps, has rather a limited appeal to cavers, but is a good book in its own way. ‘Prehistoric Britain’ by Christopher and Jacquetta Hawkes is a useful introduction to British Archaeology. As the title suggests, the book covers a great deal of ground - from Palaeolithic times to the Iron Age and the arrival of the Roman Legions. In this work the Hawkes have done their best - with considerable success, I think - to make Prehistoric Man really interesting. With the authors you follow him step by step from a semi-human being, at the mercy of the Glacial periods, up to the highly organised La Tene Iron Age communities – agriculturists, stock-breeders and producers of really fine ornamented metal work. This book is easy to read and it is well illustrated with line drawings and photogravure plates. The latter include three of Major Allun’s superb aerial photographs from the Ashnolean Museum collection. A good book, worth several times the two small coins of the realm asked for it. 1. A Dictionary of Geography by W.G. Moore………………..……1/6d. 2. Geology and Scenery in England and Wales by A.E. Trueman....2/6d. 3. Prehistoric Britain by C.&.J. Hawkes……………………………1/6d. All published by Penguin Books; the last two are in the Pelican series. ************************************* From the Hon. Sec’s. Post Bag. From Tessie Storr of Nottingham:Here is a diary of our activities since, visiting the Belfry last. The week following our visit a party of five of us, including Mackee, Sybil and myself went up to Langdale in the Lake District for a spot of rockclimbing. Unfortunately the weather was the sort typical of mountainous district; when we could see the hills it was going to rain, and when we couldn’t see them it was raining!! We had intended to spend most of our time on Gimmer Crag, which lies at a height of 1,600ft. on the western side of the Langdale Pikes, whose climbs are of a high standard, delicate, rather than strenuous – mainly fair-weather climbs, but we only spent two days on this cliff as the weather was anything but. The rest of the week was spent on other outlying crags and in hill walking. Sybil accompanied us on the latter as unfortunately she could do no rock-climbing owing to an injury received in Stoke Lane. We had an excellent week, nevertheless, and a very good camp, although by the end of the week nearly all of us were in the barn instead of our tents! After returning to Nottm., the next weekend found a party of seven of us up at Monyash in Derbyshire where we descended the disused Hillocks Mine. This cave has few formations and is partly natural and partly man-made, with several shafts where rope ladders are necessary. On our next caving week was on Nov. l3th when a party of 14 paid a visit to Jug Holes near Matlock, notorious for their mud. The entrance to these caves lies on the northern side of Masson Hill and is wide and impressive. The holes proper, though, are quite small and lie to the right hand side inside the entrance. There are two holes there. No.1 and No.2, the first being the muddiest but with two large chambers with good formations and several little nests of cave pearls. No.2 was less muddy, but wetter and has a very beautiful tufa bank and several quite good erratics. Incidentally Ron Gollen is now engaged in taking photographs in these caves in preparation for an article on caving which is to appear in the magazine ‘Illustrated’.


BB33/3 On Nov. 30th, a large party went up by special bus to Bradwell to do the famous Bagshaw Cavern, led by Mr.Roland Revell the owner. Unfortunately, though, we seemed to have gone at the wrong time of year, for there was a considerable amount of water there and most of the passages were blocked at some point. We were disappointed not to have done the new way which is said to have the best formations. A party from Nottingham explored this passage a few months previously during the dry spell and had obtained magnificent photographs. We were to have been graced by the presence of Pongo Wallis on this trip but unfortunately he had motor-bike trouble just before arriving in Bradwell Village and had to spend a good deal of time righting matters ready for his long return journey and so was unable to do the cave. On Dec. 4th. we had a meet in Derbyshire again, this time at Wirksworth which lies a few miles south of Matlock on the edge of the mountain limestone area. We had heard that a new cave had been found there recently by the Odin Exploring Club and decided to investigate matters. Rumours had come to our ears of a 60ft. shaft and even of an underground lake, but being sceptical types we did not bother to include a rubber dingy in our tackle! Half an hour’s ‘gaffering’ at the Local pub revealed that the locals had not heard of this cave, but we got quite a bit of gen on the mining of the district. We were told that galena is still mined up in Darleydale and that a quarter of the world’s lead is obtained from this source. The site of the cave was rather vague, but we had heard it was situated on the hillside to the S.W. of Winksworth near a point on the map marked Godfrey’s Hole. After poking down several small holes which didn’t seem to lead anywhere, we finally came across a small muddy opening at the back of the hill facing west, which led into a fair size bedding chamber. From here a series of small pots with beautiful stalactite formations led into another chamber smaller than the first and with lots of lovely mud of porridge-like consistency - quite up to Jug Holes standard!! From here a small passage on the left only went for a few feet and another very tight passage straight ahead only went for about another 20 feet making the cave in all about 200ft. in length. The general angle was about 45 deg, as in the, caves of Mendip. We returned to the first chamber to look for other passages but the only other one was a very low tight crawl which I, being the smallest member of the party, was called upon to explore. I found that it went for about 60ft. when it became too tight to proceed further. As no other passages seemed forthcoming, we returned to the entrance feeling very pleased with our find, for although the cave was quite small we hadn’t expected to see such good formations. Next we set about looking for another cave called Bone Hole, which we had heard lay in the vicinity. This was not hard to find, for it was a large cavity on top of the hill and surrounded by a barbed wire fence. A scrabble of about 80 feet brought us into a small chamber, the floor of which was covered with bones, several sacks containing intestines, and dead goat!!!!!!! These appeared to have arrived via an aven which lay directly above. A short though rather unsavoury scramble (owing to the odour of the aforesaid goat) brought us up to rift passage which we followed for about 200 feet. We crossed several small pots that looked as if they might lead into a lower series, but on being explored were found not to go. The passage finally ended in a vertical shaft which one member attempted to descend, the sides however, consisted of dead rock which came down as a shower on to the poor unfortunate’s head, who, neither wishing to receive the full force of the debris again nor another force of 32ft. per sec. per sec., returned with due expediency, and the whole party returned whence it had come, some members attempting to climb higher in the rift, but this was found rather unsafe as much loose stuff was dislodged. On the whole, we considered the day quite profitably spent, though needless to say, we found no underground lake!! //=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=//=// Caving in the Cevennes. No.1 the Subterranean River of Bramabiau. By T.H. Stanbury. Bramabiau is situated in a high level valley on the N.W. slope of the Aigoual Massif, and about 20km. from Meyrueis on the road to Valleraugue. It is one of the very few cave systems that I have seen in which the explorer is able to enter the cave at one end and leave it at the other, although I was not able to do so myself. It was on Friday 20th. August 1948 in a rainstorm, that we pulled up at the tiny hut that serves as a stopping place for the cave. In a few moments, however, the rain cleared, and we were escorted by a queer


BB33/4 little man down the gentle slope of the valley side. Here the limestone is laid down on top of the granite of the Aigoual and is extremely hard. Time and time again we slipped, our nails being too hard to grip, although suited for Mendip where the rock is relatively soft. Following our guide, who was dressed in along black cloak, which flapped behind him, and black knee breeches, and was about 4ft, 6 inches tall, and looked like a carrion crow, we reached a fair sized stream. The amount of water flowing at the time was very similar to that flowing from the resurgence at Wookey, and following it downstream we saw a low cliff-face ahead. We expected something big, by the size of the stream, but were amazed by the size of the tunnel before us, almost square in section, being about 25ft. high and 35ft. wide. Scrambling over boulders of granite beside the stream we entered the swallet. The floor, here almost level was boulder strewn, and as we followed the stream into the semi-darkness, our nails skated wildly over the iron hard rock. Ahead of us there was daylight, and after travelling for about 100yds. we emerged into sunshine in an open pot caused by the collapse of the roof. Here the passage took a sudden left turn and immediately changed in character. We saw large pine trunks wedged across the passage, some recent, some badly battered and partly buried in debris, showing that they bad been there for a long time. When the snow of winter melts, an immense amount of water must pass through the system, and the pine logs bear mute witness to this. About 50yds beyond the bend the stream suddenly turned sharp right and vanished down a hole reminiscent of Mendip. We were all anxious to follow the stream down the hole, but our guide forbade us to do as the cave was ‘tres dangereux’ and ‘tres formidable’. From here there are apparently three ways down, all of which unite in a chamber a short distance beyond the spot reached. From this chamber the stream passage is the only way on and there is very deep water in several places to contend with in addition to waterfalls and other obstacles. The distance in direct line between swallet and resurgence is about ½ a mile, but underground the stream way is at least 2½ miles from entrance to exit. The Bramabiau system is said to be the longest in France, so perhaps it was just as well that our enthusiasm was curbed and we were not allowed to follow our natural desires. Retracing our steps, we returned to the surface and then were taken down a long forested slope to the rising. The way down the hillside endless, but at last we emerged from the trees and found ourselves by the banks of a stream which we followed upstream along its subsidiary valley to where it emerged as a large waterfall from a great slit in the hillside. The waterfall is called ‘The Bellowing Bull’, and in time of spate must be very awe-inspiring with the ceaseless roar of the water being thrown back by the beetling cliffs around it. Crossing the stream on a narrow wooden bridge we climbed a short flight of steps to a path along a ledge about 15 feet above the torrent. Fifty yards along this an iron door barred our progress. Our guide unlocked it and we passed through into the cave beyond. We had been told that we should not need our lights and consequently had left them in the coach, but how we wished that we had taken them! The path grew very narrow and the rock was very slippery. We pressed on into almost total darkness and were using as a guide a thin strand of wire, which strung through rusty bits of iron was our only guard rail that kept us from diving headlong into the river below. As our eyes became accustomed to the gloom we could se that the passage was a continuation of the entrance rift, which gradually became narrower as we progressed. Crossing the river on a tiny bridge, we scrambled our way along the R.H. wall and at a distance of about 100yds. from the entrance we were stopped. The path petered out at stream level and here the guide turned us back. There were a number of obvious ways on and every instinct told us to press on toward the swallet. As we had no lights, however, we had no alternative but to return to the entrance again, emerging into daylight walked back up the hill to the coach again. ****************************************** T.H. Stanbury Hon. Sec. 74, Redcatch Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4. (77590) F.W. Young, Assist. Hon. Sec. The Barton, Stanton Drew, Nr. Bristol W.J. Shorthose, Hon. Sec. L.S., 26. Gateshead Road, Upper Tooting, London, S.W. 17. A.M. Innes, Hon. Librarian. 246, Filton Ave., Horfield, Bristol. 7.


Belfry Bulletin Number 033