Vol XXIV No.12
QUODCUMQUE FACIENDUM : NIMIS FACIEMUS CONTENTS List of Club Officers, Committee etc. Editorial Notices Round and About Letter to the Editor A Northern Weekend The Coming of Mark III ‘There’s This Computer’ Monthly Crossword No. 63
Page 109 Page 110 Page 110 Page 111 Page 112 Page 113 Page 115 Page 119 Page 121
Any contribution to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of officers of the club, are not necessarily the opinions of the editor or the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, unless explicitly stated as being such. CLUB HEADQUARTERS The Belfry, Wells Rd, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone WELLS 72126 CLUB COMMITTEE Chairman Minutes Sec Members
S.J. Collins G. Wilton-Jones Chris Batstone, John Dukes, Chris Howell, Tim Large, Mike Wheadon, R. Marshall, Barry Wilton.
OFFICERS OF THE CLUB Honorary Secretary Honorary Treasurer Caving Secretary Climbing Secretary Hut Warden Belfry Engineer Tacklemaster B.B. Editor Publications Editor B.B. Postal Spares Membership Sec.
M. WHEADON, 91 The Oval, Englishcoombe, Bath. Tel : BATH 713646 B. WILTON, ‘Valley View’, Venus Lane, Clutton, Nr. Bristol. Tele : TEMPLE CLOUD 52072 TIM LARGE, 15 Kippax Avenue, Wells, Somerset R. MARSHALL, 7 Fairacre Close, Lockleaze, Bristol C. BATSTONE, 8 Prospect Place, Bathford, Bath.. J. DUKES, 4 Springfield Crescent, Southampton. SO1 6LE Tele : (0703) 774649 G. WILTON-JONES, ‘Ilenea’, Stonefield Road. Nap Hill, High Wycombe, Bucks. Tele : (024) 024 3534 S.J. COLLINS, Lavender Cottage, Bishops Sutton, Nr. Bristol. Tel : CHEW MAGNA 2915 C. HOWELL, 131 Sandon Road, Edgebaston, Birmingham 17. Tele : (021) 429 5549 BRENDA WILTON Address as for Barry T. LARGE, Address already given Mrs. A. DOOLEY, c/o The Belfry. TO WHOM ALL SUBS SHOULD BE SENT.
Editorial SEASON’S GREETINGS The editor would like to take this opportunity to wish all club members; all readers of the B.B. and all cavers everywhere a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, HELP! Unless somebody comes up with a scheme for distributing the B. B. a damn sight more cheaply than the Post Office currently charges, the days of the large Christmas B.B. are probably a thing of the past. Apart from a shortage of contributions, the size of this one has been chosen to be the maximum which will go for the lower rate when the limit is reduced next year from 60 to 50 grams. Next month, the thirtieth volume of the B.B. begins. The 29 volumes so far produced since the B.B. started in 1947 have been edited by a total of 7 club members, of which the other six have produced 12 volumes between them. There are no prizes for guessing how many have been produced by your present editor. It seems a good time to remind members that when I came back to the job in 1970, having retired in 1967, it was on a temporary basis until some new editor could be found. That, of course, was five years ago now and nobody appears to be clamouring to do the job. I am finding it increasingly difficult to carry on, at any rate to carry on single-handed because I get less free time than I once had and feel that I am not on Mendip enough to chase up contributions the way I should. What I would like to suggest is that a volunteer be found who would be prepared - to start with - to give me a hand. The details can be sorted out when a suitable volunteer is found. From this point on, there are three possibilities. The Assistant Editor can remain as such, in which case I would be prepared to carry on. The Assistant Editor can gradually take over, in which case I would be happy to retire at whatever stage suited us. The third possibility is that the Assistant Editor would get fed up, in which case we would have to find another. By this means, somebody could come forward without committing himself (or herself) too deeply to start with. If they found the job to their liking, they could take it over completely. If they did not, they could leave and some other bloke be found. I would like the club to take this seriously, because I realise that I cannot do the job alone for much longer, so I hope the club will hear my plea for help! FAIRY TALES Traditionally, the Christmas B.B. contains some element of would be humour. Owing to the fact already mentioned that I am finding it hard to get people to make contributions of articles etc. for the B. B., a great deal of space is taken up in this B.B. by my own annual screed for which I apologise to one and all. Yes, once more you are stuck with Pete Pushem and his band of mythical B.E.C. members - and once again, can only hope that the future as painted by this tale will never actually come to pass!
“Alfie” _______________________________________________________________________________________ NOTICES The Editor would like to apologise to one and all, and especially to our Membership Secretary - Angie Dooley for the errors in the list of members published in the last B. B. It appears that he did not have an upto-date list and suitable corrections will appear in the next B.B. The Hut Warden would like to appeal for MATRESSES, LARGE DINNER PLATES and DINING CHAIRS. If anyone has any of these or other useful items, please bring them out or contact Chris Batstone, who will arrange transport,
A Monthly Miscellany, by Wig
Additions to the Library: Two large piles of new material are to be installed in the club library. B.C.R.A. Transactions and Bulletins, and other club exchanges make good reading. The Limestone and Caves of Mendip has been purchased by the club. This year it is hoped to rebuild the collection of cave surveys and these will be available for reference only because of the large capital sum involved and the difficulty of replacement. Who did it? I'm led to understand that it wasn't Tony Johnson who donated the collection of C.D.G. newspaper cuttings to the club library. Perhaps the kind donor would let 'wig' know who he was? Christmas at the Belfry: At the time of writing publication dates are not my problem! - it appears that a boozy time was had by all. No doubt Mike W. will be giving a suitable account. Politics again: The N.C.A. recognises that there is a feeling throughout the country that cavers are not exactly happy with N.C.A. Some, in fact, would like to see it go quietly into a corner and die. Others see it as being purely an organisation for the cave politicians to play expensive games with, and producing a great mountain of paperwork. As a result, the N.C.A. have formed a special committee consisting of Phil Davies (W.C.C.) Nigel Dibben (D.C.C. and B.E.C.) Alan Ashwell (S.W.C.C.) and Jack Rasdell. This team is roving around the regions to listen to the caving population - to listen to YOUR views. The meeting for the Southern Region is being held at the Hunters on the weekend of February 14/15. If you as individuals have any thoughts about N.C.A. and how it should work then go ahead and speak your mind. I realise that most cavers are cheesed off with politics or have never been interested in the first place. However, there is no doubt that the need for a national body does exist. Pressures from the Department of Education and Science; the Nature Conservancy; the National Parks add to pressures from bodies like Local Education Authorities, the Sports Council and the C.C.P.R. The public are waking up to the fact that caves exist and are another source of leisure activity. The horror of the situation is that very few of the people who are clamouring to use caves will ever become second trip cavers - the first trip will satisfy their curiosity. Should cavers adopt an elitist attitude and try to close caves to outsiders by taking over control of all available caves? Do we try to reduce the numbers of new participants by negotiation with the various organisations concerned? To do either, we need a national organisation that can represent caverâ€™s views. Most cavers agree up to this point, but areas of disagreement start when we consider how the N.C.A. should operate. Should it be the hub that directs all caving activity - or should it be something which merely keeps itself in a state of readiness to take on external problems when they arrive? One last point. Grants will only be made to a governing body of any sort - in our case to N.C.A. Such grant aid is available, for example, to help establish permanent entrances to caves. _________________________________
Editor's Note: And that, unless 'Wig' changes his mind, is the end of 'Round and About' - the longest running feature which has appeared in the B.B. Many readers have told me how useful they have found the information which 'Wig' has so consistently brought to our attention. If find that we cannot 'lean on' Dave Irwin to carry on, then the sort of information collecting that he has been doing is something that we need a volunteer to take on. Failing that, we must hope that 'Mik' might be able to expand his activities and peregrinate amongst active cavers! A very big and public 'thank you', Wig, for over two hundred items of news!
Hilston, Cleveland Walk, BATH. BA2 6JW. 20th January 1976.
The Editor, Belfry Bulletin. Dear Sir, Having read item 194 in 'Round and About' I am, to say the least, incensed. 'Wig' has every right to his personal opinions, for many of which I have the greatest respect. However, this article seemed written purely to inflame the 'Them against Us' feeling that is destroying the credibility of the C.S.C.C. (which, of course, includes us.) The setting up of an Equipment Committee represents perhaps the first action of the N.C.A. that is not purely political. It is, too, likely to be of real use to cavers since the committee will give honest and unbiased reports on equipment; will liaise with manufacturers to produce new equipment etc. The reaction from a few Mendip cavers has been 'anti' the Equipment Committee - it is so very easy to criticise and not so easy actually to do the work - but I can confidently say from many discussion in the Hunters etc. that most cavers in the region genuinely want the committee to exist. I myself feel that it is in the interest of any active caver to at least give the committee a chance to prove its value. Yours, etc., Mike Cowlinshaw. A reply from 'Wig' follows. Although this reply will be somewhat belated, as Mike and I will have discussed the current situation and hopefully cleared the air, an immediate reply to Mike’s letter before this happens might still be useful. I feel that the comments I made were far from being critical except for a certain amount of journalistic licence in my title! I was writing as a member of B.E.C. and not as the Hon. Sec. of the C.S.C.C. It is, of course, difficult to wear two caps at once. I merely reported that C.S.C.C. had voted to refer the Equipment special Committee's report back to them for a more detailed account of what they intended to do in 1976. The report lacked specific details of their intended actions, and C.S.C.C. felt that it was not prepared to contribute towards the sum of £200 of their anticipated administrative costs that has to be financed by the regional and other constituent bodies of N.C.A. (these costs are not grant aided) without more specific details that were worth this high cost. I'm sure that any club committee that spent £70 on the report issued by this committee (£70 was its cost) would have been thrown out by its club members in no time at all! However, having said that, I hope that I balanced matters by asking for any professionally qualified person who was interested in helping with the work of this committee to come forward. Finally, Mike's comment that local cavers want this committee to exist frankly surprises me, but if this is true, he'd better get them to attend a C.S.C.C. meeting and ensure that their views are heard. Your editor (thinly disguised as the chairman the C.S.C.C.) would also like to make a comment on this letter. The aspect of Mike's letter which I find a trifle disturbing is that the C.S.C.C. is generally 'anti' just about everything - and that this intransigent attitude is destroying its credibility elsewhere. At the risk of sticking my neck right out, I feel that the C.S.C.C. have adopted an attitude of hard commonsense over the last few years. The fact that this attitude has brought it into conflict with some of the other constituent bodies of N.C.A. is unfortunate but possibly inevitable. The C.S.C.C. are not against things just for the hell of it, but because in many cases, they feel that they have thought the thing through and can see snags which might have been overlooked in the general enthusiasm for getting something done.
113 In the case of the report in question, it is vague. I am sure that Mike, in his professional capacity at work, would not think much of a report which gave no details as to exactly what work was proposed, together with a cost and time estimate for each section of the proposed task. Without such detail, we are in no position to know exactly what is planned. For example, it has been estimated by two people independently (one of whom is associated with the special committee) that to write a realistic specification for the 'Cave Qualification' of ropes for use as lifelines, taking ropes which are already manufactured to a general specification, might cost from £30,000 to £50,000 if carried out in professional labs to a standard approaching that of a B.S. Bearing in mind the authority that such findings may be credited with (even if the Special Committee did not intend their results to be used in this way) some people think that nothing less than an equivalent B.S. standard would be of any real use. Imagine a bloke saying “Our lifeline was a rope which the N.C.A. said would stand 50 hours of underground use providing it was visually checked between trips. We did this, and it had only been used for a tota1 of 16 hours when the fatality occurred.” Members of the Equipment Special Committee could be in for a pretty rough ride after such an inquest. Like Wig, we are not saying "Stop it", so much as saying "Please tell us more about what you intend to do, so that we can judge if we think it is sensible, or practical, or even possible." _______________________________________________________________________________________ Another thrilling episode in the Wilton-Jones saga by Graham Wilton-Jones ‘It is still more comforting to spend two trips, laddering on one and de-laddering on the other.’ (David Heap)
I can think of nothing less comfortable than doing two trips into Penyghent Pot, even if spaced by a week or so of work. Perhaps carrying all the tackle in and out on the same trip could be worse, but our Fred had arranged better than that. He had organised three groups; one to start early on Saturday morning and ladder the pot to the bottom; a back-up party to help tackle hauling through the canal as necessary; and us - Fred, Bernard, Brian, Throstle, Bucket and Graham - do de-rig. We were to go down about mid day. Originally I had decided to spend the weekend on Mendip, but a phone call from Bucket on Friday morning changed my mind. So having dashed down from High Wycombe and endured the committee meeting, I forfeited the call of the Hunters and sped northwards, arriving at 1.30 on Saturday morning. Not the best sort of preparation for a relatively strenuous trip later that day! The days caving did not start well. We were not at all welcome at a certain caving headquarters near Horton, where we had previously stayed on a number of occasions. However, such pettiness was soon left behind as we climbed. Jangling with hardware, up the slopes of Penyghent. Across the fields we saw the back-up party heading towards the 'Crown' - sensible fellows. Up at the entrance to the pot, a small orange tent was the only sign that anyone was 'at home'. By 1.30 we were all making our ungainly way through the canals and crawls of the entrance passage. The stooping, hands and knees progress and flat-out crawling in icy cold water sometimes half-filling the passage is not excessively arduous, but it can be slow, awkward and painful as it proved when we returned, tired and worn, with piles of tackle. When we finally reached the first pitch we were all surprised to find two ladders belayed there. However, we soon discovered the reason, for up the passage came a party from a York club. One of their members was ill, so they were taking him out and abandoning the trip. This was just as well, as C.N.C.C. booking is required for this area. We had access for the whole weekend and were more than a little annoyed to find the York party pirating this access. Incidentally, this also meant that they were trespassing and this could have jeopardised a very carefully negotiated agreement with local farmers and landowners. We were more then glad to see them come out. Consider the implications of a cave rescue under these circumstances from the nether reaches of the system, and the ensuing uproar! The second stretch of passage is designed for people who are five feet high and involves almost continuous stooping all the way down to the next pitch. Fred turned back because of old injuries which this aggravated. This section was soon over and, below the next pitch, we found ourselves lying flat in a bedding plane looking out over a big pitch with no sign of a ladder. Had we read the appropriate literature more
114 carefully, we would have been quicker to find the alternative descent to the left. The first 18m (59 feet) section of this is free-climbable, but the ladder for the next 20m (66 feet) or so, hangs mostly free near one wall of this wind and spray swept pot. The rift passage that follows contains a number of short, vertical sections, roughly half of which are free climbable. Mostly we were in the stream, but occasionally it was easier or drier to traverse above for a while and climb down at a more convenient point. Suddenly the passage drops out of this joint-controlled rift, down a short cascade and into a bedding plane. A little bit of wading brought us into the Boulder Chamber a brief enlargement of the passage with an aven and some large loose fill. Here we caught up with the tackling party, led by Mick. They had had some difficulty in finding the route in the Rift Passage, where it is possible to traverse at the wrong level (as in Dowber Gill) and so had lost time. While they now set off on the last section, we sat around to let them get ahead and consulted the survey. After some time and some food, we continued down between boulders and the edge of the chamber, back into the stream. Below the next pitch, in the half-flooded bedding plane, we came upon the slightly warmer water emerging from the inlet from Hunt Pot. I had a look along the passage, but the thought of crawling in all that water did not appeal. Bucket had to go up and look as well, and shouted back that he could stand up, and that the passage went on like that. Disbelievingly, we crawled along and came, indeed, upon a brief rise in roof level, only to see B.C.T. crawling along the next bit of bedding plane, muttering excuses about not saying that the standing up section went on for ever. We told him to come back and not be so silly, which he did. We continued downstream. These final sections of passage are not joint-controlled but do follow the jointing fairly closely. This results in the floor being cut up with deep grooves, just right for twisting ankles or braking legs. We therefore went more slowly and with caution. We rapidly descended the next two pitches and caught up with the advance party once again, who were having some difficulty in laddering the final pitch â€“ Niagara. The impression on this pitch is somewhat of Niagara Falls, and the resemblance must be closer in flood conditions, but the pitch is short and easy like the previous one and can be free climbed out of the water. Soon we were down at the sump, where we lingered a while - for the advance team had only just begun its exit. Although foam was visible high up in the roof in places, we were not particularly concerned, since the forecast was excellent and conditions had been dry for some time. We had not gone far on the route out when we caught up with the other team again - and this occurred on several of the pitches. The journey back to the surface was fairly straightforward. We had abseiled down most of the drops and I was to self-lifeline out first. However, this only proved necessary on the big, open 20m (66ft.). On this I had great difficulty moving my Jumar up the rope, and hung on the rope several times to get more tension in it. (Brian held it at the bottom). I was therefore just a trifle upset when I reached the top to find this line, with a bight part way along it, casually draped over a rounded flake of rock and a bloke's hand on the top to stop it jumping or slipping off. After a few pleasant words about belaying, I lifelined the next man up and we started hauling tackle. Except for one silly display of incompetence, when the tackle fell from a great height - scattering those below - all went well. I must stress that this incident was the fault of the collectors and tiers, not the haulers. We only hauled the tackle up the 18m (59ft) and the 20m (66ft). On all the other pitches it was possible to carry it or hand it up. Perhaps this was a mistake on the first pitch, for the take-off is rather awkward and carrying tackle up this was, at least for me, a great effort. From the bottom of this pitch to the end of the canal was hard and the only thing that made me hurry was the thought of a jar at the Crown. So at last we reached the entrance, after eight hours. Willing hands appeared - I don't know whether they were from the laddering or the back-up team - and helped us out with the equipment. Thanks, anyway, and thank you, Fred, for such excellent organisation. You missed a good trip, but I shan't go again. Once is enough for anyone! The title of this article did say 'Weekend', so I suppose some mention of the following day should be made, Fred's house is not too far from a disused railway viaduct which has 70 foot (21m) arches. After bones and muscles had recovered a little and I.B.S. had diminished, we went out for a couple of hours A & P - or S.R.T. - or whatever you like to call it. I think that when I give up caving, I shall take up railway arching!
THE COMING OF THE MARK III I. It is a fine spring afternoon. In the board room of British Caves Limited, the bright sunshine falls on bone china teacups and polished mahogany. We are moving in very distinguished circles, for a board meeting is in progress. The Chairman and Managing Director, Sir Percival Makepenny is speaking. “….and this, I regret to say, leaves only one last possibility. Gentlemen, I am in no doubt that our prototype Mark III cave is being sabotaged.” The Marketing and Sales Director is head to mutter something about 'those rats from Plasticave'. Sir Percival turns towards the source of this interruption and continues, "Commercial sabotage by our competitors can be ruled out. We have got to look elsewhere. The situation is so serious that I took the unprecedented step of meeting the Chief Executive of Plastcaves, Ted Tacky. It seems that their research is proceeding on very different lines to our own, and we are, in effect, aiming at different markets. We can hardly be said to be competitors at this stage, and they would have no motive for any form of sabotage.” “Perhaps, Sir Percival,” smoothly suggests the Company Secretary, “You would give us a little more detail?" Sir Percival absentmindedly picks up his teacup, mutters ‘Cheers’ and drinks it down, spluttering on the unexpected tealeaves. “It would appear,” he says at last, “that Plasticaves are aiming at what one might call the coastal market. Their new model is designed to float and can be moored on any convenient body of water. Of course, they are emphasising cheapness of installation. I might add,” says Sir Percival in his best lecturing manner, “That British Caves have always aimed at providing a traditional cave, soundly constructed of British steel and concrete. Speaking frankly, gentlemen, I regard Plasticaves' venture as little more than a flashy gimmick. Supposing one of their new models breaks away from its moorings and drifts out to sea with a full complement of school cavers aboard? Apart from the outcry that would occur if it sank with all cavers, can you imagine being seasick in tight bedding plane? No, gentlemen, I fancy we can forget all aspects of Plasticaves." There is a discreet murmur of approval, until the members of the board recollect that they are there to solve a problem rather than to slate their competitors. Sir Percival clears his throat and returns to the main theme. "The Mark III is of crucial importance to this company, and we must have it operational. As you know, gentlemen, the Sports Council, for ease of administration, insisted at the time our first caves were put into service to cater for the growing demand for caves, that all cave should be identical in design. That was why the so-call natural caves were all sealed up as soon as enough of ours and, I regret, Plasticaves, models had been opened. At first, we had enough work just catering for the demand and the Mark I was installed over most of the country. Then we developed the Mark II, which is designed to be erected above ground and which has proved such a great success in East Anglia and other low-lying areas where the deep excavations required for the Mark I were not really practicable. The Mark III contains a number of new features which, if they are successfully demonstrated, will convince the Sports Council of the need to install them in all our existing caves to bring them up to a new uniform standard. I need hardly add that the increased sales will result in a corresponding increase in Directors' salaries. We must get the Mark III operational. There is an awkward silence, broken Technical Director. “I have on my staff,” he suggests, “a keen young engineer who we might well entrust with on-the-spot investigation. He is both intelligent and discreet.” Nobody else having any ideas, there is a general murmur of assent.
116 II. Sid Spanner, for it is he who has been selected for this delicate task, climbs wearily down the ladder to Checkpoint 13. Once again, he looks through the view port. He sees a narrow bedding plane through which successions of schoolboys are crawling. He broods on his problem as he idly watches their slow progress. All the mechanical systems work perfectly. The adjustable squeezes adjust. The hydraulics are spot on. The â€˜DRY-NORMAL-FLOODâ€™ control leaves nothing to be desired. The automatic sump drainer, which can empty the sump in five seconds should a caver stop moving through, works every time. The only thing wrong is the new infra-red lighting, which enables the supervisors to watch cavers even when they appear to be in complete darkness, and even that fault is confined to a particular section of the cave. Sid is baffled. His gaze returns to the view port. A particularly fat schoolboy is halfway through the squeeze. With a sudden vicious twist of the appropriate levers, Sid closes the squeeze down two notches and sets the water control to FLOOD. He is losing his temper. III. It is later that same day. Sid's temper has now been restored by two cups of canteen tea which he has imbibed in the Supervisor's Canteen - situated between Checkpoints 7 and 8. Whilst in the canteen, he has become convinced that the decision to convert one of the earliest Mark I caves to this new Mark III standard has been a mistake. In Sid's opinion, the firm should have built a brand new cave. Besides, he muses, this cave is on Mendip - one of the old notorious natural caving areas - now, happily, a thing of the past. He distrusts the entire setup. He decides to return to the problem area, that part of the cave quite near the bottom and viewed from Check points 16 and 17. Arriving at Checkpoint 16, he looks into the bottom of the Main Chamber. A small group of scruffy looking older individuals is passing through. They must, Sid reflects, be some of the few club cavers left. He returns to the ladder and descends once more. At Checkpoint 17, all is now in darkness. Sid waits for the arrival of the party he has just seen. In a few moments, he starts to see their lights as they climb downwards over the concrete boulders. They appear to stop somewhere between checkpoint 16 and 17. One by one, their lights go out. Sid, now thoroughly alert, climbs rapidly back to Checkpoint 16. It is now in darkness too. He waits for the party to return. To Sid's amazement, this takes nearly two hours. It is only ten minutes caving from checkpoint 16 to the end of the cave. Just before they arrive, the infra-red goes on once more. Sid Spanner feels that he is on the track of the saboteurs at last. Promotion, he feels certain, is in the bag. IV. It is a week later. Sid has laid his plans well. He has identified the cavers. They are from one of the few caving clubs still in existence. It is called the B.E.C. Once more they have arrived at the cave and Sid has run down all the supervisor's ladders to Checkpoint 16 and opened an emergency door into the cave. He is dressed in old fashioned caving clothes like the B.E.C. party. He squats behind a large boulder and waits. Soon, the party approach the spot. They have the sort of voices one would associate with their general appearance. They stop quite near the place where Sid is crouching. "Any ruddy Weegees about, Fred?" "All clear, Pete." "Right lads, drift over and do, your stuff, Ron!" The man called Ran comes almost to where Sid is hiding. Pulling some sort of instrument from his pocket he applies it to a spot on the cave wall. Whatever he is doing takes a little time. Presently he removes the instrument and takes from his pocket a little tube through which he squints in all directions. "O.K.", he calls, "All I/R's are off!" From his place of concealment, Sid reflects that he has just witnessed an illegal act. These B.E.C. cavers, he grimly notes, shall pay dearly for this. But more is to come. Before his astonished gaze, one of them tugs at a section of cave wall which slowly swings outwards. One by one, the party disappear through the resulting hole. The last man pulls the wall section back into place after him.
117 Sid waits for a few moments before getting up and going over to the wall to investigate. To his surprise, it is a concealed emergency door, of the type fitted to all British Caves so that supervisors can, if necessary, get into the cave from the supervisors section. However, this door is fitted where no door should be according to the plans. With some misgivings, Sid opens it and sets off into the blackness beyond. V. Sid's first reaction to his new surroundings is one of professional chagrin. This new section hardly looks like a product of British Caves Limited. He doubts whether it even conforms to the British Standard. Sid examines the wall closely. It is not like the rough imitation stone of a cave section or like the smooth concrete of a supervisors section. It does not even look as if it has been manufactured at all. With a sudden start, Sid realises that it has not been. He is in a natural cave. With a totally unaccustomed feeling of not knowing what to expect, he moves cautiously onwards. He is now in a chamber of sorts, with rocks strewn most untidily and unprofessionally all over the floor. Suddenly, he hears faint sounds of the party returning and conceals himself once more behind a large boulder. As they approach, he realises that they are talking and he catches a fragment of their conversation as they pass by his hiding place on their way out. “It's no ruddy use, Fred. We might be able to keep up this ruddy caper a bit longer, but sooner or later one of their ruddy engineers is bound to catch up with us.” “There must be something we can do, Pete. We’ve always managed to be one up on the system se far.” “We’re getting blinded by ruddy science this time. When we got Sam to apply fore a job as a supervisor, he slipped up by talking about sump 2. Clean forgot British ruddy standard caves have only one sump” The words become blurred as the party continues on its way out. Sid waits until he hears the door shut before switching on his light. His course is now clear. He will beat them to the entrance by using the supervisor’s ladders and get the Cave Manager to detain them as they surface. The company will, no doubt, bring charges against them. After a few formalities, he will be free to leave and get back to the company headquarters - to receive congratulations and, no doubt, promotion. Meanwhile, the cave remains utterly silent, save for the quiet drip of water from somewhere nearby. Quite suddenly, Sid is seized by a desire to know what lies beyond the chamber he is in. He cannot understand what is happening to him. He is in the grip of something which, although suppressed by years of training, has nevertheless been lying dormant within him. It is the natural urge to explore. His promotional prospects suddenly forgotten, Sid starts off purposefully in the opposite direction. VI. It is a few hours later. Sid has free-climbed two pitches; pushed his way through several squeezes and wad through a deep canal. He turns the next corner and finds himself in a beautifully decorated passage. The variety, quality and sheer quality of the formations take his breath away. Compared to the few miserable-looking bits of formation contained in a British Standard Cave, these are fantastic. Sid's professional manner re-asserts itself as he starts to compute how much a passage like this would cost to construct - only to be relegated to second place, in his mind for ever as he realises that one cannot put a price on beauty. Taking care not to damage the place in any way, Sid sits down and contemplates the scene. He remains motionless and silent for some time. He is thinking hard. At last, he gets up, takes one last look at the passage and starts to make his way out as quickly as he can. He has a lot of hard work ahead of him and very little time to spare. VII. Once again, we are back in the board room of British Caves Limited. As one might expect, Sir Percival is in the middle of a lengthy speech. "….the excellent report by Mr. Spanner which I am sure you have all read thoroughly. It was, of course, a great disappointment to find that the new infra-red lights suffer from technical disadvantages which I have no doubt you have grasped from the paper." There is a pause while Sir Percival drinks his tea and hands the empty cup to his secretary muttering some thing about ‘another round’. The members of the board are all trying to look as if they understand the subject of infra-red illumination - with varying degrees of success.
118 " However," continues Sir Percival, "it is a matter of great comfort to know that any form of sabotage has been ruled out completely although, without the new lights it is difficult to see enough advantages in the Mark III to be able to put a convincing case to the Ministry." The members of the board all assume expressions of intelligent interest and concern. This latter comes easily to them, as the promised increase in directors salaries will not, presumably occur. Sir Percival, however, has something up his sleeve. "I must confess, gentlemen, that until a few hours ago, the situation hardly looked promising. However, just before this meeting, I was handed a second report by Mr. Spanner. It outlines an entirely new scheme. Briefly, the entire supervisory system is to be controlled from a central monitoring room by a single operative. He will be able to view any part of the cave by television cameras and to control all the hydraulic and mechanical systems by suitable electronic controls. The saving in manpower is very significant. Even the registration clerk is to be replaced by a computerised system which will record all visits to the cave and persons below at any time, I will not bore you with the details, but I might add that the suggestion has my full approval. The only difficulty appears to be that we do not at present have an Electronics Department. I suggest that we form one without delay. We will, of course, need a suitable man to lead this new department. I would welcome any names you might put forward." Guided by these broad hints, the board unanimously appoint Sid to this new job. VIII. It is now several months later. It is, in fact, Christmas Eve. In a cosy Mendip Pub, the members of the B.E.C. sit morosely drinking. For months now, the only natural cave still open has been denied them by gangs of men installing new electronic equipment in the artificial cave above it. It is certain in their minds that the door they persuaded one of the original workmen to fit when the cave was being constructed has now been discovered. So low are their spirits that Fred Ferrett has just bought a round without protesting that he bought the last one. A caveless future stretches grimly before then as they gaze unhappily into their pots. Out side the pub, a car crunches to a halt in the crisp snow. It is a brand new Range Rover. It belongs to Sid Spanner who has just returned from the successful trials of the Mark III and has seen the contract signed for the modification of over two hundred caves to the new standard. It is widely rumoured that he will be offered a seat on the board of British Caves Limited. As Sid gets out of the car, he looks thoughtful almost worried. A trifle nervous. It is one thing, he muses as he walks towards the front door, to force ones way to the top of a large company. It is quite another to attempt to join the B.E.C. However, he is not without hope, for there are aspects of the new improvements which - so far - are known only to himself. There is the small box he is carrying in his left hand coat pocket for instance. When this box is switched on down the cave, it becomes impossible to activate the T.V. cameras in its vicinity. Thus, a party can move about the entire cave unobserved. There is the other small box in his right hand coat pocket, which operates the gear on the door leading to the natural cave below. There is also the fact that a new cave has been ordered for Mendip and that some privately commissioned work has established the existence of a large and hitherto unexplored cave below the site which British Caves have been persuaded to recommend. Even so, Sid thinks as he enters the pub, the B.E.C. doubtless have their pride. They may well consider that he is trying to buy his way in. Perhaps if he bought them enough beer? IX. It is much later that same night. The hour is just past midnight. Technically speaking, it is now Christmas Day. At the Belfry, nothing stirs. The moonlight, filtering through the icy windows, falls on the motionless figure of Pete Pushem as he lies stretched out on the floor, his pint pot still in his lifeless hand. Nearby lies an ungainly heap consisting of Ron, Fred, Sam and Sid. Slowly, this heap stirs and the figure of Fred Ferrett detaches itself. He staggers outside. The quiet of the night is suddenly broken by a characteristic sound. It is Fred honking. He staggers back, closes the door, trips over Sid's feet and falls once more on to the top of the heap. "Merry Christmas!" he mutters thickly as he sinks into a deep stupor.
Club members holidays like club members, are never ordinary affairs as this contribution from Janet Setterington shows.
It was going to be 'that sort' of holiday. It was obvious from the moment that Sago and Sett said "There's this computer that we want to have a look at near Carnac. We want to do a lot of work and mix in a little wine, a little food and a little conversation." So that was how we came to take a house on the Quiberon Peninsula of Brittany during the late spring for Sett, Sage, Tich Set Jan, Julian and Vanessa. Armed with everything from pamphlets by Thom. (and if you don't know who he is, you're lucky!) to toothbrushes the advance party set out to make the crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff. Sage was to follow later. Nothing untoward happened except that we nearly missed the boat entirely due to the rotten timekeeping of British Rail that particular day - oh, and Vanessa distinguished herself by depositing her tea all over the floor (deck) BEFORE they had untied those ropes that stop the boat floating off before the car doors are up. Having cleaned up the mess and persuaded the offender to get some sleep, we settled down for a pleasant crossing. If you like globe artichokes, Roscoff is the place for you in the springtime. We left the boat and for over half an hour drove through fields - acres - masses of them, all ready for picking. It was a sight to gladden the heart and stomach of a true devotee. Leaving the gleaming, green globes, we continued south across Brittany, along lanes lined with foxgloves and other flowers that are fast disappearing from our own hedgerows, to collect the key to our house from the watch repairer in a tiny Breton village. We drove on south, and suddenly, there it was - the computer. The great, grey stones of Carnac. Some of us had seen them before and were pleased to see the impression that they made on the uninitiated, who thought that Stonehenge was the be-all and end-all of megalithic calculators. Compared with Camac, Stonehenge is merely pocket sized - the sort of thing an adoring wife would buy her husband for Christmas. We found our house in the village of Kerhostin with aid of a local map and, having unpacked little Wol, we sat down to a meal of bread, cheese and wine. Then Sett indulged in the age old B.E.C. pastime of 'sleeping it off' while the rest of us drove slowly into Quiberon to do a mammoth 'shop'. While we were there, two of us bravely tested the sea for bathing and found it was cold enough to etc. Titch and Vanessa were very amused. The advance party was supposed to recce the area but what actually happened was that Jan went down with the tummy bug, feeling decidedly queer in a hypermarket and needed nursing. Still, she recovered enough to cook a couple of memorable noshes; at least, they would have been if the wine had not set in. Then, the day before Sage was due, disaster struck. Sett was overcome by the Revenge of Montezuma and was forced to take to his bed, so it fell to Titch and Jan to drive back to Roscoff for our friend. Leaving dad to the mercies of Julian and Ness, we started out before the dawn to meet Rice off the seven a.m. boat. It was a long journey and everything would have been fine if a big French lorry hadn't tried to use our bit of road while we were standing on it. Little Wol's near side was somewhat modified, and the lorry had the mud knocked off his bumper. Still, as Jan had a witness, Sett didn't kill her, and even allows her to drive the car again – sometimes! The return from Roscoff was not so eventful and we actually stopped and did some sightseeing at the lovely old slate-covered market at Le Faouet. On reaching Kerhostin we got down to the serious business of the trip and had an enormous fish souffle, washed down with an adequate supply of vin blanc. Having decided that we loved our stomachs, it was with difficulty that we set out to see the Grand Menhir, which lies at Locmariaquer and is the centre of the complex. The menhir, which is broken in five pieces, 64 feet long and when standing could be seen for many miles around. Then we set out on our tour of the alignments. They are spectacular - of that there can be no doubt. Sett and Sago were like a couple of small boys let loose in a toy shop. Measuring; calculating; sighting and arguing they kept us enthralled for several hours. The consensus of opinion was, in the end, that the whole
120 thing was a lunar observatory as, indeed, the books said. Numerous expeditions were made to see the larger, more important outlying stones, but if you want to know the significance of them you will have to talk to Sett - as maths and astronomy are not the writer's strong points. We contemplated the purpose of this vast structure beside a lake in the golden afternoon sunshine with a delicious picnic laid out in front of us. Golden hours indeed. A grand tour round the Golfe du Morbihan was also on the agenda and it was interesting to see, in some areas, the locals still recovering salt from brine pans. The little piles of white crystals look like mountains in miniature when the sun shines on them. During this tour we went to look at the ruins of a chateau at Suscinio. The relevant government department is in the throes of restoring this fantastic old building, and we were impressed with the lengths to which they were going. It is far from being 'pretty-pretty' as many of the buildings of the Loire, but it is a real, solid, working castle complete with a moat full of water. The areas in which we stayed is renowned for its seafood - oysters in particular. One Sunday we set out for some lunch. Actually, we were supposed to be on the lookout for some crepes, but we were all hoping. We found our oysters and made pigs of ourselves; then we showed what gluttons we were by downing some delectable crayfish - and that was just the fish. The memory lingers. The crowning achievement as far as food went was Sago's exhibition of how to eat mussels. Julian and Vanessa opted out and went for omelette. Between four of us there were nine pounds of moules - cooked in a little white wine and served with a sauce of white wine, tomatoes onions and herbs. The shellfish filled a large tureen, two large casseroles and a large meat dish. Each adult was equipped with a washing-up bowl to take the debris. The great eat-in began. Jan soon dropped out and moved on to the more mundane salad and cheese. After a couple of pounds, Sett called it a day and Titch soon followed - but Sago kept right on eating. Mussel after mussel found its way down his throat. The procession was endless. In spite of pleas to his better nature; the state of his digestion and the possible state of the loo at some later hour, he kept going. It should be pointed out that the fish were accompanied by large chunks of bread and were washed down with copious draughts of wine. Few of us can have been privileged to witness such a feat of Falstavian eating. Eventually, with a regretful look at the almost empty dish, he stopped. Replete. Then, with beaming face and jovial tongue, he helped clear the board and wash the dishes. And, do you know, he had not one twinge of discomfort - the lucky……. What a man! While in Camac we visited the local museum. It is almost exclusively devoted to prehistoric exhibits and was founded by a Scot - J. Miln. We also had a look at the church of St. Comely, patron saint of horned cattle. This building is unique in Brittany. It dates from the 17th Century and boasts a porch that is surrounded by a canopy in the form of a crown. Michelin describes the roof as being 'covered with curious paintings'. These pictures are obviously very old and show the life of Christ from his birth to death. They are painted directly on to the wood and the colours have suffered somewhat, but they are well worth looking at. We tried to view the interior of the St. Michel tumulus but the guide didn't seem terribly anxious to take us round. However, since they had visited it on the recce, Sett and Jan were able to assure the party that it was quite like other tumuli – dark. So everyone was satisfied. Inevitably all good things come to an end and we had to come home. And that was a pantomime. You will have gathered that we were six in number, plus vast quantities of luggage. How, do you ask, did we fit everything and everyone into a B.L.M.C. 1300? It wasn't easy, but we managed. Nobody is going to pretend that Titch, Jan, Julian and Vanessa were comfortable in the back - being covered with old coats; cameras; compasses and all sorts of things that the 'boffins' had thought that they might need. However, they bore it nobly. The final indignity came when an extra load of 18 litres of rough French plonk was hurled in on top of them and they were not allowed so much as a sip. At Roscoff, we found a right old picnic. The Dockers had just ended a dispute which had held up many voyagers and the owner of the shipping line had that day to throw his boat open to the locals. It was rather a battle to get on board and a fight to get up the companionways beset by Frenchmen oozing free booze. Still we made it.
121 On getting home we found that we hadn't had a working holiday at all. Really, all that we had accomplished had been an eating extravaganza. So we shall have to go again. That's the nicest thing about Carnac, it's an excuse that isn't likely to run away!
MONTHLY CROSSWORD – Number 63 Across: 1
1. Tall brows as belay points? (9) 5. Passage which provided more water to 4 down. (5) 7. One of twelve perhaps, made during a survey? (4) 8. Knot. (5) 9. Edges of pool in this tone. (4) 11. Collective description of other clubs in the Mendip scene. (4) 12. One of two dry alternatives to 13. (5) 13. ….and the other one. (3,3,3)
Solution to Last Month’s Crossword D
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Down 1. Caves found on Mendip or in Firth. (5,4) 2. Common to Eastwater, Nine Barrows, Stoke, etc. (4) 3. Galena? Pyrites? (4) 4. Waste Mary underground? (9) 5. Individual entries on a list of gear, perhaps? (5). 6. Both caves and cavers get this on occasion. (5) 10. Type of cave represented by an exclamation in the South-west. (4) 11. Short Mendip Templar? (4)