Note that this is a re-print of the original publication, based on a scanned copy. During the process of converting the original paper copy to this electronic version, the original formatting, page layout and page numbers have been lost. All diagrams and surveys have been scanned from the original and are consequently of poor quality.
Annual General Meeting Report (1954)
Further Club Notices
Long Caving Trips in Stoke Lane Slocker
The Devon Caves
Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club
The Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU
The Editors apologise for the delay in publishing this Newsletter but considerable difficulty was found in getting it printed. However, Mrs Roberts has kindly volunteered to do this work and all Club members will join us in extending our thanks. There is another explanation of the delay in the fact that we are still not receiving articles, accounts of trip etc., from Club Members. Once again we point out that it is your Club Newsletter and if contributions are not forthcoming there is little point in continuing the experiment. After the above moan may we wish all members and their families a Happy and Good Caving Year.
Subscriptions (7/6d) are due and should be sent to the Treasurer. In view of our increased commitments in both tackle and accommodation the early remittance of any outstanding subscriptions will be appreciated. Will those members who pay by cheque or postal order please make a note to draw them in favour of CE Chivers and not the Club.
Cave Research Group of Great Britain
Meeting at Axbridge. Ron Cave and Dave Roberts attended the Southern General Meeting at Axbridge on the 12th June. The hosts were the Axbridge Caving Club who had gone to great trouble to make everything run smoothly. There was a good attendance, but it was disappointing to find that there were no other Shepton members present. The first paper was by Prof Tratman and dealt with solutional development in Irish caves. This was followed by an interesting talk illustrated with lantern slides by John Hooper who is, of course, famed for his work on bats, this was as humorous as it was informing. We then saw the unusual spectacle of moving pictures taken underground. This was presented by the Axbridge Caving Club and dealt with Red Ochre Cavern. We met many old friends, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The next day the above-mentioned members took advantage of the facilities offered by the Axbridge Club to visit the new cave at Cheddar - Red Ochre Cavern, the Triple H dig and the Banwell Bone caves. Any members who have not visited the last mentioned caves should do so at their earliest opportunity. As apart from the obvious archaeological interest, it is a novel experience to crawl along narrow passages illuminated by electric light bulbs. A special word of thanks to the Axbridge member who changed into his caving clothes and showed us over the caves at quite a late hour.
CRG Newsletters No. 49 and 50 are now available on loan from the Club Library.
Annual General Meeting Report
The following is a summary of the Secretary's Report for the 6th AGM held in the Council Hall, Shepton Mallet in November 1954. Our President, Mr CE Burnell was in the chair.
After welcoming the new members present, the Secretary continued by reporting that the membership was still increasing both locally and in other parts of the country. One innovation during the year was the publishing of a Newsletter, of which two issues were produced. The Club Library was supplemented by the purchase of "British Caving" and Vol. 24 of "The British Caver."
Of the many interesting trips made during the year, the highlight was a visit to Tunnel Cave in South Wales as the guests of the SWCC. On this trip members present included representatives of both the London and Cheshire Groups.
Fred Davies was named as our most active caver of the year. To celebrate the passing of his degree Fred started a caving spree that included almost every cave in Mendip and also the descent to the bottom of the 170 foot Primrose Pot in Eastwater. Lectures were given during the year to various organisations including a Senior Scout Group and Castle Cary Toc H. Among the more unusual letters received during the year was a request from the Chief Geologist of Mexico for a complete list of members.
The Secretary then wound up by saying that a hearty vote of thanks was due to all those people, clubs and organisations who had given us so much valuable help during the year.
The meeting then continued with the Treasurer's report, which showed a balance in hand. Both the Secretary's and Treasurer's reports were adopted.
An exhaustive discussion followed on club meets, it was finally agreed that members should notify the Expedition Secretary of their intention to attend or otherwise on all occasions. Our new member Mr N Potts made a preliminary report on the bones from the new swallet, this report having been compiled by Mr Bantram of the Shell-Mex Lab. Discussion then followed on equipment and it was decided that a new nylon lifeline and other equipment be purchased. Mr Fred Sykes showed the Club members present a new lightweight ladder which he had made.
Various other Club matters were discussed and the meeting closed after the election of Officers as follows:
Secretary: R Cave
Treasurer: C Chivers
Expedition Sec: C Gloyn
Equipment Sec: D Roberts
Committee: F Davies, M Pullen, R Rix (London Group), N Potts.
It was agreed that as had been the practice in the past, no regular meeting would be held, but Club matters will be discussed whenever there is a quorum at Club Meets.
A large party did a full Eastwater the following day of the AGM. Fred Sykes' new ladder was used on the 2nd pitch and all the members agreed it was an unqualified success. Another party visited the dig and later explored Mendip in the hope of finding suitable premises for a Club Hut.
Further Club Notices
We are pleased to be able to announce that suitable premises for a hut have been obtained.
The Hut is on the Hunters Lodge / Priddy road, proceed from Hunters Lodge in the direction of Priddy as far as the Garage on the right hand side. The Hut is up a little lane about 200 yards past the garage, also on the right hand side.
It is hoped to hold a committee meeting shortly to decide arrangements in respect of the key and other matters. We hope to publish full details at a later date.
Work on the New Swallet has been hampered by the bad weather recently, but for those members who have not yet visited this enterprise here are a few details.
The swallet was first discovered by Fred Davies and is sited in a depression into which leads a dry stream bed. It appears to have been formed by the stream entering a series of vertical faults. To date we have entered some 50 feet of narrow passage but further progress is blocked by a boulder choke. We would like to express our thanks to the landowner for allowing us access to his property.
Long Caving Trips in Stoke Lane Slocker
At Easter some friends of Exeter College Caving Club and myself attempted a protracted underground stay in Stoke Lane Slocker. We planned to take dry clothes through the sump together with a meth stove and several tins of soup. One bloke was also taking a camera and flash-powder. In addition we had the usual ropes for the traverse and a total of 3lbs of carbide. The dry clothes taken through the sump were to be those we were wearing that far and we were using car and lorry inner tubes with wooden clamps over the ends. But preparation was very haphazard and we did not meet until the evening before the trip was due. Full of confidence the half dozen of us entered the cave at about ten in the morning and arrived at the sump, after a strenuous crawl along Browns Passage, soaked from the waist down due to the depth of water encountered in Browns Passage.
It took a very uncomfortable ten minutes or so to get out of our clothes and pack it in the tubes. Then we dived the sump in two parties of three, I led the first party and we safely arrived at the changing room together with our three bundles of equipment. Here we had a shock, our waterproof clothing containers were not very waterproof! Getting into the driest of our clothes we waited for the rest to arrive. When they did we had a further jolt. Somehow they had lost a sack of kit at the sump. Bernie Schaverein had spent as long as he could stand crawling around feeling for it but had been unsuccessful. This missing sack contained the stove for heating soup, ropes for the traverse and most importantly, the whole 3lb of spare carbide.
We now had a very cold and dejected party in the changing room. Luckily I found an old Tommy Cooker that a previous party had left behind. On this we heated some of our soup. But now disaster - half the tins were thick soup and the bottoms of these would be burning whilst the upper regions of the tin were still cold. Somehow we each had a couple of mouthfuls of hot soup and then, with no spare carbide it would be madness to go on, we went back through the sump.
And now at last some luck - the fourth bloke through found the missing sack on his way through the sump. We now had plenty of carbide but nobody, quite understandably, felt like going back through the sump and seeing the cave. A further slow journey through Browns Passage, including some very complicated wrigglings and squirmings at the Nutmeg Grater and Corkscrew finally brought a very tired party to the surface after eight and a half hours. Although this attempt was a rather dismal failure I still feel that for anyone who wishes to do a large amount of photography or similar work on the other side of the sump dry clothes and hot food are a must. I hope that perhaps this attempt, and the lessons learnt from it, will help anyone else who envisages such a trip.
The most obvious lessons I think are:
Collect party together, with kit, at least in afternoon of day before and check on things like waterproof containers.
Despite our failure I feel that the car inner tube and wooden clamps are the best bet but clamps must be carefully made of very stiff wood to fit the tube being used.
Go in summer when the water level is low so that clothes worn to the sump are still dry.
Essentials, like carbide, should be scattered among several loads, not all eggs in one basket.
Soups can be quite successfully heated in their tins over a Tommy Cooker but they must be thin soups.
The Devon Caves
Devon possesses many caves, forty or fifty in number, but they are very different in character to those we are used to in Mendip. There are, scattered over the south of the county, many small outcrops of Devonian Limestone and, apart from a single example in the Quantocks, these are the only caves known in Devonian Limestone.
Almost all the caves are solutional in origin, ie they were formed at a time when the rocks were below the level of the water table and it is this fact which makes them so different in character to the stream formed Mendip caves.
The Mendip caver will be first struck by the smallness of the passages, crawling is the normal method of progress, and the abundance of them. In the region of a cave the rock is literally honeycombed with passages, further they are all more or less on the same level, vertical pitches are rare. Some may be glad to learn that there are no stream passages to be crawled along, thigh and elbow deep in freezing water, but I would warn you that the water is replaced in most places by mud. Mud that ranges in consistencies from that of cocoa to that of concrete, and this can be more chilling and uncomfortable than water.
Buckfastleigh is the main caving centre, having nineteen caves in the district, but only three of these approach any reasonable size. These are Bakers Pit, Reed's Cavern and Pridhamsleigh Cave.
Bakers Pit was discovered by quarrying in 1847 but excavations inside the cave in 1953 gave access to some further tunnels and in conjunction with the more recently discovered Reed's Cavern, they are now recognised as part of the same system, having a connecting passage, possesses some 6000 feet of passage. Never particularly overloaded with formations the older part of the cave has suffered badly at the hands of previous visitors. Bakers Pit is probably the muddiest, and most like a maze of the three. I once left an empty "Players" packet that was serving as a landmark by four different routes and returned to it each time.
Reed's Cavern alone possesses many notable formations, these are a "Shark's Fin" half of which has now been broken off by a careless caver, a "Carillon" but this has some missing notes, and the "Little Man” a fantastically shaped column which stands out pure white against a dark background of mud and rock. This is the only one of the caves to be kept locked and further precautions are being taken by the DSS to protect it from damage.
Pridhamsleigh, near the village of that name, has been known since 1871. There are about 3000 feet of passage forming a fantastic maze leading to what is known as "The Lake". This is very limited in surface area but has been sounded at 95 feet. Divers report stalactites at a depth of 40 feet and side passages at 70 feet. This is obviously a "pot" of the type of Swildons '40 foot' but a raising of the water table, or level of saturation of the rocks, has flooded it. Despite the mud this is an interesting and sporting cave. An awkward traverse across a stretch of water known as the "Deep Well" will take one to the largest stalagmite in Devon, whilst a rubber dinghy will of course, provide you with "boating on the lake".