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.
Diving in the Sumps of Henslers Passage By K Dawe
Agen Allwedd By D Crown
Priddy Green Sink By J Hanwell
Yorkshire, August 1960 By M Thompson
Springhead Rising, Rodney Stoke By M Thompson
Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club
The Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU
This edition, our largest number to date, records yet more interesting activities within the club. Some very fine dives have been carried out in Yorkshire by Ken Dawe, Mike Thompson and Jerry Wright. The rising at Rodney Stoke is being investigated with the blessing of Street UDC, and a future edition will carry an article describing the fine new Double Trouble series in Swildons Hole.
Mike Boon has been very busy at the bottom of Shatter Pot, also in Swildons, and his slave driving of many different parties appears to be bringing results. This is a very promising site, which may prove to be the key to further progress along the Main Streamway, and we wish him every success in this venture.
I noted in an earlier journal that a report of the expedition to Ireland was being prepared in the form of a small book. I am happy to be able to report that this is now in the process of being duplicated and should be available shortly. We appear to have started a series of these occasional publications as a second, Caving in North Wales, by Bryan Ellis and Fred Davies, has already been prepared. Both volumes, Ireland 1959 and Caving in North Wales should be available at about the same time.
Survey of Swildons Hole
During his recent leave Willie Stanton, of the Wessex Cave Club, has been very busy revising his fine survey of Swildons. As he once before said, 'there's no end to the darn place', and he has been the driving force behind the discovery of some new extensions during the past three months.
The survey has now been completely redrawn, with plenty of space left for new extensions in the region of Swildons Six, and possibly Seven. One very interesting feature of the revised survey is that it shows Priddy Green Sink in relation to the main cave.
Copies of the revised survey may now be obtained from Howard Kenney, Tudor Cottage, Beryl Lane, Wells, though at the time of writing I cannot state the cost.
I am sure all members of the club will join in congratulating Liz & Mike, Judy & Wally, and Pauline & Bryan, on their recent engagements and wish them every happiness in the future.
SMCC Annual Dinner
This year's dinner will be held at the Star Hotel, Wells, on Saturday, 10 December at 19:30. Tickets will cost fifteen shillings each, and orders for these should reach Dave Roberts (with the cash) by December 3rd.
Bristol Exploration Club Caving Reports
No. 2. A Preliminary Report on St. Cuthberts Swallet
No. 3. A New Method of Manufacturing Lightweight Caving Tackle
No. 5. A Survey of Lighting and Headwear Available for Caving
Copies of these publications are still available, either from our club hut, or the BEC Secretary, RJ Bagshaw, 6 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol.
Diving in the Sumps in Henslers Passage
An investigation of the two terminal sumps in Henslers Passage by the Cave Diving Group, supported principally by the Bradford Pothole Club, was arranged for the Whitsun weekend (June 3-6) 1960. A preliminary trip via Mud Hall and the large aven in Henslers Passage to the sumps, by Len Dawes and Frank Darbon, had indicated that the route was a practical one for the transport of the diving equipment.
The diving equipment was taken underground by members of the BPC during Whit Saturday evening, and left at the right hand sump. At 08:45 hours on the Sunday the diving party started descending the Main Shaft by the winch. The party consisted of Brian de Graaf, Mike Thompson, and Ken Dawe, divers; Fred Davies i/c kitchen; Len Dawes & Jerry Wright, log keepers. Eric Hensler and Mike Boon also accompanied the diving party into the cave to survey a new part of Henslers Passage that Eric had discovered. This proved to be several hundred feet or so of low wet crawl, similar in design to the main passage.
Both sumps lie at the downstream end of the vadose passage entered via Henslers from GG, or by descending Disappointment Pot. Shortly before the downstream end of the cave the passage divides. The left hand fork leads via a short crawl to a canal terminating in a sump; the right hand fork leads via about 600 feet of fairly roomy passage to a sandy chamber about 15 feet high and 20 feet long. A mud slope, descending for about 12 feet from one corner of this chamber leads to the other sump. This right hand sump was tackled first.
When the sump was reached it was decided that it would be quite inpracticable to test diving apparatus before use due to the muddy nature of the sump floor - testing would stir up enough mud to greatly reduce visibility when diving commenced. The possibility of testing in the other sump was mooted, but decided against due to the lack of room and also because of mud. We decided to dive the first sump using a lifeline at all times since the apparatus was unchecked. Brian de Graaf made the first dive at 14:00 hours, and was only in the water for a few minutes. He came out and reported that no practical way on existed. The floor descended steeply to an estimated depth of 12 feet, but almost immediately the roof sloped downwards, leaving a narrow space between the two. The floor was of thick oozing mud into which Brian was slowly sinking. Visibility was by that time nil, and it was not even possible to read the depth gauge. The diver, therefore, surfaced.
Mike Thompson made the first attempt at the second (left hand) sump. A small stream enters a canal about 20 feet long which gradually deepens and sumps at the end. Mike found the conditions very similar to those experienced on the first dive. At the end of the canal the roof and floor almost meet at a depth of about 12 feet. The floor was again of thick mud. Mike returned to base. Ken Dawe then took a look it the sump but could only confirm the first diver's findings.
After the dive everyone adjourned to the canteen run by Chef Davies, and the entire supplies of food were devoured. This kitchen, keeping up a constant supply of hot drinks and food was a major factor in keeping morale high. In the event of a long original dive, such a kitchen would be quite invaluable. All the food being exhausted the diving party, reinforced by Eric Hensler and Mike Boon, retired from the cave, taking some of the lighter items of equipment. The major part of the equipment was recovered late on Sunday evening by a sherpa party drawn from the Bradford Pothole Club, SMCC, and Wessex CC. The whole operation was over shortly after midnight.
It is unfortunate that both sumps were completely impassable but that is just luck. It is unlikely that any flood will ever clear either sump, and it is quite impossible to clear either sump manually. Although there were hopes of discovering something quite big, these never materialised. Nevertheless at least two possible routes for entering the GG master cave have been explored and declared useless, and it was a most enjoyable trip anyway.
Ken Dawe, June 1960
The cave is best approached via the old tramway from Brynmawr. From this track one has a splendid view of the Usk Valley and the Breconshire countryside. Drivers are advised to stop to admire the view. An alternative route up from the Usk Valley is via Llangattock village. This is a tortuous narrow track with gradients of 1 in 6, very sporting, and it eventually joins the tramway. Soon after the junction of these two routes it becomes impossible to take transport any further, and is therefore a suitable place to camp. Water may be obtained from a spring which runs in even the driest weather, situated on the right of the track down to Llangattock about 200 yards from the junction with the tramway.
Reference to Britain Underground does not offer the visitor to Agen Allwedd hope of a particularly extensive or exciting trip. However, considerable extensions have been discovered in recent years giving many thousands of feet of interesting passage of varying type and severity.
Eight members of the club, including 4½ month old Simon Davies, assembled at the camp site on the escarpment on the morning of Saturday 3 October 1959 and after eating a large meal a party of five set off for the cave.
The entrance to the cave is on the same contour as the tramway and about one mile from the camp site. It is easily visible from afar, especially since a white notice board has been erected just to the right of the keyhole like opening. We entered the cave at about 1.00 pm.
Initially the cave provides some flat out crawling and a most interesting inclined tube (Sally's Alley) which initially appears to be holdless. The comments of certain members of the party at this point are unprintable - they are left to the reader's imagination.
The boulder choke which has to be negotiated to reach the new extension has a wall of solid rock on the left, while on the right, above, and below, are boulders of varying size and stability. Everyone treated the situation with a certain amount of care, especially where the rocks were tied up with wire.
On reaching the junction of the Main Stream Passage and the Southern Stream Passage we elected to investigate the latter first. We were confronted with a large passage offering an easy walk over a mud floor. The mud was criss-crossed by wide deep cracks which suggest that the drying out process had been very slow. Gypsum crystals were of even greater interest being particularly abundant and of considerable size and complexity. We were unanimous in saying that they were the finest we had seen in this country. Side passages leading off westwards have been shown from the surveys to offer possible connection with the Main Stream Passage beyond its present known limit. There is scope for further exploration here.
Having retraced our steps we went on down the Main Stream Passage. The going is relatively easy in an upright position, a little variety being provided here and there when one climbs down through masses of boulders such as are formed in Mud Rose Chamber.
After about 3000 feet in the Main Stream Passage we encountered a large tributary entering from the right – this is the Turkey Series. At this junction we put on our exposure suits which until now had been carried in packs. After a few minutes we were paddling downstream in shallow water in a high wide passage. One thousand or so feet later the passage took a sharp turn left, followed by a turn right, and we were up to our necks in water, the reason for the exposure suits, the shorter members of the party commenting that they were swimming. The roof, some twenty feet above in a lot of places, showed signs of recent flooding.
It is interesting to note that this trip took place at the end of the driest summer for many years.
After traversing many stretches of deep water we reached the final sump, which was thoroughly examined, but no way on could be found although the keen divers amongst us spent several minutes kicking around below the water.
On the way out the party split into two - one leaving the cave whilst the other explored, the Turkey Series. A high wide stream passage, with many high level side passages that we could not enter, which gave us some more swimming practice when deep pools had to be passed. It finally ended in a tight squeeze which, it was considered wise not to force in view of the tired state of the party.
Back at the camp there was a wonderful hot meal waiting for us. It was just after midnight.
Don Crown, February 1960
Editors Note: I hope that Don will not be insulted, but it seems to me that he has misnamed the Main Stream Passage.
Priddy Green Sink
It is now over a year since work started on opening up the old swallet opposite Fountain Cottage on Priddy Green. Although its existence had been known for many years, nobody paid it any attention until the early exploration of Swildons IV. Possibly this was due to the erroneous assumption that the water which normally sank at this point reappeared near Sump One, and that many were reluctant in seeking permission to dig at such a location. This situation altered when Fred Davies and Alan Fincham concluded that the tributary stream from Cowsh Aven, near Sump Four, could only have come from Priddy Green as it carried farmyard waste thought to have originated at Manor Farm. A survey of Swildons IV, and a maypole expedition to the aven, added weight to the theory, and ultimately it was proved correct by a chemical test. The advantages of access to the Swildons system direct from the Green are obvious in relation to easier and less dangerous further exploration. Therefore we were prompted into definite action, and obtained permission to start from Mr Maine late in August 1959. The following is a condensed account of the progress achieved until the time of writing.
Rather optimistically the first day's work started at 5 am, only to finish 15 hours later by filling in the ten foot shaft that had been dug. Subsequently a further 12 feet probe was unsuccessfully excavated nearby. Somewhat reluctantly we adopted the third phase, which was to follow the waste from the Manor Farm drain as it soaked away. The relative success of this approach was evident from a very impressive gaping pit, over forty willing helpers, a persistent crowd of tourist spectators, and a noticeable increase in custom at the New Inn.
Every weekend the sun continued to shine on our efforts, directed towards opening the rift down which the waste readily disappeared. It was now late in the year, however, and the favourable weather could not be expected to persist indefinitely, so a prefabricated wooden framework, 6 feet square by 12 feet was inserted as the basis for the temporary shuttering. Unfortunately the first long rainy spell caused a partial collapse of this shuttering; and so many subsequent working days were devoted to fixing two sections of 28 inch diameter concrete pipe, totalling seven feet, placed on a solid cement and stone base.
Once the entrance shaft was completed work recommenced on the excavation. Progress was laborious until Easter, being possible only by drilling shot holes and using explosives to enlarge the very constricted joints. Following Easter, however, a significant point was reached for the shaft broke through a 'window' in the side of a small streamway. This proved to be a relatively young vadose passage whose direction and gradient had been determined largely by a pronounced fault plane. The remarkably flat roof represents the upper plane of a wide brecciated zone dipping uniformly with the hade; whilst the ungraded floor can be attributed to differential down-cutting of the breccia itself. Such erosion had caused large blocks to collapse from the sides, constricting the passage at many points, and often they were consolidated by a thick stalagmite flow. In one instance this had been sufficient to cause the deposition of a large bank of sediment, washed in by heavy surface run-off. Consequently more blasting and digging were necessary, made more arduous by the need to remove all material excavated to the surface.
Eventually, early in August we broke into a more enlarged section of the passage, immediately named the ''Great Chamber". Here there was room to stack the rubble removed from the more constricted way on, and so progress became more rapid. A very tight awkward squeeze past a pronounced boss led to another small chamber, and the removal of the boulder floor gave access to a short aven terminating in a gravel choke. As this was the eve of the first anniversary of starting work was felt justified in naming the latter "Anniversary Aven".
The heavy rain storms this summer have greatly hindered subsequent efforts to remove this choke. Rapid floodings, with little warning, have twice caused anxious moments, at the same time infilling any ground gained in respect of passing this obstacle. Several approaches have been tried unsuccessfully, and the ultimate alternative would appear to be fine weekends and hard work.
No concrete conclusions can be drawn at present concerning the eventual link with the Swildons system although there are several favourable indications in that direction. Firstly, the predicted alignment of the fault appears to be associated with those in Swildons IV and Paradise Regained, whilst the trend of the dig seems to be towards the supposed connection with Cowsh Aven. Secondly, the impressive quantities of water taken by the sink in flood readily pass the 'terminal' choke; and finally under favourable atmospheric conditions, a strong air circulation is noticeable.
Figure 1 – Survey of Priddy Green Sink
This article was specially written for us by Jim Hanwell of the Wessex Cave Club. Jim was responsible for first obtaining permission for the dig from Mr Maine and therefore, although he vigorously insists that it is an 'all Mendip' dig, he is the 'owner' of the hole.
The accompanying section of the cave shows the date at which each point was reached and clearly demonstrates the accelerated progress of recent months. You may also notice that it is now 100 feet deep.
Interested people will find an account of the chemical tests mentioned by Jim in the May 1959 Journal.
Yorkshire August 1960
A small party consisting of Andy, Simon, Liz, Fred and I, together with Phyl Davey and Len Dawes of the WSG, camped for a few days at Ribblehead. What follows is a brief account of the caves which we visited.
We inspected two possible dives, Austwick Beck Head and Footnaws Hole. The former is used for domestic water supply and we were unable to get permission. The latter, whilst not very promising, does show some interesting features. It is a hole 25 feet deep in the bottom of which is a deep pool. We found that a strong tributary at the south end, quite near the surface, and a bedding plane extended in the same direction. I have not been able to find any record of these features, and they may be worth pursuing.
Our major trip of the week was the proposed dive by Jerry (who had joined us for the weekend) and I in the upstream sump of Inauguration Caverns, Clapham Cave. Using lightweight kit, modified Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus, with small stones carried in specially designed bags instead of lead weights, we were each able to carry all our own equipment, and, therefore, our support party was nowhere near as large as is usually necessary for a cave of this length. The stone weights, though bulky, were by no means unmanageable, and proved quite effective. The support party consisted of Fred, Len, and five Bradford Pothole Club members including Terry Marsdon, John Davey and Bob Jarman.
The route through to this Inauguration System is quite severe. After the show cave and Cellar Gallery we went along a very low crawl known as the Far East Bedding Plane. I should have thought this passage to be about 250 feet long. Beyond this passage we came to the 'Wallows', three partially flooded bedding plane chambers of great width. I imagine that without a guide it could be difficult to find the correct route. Once past the Wallows we arrived at Inauguration Caverns. These were more impressive than anything seen in the show cave; the large stream which flows out of the sump where we intended to dive has been dye tested from Gaping Gill. The approach to the sump consisted of a deep canal about 200 feet long. The only suitable diving base are some narrow ledges 33 feet from the sump.
The lightweight diving set has a very limited gas supply and therefore the dives which took place were not of long duration. After four dives Jerry reached a point where he could see the passage sloping up at 30° to an opening ten feet wide and three feet high. The length of passage from the beginning of the sump was 66 feet, it was 4 feet wide, with a depth of between twelve and fifteen foot. Until the last few feet the roof was out of sight.
Our investigation showed that this is a most promising dive, and equally, the value of lightweight equipment. We intend to employ similar techniques in some of the deeper Yorkshire pots.
We visited a number of caves in the Ribblehead area. Cuddy Gill Cave is the swallet to the stream which flows through Runscar Cave, ultimately sinking close to the Ingleton-Hawes road close to the viaduct. We had previously used this water for drinking, but ceased to do so when we found that the stream passage in Cuddy Gill Cave was blocked by a very dead sheep. Until then we had travelled along a stream passage for about 150 feet.
We now visited Lower Gunnerfleet Cave, well known in the north for its formations. Its total length must be about 500 feet. We were not particularly impressed by the formations, but we did find that the stream ended in a sump not mentioned in Pennine Underground.
Having returned to the north side of the viaduct, Fred and Len made an interesting new discovery. They entered a small resurgence, later identified as Roger Kirk Cave. Pennine Underground gives a length of 500 feet but they were able to proceed much further by shifting stones in the stream bed. Waist deep wading and low crawls alternated, eventually they emerged into a chamber with nail marks everywhere, a quick route led to the surface. They had succeeded in forcing the stream from resurgence to swallet over a distance of about twelve hundred feet.
Some of the party visited White Scar Caves. They were all highly impressed with the cave but disappointed to find that the management still prevent independent exploration of this major system.
Having found a sump in Lower Gunnerfleet cave it seemed a pity not to carry out a dive. In company with Jack Schofield (BPC), Len, Fred and I carried my gear to the sump. Once again the lightweight kit was used, but this time some lead weights were used to supplement the stones. After two dives I entered a small waterbound chamber approximately 12 feet long overall by 10 feet wide. The sump was found to be 23 feet long consisting of a constricted passage two feet high. The visibility under water was nil. There is no apparent reason why a further dive should not be successful but since the presumed resurgence is only 400 feet away it would barely be worth the effort.
Spring Head Rising, Rodney Stoke
This major resurgence is situated on the north side of Rodney Stoke village. It lies immediately below the western wing of Stoke Woods. Jim Hanwell aroused my interest in the place, and as a result I opened negotiations with the Street UDC, the body which controls access.
A large part of the flow is piped down to Street and is used for domestic water supplies. Jim and I visited the surveyor, Mr Corlett, and Mr Barrett, the Chairman of the Public Works Committee. The main problem was the difficulty of preventing silt being stirred up, there being no settling tank between the spring and the taps. It was decided that we should proceed by undertaking a series of preliminary investigations. Immediately after the meeting the 4 of us drove over to Rodney Stoke and we were shown the Water Chamber and the Chlorinating Plant.
On the 2nd September, Fred, Jim, Eric Towler, and I met Messrs Corlett and Barrett at the rising. We had a dinghy to float around the water chamber, and a sump probe, basically an eight foot rod with two electrical contacts on the end and connected to a battery and voltmeter. Whilst the contacts remain in water the voltmeter shows a reading, but ceases to do so as soon as the contacts emerge into air. In order to take every precaution we washed the kit in a solution of Chlores. We found the chamber to be about 12 feet long and 8 feet wide. By holding a lamp below the very clear water I was able to see a submerged arch and an opening 3 feet by 3 feet. When we tried the pole it registered an air space within two feet. We were not authorised to dive under, but we were able to make some progress in another direction. Above the entrance to the water chamber is a shallow cave (mentioned in Barrington's Caves of Mendip), at the end was a masonry wall, but a chamber beyond could be seen through a narrow fissure to one side. We obtained permission to breach the wall and the following day we returned with hammer and chisels. An hours work and we were into a small cave; shown on the survey in figure 2 below. A large part of the cave showed extensive signs of blasting, as did the Water Chamber, below. We succeeded in entering a new passage, marked Boon's Bane on the survey. We had to break a false stalagmite floor, and then Mike Boon was able to force his way through, followed by Fred Davies. A small pool just beyond the breached masonry wall probably gave rise to a local legend that, before construction of the wall, one could climb into the cave and see a pool below. We had hoped that this pool might be part of the streamway, and in this we were disappointed.
Figure 2 – Sketch Survey of Springhead Rising
Upper Cave, from a grade 3 survey by J Hanwell and F Davies
On the 24th September we again visited the rising. Arrangements had been made for the Street emergency water supply to be turned on so that disturbance of the mud would not matter. The object was to investigate the air space discovered previously, and to see exactly how much silt would be disturbed. I was able to pass under a narrow flake of rock into a small bell chamber approximately three feet by two feet with two or three impenetrable fissures in the roof. Further probing showed the way on to be under a low arch to the left of the bell chamber. The passage appeared to increase in size after six feet.
The next attempt, scheduled for November 5th, will be a full diving operation of which an account will be given in the next journal.