Journal Series 3 Number 1

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.



Shatter Passage by JM Boon

Springhead Rising by Members of CDG

Trouble Series by FJ Davies

Review: The Shoring of Swallet Cave Entrances


Journal published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club

The Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU



This edition of the Journal sees the start of the Third Series. I hope that all members will approve of our new format.

This has been made possible by the loan that Mr R Showering has made to the club. This enabled us to obtain a most efficient duplicator, and by the successful sales of our Occasional Papers which has enabled us to purchase a replacement carriage to fit the club's typewriter.

Our Journal is now available to non-members of the club, at the price shown on the cover, and all members can assist the club's finances by acting as salesman. Non-members may have a copy sent by post for a subscription of three shillings per annum.

Finally, may I express my thanks to all those who helped during Series Two by writing articles. Now, in Series Three, please help me to keep my rule that an editor should not write articles for his own magazine.


The Exploration of Shatter Passage

Two hundred feet beyond the Mud Sump in the Paradise Regained Series of Swildons Hole an impressive boulder slope leads to the head of a 20 foot pitch - Shatter Pot. At the foot of the pitch one can clamber down a high, steeply descending, rift until the passage turns sharp right and the roof descends to a partial choke. Shatter Pot was first descended by Oliver Wells in April 1955 and in 1959 the partial choke was enlarged by a party from Oxford University to reveal Oxford Chamber, a widened cross rift. The way on, still descending, was heavily choked with clay.

In the summer of 1960, William Stanton suggested digging out the choke, as there were almost certainly dry passages beyond which might even lead back to the main streamway beyond Sump Five. So on 10 August 1960, after a reconnaissance with Dave Causer and Roger Luttmer, I started digging with a party from Bedford School. The mud and clay fill was quite easily dug out and we made good progress. There were two minor problems: the carbon-dioxide build up towards the end of a long trip, and the difficulty of stacking spoil in the confined spaces of Oxford Chamber. However, with the help of Sandhurst and Wessex members, the tunnel grew longer every weekend and as there was a slight air-space over the mud which seemed to take the slight draught we hoped for an early break-thorough.

Then quite suddenly it seemed we might have to abandon the dig. The Shatter Pot boulder slope, always precarious, was on the move and the pitch had become highly dangerous. It seemed impossible to shift any of the large unstable boulders at the bottom of the pile without causing the whole mass to disintegrate and I was resigned to spending many trips working on the pitch. However, gelignite settled down the larger boulders surprisingly well, and after levering several tons of rock over the edge we decided that the pitch was safe enough to descend. By December members from the Wessex and the Shepton were once again battling with foul air, a long uphill haul from the end of the dig, and a demanding method of stacking the spoil.

On the 14 January 1961 at a point some 25 feet from the start of the dig, Dave Causer and Steve Wynne-Roberts, found the roof was rising, and the following weekend Phil Davies, Fred Davies, and Ken Dawe, made the first breakthrough. They dug upwards for four feet into a low chamber, now known as Junction Chamber, ten feet wide and fifteen feet long with a rising floor of sand. There were three passages leading off; ahead a sand filled inlet, to the left another inlet, this time a tight twisting passage, to the right a small tunnel descending for 25 feet into a cross-rift too tight to enter.

The party conjectured that the way on lay beneath four feet of sand in the little chamber and to check this Don Crown and I went down on 31 January. An hours digging in the floor of the chamber convinced us it was hopeless and I decided to crawl up the sand inlet again. To my delight I found my breath being sucked up a small hole on the left and squinting through it I saw the roof rose in a few feet. There was a fine echo. We dug hard and in under an hour we could squeeze through into a broad vault. To our right the roof rose, and the passage curved out of sight into darkness.

Cautiously we advanced uphill over the floor of cracked red clay which seemed to absorb every sound we made. The smooth walls some eight feet apart swung gently right, then left, then right once more until after some 60 feet a clean rock tunnel broke abruptly into our passage at a slightly higher level. We climbed up onto a broad sill of rock and after a few feet dropped back onto the clay floor with the roof high above us. The passage curved sharply to the right and belled out into a chamber some twenty feet wide and twenty-five high, dominated by a giant overhang poised like some petrified Atlantic breaker. Here we heard running water, and for the first time I thought we might realise our dream of entering Six.

Quickly we climbed over fallen rocks to a recess in the right hand wall, and in a few minutes we had forced the remaining eight foot by combined tactics. Ahead was a descending tunnel some ten feet high and fifteen feet wide, a broad arch leading straight to the sound of the water. We clambered down over long detached flakes of sallow limestone for about 90 feet until the passage levelled out and we reached the water. But, alas for our hopes, the little stream flowed under in low flat roof blocked with boulders and mud, though taking a draught. The stream cascaded down the rotten rock of the left hand wall from an impenetrable hole.

Feeling rather overcome by the size of our discovery we returned up the tunnel with its beautifully worked and fretted roof of brown and cream limestone. Near the overhang Don stopped and silently pointed at a low passage leading diagonally back towards the stream. We crawled along a mud floor beneath a pointed arch until the angle of the floor rose so that we were climbing an aven like passage bestrewn with shattered rocks. A small stream flowed down a ribbon of grey stalagmite, while flanking it on either side were remarkable masses of calcite. After a vertical ascent of some 40 feet we reached a fork; both branches quickly ended in stalagmite chokes.

We decided to leave the new cave, and after throwing down many perched rocks we safely climbed the overhang. After an awkward little climb of five feet into the rocky tunnel, the sandy chamber, and about six hours after entering the cave we were standing in the open air once more

Our discovery aroused a great deal of interest and the following weekend two waves of diggers went down to the terminal choke. We did succeed in passing the low arch into a region of highly shattered bed-rock. Progress through this area could only be made by prolonged blasting operations, though it seems almost certain that the little stream flows into Swildons Six. Fred Davies and Bryan Ellis surveyed the main passage on this trip, marking the end of some seven months work involving about fifteen trips and totalling around 500 man-hours. The length of the main passage is some 250 feet, with a total of around 300 feet beyond Oxford Chamber. The terminal choke is some 450 foot above Ordinance Datum, as opposed to Oxford Chamber, 460 feet, and Sump Four, 350 feet.

I would like to thank very sincerely Mr Maine, and many others, for their interest and encouragement, and all those members of no less than seven British caving clubs who have dug at Shatter Pot. I hope that we shall join together for further discoveries in the future.

JM Boon

March 1961

Figure 1 – Plan section of Shatter Passage survey

Figure 1 – Plan section of Shatter Passage survey

Figure 2 – Elevation section of Shatter Passage survey

Figure 2 – Elevation section of Shatter Passage survey

Some Notes on the Survey of Shatter Passage

A line survey was run from the bottom of the ladder pitch at Shatter Pot to a point just prior to the low arch taking a small stream as described by Mike Boon. Passage detail was largely sketched from memory.

For the purposes of the line survey, readings were taken using a steel tape calibrated in links; a hand-held prismatic compass; and a home made clinometer. Survey conditions were almost ideal, very dry and comparatively roomy.

The survey data given should enable those interested to plot the passage onto a copy of the Stanton survey of Swildons Hole.

Survey Data


a) Station 1 is at the bottom of the pitch as shown by WI Stanton and has coordinates E 10700 N 9620, and

b) Station 2 is at the level shown by the soot height of 436.6 feet on the survey by WI Stanton

Then the coordinates of the stations shown have been calculated to be:


































Springhead Rising Rodney Stoke

Being a copy of the report sent to the Street Urban District Council by members of the Cave Diving Group and Shepton Mallet Caving Club.

During the afternoon of Saturday 5 November 1960 a full scale diving operation was organised to continue the exploration of this major resurgence previously probed by M Thompson without a breathing apparatus. Divers taking part were J Buxton, MM Thompson, and KR Dawe.

Thompson dived first, and in a six minute dive reached the point which appears to be the ultimate limit. Moving northwards against the water flow he passed the small air-space reached by him when free diving but within another ten feet was faced by a series of rifts, about one foot wide, and inclined at 45° down from right to left. The water flow was through those cracks. The water here had a depth of about seven feet.

Buxton then entered the water and confirmed Thompsons report on the upstream route. He then examined the walls of the water chamber and found a recess to the North-East with a small air-space at the end and a large mud deposit on its northern side. There was no visible exit from this recess.

The third dive was made by Dawe, but he did not make any fresh discoveries.

All three divers were of the opinion that the cave appeared to enlarge about ten feet beyond the beginning of the rifts blocking progress upstream. It is possible that if the water were removed an unhampered caver would be able to pass through those cracks, but the bulk of the breathing apparatus prevents such exploration whilst the stoppage is under water.

Regretfully, therefore, we are forced to the conclusion that the limit of exploration with present equipment has been reached.


Trouble Series, Swildons Hole

During the time that has passed since the Paradise Regained series was first opened many cavers must have visited the spot now known as Breakfast Chamber. Almost all will have dropped into the West side of this chamber and so continued their difficult way down Blue Pencil Passage.

One who looked a little further was Willie Stanton (of the Wessex Cave Club) when taking readings for his survey. A difficult traverse over the top of the vadose trench that becomes Blue Pencil Passage brings one to a small pot, a tight squeeze to the right leads to the bottom of Blue Pencil aven, but straight ahead is a large steeply ascending passage with a very muddy floor. Ascending this passage one passes to small trickle entering on the right and so reaches an almost circular chamber. Stanton was not the first to reach this chamber, but he was the first to say that something must be done about the mud choke which obviously blocked the way on from that final chamber.

He did not then find time to attack it himself. He returned to his work in Angola, but spent a lot of energy writing letters to people who might be encouraged to dig at such a remote spot. Despite this it was not until he was again in Mendip during the Summer of 1960 that the choke was attacked. On the 23 July that year a party comprising Willie Stanton, Howard Kenney, and Mike Boon, started digging at the right hand side of the choke. A comparatively short period of digging resulted in an air-space through which a steady draught blew. A little more digging enabled them to crawl flat out for five feet, then up a one foot step, into a high rift passage. This excavated section is now known as the First Trouble.

The high rift passage entered so hopefully led a mere fifty feet, over a mud floor, to yet another circular chamber. At the left hand side of this chamber, that is the West, a small passage at floor level showed only one inch of air-space, but still with that strong draught blowing over the mid in-fill.

This second choke, known as the Second Trouble, was first attacked by a party led by Oliver Lloyd (Wessex) on Saturday 30 July. They made progress along a low tunnel but it was left for a party, again led by Willie Stanton, of John Parkinson, Richard Kenney, and Mike Boon, to break through on the succeeding day. When this party reached the tunnel excavated by the previous party they found it full of water, it was baled out, and after three hours digging they broke upwards into a cross rift.

To the left it closed down almost immediately, but to the right (North), it extended as far as they could see. A small trickle of water running down the West wall (point B in the survey) accounted for the flooding of the dig. Crossing a floor of rich red mud, ducking under a low section of roof, they followed an incised meander trench for some hundred feet to a point whore the rift like passage was too narrow at floor level, and blocked by heavy calcite deposit higher up. A gap through this calcite barrier looked inviting, but despite his efforts Boon failed to force his way through. The passage could, however, be seen to continue with plenty of room, for as far as a lamp could reach. Just before this blockage the quite heavy flow of water ran down the right wall, and many long fine straws decorated the roof. The party then left the cave, but Willie, examining the digs carefully was convinced that both would probably become sumps before any other party entered the cave.

The floods of August prevented Lloyd and Kenney from attacking this squeeze with explosive and it was not until September that any work was done at this spot. Stanton's leave was nearly over; the already explored extension had to be surveyed, and the squeeze forced.

So it was that on Saturday 17 September Ken Dawe, Brian Goodwin, and I travelled through Paradise Regained, taking with us two 50 foot lengths of garden hose. As expected, the First Trouble was very nearly a complete sump, but a siphon (it needs 50 feet of tube to go around the corner and onto the slope down to Blue Pencil) soon lowered the water enough to allow us to reach the Second Trouble. A second siphon was set up, and future visitors may be interested to note that a small hole at A in the survey does not apparently connect with the First Trouble. Water from the Second can be safely fed into it without filling the First Trouble.

We had just about opened both troubles when Willie Stanton and Chris Hawkes joined us. They handed over a supply of "bang", then started their work on the survey.

Three very muddy creatures, the Second Trouble is like a very long Mud Sump, made their way up to the squeeze. I too thought it looked passable, but in fact it needed six ounces of gelignite, fired in two separate charges to make it large enough for us to wriggle through.

Beyond was a high rift with some very nice, but not exceptionally white, cascades of flow-stone on the left hand wall. After only fifty feet it turned sharp right to a curious little, muddy, boulder floored, chamber. It seamed to be the end, and I was cursing our luck, when a small tube was noticed. Hidden at floor level by a projection of the loft wall, it led, via an awkward crawl over more muddy boulders, to one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen. A small low grotto, about eight feet wide and four high had a gently sloping floor of white crystalline calcite leading up to a cluster of bosses and columns outlined against the darkness of the continuing cave. A short search revealed no possible way of avoiding passing through the grotto, and from that moment it really was Doomed Grotto.

The passage continued past many more finely shaped and coloured curtains, pillars, and flows before ending in a muddy little pool of water. Just before this, however, we noticed an interesting rift in the right wall, partially blocked by stalagmite bosses a small hole showed nothing but blackness, and the sound of a small stream came from beyond the obstruction.

Retracing our steps for about thirty feet we climbed up into a passage running West. This led downwards at about ten degrees to the horizontal, past one stalagmite barrier, for some one hundred feet, to a second barrier. Here we stopped and returned to inform the surveyors that they now had a further 300 feet of passage to survey. We found that the journey out from Breakfast Chamber took us about three hours that night, whilst Chris and Willie were in the cave for another four or five hours after us, without completing the survey.

During this time Willie succeeded in forcing his way along a tight crawl to the left of the second stalagmite barrier in the westerly passage and so entered Crystal Gallery. This well documented passage is notable for its mud formations, and the eighteen inch diameter sheet of pink crystals which stand out so clearly on the mud floor at the end of the passage.

Since the survey had to be completed, and it was considered important that the formations should be photographed as soon as possible on the 1st October, Phil Davies, Willie Stanton, Mike Boon, Mike Thompson, and I, visited the series. Conditions were very wet, and a party had to be left at the Second Trouble, continuously bailing, to safeguard the return of the surveyors and photographers. A trench dug from the Second Trouble to the hole at "A" (see map) is of great assistance in lowering the water level.

During the fourteen and a half hours that this trip lasted the survey was completed, the formations photographed, and an abortive attempt made by Mike Thompson to blow open the side rift at the northern extremity of the passage. This now appears to be the principal hope of extending the system further.

The completed survey shows that this point where the water can be heard is some sixty feet due south of the Swildons Two streamway just prior to the First Creep, but at least eighty feet above it. I know of no streams entering Swildons Two in this region so chances of new extensions appear to be good.

The end of the westerly arm, Crystal Gallery, is only some ten or twenty feet from that sarcastically (but now almost appropriate) named Crystal Passage which goes steeply up to the left just beyond Duck Two, and the vertical separation being of the order of 50 ft. this seems to be the continuation of Crystal Gallery.

Such is the history of the Trouble Series. The early trips were long and hard, but already tourist trips have been through the series and back to the surface in seven hours. Anyone wishing to see relatively unspoilt formations had better hurry.

Figure 3 – Double Trouble survey

Figure 3 – Double Trouble survey

FJ Davies

January 1961



The Shoring of Swallet Cave Entrances by S J Collins

Published by the Bristol Exploration Club as "Caving Report Number Four"

Price: Two and Sixpence

One has only to think of the number of Mendip caves that have been dug open at some time or other, then the shoring has collapsed and the entrance has to be dug out again, to realise that it is a pity that a paper dealing with the requirements of good shoring for cave entrances was not published many years ago.

Although this proper is published as "Caving Report No. 4" it is in fact the fifth in the series as No. 5 was published twelve months ago. In this paper "Alfie" Collins has succeeded in producing a report that is not only informative, but at the same time one that is interesting to read.

At the beginning of the report soil mechanics are discussed for different types of soil and one learns the meaning of terms such as "soil cohesion" and "slumping". These show why shoring is necessary for a shaft and the forces that the shaft will have to withstand. Different types of shoring are discussed and described and information on their building given; first, in great detail, the conventional wooden shaft, then, more briefly, steel and concrete pipes (with several references to Priddy Green Sink), girder systems, and finally a "hanging" shaft which does not require solid footings.

This report will make interesting reading for any caver and will be of very great help to anyone who has at any time to construct shoring for a shaft, either temporary during digging or permanently for a cave entrance. It is a worthy addition to a useful series of caving papers and is probably the best of the five written so far.


 Journal Series 03 Number 1