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.
The Grapajama, Slovenia by JM Boon
The Charterhouse Caving Committee by KR Dawe
Sump Two Stoke Lane Slocker by FJ Davies
"Trouble Again" by FJ Davies
Bottlehead Slocker by MM Thompson
Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club
The Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU
During the past six months the Shepton Mallet Caving Club has been associated with three major events in Mendip Caving.
The exploration of Swildon's VII, the climbing of Cowsh Avens to 200 feet above Swildon's IV, and the discovery of Stoke Lane III and IV.
Though all of these were the result of diving, the work at Cowsh Avens is most interesting, for here the traditional roles of the diver and the ordinary caver were reversed. The divers acted solely to transport maypole, and other equipment, into Swildon's IV.
Unfortunately, some people concerned in these discoveries do not realise the full extent of their duty to other cavers to publish full details of new ground covered. Hence I cannot yet publish accounts of two of these operations. I hope this omission will soon be rectified.
The Grapajama, Slovenia
Nearby to the 7-kilometre long Predjama system in Slovenia, another large stream, the Belsaica, flows underground, and after a largely unknown course, resurges in the Predjama cave. The site of the sink is a broken cliff some 100 metres high which dwarfs the farm building nestling at its foot. In summer the stream disappears in a pool a few metres upstream.
In September 1961 I visited the cave and after an initial crawl over bleached boulders passed a duck into a series of low passages much encumbered by flood debris. Past a large chamber, with foot marks in the mud, were further low passages until I entered an imposing tunnel some 8 metres high and 10 metres wide. After 40 metres or so the stream welled up from the left, and flowed for a further 60 metres to a sump. A large inlet from the right added to its waters.
From the local people I learned that the cave, known as the Grapajama after the nearby farm, Grapa, had been well explored by a Mr. Habe of Postojna, but as it seemed unlikely that any attempt had been made to pass the sump I returned a few days later with one or two of the village lads. Having primed them carefully for the passage of the duck I was surprised to find that it was no longer there, and we had a dry and noisy trip to the sump. I went about 2 metres into the sump and found that the roof was quite flat and barely submerged, with plenty of room underwater. With diving gear the sump seemed an easy prospect.
In August of this year I returned to Slovenia with some 2 cwt. of diving and caving gear which had accompanied me (and in one case preceded me) by car, boat, train and bus from Hertfordshire. After an appalling trek through the Jugoslav sun with diving gear in quantity I reached the cave to find the farmer, who had said he might come with me, had decided otherwise (he had been off work for several months following a stomach operation). As I would be alone beyond the sump it seemed illogical to bother about caving solo as far as it, and after a double trip through the cave I had cylinders, valves, lead belts, mask, ammo cans, line reel, spares bag and so on spread in glorious confusion before the sump. Being somewhat nervous about diving a sump 1300 miles from the next cave diver I had got a dubious Dennis Mead to make up an abortion christened Nyphargus II, consisting of two bottles, complete with valves, one on either side of the body. It involved 2 metal and 10 webbing straps, six of which were either removable or adjustable. After struggling with the whole ensemble for 10 minutes I abandoned it and settled for holding the bottle in one hand, with a line reel in the other hand, lead belt and a well filled spares haversack round the waist and pockets bulging with bits and pieces. So cluttered, the only way to move was to work my head along the roof (shades of 1936). I could have done with 10 lbs. more lead, and the face mask did not let the party down by filling with cold grey water immediately.
However, the whole circus moved forward and after 5 - 8 metres underwater I reached an airspace. Here I ripped off the mask and it fell into the water, never to be seen again. I found myself floundering in a shallow canal with extensions to the right and left and no sound of running water. Without hope I floated under a low roof to the right for about 15 metres to another sump, but a clean rock tunnel led off to one side, and climbing into it. I was soon back to the stream, running free in a sizeable passage.
Figure 1 – Survey of Grapajama, Bukouje, Slovenia
The way led on past partially redissolved banks of fawn stalagmite to an easy duck with a roof of streaky brown and grey flowstone. Beyond a second, rather lower duck were some rather weird formations, greenish and dark red and speckled and blotched so as to present a somewhat rotten appearance. A few metres further and the stream flowed into a sump, protected by a fringe of uneven rock pendants. A shallow canal led off to the right for 30 metres or so and shortly the passage belled out into an impressive arched corridor 6 or 7 metres high and wide. After 50 metres the stream flowed into a triangular passage 2 metres high and half full of water, then the roof shot away once more and easy walking over clean washed yellow gravels followed to a passage cutting obliquely across the line of the cave. To the left, after 10 metres, led to a further sump in 1–2 metres of water while a crawl to the right over the gravel led to a definite closure.
On the way back I made a rough survey by pacing and hand held compass read to the nearest five degrees; on plotting this showed that the total length of the extension was over 300 metres and it was heading generally South East, that is towards the point in Predjama at which the stream resurges. Having safely returned through the sump and with the help of the farmer (who had very pluckily decided to come in on his own) got my kit out, I sketch surveyed the cave from the first sump to the entrance by the same means and called it a day. From subsequent discussions with Mr. Habe it appears that the final sump in Grapajama is not more than 300 metres in a straight line from the resurgent sump in Prodjama. I feel that a strong diving party would have every chance of making the physical connection.
The Charterhouse Caving Committee
The chain of events which led to the formation of the Charterhouse Caving Committee (CCC) started in April 1958 when a large area of land in and around Charterhouse was purchased by the Bristol Water Works (BWW). The entrances to G.B. Cave, August Hole / Longwood and Read's Grotto lie on this land. In due course, therefore, a representative of the BWW contacted Prof. EK Tratman of the UBSS with a view to controlling caving in the BWW area.
In June 1959 Prof. Tratman called a meeting between all clubs interested in Mendip caving, and Mr. Brown, the BWW representative. At that meeting Mr. Brown pointed out that BWW policy was to allow the continuance of minority interests in areas under their control, provided that these interests did not interfere with their work, and quoted as an example of their policy the continuance of yachting on the Axbridge reservoir. The BWW would, however, only negotiate an agreement for caving with one body and had no intention of negotiating separate agreements with each caving club. The meeting therefore decided to form the Charterhouse Caving Committee, a body composed of a representative of each of the clubs present, and one nominee of the CCC was to negotiate as the sole representative of all Mendip clubs in all dealings with the BWW. In practice all liaison with the Water works had been very ably conducted by Prof. Tratman, the present secretary of the CCC. The clubs represented were, and still are:
- Axbridge Caving Group.
- Bristol Exploration Club.
- Bristol Boy Scouts (Caving Section).
- Cerberus Caving Club.
- Mendip Caving Group.
- Mendip Nature Research Committee.
- RMA (Sandhurst) Mountaineering Club.
- Shepton Mallet Caving Club.
- University of Bristol Speleological Society.
- Wessex Cave Club.
- Westminster Speleological Group.
The first meeting of the CCC itself took place in December 1959, and at that and subsequent meetings, suggestions were made for modifying the draft caving license provided by the Bristol Water Works to a form as suitable as possible to those interested in Mendip caving. It is expected that the licence will be very shortly in operation.
Providing that the BWW accept the Committee's latest crop of amendments, and it is reasonable to hope that the BWW will accept them, the essential points of the licence are as follows:
- The relevant area of land owned by the BWW is defined by a map, a copy of which is held by each member club.
- The CCC has the sole rights concerning caving and archaeological activities in the area, and these rights include those of exploration, excavation, photography and publications. Any member wishing to undertake any excavations, either above or below ground, on BWW land, must first obtain the written permission of the secretary of the CCC. The Committee is bound to ask permission of the Water Works before work can commence. These caving and archaeological rights are subject to a sub-licence, in the same terms, for G.B. Cave granted to the UBSS.
- All member clubs must possess a current public liability insurance policy, and this policy must be endorsed specifically so as to cover the BWW and the CCC. The policy must cover minors-in-law and club guests.
- No caver, whether a member of a member club or not, may visit the Charterhouse Caving areas without being in the possession of an official permit. Permits must only be issued to individuals, not clubs, and may be issued by secretaries of member clubs for periods not exceeding five years.
- Clubs, other than member clubs, can obtain access to the area for caving, either by arranging to be the guests of a member club, or by direct application to the secretary of the Committee. In the latter case the club concerned must satisfy the CCC that they possess the necessary insurance coverage and must pay a booking fee, in advance, of 10/-.
- The issue of a permit does not absolve the permit holder from making proper arrangements with the tenants over the use of barns etc.
Sump Two Stoke Lane Slocker
On Sunday 16th September, a large party, including Phil Davies, Jack Waddon, Ken Dawe, Mike Thompson, Steve Wynne-Roberts, Jim Hanwell, and Fred Davies of the CDG, were changing in Mr Stock's barn. The talk was pessimistic. We were only going to dive the Second Sump in order to be able to cross it off the list.
In small groups of three or four we entered the cave and made our way to the Second Sump via the streamway (except for Jim Hanwell, whose size made him take the Traverse route).
The first dives were to be by Steve Wynne-Roberts and Fred Davies using the ATEA / SEBA oxygen kit. It was Steve Wynne-Roberts turn to go first, Fred Davies having had the honour at Threaplands a fortnight previously and, after a briefing from Phil Davies on his knowledge of the sump so far, entered the water taking a nylon rope with him. After many minutes a vague signal was felt on the rope and it was found to be slack. We were all getting very anxious when he reappeared after an absence of 15–20 minutes.
His report exceeded all expectations. He had forced his way down a very tight tube beyond the limit of Phil Davies' exploration and surfaced in a largo roomy stream passage.
Fred Davies then dived through taking a waterproof ammo box with supplies and a length of WD telephone line to be laid as a guide wire. Swynne-Roberts quickly followed using a Normalair valve this time. Jack Waddon had one dive with Steve's oxygen kit but found the tube a bit tight. Mike Thompson (theoretically not diving) immediately took over the breathing apparatus and passed the sump to join the others in Stoke Lane III.
Together they set out to explore the streamway. It was mainly roomy easy going with the stream down through some nice cascades. At intervals overhead were large openings giving promise of dry chambers above, but these wore ignored. Sump Three was reached, but Mike Thompson shot up into a high level passage which led, via a duck with about 3 inches of air space, to a descent into a large active stream passage. This was clearly Stoke IV.
The passage did not descend very much and the explorers were soon forced to crawl on hands and knees over the mud floor with nearly a foot of water to crawl through. At intervals cross rifts still caused high extensions but the general passage was low and level floored. When the air space became no more than a couple of inches and a sump seemed imminent the party returned. The sump was passed without incident and the waiting crowd told of the wonderful section of cave beyond the sump whilst Jim Hanwell provided some very welcome food.
The new extension, Stoke III and IV, explored, on first impressions, appears to amount to as much as is already known in Stoke I and II. The first plans for further work is if at all possible to make III and IV accessible to non-divers. There will then be plenty of work, exploration and surveying for many people.
The congratulations of the club must be extended to members of the Wessex who, under the driving influence of Oliver Lloyd have, during the year succeeded in forcing the previously hypothetical link between the Trouble Series and Swildon's Two.
This now provides the average non-cave diver caver with an excellent round trip of quite a high severity. Apart from the Double Trouble Ducks, unpleasant at the best of times, there is a similar obstacle just beyond the crystal pool at the end of the Crystal Gallery, and of course Sump One.
Congratulations must also go to Willie Stanton who recognised the possibility of such a connection and has urged the search for it from his safe distance in Angola.
We can only now express the hope that those who follow in the trail blazed by the Wessex, we shall be one, will take care to protect the formations in the Trouble Series.
Bottlehead Slocker (Downhead, Eastern Mendip)
This new cave is situated at NGR 688454 in the village of Downhead. A strong stream sinks at the foot of a 15 feet high limestone cliff 150 yards south of Green Farm, (marked on the 6 inch OS map). The entrance is unique. The cave is entered through a disused chicken house built against the cliff. Amongst a heap of debris at the back is an upended oil drum. This is the entrance.
The swallet is one of at least four lying round the Eastern flank of the old red sandstone upon which stands Cranmore Tower. The stream was virtually unknown until 1950 when the MNRC discovered Downhead Swallet, an open active stream cave. They noticed Bottlehead Slocker, but nothing was done because the chickens were then in exclusive possession.
On the 24th May 1960 Mike Boon, Liz and I visited the site. The chickens still presented a problem but otherwise it seemed a rational dig.
It was not until the 12th August 1961 that we could make a start. Permission was readily forthcoming from the owner of Green Farm, on whose land the cave is situated. We ignored the active stream sink and commenced by trenching along the south wall of the cliff. After 3 feet of domestic debris we encountered more rubble through which a draught was blowing. After two weekends work we had a trench 4 feet deep and 6 feet long. On the third weekend we continued in the same manner deepening and lengthening the trench. It soon became apparent that shoring was necessary. I placed a vertical timber in position and Bruce Johnson began to drive it in. After a couple of blows there was a rumbling from below and the timber shot downwards. A few minutes frantic work gave us an opening into a descending tunnel. Dave Causer and I went down the tunnel into a small chamber. It was choked ahead but continued to the north. After 15 feet a 6 foot drop gave access into a bedding plane, 3 feet high and 20 feet wide. At the bottom we cleared a small choke and entered a small passage. It increased in size end after 30 feet opened out into a small chamber, 15 feet across and 7 feet high. Another short drop of 8 feet led into a passage with stalagmite flows on the walls and a boulder choke in the floor.
This part of the cave has at some time been filled with mud and stalagmite deposited over the mud. Subsequently the stream that formed the passage has returned and cut away the infill, leaving the remains of false flooring.
Beyond the boulder choke there appeared to be a badly choked continuation. It didn't take us long to conclude that the only possible route was through the boulder choke. We spent five weekends working at the boulders. At the second session we heard for the first time the sound of running water down below.
Figure 2 – Plan survey of Bottlehead Slocker
Figure 3 – Elevation survey of Bottlehead Slocker
By blasting we made a route through the boulders into a mud choked rift. We continued downwards through chock stones and reached bottom at 30 feet. The only obstacle that stood between us and the stream was a small mud choke. With visions of a streamway going for miles I slid through into a space barely big enough to stand in. The stream emerged from a tiny slit and after 4 feet vanished into a hole approximately 6 inches by 5 inches.
We have since made a somewhat desultory effort to follow the water but it soon became clear that the passage decreased in size. The only remaining possibility seems to be the choked passage above the head of the 30 feet drop, now christened the "Bottleneck",
Future visitors to the cave will find a rope useful when negotiating the "Bottleneck".
Obituary EJ Waddon (Died November 3rd 1962)
It is with great regret and a feeling of personal loss that we record the death of Jack Waddon, who failed to surface on time from a training dive in the Mineries Pool at Priddy, and died shortly after rescue.
Jack, a member of the BEC and Wessex Clubs, had been a popular and active caver for many years, and was one of the original explorers of St. Cuthbert's Swallet. It is, however, more recently through the Cave Diving Group that many of us in the Shepton came to know, like and respect Jack. All of us who have at any time been active cave divers have dived with Jack in either Wookey Hole, Swildon's, Stoke Lane, or even Yorkshire. Jack was a CDG Trainer Diver, in which capacity he was of great help to many of us, and was also Group Meets Secretary and Editor of the Cave Diving Review. His experience and enthusiasm within the group will be irreplaceable.
Our deepest sympathy is extended to Dorothy and her two children on their tragic loss.
Some Smaller Mendip Caves - Volume Two
(3/3d. post free from BM Ellis, 41 Fore Street, North Petherton, Bridgwater, Somerset.)
Following Volume One, which described some smaller caves in the Priddy area, a second volume has been published by the Bristol Exploration Club describing most of the caves to be found in Western Mendip. Descriptions are given of Ludwell, Loxton, Denny's Hole, etc., and most of them are accompanied by low grade surveys, CRG grades 1 to 3. The report concludes with descriptions of a small cave and a mine found in Biddlecombe near Wells.