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.
Stream End Caverns, Mossdale by P Livesey and JM Boon
Trafalgar Aven, St Cuthbert's Swallet by S Wynne-Roberts
Cheddar Cliff Cave by R Mansfield
Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club
The Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU
As we enter the fourth year of the present series of Club Journals the air is buzzing with talk of National Bodies, and shiny new caving magazines. Some of our readers may be worried by the possible fate of publications such as this.
This Journal is, primarily, an organ for the publication of discoveries made by the club. Please do remember that an unpublished discovery is valueless. So long as we have keen and active cave explorers among our members, then we shall be in business for there will always be something left for them to discover.
With the above in mind I am glad to see that some of the new blood recently infused into the club is already making itself felt and I look forward to many new discoveries being made.
The ultimate end of Mossdale has remained a legend in Northern caving circles since the nineteen forties. Only Bob Leakey and Lewis Railton were known to have reached the Stream End Caverns, supposed to contain the furthest downstream passages in the system, and since then no-one appeared to have returned to explore the side passages they left untouched.
Saturday 14 September 1963 was the fifth dry day after heavy rain on the Monday so Pete Livesey, of the Bradford Pothole Club, and Mike Boon, of the Shepton, decided to attempt the Marathon Series leading to the stream End Caverns. Bob Toogood, of the BSA, was to have been a member of the party, but was kept away by ill-health.
After an initial of awkward drops and crawl through boulders we met a large stream which was easily followed through a series of flat-roofed, boulder strewn caves. In this part are two ducks (the Drown or Glories); we found the roof around the first to be thickly coated with froth, presumably from the Monday flood, it had been a sump about 100 feet long.
Further in the stream was not so obvious and we followed dry passages to Rough Chamber, about 2000 feet from the entrance of the cave. It was beyond here that we found the difficulties to start. First, Rough Passage, a hands and knees crawl for 600 feet over a floor of grit. At Kneewrecker Junction the small stream from Rough Passage continued down Kneewrecker Passage to the extensive crawls and large chambers of the Kneewrecker Series. At this junction a five feet high dry passage led to the right, the start of the Near Marathon.
Near Marathon is 900 feet long and is predominantly hands and knees work over a smooth gradually descending floor with a small stream. In the narrower parts we were forced to crawl on one side but occasional stretches of cramped walking offered some relief. Towards the end was an unpleasant duck where a way had to be forced through loose stones before more hands and knees work led us to a chamber five feet high and six across. This marks the end of Near Marathon and the start of Far Marathon.
Far Marathon, also about 900 feet long, is the continuation of the passage beyond this chamber, but gaining entry to it caused us some trouble. A large wedge shaped boulder almost filled the two foot high passage, but we moved it slightly and future visitors should find the way to be clear. Some flat out crawling, some hands and knees work, then more flat out crawling as we made our way down the passage.
In this latter section the stream ran off to the left with the way on blocked by small stones. Moving some of those stones did not give us a way through, but we finally broke off a shelf of cherty conglomerate on one side of the stream and were able to continue. Beyond this point (i.e. for the greater part of Far Marathon) the passage is roughly elliptical in cross section, about 18 inches high and 4 feet wide, with the stream flowing in a three inch groove in the floor.
A small chamber with an uninvestigated inlet in the right wall (facing downstream) marked the end of the difficult section. Beyond a four feet high passage led to a low roofed canal, and at the end of the canal an upward squeeze led us to the rift which gives access to the High Level Mud Caverns. A crawl over a large flat rock was followed by a drop into a canal, with another stream appearing from a ruckle on the right. The water was about two foot deep in a passage five feet high. Beyond the cave grew steadily bigger until it was 5 feet wide and 20 or more high, the Stream End Caverns.
We reached an inlet from the left, Mini Cow Passage but continued downstream to the final choke with a climb over a huge boulder on the way. The passage had by now grown to 10 feet wide and 30 high.
Bob Leakey had suggested several possible extensions to the system and we investigated each in turn:
1. The Final Boulder Choke
There is a round trip in the first part of it, but though the boulders in the upper section were not tightly packed, at stream level it appeared very solid. Any route through this obstruction will almost certainly require considerable engineering.
2. A Large Dry Inlet
This was reported as being between Mini Cow Passage and the Final Choke. Since 1943 it appears to have disappeared.
3. Mini Cow Passage
This is the inlet on the left reputedly bringing water from the Kneewrecker series. Leakey did not explore this but has described it as "large enough to drive a cow along". After four feet the passage became a flat-out crawl, beyond which fifty feet of rift passage led to a lower passage half full of water, and a scramble along a V-section rift. This opened out to a chamber full of angular boulders, the stream flowing from a handsome rift which we were able to follow for 200 feet. We were stopped by a muddy boulder slope which we climbed to a drop back into the stream. Beyond the passage narrowed until ending as a boulder choked rift ten feet high and two feet wide. The blockage was not complete in the upper part and may well be cleared by hand. We estimated Mini Cow Passage as about 400 feet length in a North or North-East direction.
4. High Level Mud Caverns, North Section
Access to these is by climbing the cross-rift mentioned earlier. The Caverns cross the streamway roughly at right angles in a North South direction. Bob Leakey had not explored the Northern section. We found it to continue as a succession of sizeable chambers linked by low crawls. Further in it was all crawling until we reached a mud choke after about 600 feet. The passage has a heavy fill of dark mud, presumably derived from the peat, and appears to have carried water flowing from the North. The dominant direction seems to be North, i.e. towards the Kneewrecker Series.
5. High Level Mud Caverns, South Section
These caverns have been explored for some distance by Leakey. We went about 700 feet in a Southerly direction until stopped by a light block of boulders through which a strong draught blew. The presence of a possible bypass to the block was deliberately concealed by one member of the party from the other by the simple expedient of lying on it. This passage, five feet high and two feet wide is now known as Grippers Rift.
It seems that the High Level Mud Caverns offer the best prospects for further extensions. To the North a connection with Kneewrecker Series may be possible with some digging, while to the South the draught pattern may indicate a connection with the stream beyond the choke. Explosives and crowbars would be useful here.
The trip is arduous, more so than the Southern Stream Passage in Agen Allwedd. A small party with some knowledge of the route might expect to take the following times:
Entrance to Rough Chamber 1 hour
Rough Passage ½ hour
Near and Far Marathon 2 ½ hours
Total 4 hours
The danger of flooding in both Near and Far Marathon cannot be overstressed. On the occasion of this trip all these passages, and Rough Passage, a total of half a mile, had filled to the roof as a result of heavy rain four days previously. In this summer 1963 similar rain conditions have occurred about a dozen times, and it appears that at these times the Mossdale Beck is too heavy for its usual restricted passages and so pours quantities of water down Rough Passage.
Figure 1 – Survey of the Stream End Caverns, Mossdale
We would like to thank Mr WD Roberts, the landowner, for his assistance, and David Proctor (of Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association) and his parents for their kind hospitality over the weekend of the trip.
Those interested in reading Leakey's original account of these passages should refer to: Leakey, RD (1947) the caverns of Mossdale Scar. Cave Science II no. 15 pp. 7 – 15
Since this article was written the same party has made one attempt to penetrate the boulder choke at the end of Southern High Level Mud Caverns. They made some progress, but doubt whether the necessary tools will ever be carried to such remote regions.
P Livesey, Bradford Pothole Club
JM Boon, SMCC
Alan Clegg was, above all, a most likeable person; physically big and generous natured. His death on Easter Sunday at the age of 33 was a sad blow to many. The exact causes which led to his drowning while attempting to recover a rope from the sump pool of Lancaster Hole remain a mystery.
Alan was unknown on Mendip until the 1963 Gouffre Berger expedition. He was a pillar of this trip, twice visiting the sump, he remained throughout untiring, cheerful, and willing to do more than his share of the work.
Following the expedition Alan and his wife Dorothy stayed at Beechbarrow on three occasions; they quickly made friends of the regular visitors there, visited the major Mendip caves and enjoyed the Hunters evenings.
He was a good caver and a dedicated one, he loved the Dales and enjoyed his caving. While undoubtedly a "tiger" he was not a pothole collector. He recently started cave diving and his enthusiasm and ability became a driving force in the Northern CDG. On his first cave dive he forced the difficult upstream sump in Langstroth cave.
Alan took a hand in caving organisation as sometime Honorary Secretary of the Burnley Caving Club, also he was treasurer and acting secretary / chairman of the Northern CRO.
All who had the pleasure of knowing Alan will appreciate the loss that Dorothy has suffered and wish to extend their deepest sympathy to her.
Not far from the formation known as "Nelson's Column" in Trafalgar Chamber of the September Series the roof rises as an almost perfectly circular aven, the top far out of range of the normal caving lamps, which immediately appealed to me as an interesting climb.
The first serious attempt to ascend the aven was made on 25 January 1964, but aborted as a result of the small quantity of maypole then available.
The party for the second attempt, on 9 February was Jim Giles (BEC and Wessex), Nick Hart (Wessex), and myself. We were fairly heavily loaded with poles, ladders and ropes as we struggled through the boulder choke to September Series.
Once at the aven we assembled our full 28 feet of pole and Nick climbed a ladder hanging from it to the first ledge. Two precarious footholds, one of which is needed to support the base of the pole in the next stage of the operation. Twenty-eight feet of maypole proved very difficult to handle and eight feet had to be removed before Nick succeeded in pulling the pole up and resting its butt on the first ledge. This new position of the pole enabled me to climb up the ladder to the second ledge, a sloping triangle of flowstone two foot wide at the base, and again raise the pole. I found a belay, of sorts, to prevent the butt from slipping off the ledge and then continued up the ladder hanging from the pole.
At the full height of the maypole there was not a convenient ledge but the angle of the aven had eased somewhat and I was able to take to the rock and force my way up a stal slope to where the aven had degenerated into a rift which could be climbed by backing up.
A search for possible exits proved fruitless though explosives may, carefully used, give access to the Inaccessible Grotto, and perhaps more cave. The obstruction is a chockstone well cemented in place with calcite.
The pot changes section from an almost perfect circle to a rift, 10 feet by 30 at the top. There is no obvious inlet (or outlet if it was formed by uprising phreatic waters) but there are several small openings blocked by stalagmite flows. In the uppermost twenty feet of the aven the formations are dead and discoloured but also here the flowstone is still being deposited.
Figure 2 – Elevation survey of Trafalgar Aven
by D Robinson and A Greenbank.
Published by Constable at 30/-
New caving books are not frequent and good ones even rarer so it is a pleasure to find a new one that is good – such as this. Like British Caving this book sets out to explain the many aspects of caving, but in this case it is done without technical jargon with the newcomer clearly in mind. The result is a book covering most aspects of caving in a manner that is easily read and understood; details are not gone into but it is a good introduction and there is still plenty of interest to the expert.
In addition to chapters on tackle, techniques, etc., there are others on such topics as surveying and cave fauna. At the end is a very good index. There are points of opinion where one may disagree, such as the preference of 'courlene' to nylon rope, but the advice given is good and sound. There are some small errors (the length of St. Cuthberts Swallet appears as 800 instead of 8000 feet) perhaps due to faulty proof reading.
Thirty shillings for 170 pages is expensive but is to be expected for books having a limited appeal, unfortunately this may keep it from the hands of those for whom it is principally written, but it should be in every club and public library and is recommended to both the novice and experienced caver.
The above name, commonly used in older literature in referring to a certain cave at Cheddar, is not now in common usage. This means that the exact location of the cave has been in doubt and the following attempts to elucidate the position.
The best known reference to this cave is that by J Wilfred-Jackson in the third of his four articles called "Schedule of Cave Finds" published in Vol 1 No 3 of Caves and Caving by the British Speleological Society in January 1938.
From page 92, second column, second heading, I quote:
"University Museum, Department of Anatomy, Oxford: Human Calvaria of Upper Paleolithic date, obtained in 1838 (no 250). See Proceedings of University of Bristol Speleological Society, Vol 2, No. 2, 1925, p115."
The article the above reference refers to is "Notes on a skull in the University Museum, Oxford, from Avelines Hole" by L H Dudley-Buxton M.A., F.S.A.
From page 115, fourth paragraph, I quote: "secondly there is a calvaria from 'Mr Longs Cave, Cheddar 1838'. Little remains of this specimen .…"
To gather further information on this point I consulted the Mendip Cave Registry and found that the name 'Mr Longs Cave' was once applied to Bone Hole. A reference given in the bibliography was :
Rep Brit Assoc (Newcastle) 1938 (Paper read by Mr W Long) on the Bone Hole.
Unfortunately, this reference does not exist in the reports of the British Association but upon searching through several archaeological bibliographies I found that the reference meant is in fact:
Rep Brit Assoc 1838
My source of this information is Donovan D “A Bibliography of Palaeolithic and Pleistocene Sites.” UBSS Proc 7 (1) 29 (1953/4)
Reference 105 A Description of a cave at Cheddar, Somersetshire, in which human as well as animal bones have lately been found. Rep Brit Assoc for 1838, Trans of Sect 85-6 (Newcastle) (Presumed to be Bone Hole. Human and animal bones embedded in stalagmite).
Other references to the archaeology of the cave are (Donovan numbering):
Reference 21 Balch HE, 1947 Mendip - Cheddar, Its Gorge and Caves, 2nd Edition, Bristol and London.
Reference 63 Dawkins WB and Sandford WA, 1866-72, A monograph of the British Pleistocene Mammalia, Vol. One. British Pleistocene Felidae. Paleontographical Society.
From the above, the Rep Brit Assoc, 1838, having been checked in the original, I think it is quite safe to say that Cheddar Cliff Cave is, in fact, Bone Hole.
A point of interest is that the skull No 250 referred to by Wilfred-Jackson is from Rolleston's catalogue (mss 1881) in the Department of Comparative Anatomy, Oxford.
Following the discoveries made in this cave at Llangattock by Mike Boon and Fred Davies (see Journal No 5, May 1963) the Chelsea Speleological Society have been busy surveying and exploring.
A detailed description of the cave, with a small scale survey, was published in their Newsletter for February 1964 Vol VI, No 5, and large scale copies of the survey may be obtained from:
W Maxwell, 12 Haybridge Drive, Barkingside, Ilford, Essex
but unfortunately he has not informed us of the price.
Dr OC Lloyd has recently published an article under the title "Cavers Dying of Cold" which should be read by all with an interest in underground exploration.
The most vital recommendation is that a patient who has reached a dangerously cold state should be warmed rapidly in a bath of hot water, i.e. 45-50 °C (113-131 °F). Extremely sound reasoning in favour of this course will be found in the original:
The Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Journal, January 1964 Vol 79(i) No 291.
There is a reprint in the club library.