Journal Series 2 Number 3

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.



Swildons Five By MM Thomspon

Swildons Five (continued) By FJ Davies

A Survey Drawing Instrument By FJ Davies

Pollnagollum, County Clare By JM Boon

Club Notices


Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club

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



This is the first birthday issue, it is one year since this series started and I would like to express my thanks to all those who have assisted in its production by the contribution of articles. They have so far been so numerous that I have not found it necessary to write articles myself. (Please note, I am now out of articles, please send them in.)

Production of the journal has also been greatly assisted by the gifts of a baseplate and stylus from Bryan Ellis, and a typewriter from Mike Boon, who also contributes the interesting account of his exploration of Pollnagollum.


Swildons Five

Since Five was entered in 1958 there have been many schemes put forward for getting another party through to explore the high level tributary passage and examine Sump Five in dry weather conditions. Eventually the weekend of the 27/28 June 59 was chosen. For one reason or another the trip could not be held on the Saturday, and we were very disappointed to learn that Oliver Wells did not feel fit enough to accompany us on the Sunday. Although the objectives of the expedition were all accomplished there were many setbacks which so delayed us that Fred Davies and Len Dawes decided to return when we had reached Barnes Loop. Len had to return to London that evening, Fred to Chester. Ken Dawe and Mike Dale went out at the same time to fetch a spare ladder for the maypole. The remainder, Jack Waddon, Jerry Wright, Eric Hensler and myself pushed on to Four and by the time we had sawed up one of the sections of maypole from Blue Pencil, and obtained the diving leads from the CDG cache, Ken and Mike had returned. The stream in Four was very low but there was no appreciable difference to the water level in the sump.

I was a little worried that we might find that the sump had silted up, but nothing of the sort seemed to have occurred and I safely surfaced. I got the impression that the passage was a little more constricted than formerly, but this may have been imagination. Jerry, Eric, and Ken followed, while Mike and Jack remained in Four. We erected the extra sections of maypole and Eric climbed into the first inlet passage on the left. This is about 40 feet from Sump Four and 17 feet above the floor of the passage. It soon became too constricted to follow, but there were indications that digging would produce some results. We tried again a few feet further down the passage, but what looked like an opening turned out to be a large hollow in the roof. The only find worthy of note was a small mud stalagmite. The next item on the agenda was an inspection of the sump and we started off downstream. Buxton's Horror lived up to its reputation and dealt Eric a crack on the head. He tried to sump it, lost his helmet en-route, and emerged with blood streaming down his face. We began to wonder how effective MRO would be in this situation, but fortunately the injury turned out to be just a bloody scratch. I think it is worth repeating, for the benefit of those who have not read the earlier reports on Five, that it is probably one of the most potentially dangerous stretches of cave that one could find anywhere, certainly not one to be taken lightly.

Sump Five was somewhat lower than on the last occasion and I got within a few feet of the point reached by Oliver on his first visit. In any event I could see that there was still a water seal so it looks as if diving is the only answer. Incidentally, Oliver's guide line, which he laid when he entered Six, had become displaced. There were signs of heavy flooding and we found in Five one of the sections of pipe which had been used for siphoning Birthday Passage.

Another trip is planned in the near future to continue the exploration of the inlet passage but it looks as if Six will have to remain unexplored for a little longer.

Michael Thompson


Swildons Five (continued)

Following our disappointment over the trip described above by Mike Thompson, Len Dawes and I organised in visit to Swildons Five on Sunday 19 July. We were accompanied by Ken Dawe and Steve Wynne-Roberts to Sump Four, but Steve returned to the surface alone without diving the sump.

It was my first trip through Sump Four. It seemed no more difficult than Sump One, but very slightly longer. Use of goon suits and weights to give slight negative buoyancy certainly takes the sting out of sumping.

Ken had acquired a length of one inch diameter PVC tubing and this was laid through the sump to provide communication. Its effectiveness, with just plain ends, exceeded all expectations and the ability to speak distinctly to someone on the far side of a sump further reduces the psychological fear produced by such an obstacle.

We examined the inlet passage entered by the previous party. Anybody who wishes is welcome to dig it, it is a nasty tight muddy hole. Further we seemed to be the first party to safely pass Buxton's Horror without incident. This duck must be taken slowly, it then does not offer any major difficulty, though I heartily concur with Mike’s comments referring to the potential dangers of Five. Sump Five seemed to be in the same condition as that described by Mike.

Our last act was to bring the maypole through Sump Four back into Four, before plugging the ends of the speaking tube and heading for the open air.

Fred Davies


A Survey Drawing Instrument

When drawing the position of one station relative to another on a cave survey three operations are required:

  1. the drawing of a North-South, or similar, datum line through the first station,

  2. the marking of the bearing to the second station, and

  3. the measuring of the distance between the stations.

The idea of the instrument described in this short article is to perform these three operations in one instrument and so decrease the number of unsightly construction lines, and also to increase the accuracy.

The instrument consists of a pair of parallel rules, A & B, on the end of one rule being pivoted a third rule, C, which is marked with a scale. Across rule C is fixed a protractor, D, so arranged that it is at right angles to the scaled edge. On scale A is a small mark against which the angle is sat, the mark being in such a position that when the protractor is set at 90 degrees the edges of rules A & C are parallel.

The method of operation is to set the bearing from Station I to Station II on the protractor against the mark on rule A. Rule B is set against an East-West datum line and the rules opened until the scaled edge of rule C touches the position of Station I. If the bearing is from 0 to 180 degrees then the instrument is used in the position shown in the diagram; if the bearing is between 180 and 360 degrees then the instrument must be turned round so that rule C is on the left of A and B.

The author made one of those instruments from some old pieces of perspex, a celluloid protractor and oddments of brass, but greater accuracy could possibly be obtained by using a pair of parallel rules, a protractor, and a scale, and fixing them together. Unless the person making the instrument is very lucky with the protractor that he buys he will find it necessary to alter the numbers. One scale should have bearings from 0 to 180 degrees in an anti-clockwise direction and the other from 180 to 360 degrees also anti-clockwise. An East-West datum line is used to enable a simple halving joint to be used at the pivot of rules A and C. This type of joint means that all three rules are in the same plane.

Figure 1Survey Drawing Instrument

Fred Davies


Pollnagollum, County Clare

While in County Clare this summer I explored the great river cavern known as Polnagollum, the longest system in Ireland. I had Coleman and Dunnington's survey which shows over three and a half miles of the total length of five miles.

The cave has three entrances, Pollnagollum, Pollbinn and Pollnua, thought to mark successive points of engulfment of the cave stream as the shale cover receded. I entered the system by Pollnua, the topmost shakehole, and at the foot of a boulder slope found a low flat roofed meander passage. This was apparently only a short tributary, for I soon entered the main streamway of Upper Pollnagollum, a handsome meander passage about eight feet high with a floor of graded gravel. I followed the passage upstream to a choke after 1800 feet, and then pushed on downstream for a quarter of a mile to the next entrance, Pollbinn.

Here I came to a grisly scene. Four months before a bullock had fallen down the shaft, and it now lay sprawled grotesquely in the stream like a giant cat stretched out before a fire. The sight of the carcass was bad enough, but I found its worst aspect when I got downstream of it. The stench was appalling, and a downstream draught wafted it into the passage ahead.

I decided that the best thing to do was to run. This had its exhilarating moments, as when I did not see a three feet deep pot until I was in full flight. A quarter of a mile downstream I reached Pollnagollum Pot, by now maddened by the smell, and hurtled up a chimney which led out onto a terrifying climb up the face of the pot.

Pollnagollum, 'The Hole of the Hazels', is 100 feet deep and about 200 feet across. There are magnificent cliffs on three sides of the pot, but by scrambling down the muddy wall of the fourth side I entered a large passage with an attractive porridge of red clay and white tufa on the floor. This was Gunmans Passage leading to Lower Pollnagollum, where in 1925 Baker found relics of a rebel gunman's stay.

I was stopped by a ten foot drop, but by traversing for about 100 feet I was able to drop down into the stream. The passage grew wider and higher, until I was walking down a broad gracefully curving meander passage, with a roof but dimly some fifty feet overhead.

Half a mile from Pollnagollum a tributary passage even larger than the main streamway entered, with a stream flowing quietly over black scalloped slabs of limestone. Downstream the passage became elliptical in section. After passing two roof falls in the next three quarters of a mile I reached a point where the roof pitched steeply down and the stream flowed over dark rounded pebbles into a bedding plane. Crawling through the water for 30 feet, I entered an extensive series of low flat roofed passages, but in every case their extremities were choked. There seems little chance of pushing Pollnagollum beyond the final bedding place, and in fact its very doubtful if there is any negotiable passage beyond this point.

I crawled through the bedding plane once more and waded back to the tributary passage. This is another huge streamway, but I was glutted by now and hurried up it for 1000 feet to a solid wall of rock with a waterfall cascading down it. Climbing a chimney to one side of the fall I found a rift looking down to still water about 10 feet below. This looked very tricky, and I decided to make for Pollnagollum Pot, now three quarters of a mile away.

Pollnagollum is a wonderful cave, and a very easy one to explore; in about 5 hours I covered nearly three miles of cave.

Mike Boon


Club Notices

Keith Asquith, Bradford Pothole Club

Whilst on a visit to Yorkshire, we were shocked to learn of the sudden death of Keith Asquith whose motorcycle was in collision with an omnibus when returning to Clapham after attending a BPC committee meeting on Wednesday 8th March.

Though a northern potholer, Keith was well known in Mendip caving circles, and I have a permanent reminder of him in the photographs taken at our wedding, when he was among the cavers forming an arch of ladders outside the church.

To his parents and friends we offer our deepest sympathy. His cheery presence will be missed.

Report of the Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the Club was held at the New Inn, Priddy on Sunday May 1st. We were fortunate to have our President, Mr Stock, to take the chair for the first time.

Present were some fourteen members, apologies being received from four others.

The meeting commenced with the reading of the minutes from the previous meeting, these were approved, and there were no matters arising from them.

The Treasurer the presented his accounts for the year which showed a balance in hand of £4 9s 6d. Then followed the reports of the Secretary, the Expedition Secretary and the Hut Warden, all of which were adopted.

The applications for membership were then considered and the following were accepted as members of the club: Mr JE Morris, Mr RS Lewis, Mr EJ Maunders, Miss K George, Miss EF Johnson and Miss P Biggin.

Under Any Other Business the matters raised were:

Membership. Concern was expressed at the lack of younger members as the average age of our present membership is between 25 & 30. The meeting agreed that it was not possible to take any positive action but that it was up to the individual members to encourage the youngsters to come along.

Tackle. The executive was empowered to purchase two lengths of rope, of hemp or sisal, one to be 200 feet, the other of 100 feet for use when double life-lining on very long pitches.

Club Hut. It was agreed that another approach be made to Mr George, this time with a view to purchasing the Club Hut. If this becomes possible members will be asked to subscribe to a fund for this purpose. At the meeting a sum well in excess of £70 was promised by those present

The officers elected for this coming year were:

President: ST Stock

Secretary: DJ Roberts

Treasurer: CE Chivers

Hut Warden: W Willcocks

Expedition Secretary: KR Dawe

Committee: M Thompson, F Davies, MS Pullen & Miss SE Paul

Subscriptions Now Due

Cecil would like to remind you that the subscriptions for 1960 are now due, and if unpaid by August 1st the membership will lapse. Seven and sixes to: C Chivers, Esq., 35 Garston Street, Shepton Mallet 12.

Priddy Green Swallet

The slow progress being made at his by means of chemical persuasion suddenly received a fresh burst of enthusiasm when on Saturday 23 April Mike Thompson removed a few shattered boulders and looked through a small window into the first open air space large enough to enter yet encountered. This window was chemically enlarged and an awkward, low, passage followed for about 20 feet to a narrow squeeze which we failed to pass. This also has now been enlarged and found to lead to a further 20 feet of negotiable passage ending in a small chamber with a silt choked passage leading on. Removal of spoil and debris is now a very difficult job but it can truly be said that we have now entered real cave and are not simply excavating an artificial one.

Lancaster Hole and Ease Gill

We have received notice from the Cave Research Group that access to the above caving area can only be obtained by writing to N. Scarr, Esq., Gale Garth Farm, Casterton, Kirkby Lonsdale and that under no circumstances can access be obtained during the period 1st April - June 30th, ie the lambing season. The farmer asks that visitors will close all gates, take their litter away with them, and not climb over drystone walls.

Rescue from Beyond Sumps

The club has received an appeal from Dr. Oliver Lloyd on behalf of the Mendip Rescue Organisation for funds to assist the purchase of equipment which they have developed, and successfully tested in Sump One, Swildons Hole, for the rescue of injured persons from beyond sumps, or regions of foul air. It need hardly be stressed that such apparatus could almost certainly have saved the life of Neil Moss in Peak Cavern.

A total in the region of £250 is requested and anyone with a few shillings to spare for this vital work is asked to send it to the club treasurer, Cecil Chivers before June 30th explaining that it is for the MRO Research Fund.


 Journal Series 2 Number 3