Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 106, August 2000

Newsletter @g-s-g.demon.co.uk


GSG Annual Dinner 2000

As announced in the last Newsletter the annual dinner will be held in the Rock and Fountain Hotel, Clydach North, Abergavenny on Saturday 28th October. A booking form is enclosed and your early return of it will be much appreciated. Please fill it in and send it NOW. The cut-off date is 1st October.

10.00 GSG Annual Dinner Menu 2000 10.00

Tomato and Herb Soupor Patéor Fruit Juice

Roast Beefor Roast Turkeyor Mushroom Stroganoff
Selection of vegetables

Gateauor Trifleor Ice Cream

The Pwll Du Centre has been booked for accommodation on Friday and Saturday nights. This has bunks for 28 and floor for more. Bring you own mugs, cutlery and teatowels. There is a drying room and it is 30 yards from the Lamb and Fox. For those for whom bunkroom accommodation is really not quite up to standard, alternative accommodation can be organised by contacting the Rock and Fountain direct through their web site or by use of the telephone! (Steve and Sue Archer at 01873 830393 and http://www.rockandfountain.fsnet.co.uk/) Awfully nice couple.

There's a great selection of caves nearby and you can indicate your preferences on the booking form. We'll take your requests and see what can be arranged, but no promises. The main caves within easy reach (Dan yr Ogof is a bit further) are:-

We are hoping to get down on the Thursday night and staying until Tuesday morning. If anyone else is interested in a longer sojourn in Southern climes please contact us (ring us on 01749 676382 or rebecca.campbell @verdan.co.uk). Meet at Lamb and Fox on Friday evening or earlier if you are coming down for longer.

Finding the Pwll Du Centre from the North:- Leave M8 at Junction 8 for M50 to Ross on Wye, Monmouth, then A40 to Abergavenny Take A465 towards Brynmawr, and shortly turn left onto B4246 to Blaenavon. After about 2.5 miles at the top of the hill turn right signposted Pwll Du (there'll be a lochan visible on the left if it is light). If you miss it you'll get to the Riflemans Arms in Blaenavon. Turn round and look for a left turning at the top of the hill. After a mile the Lamb and Fox is on your right with the Pwll Dhu centre just beyond also on the right.

Map reference:- 1:50,000 Landranger 161, Grid ref: 246 117

Graham & Becca


Taigh nam Famh Open Day

The Open Day on Saturday 15th July saw a steady flow of Sutherland residents coming to see the displays and other attractions at Taigh nam Famh guided by a large sign at the foot of the drive. We had publicised it by handing out posters, and on the Thursday evening Goon took the opportunity of a talk in Lochinver Village Hall to plug the event. He'd entertained the masses - about 60 strong possibly helped by the bad weather - with an overview of caving with particular emphasis on Assynt. Dick and I attended and had to pay 2.00 for the pleasure - but did get tea and biscuits afterwards.

Inside the hut the front bunkroom was occupied by displays with surveys and photographs of the three main Assynt caves, while the back bunk room was devoted to a slide and sound spectacular created by Fraser and narrated by Goon. This lasted the day - just. The somewhat temperamental equipment was well into its dotage and destructed the audio tape. Fraser was, however, well prepared and had a second.

Outside, Martin had arranged ladders plus saw horse to support a scaffolding pole high enough to dangle a ladder plus a rope for SRT demos. A few well kent faces arrived from Assynt MRT and the local GSG. The Ullapool News was represented, and while we were never crowded out, the kettle did overtime supplying free tea to go with the free biscuits.

Reprieve for Mining Museum

A 90,000 loan from the Scottish Executive in June means the Scottish Mining Museum at Newtongrange can stay open for another six months. The hope is that this is long enough to find a long term solution. During the campaign to save the museum over 2000 people, some from as far afield as Australia, signed a petition.

It is open from 10am to 5pm seven days a week. Admission is 4.00 and you are recommended to arrive by 2pm if you want to see everything. It has a tea room and book store.

For more details:- tel:- 0131 663 7519, internet:- http://www.scottishminingmuseum.com/


Caving

Assynt

Beinnn Dubhcraig

During a solo visit by Andrew Ogilvie to Tyndrum to see the caves, he easily found the holes from the description, and the caves were very much as reported in the area guide (The Southern Highlands). He thought the streamway in Top Sink very low and not inviting to the lone explorer, while the obstacle in Resurgence cave appeared negotiable but the passage closed beyond and would require digging "...not worth it." He thought the quoted passage lengths seemed too long. He also found a couple of new shakeholes:-

"Approaching Beinn Dubhcraig up the track in Gleann Auchreoch two very obvious dolines are visible to the right of the road just before a tall iron gate (NN332272). The limestone extends on an east west line to the far side of the river and up the hill on the other side of the road, but the holes are the only enterable features. The smaller (westerly) shake can be entered to about 3m depth with further flatter passage visible beyond (not promising). The shakes are clearly associated with a very minor resurgence about 30m towards the river. I think I can guarantee that this will not be the Ogof Draenen of the north!!!! "

Wanlockhead

A pleasant day's excursion to the lead mining area around Wanlockhead in July started with tea and cake in the visitor centre while waiting for the party to gather. Once everyone was there more refreshments were consumed as plans were laid. We eventually set off round the hillsides looking for old entrances led by new recruit Jim Alexander. There was much evidence of mining but most entrances had been completely filled in. A couple of interesting possibilities were spotted. One appeared to be a Valley Entrance type oil drum beneath old planks. Another was a low eminently diggable crawl on the other side of the valley.

A third visit to the restaurant was followed for some of us with a tour of the museum, and a trip into Lochnell Mine. Helmets were handed out and an informative talk took everyone along about 150m of horizontal passage. At the end a metal staircase (emergency exit!) headed enticingly up a shaft to a patch of daylight far above. We resisted the temptation.

Back at the visitor centre more tea and freshly baked cakes and a visit to the shop to buy books rounded off the day for most of us. Jim and Roger went searching for some copper mines marked on the map, but again the area had been too well restored and apart from spoil heaps little evidence remains and certainly no entrances. Jim spoke to the manager at the centre and a return is planned.

Skye

Steve Birch continues his painstaking and thorough re-examination of Coille Gaireallach. He has four new caves under investigation with about 120 m of passage between them. This demonstrates the benefit of having a caver in residence. Since Steve started work in Skye he's found 12 to 15 new caves and about 400 m of passage. Keep Steve's caving web site bookmarked (http://www.hnh.dircon.co.uk/skyenews.htm) and drop him a line or email if you are going to be in the area. He could do with some help.


Meghalayan Expedition to the UK

Three of our Meghalayan friends are on an expenses paid visit to the UK from mid-August to mid-September. It's been organised by Simon Brooks and is a way of repaying them for all the hospitality shown to us in Meghalaya, and all the hard work they put into making the expeditions there so productive and successful. They are staying in the hut in Assynt on the weekend of 26/27 August. They'll be introduced to some Scottish caves and mountains before continuing down to Yorkshire. During their month in the UK they are scheduled to visit most of the main caving areas.


VERCORS 2000

The GSG Vercors party arrives in l'Oscence approximately 6km west of la Chapelle-en-Vercors on Saturday 2nd September for a fortnight. Julian and Carol are driving from Thurso picking up Peter Dowswell and some gear en route. The rest of the Scottish contingent are variously flying in to Geneva and Lyon and hiring cars, while the southern contingent are driving across. Anyone in the area is invited to contact us. If you have the 1:25,000 map we are, I believe, in the first buildings to the west of the road driving south from les Gabriels and near the 1009m spot height. Plans are fluid (and I'm talking about caving not the alcohol!), and you'll have to wait for the next Newsletter to find out more.


Egg Timer Dig: The Update

Taking some time out to go cycling and walking with Maeve courtesy of the 5 star Coventry hotel in Durness ultimately found us paddling through the tourist infested waters of Smoo cave. Desperately trying to coax an unwilling partner towards the world of Orpheus is perhaps a badly conceived idea but depending on your perspective a necessary one! We have arrived at an agreement that we do a minimum of one 'trip' together a year, not including show caves (I fought tooth and nail to get this clause!). Late afternoon we were relaxing back at the 'Coventry', arguing whether the trip in Smoo counted as a year's caving (which would put Maeve in credit!). "It is a show cave" "But Dave we self toured...." It was at this point that Colin looked up from his tin of McEwans export to utter those magical words "do you fancy going digging to work up a thirst? It's a bit tight and muddy...." Sold... sorry Maeve. And so it was that the long May evenings of our stay at the Coventry came to pass on the hallowed grounds of Egg Timer Dig (Ta Colin).

We approached the mystery location well equipped with baccy and tinnys in hand. Maeve came along to see what this cave digging thing was about. Partly due to early midges and the cold (I saw neither!) she decided that 'cave groupieing' was not for her and went for a 'Puffin walk' the next night. So far, after a 15-year sentence to hard labour Colin (and his little helpers) have produced approx. 30 metres of classic keyhole single passage way. After the first few meters of full height stooping passage it is a mixture of hands/ knees and flat out crawling about 1 meter wide dug along the phreatic line. It is essentially straight with a couple of slight bends, the second of which, "The Round About" being a good turning and skip filling space. From here the skips can be pulled out from the entrance. Perhaps the biggest draw back into what would otherwise be very easy digging is the thing which makes the cave so interesting.... the bones.

It is slow going due to the care taken not to damage any of the many bones in the cave. Colin has built up a good relationship with archaeologist Andrew Kitchener from the Royal Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh). The bones are carefully removed from the cave, cleaned up and sent to the museum. Durness has recently set up an archaeological group which also has a keen interest in the cave, and at least one of its members (besides Colin), Donald, helps at the cave. As per Colin's last report the positively identified bones to date are human, wolf and lynx, none of which have been accurately dated. The bones are quite scattered and fragmented, one theory put forward is that it was once a hyena den.

When I began to help Colin the digging was continuing from "The Round About", flat out hands in front with a narrow arch way some 3 meters ahead presenting a near perfect triangle with approx. 5-6" sides. This was a very exciting prospect, there was space on the other side, but how much? The closer we got the larger the space appeared. In getting to the arch the amount and variety of the bones found were extraordinary. They included, a good selection of jawbones including lynx at least one of which was in good condition with the distinctive protruding front tooth of the lower jaw intact. Roe deer skull, wolf jaw bones and miscellaneous human bones were also found. But the highlight....have you heard Colin's story of the Lynx skull: "I had it in my hand....", his light went down and he came back the next day after some wet weather and it was gone! Well tragedy resolved, we dug it out a second time and our lights stayed on! Its looks in great nick and is rumoured to be only the second to come out of Britain! All to be confirmed by Colin's mate in Edinburgh of course.

Getting to the arch was making me and Colin pretty sick and light headed, I hope just a lack of fresh air rather than some dormant disease from the uncovered bones! Anyway this meant the younger buck got the 'glory' of gradually managing to poke his head, then more and more of his body into the space beyond. In hindsight, a shrewd move Colin, old age and treachery will always win over youth and enthusiasm. As we edged our way in we began to refer to it as a chamber, hours later to squeeze in and find a let up from digging of only about a meter before the toil begins again. You couldn't really call it a chamber, just a turning circle with a bigger roof. Anyway whatever it is we can't agree on the name...... "Provocation Chamber" (well I was pretty annoyed), "Maeve's Folly" (for being daft enough to let me go caving in the first place), "Girlfriend Lost" (no comment), "Lynx II" (boring), "The Bone Yard/ Cemetery/ Morgue/ Catacomb", "The Crypt." Hmm quite like that. I'll have to run it by Colin.

Yorkshire Dave (Dave Hodgson)


Forthcoming Meets and Events

2000
Sep 2->16VercorsGSG fortnight in France
3/4YorkshireBar Pot/Lancaster Hole (Meghalayans visit)
2->16 FranceGSG trip to the Vercors
15/17BristolBCRA Hidden Earth 2000, Bristol University
23 SettleNigel & Anne's wedding
Oct 7 YorkshireFlood Entrance
26->30South WalesGSG Annual Dinner
Nov 11YorkshireJuniper Gulf
Dec 9YorkshireShort Drop - Gavel Pot (waiting on permit)

This only lists the main trips. Contact us at the Cambridge (0131 225 4266) on a Tuesday evening to learn of the many local and Scottish trips not included in the list. (Tel home:- 01383 860653)

Fraser Simpson

Volunteer Cave Guides Required

Stephan Honig writes that his geology course includes a field trip to Inchnadamph from the 13th to 27th of September. If anyone is going to be up there on the weekend of the 15th-17th (or possibly a week later) he'd like to organise some spare gear, get a few of his course underground, and perhaps recruit some new GSG members. They don't have a spare day and the course organiser has suggested an evening trip. So if you are planning to be there and would like to help, contact Stephan at S.Honig @gmx.net He's in Germany right now but should be in the Cambridge on the 12th September.


Elphin Caving Centre

Despite reports, the water heater and its boost control are still working just fine. Remember if folk keep using the water it'll take much longer to heat up! There is an unused element in the heater and I'll consider connecting it in parallel with the others if calculations show the cabling is of adequate rating.

The latest acquisition is a petrol lawnmower. This makes a fine job of hacking the grass down to size around the BBQ area. There are instructions for it in the four ring binder in the bookcase.

Confirmed Taigh nam Famh Bookings

Date (nights) GroupSize
Aug 25/26 2000 Campsie Hillwalking Club 12
Meghalayan Adventurers plus native guides 8
Sep 1/2 GSG Autumn BBQ 12
15/16 Granite City Hillwalkers 12
22/23 East of Scotland Water 8
Oct 6/7 Murray MC 12
May 5->12 2001 Mendip Migration 2001 (core time - bank holiday is on 7th)lots

Hut fees are 4.50 per night for non-members and 2.50 for GSG and BEC members. Reduced to 3.00 and 2.00 for children, students, unemployed and OAPs. Camping is at a reduced rate of 2.00 only when the hut is full. Rates for the Knockan hut are 50% of these.

If you want to stay in the hut please tell the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell as soon as possible to check if there will be space (01592 202627).

During the first half of September both Pete and Ivan will be in France so contact them now if you want to stay during September..

Hut-building

Painting the outside walls continued in July with CJ and Scott brightening up most of the front. When Ivan tried it later, it rained and streams of white water gurgled happily down the drains. That same weekend Peter Dowswell fired up the cement mixer and we soon had some low walls erected either side of the BBQ. This will be infilled with rocks and debris, and earthed over. What happens next isn't certain but Pete was heard to mention 'herb garden' and 'pergola' a few times.

A start was also made at hacking out more space from the bank behind and between the shed and wood store. Pete started a retaining wall with the intention of building a shelter for a visitors wood store, keeping the existing store for members. Roger, Martin and others moved the excavated earth round to the front of the hut to fill in around the car park extension.

The mattress cover material is now back in Uphall where Liz Millet has volunteered herself for the task of making covers for the bunks in the front room.


Membership News

Welcome to new members:-

Jim Alexander - Main interest is exploration of old mines. With extensive experience in the Forest of Dean, North Wales and Cornwall he's already checking out the Scottish scene and resurrected GSG interest in Wanlockhead.

Barry Burn - Is another experienced newcomer. Six years caving in South Wales plus some in Yorkshire means he'll be lucky not to be volunteered as a guide at this year's annual dinner.

Nick Williams - The political aspirations of GSG members are alive and well. Nick has just been elected BCRA Chairman and has also volunteered his office to be the registered address. The BCRA is fortunate to find so able and knowledgeable a caver to help guide them, when far too few cavers put anything back into the running and future of their activity.

Kate Janossy - Contrary to the note in the last Newsletter Kate found that she had got the job in Glasgow after all and returned here in July. She's now busy negotiating the supply of medical equipment for the SCRO.

Dave Hodgson - spent a very pleasant three weeks holiday in Spain. Starting in the Pyrenees he later joined the team at Matienzo and seems to have spent half his time being introduced to the local booze and half to the caves.

New Members

Jim Alexander, Barry Burn

New Addresses

Angela Bishop, Chris Fitzsimons, Kate Janossy, Sarah "Scuz" Wingrove

(Addresses removed from on-line version)


Assynt News

Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP):-

Yet another ban has been imposed on scallop fishing extending over most of the west coast of Scotland. It's all due to the nasty toxins mentioned in previous Newsletters. This is becoming an annual event. Any divers gathering edibles are warned to first check what the local state of play is.

Hunt for the first Scottish Caver?:-

A Norwegian archaeologist, Professor Arne Johansen of the University of Trondheim, is about to start a search for Palaeolithic sites in Scotland. Evidence has been found for human habitation dating back 9,000 years, and the aim is to find remains from at least 100,000 years ago. Since the last ice age will have destroyed anything above ground, he is going to concentrate on caves. Research will cover the Bone Caves as well as new sites.

Recent discoveries in Arctic Russia and Scandinavia have found evidence for Stone Age humans from 15,000 to 100,000 years ago. Northern Britain had a better climate then than northern Russia and it was almost certainly inhabited. Remains have been found in England and Wales as far north as Yorkshire and those in the south date from 500,000BC. Perhaps the GSG has already done some of the Professor's work for him. Could Colin Coventry's finds in Egg Timer Dig date from this period?

Independent on Sunday 23/7/2000


Hilderston Silver Workings - Tour

An archaeological friend at work gave me a leaflet from the Council for Scottish Archaeology. It advertised a tour of - I assume - the surface remains of silver mining at Hilderston in the Bathgate hills. I doubt it'll go near the remaining accessible underground workings. To quote the leaflet:- University of Glasgow, Saturday 2nd 10.00am - 12.00pm & 2.00pm - 4.00pm.

Tour of Site of "King Jamie's Silvermine"

A rare deposit of silver was mined at Hilderston in the Bathgate Hills in the early 1600's. There is extensive historical evidence for 'melting, fining and stamping mills' operated by the Crown (King James VI). The short tour of the scant archaeological remains of the silver workings is aimed at bringing out Scotland's often silent, but nevertheless rich mining past at this very early 'teething' stage of the industrial Revolution. Booking is essential. Contact: Dr. Allan J Hall, University of Glasgow (0141 330 6956)


Internet Caving

The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:- http://www.sat.dundee.ac.uk/~arb/speleo.html

Email for the GSG can be sent to:- ivan @g-s-g.demon.co.uk

Email for the Bulletin should be sent to:- goon90 @hotmail.com

This Newsletter was emailed to all members with a known current address. All you have to do to receive it is to send me an email, and I'll add you to the distribution list.


Lost & Found

Lost - Easter Bunny Cave - last seen in 20th Century somewhere in Knockan. Would finder please contact GSG with ten figure grid reference for present location.

Found - Five used flashbulbs on stal in Northern Lights, Cnoc nan Uamh, Sutherland. Owner to describe and collect from L.Dawes, GSG (also in Descent 155 p39!)

R E M I N D E R S

1) Book now for the Annual Dinner - send Ivan the booking form with a cheque for the full amount less any deposit already paid.

2) Tell Peter Dowswell (or Ivan) as soon as possible of hut bookings. Remember it is first come first served. And don't forget to pay afterwards!

3) Tell Fraser of the caves you want to see on the meets list.

4) Send address list changes and corrections to Ivan

5) Send contributions to Goon for the next GSG Bulletin!


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