Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 113, 23 August 2002

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


GSG Annual Dinner - 2002

You had advance notice in the last Newsletter, and now is the time to book your place for this year's GSG Annual Dinner. It is being held at the Inchnadamph Hotel on Saturday 26th October. Everybody is welcome and a booking form is included. You should fill it in and return it with your cheque for the full amount to the GSG Treasurer as soon as you can. The menu appears below so you can remind yourself of what you ordered. Dress rules are as normal ie wash and dry your wellies and do come in fancy dress. This year's theme is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Accommodation has been arranged in the hotel at a special rate of 20 for bed and breakfast. Contact them directly (01571 822202) and mention the GSG dinner. For the event, hut fees are 2.50 per night (2.00 for students etc) for both members and non-members, and you can book and pay using the form included with this Newsletter.

                              Menu
                              =-=-
                    Carrot and Coriander Soup
                       Haggis on Oatcakes
                        Garlic Mushrooms
                          ------------
        Venison Medallions served with a Cranberry Sauce
         Roast Pork with Kilts, Stuffing and Apple Sauce
          Mixed Stuffed Peppers on a bed of Pilau Rice

                    Served with New Potatoes,
              Broccoli, Carrots and Baby Sweetcorn
                          ------------
                       Home-made Apple Pie
                          Assynt Trifle
                       Assorted Ice Creams
                          ------------
                          Tea or Coffee

Tuesday Evenings - Venue Change

For more than 25 years the GSG has met almost every Tuesday evening in the same pub in Young Street. It started off as the Zodiac, changed to Peppers and most recently metamorphosed into the Cambridge Bar. Recent changes in ownership have arrived ever more rapidly and finally on Tuesday 13th August we arrived to find the door firmly locked and the place in darkness.

The solution was to head a couple of hundred yards east and transfer to the Oxford Bar at the other end of Young Street. This could become a permanent shift, but if you do come looking for us on a Tuesday evening (after 8:30pm) you should probably check with us first.


Caving News

Assynt

SNH Baseline Survey

The main caves in Assynt are all in the Ben More SSSI and Scottish Natural Heritage now need to regularly assess their condition in a six year rolling programme. They can do this for everything above ground, but don't have the staff to do so underground. In June they asked the GSG to quote for the initial field survey work. The aim is to produce a baseline survey that will be used as the starting point for later comparative surveys. The idea is to produce a snapshot of the present condition of the cave so any changes can be monitored in later visits. The Group quoted for the work and won the contact. I'm not sure if they found anyone else to quote against us!

The three volunteers of Ivan, Peter Dowswell and Tim Lawson have now spent two weekends on the work. This involves visiting the main caves, photographing the interesting features and writing up a report with descriptions and plans. It'll also include an assessment of the potential sources of damage to the features and their vulnerability. Then in the future when the exercise is repeated SNH will know just what changes there have been.

The first weekend we chose was fairly dry, but still found the Traligill foaming, the rising hidden behind a waterfall and Lower Traligill resurging. The Waterslide was impressively impassible and the stream inside the Uamh an Tartair entrance was too high to cross safely without at least a rope. The following day we contented ourselves with ANUSC and didn't even try to look at Claonaite on the Sunday. The next weekend was better chosen and Friday saw Tim and Ivan at the end of the East Block in Claonaite while Pete retreated complaining that the entrance had shrunk. Saturday was spent in Lower Traligill where we found some despicable vandalism (see later), and Cnoc nan Uamh, and on Sunday there was a return trip to ANUSC to retake some photos that hadn't turned out quite right.

We should complete the first draft for SNH in September and meet the end of November deadline for the final report. Once we've claimed our expenses there will be a healthy increment left in the GSG's current account.

Appin

Before and during a joint SCRO / Oban Mountain Rescue Team exercise we attempted to find and GPS the caves in the Coire Sheileach area of Glen Creran. Some were found quite easily, some took a bit more finding and some are still lost. Most of them were descended and we managed to persuade all of the Oban team to enter Uamh Coire Sheileach for the exercise.

One entrance that took a bit of finding was Chamber Pot. Ivan almost found it, but continued skirting the forest because in his memory it was in 'open' ground. Peter Dennis followed the description in the book (written by Ivan!) and found it now surrounded by 10 m high conifers. Ivan's excuse is that it is over a decade since he was last there. Still missing despite intensive searching is Dundiggin Hole.

With tree felling and new fences making the previous route to Coire Sheileach an obstacle course, a new route was found for the exercise. Opposite the Elleric car park a track heads uphill to a new bridge over the stream. Just before this turn right (uphill) following a fence. Continue along his line up through forest till the path expands into a long clearing running along the top of the true left bank of the stream. After a couple of hundred metres turn left through the trees and down to the stream just upstream of a junction. Cross it and follow the true left bank of the other tributary to join the 'old' path up to Uamh Coire Sheileach.

Gatehouse of Fleet

Jim Salvona now firing on all cylinders again, inveigled Peter Ireson to drive him and Ivan to Galloway. He had grid references to several old metal ore mines that needed investigation. Amazingly all three grid references led us to old workings. The first was on the eastern slopes of the valley of one of the tributaries of the Water of Fleet. There were the remains of several buildings, spoil heaps and two adits that could be entered over piles of breakdown almost filling the entrances. Because of the dams, the water level inside rose quickly to an estimated 60 cm. The top of a rail truck just broke the surface in the lower adit.

The second site was on a small wooded hill and contained several shafts now full of debris from the nearby farm - old agricultural machinery, washing machine, car, demolished buildings and piles of other rubbish. There is little prospect of finding anything there without a major effort. The third and last site investigated appeared to be a shallow quarry covering only 50 square metres with no sign of buildings or underground workings. In all a very pleasant day's outing with the first site worthy of a return visit in full caving gear.

Argyll - Ben Vorlich

The SMC guide to the Southern Highlands mentions fissures on Ben Vorlich but with little indication of altitude and no description. During his last Munro ascent (2nd time around) Ivan led his party along the SE ridge to find two parallel narrow fissures at NN 3034 1110 (altitude 780m). A return trip is planned with a light and rope to investigate them more thoroughly.

Jeanie Barries Cave

Several club members completed their initiation by visiting this fine cave during July. First Fiona and Dan penetrated to the end while Derek Pettiglio was rejected by the tight crawl, then a fortnight later Alice joined Dan and Fiona on a return trip. Her father, our esteemed chairman and caver of more than a quarter of a century, has yet to enjoy a visit there.

Yorkshire

There were trips to the Minarets from County Pot and Pool Sink and to Easter Grotto from Wretched Rabbit on 20th April. The following day Angie and Rob descended Cow Pot to a very dry Main Drain. In early June a Swinsto pull through trip found Great Aven not much changed.

In July Peter Ireson and David Robinson descended Tatham Wife Hole until Davie's carbide lamp reverted to emulating a flame-thrower. There was a partial descent of Marble Steps on the Sunday.

During August Yorkshire Dave joined the Edinburgh contingent in Bull Pot of the Witches, then descended Aygill Caverns until they ran out of ladder. After a night in the Gamecock Inn Julie Hesketh and friends joined for a visit to Illusion Pot. The scaffolded and laddered entrance shaft quickly led to a very low duck. Half an hour of baling lowered it enough to visit the extensive passages and a beautifully straw-festooned chamber beyond. Well worth the effort.

Morocco

While leading another World Challenge expedition in the Moroccan desert, Jackie Yuill enjoyed a dip in a resurgence. The 15 x 15m pool was in a gorge about 20km west of Tinerhir. There was a large collapse above and behind the pool and a dry waterfall - it hasn't rained there for five years.

Canada - Vancouver Island - June 2002

A group of seven people - six members - Alice and Peter Dowswell, Roger Galloway, Mary Harrison, Martin Hayes and Fiona Ware, and one former member Pete Ponter from Kitimat in northern BC enjoyed a fortnight on Vancouver Island in early June. Most of the time was spent at Tahsis in the northwest of the island where there is much potential and a couple of 8 km systems already. We enjoyed great hospitality from Martin Davis a local caver and leading member of the Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group. Time was split between tourist trips and looking for new stuff and although we didn't find too much a great time was had by all. We also did some hiking along part of the Juan de Fuca Trail in the south of the island and spent a little time on the Olympic Peninsula to the west of Seattle. A full report will appear in the next Bulletin.

Peter Dowswell


Warning! Unstable Cliff at ANUSC

Don't sit down to eat your sandwiches under the cliff to the left (downstream) of the entrance to Allt nan Uamh Stream Cave. A large lump of rock (A) has recently fallen from it, and there's more to follow. When we were there on May 25th there was an ominous crack leading upwards at the back of the overhang parallel to the cliff face. A large section of this (B) is likely to peel off some day, and the rock above and to its right doesn't look very stable.

The most likely time for it to fall is during bad weather especially after some freeze/thaw cycles. There hasn't been any noticeable deterioration from May to August. We'll keep an eye on it and report any changes.

During the same walk up the Allt nan Uamh that noticed the unstable cliff at ANUSC, we also found a new boulder sitting beside the track. This is a couple of hundred metres before the main rising. At the time a deep grove ran slantwise up the hill for about 20 metres below a series of impact marks leading uphill to where it and several other lumps of limestone had started their fall. The light colour of the unweathered rock surfaces there is very noticeable. What is also noticeable is how far the boulder had run across the slope - a long way from straight down.

Both of the above events and the streamway changes in Claonaite mentioned on page 2 followed an exceptionally wet weekend in Assynt some weeks earlier. I saw resurgences spouting out of the Knockan crags that I'd never seen before.


Vandalism in Lower Traligill Cave

In August as part of the SNH baseline survey, Ivan., Peter and Tim were photographing in Lower Traligill Cave. The first chamber at the top of the entrance slope was as normal, but the second chamber (really just an enlargement of the passage as it runs along the strike) was changed. When Peter entered it he saw the that almost all the stalagmites along the upper side of the chamber had been removed. We estimate that at least 20 have been broken off at the base and removed from the cave. The stumps vary from two to four inches in diameter and considerable force must have been required to fracture them. Several small boulders - some splintered - lie around this area now and appear to have been used as hammer stones.

We don't know when this was done and the damage isn't obvious if you are just traversing the cave. The GSG doesn't have any photographs of the damaged area so we don't even know what we have lost. If any of you have a photographic record we'd very much like a loan of it so we can make a copy and a comparison with the present condition of the grotto.


Access to Nenthead Mines

New admission arrangements for the Nenthead Mines complex in Cumbria came into force from Easter 2002. The GSG has a copy of these and a summary is given below. Admission is controlled by the North Pennines Heritage Trust which leases much of the site from Cumbria County Council and also owns some adjacent areas.

All visitors must obtain the Trust's permission before entering the site, comply with statutory Health and Safety requirements and have third party liability insurance.

Visits can be arranged in advance or during the centre's opening hours and there is a charge of 1 per person to enter any of the mines on the site. All underground visitors must notify the Trust when they enter and leave the site. The centre is closed during winter and NPHT staff can be contacted via the Trust office in the Rampgill Mine wood yard. (Tel:- 01434 382045, email:- np.ht @virgin.net)

Special arrangements are necessary to descend Brewery Shaft and visits to Carrs Mine require a Trust official to be present.

These conditions don't appear to a barrier to GSG members as we are all enrolled in the BCRA's insurance scheme. Quite what the statutory Health and Safety guidelines are I don't know. I assume that these will be publicised in the Visitor Centre or given on notices underground.

Garve - Scotland's Worst Red Light District

A village in the Highlands has the worst safety record in Scotland for drivers ignoring red lights at level crossings, it has been claimed. The Garve crossing in Easter Ross, on the Inverness to Kyle, line is only activated eight times a day. However, 49 drivers have already triggered cameras this year by driving through the red warning lights. This represents a 350% increase on the same period last year.

(reported by David Robinson who also noticed...)

Vacancy for Resident Hermit

Shugborough Home in Staffordshire, central England, has been flooded with applicants for the position of hermit to live in a cave on the estate. Devised to highlight National Heritage Week by artist Anna Douglas, the successful applicant will have to abandon human contact and possibly washing and shaving. That also appears to rule our evenings in the local pub so I don't expect the GSG to apply!


Elphin Caving Centre

The Midsummer BBQ met the Assynt midsummer weather of driving rain. Malcolm McConville insisted on lighting the BBQ, and with a tarpaulin lashed over the pergola managed to adequately incinerate one plateload of protein. We all stayed indoors and used the gas range.

In late July we sprang a surprise meal on Peter Dowswell. He's put so much time and effort into cooking for the GSG multitudes at our theme evenings that we decided it would be appropriate to cook one for him instead. Ivan and Tim managed to keep Peter underground in ANUS for five hours doing the SNH baseline survey work while all the cooking went ahead. It was also just after his birthday so a birthday cake and banner were also produced. So thanks to (mostly) Carol and Rosemary with assistance from Fiona and others for the cooking, and to Marion Peggie for supplying one of the main courses. And thanks to Jackie Yuill for the initial suggestion. She almost made it, but succumbed to a dose of Heathrow food poisoning after surviving Morocco without any problems.

Day Fees

Several members have asked if we have a charge for use of the hut's facilities during the day. This would appear to be a sensible idea so they have been instituted and set at 1 for members and 2 for others. This includes use of toilets, showers, drying room, and cooking and eating facilities. It also allows use of the coffee, tea bags and sugar et cetera.

Hut-building - and maintenance

The building warrant for the conservatory arrived and a delivery of blocks, sand, cement and aggregate in July supplied essential material. Several weekends in variously wet, midge-ridden and dry sunny conditions have built most of the walls to their finished height thanks to Peter Dowswell, Andy Peggie, Roger Galloway and Mike O'Driscoll with a special guest appearance by Paul Archibald. The concrete floor was laid one Saturday by Peter Dowswell ably assisted at the cement mixer by Jackie Yuill. They were so busy that Peter didn't have time to make his usual batch of scones for afternoon tea!

During conservatory construction the 'hump' at the front of the 'lawn' has been levelled giving material to raise the ground inside the conservatory for the floor and outside it for a new concrete path. Guest Thomas Gundacker, a caver from Austria presently working in Aberdeen, was persuaded to try a spot of dry stane dyking to build a retaining wall beside the car park for the path.

The latest addition to the hut by those well known architects Dowswell & Young is a custom designed pergola in front of the BBQ. There is a large tarpaulin in the shed that can be throw over the top to provide shelter during the normal GSG BBQ weather of rain.

Maintenance - This year has seen a steep increase in equipment failing or wearing out. The thermostat in the main larder fridge failed (fortunately under warranty), the gas fire in the front bunk room was condemned at the annual safety check, and we are replacing the wood burning stove with a multi-fuel stove. The replacements should be up and running before the Annual Dinner in October. Other maintenance tasks were to replace several slats in the outdoors bench seats, tighten up the grill pan supports in the gas range and buy more wine glasses as our stock was down to two!

If you notice anything that isn't working as it should or is broken or is missing please tell the hut warden Peter Dowswell. That way we can correct the problem much faster.

Gardening - Despite our fears, most of the trees nibbled by bunnies at New Year have survived. Also most of those that lost their main trunk have sent out shoots from the base so we haven't lost very many. A rosemary bush has been transplanted from Kirkcaldy to the top of the 'amphitheatre' beside the BBQ, and Peter is about to create a couple of herb beds to either side of the steps leading up from the back door. Various other plants are also appearing thanks to Tim and Carol. To make room Ivan has been dosing the nettles and other unwanted vegetation with Roundup.


Tax Relief for Caving Clubs

The chancellor, Gordon Brown, has introduced some worthwhile tax concessions for amateur sports clubs like the GSG in this year's Finance Bill. When the GSG register with the Inland Revenue as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) we will gain complete relief from Corporation Tax provided our turnover on trading is less than 15,000, and gross income from property is less than 10,000. We also get exemption from tax on interest and chargeable gains. Even better is that donations can now be made under Gift Aid and the GSG can reclaim basic rate tax on them. That means for every 78 of donations we reclaim another 22 from the Inland Revenue. A donor paying higher rate tax can reclaim that through his annual self-assessment tax return. Note that this is only for gifts, not for annual subscriptions, and money must actually move and leave an audit trail. Gifts in kind don't attract any relief.

To qualify as a CASC the GSG must:-

The GSG does appear to satisfy all the requirements listed and I have submitted an application to the Inland Revenue Sports Club Unit for registration as a CASC.

So far the GSG has only paid tax on bank interest, and with the initial rate of Corporation Tax now 0% it is the Gift Aid concession that is of interest to us. Once we have been approved as a CASC and once I've taken some advise on how to use Gift Aid most effectively I'll distribute Gift Aid forms and advice to regular donors. I'll also publish more details in a future Newsletter.

For more details on these concessions see the Inland Revenue web site:- http://www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/casc/casc_guidance.htm

Ivan Young (GSG Hon. Treasurer)


Membership News

Welcome to new member:-

Nathan Critchlow-Watton - first contacted us in early 2001 having returned to Scotland after a couple of years in Swansea caving with the SWCC. Foot and mouth and buying a house intervened, but has now joined up with us. He is interested in biology and a member of the West Brecon CRO.

New Addresses

Paul Archibald, Tony Boycott, Willie Marshall, Suzanne Peggie, David Robinson (addresses omitted from on-line version)

Norman Murphy reports that this year he and his wife are breaking with tradition for their autumn holiday:- My good wife said "Yes. I'd be happy to have a few days holiday away from the kitchen sink and the Hoover this autumn, but I'm tired of just touring around the Highlands!" (Personally, I do not believe that anyone could become tired of my spiritual homelands of West Sutherland and thereabouts, but the poor woman is English after all, and one has to make allowances).

Anyway, I thought we needed a new area to explore, and a new theme to follow for our autumn break this year, so I decided upon Industrial Archaeology in Cumbria for the September vacation.

Now I don't know to what extent the GSG has looked at this area, but I was staggered to see how much underground stuff there is listed on the Net. There are some tourist bits of course, and trips down slate/copper/haemetite/lead mines, but reading the websites available and reading also between the lines, it does seem that there is an enormous amount of potential exploration, or re-exploration work available.

I know that GSG is fundamentally Scottish (and very proper too) but although I read of trips to Yorkshire caves, and overseas caves, and mines in West Lothian, and so on, I don't recall reading of any explorations in Cumbria. And it's not far away.

You may care to look at what is thrown up by "Google", say, or to check out: http://www.redfern83.freeserve.co.uk/industrial_archaeology.1html or: http://www.ruskinmuseum.com/coppermines.htm or any of a dozen other sites. They're talking of miles and miles of passageway - maybe not visited in a hundred years. If I were less old, less fat and less stiff in the joints, I'd be interested myself. Whether any of your guys are, I don't know, but I thought I'd mention it.

Norman D.H.Murphy

PS: Yes of course Jim Salvona has been there, done that, and brought back the malachite nuggets! It's the rest of the Group I'm thinking of.

The GSG hasn't completely ignored Cumbria - see Newsletter 110 for our outing to Nenthead mines last year, but Norman does make a valid point and we'll await his report on his visit.

Ivan


Special Offer on New Publication

GSG member Tim Lawson has recently had published a new booklet about Assynt. Titled 'Classic Landforms of the Assynt and Coigach Area', and published by the Geographical Association as part of their 'Classic Landforms' series, it is in full colour throughout its 52 pages, with 27 photos and many diagrams and OS map extracts. Written with the non-specialist in mind it is a very accessible way to learn about the landscape of this area and how it has evolved. Comprising an introductory section detailing the area's geology and ice age history, it looks at seven selected popular areas and discusses how they evolved through time, including both the Traligill and Allt nan Uamh valleys. This enables the development of the cave systems to be put into some sort of context.

Retailing in bookshops at 8.95, Tim is offering a discounted price of 6.00 to GSG members (plus 50p postage if you cannot pick up your ordered copy from the Oxford Bar one Tuesday). In order to get this special price, Tim has to make a bulk order from the publisher. If you want a discounted copy, please let Tim know direct at Tim @bonaly.fsnet.co.uk, or let Ivan know by late September. Ordered copies should be available in October, when prompt payment will be expected.

Tim has donated a copy to the GSG Library. I'll bring it along to the Oxford bar on the next couple of Tuesday evenings for prospective purchasers to examine.

Ivan


Internet Caving

The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:- http://www.caves.org.uk/gsg/

Life on a Line - Section 2 of this superb dissertation on ropecraft for underground use and rescue is now available at:- http://www.draftlight.net/lifeonaline Dave Merchant, the author, is now working on section 3.

Ascendeurs and Descendeurs - If you only know of the Stop, Shunt and other Petzl devices look at:- http://storrick.cnchost.com/VerticalDevicesPage/VerticalHome.shtml for a comprehensive listing of every type of vertical device imaginable. I'm still trying to work out how some of them are meant to be used!

If you change your email address please let us know. Without it your supply of caving news from the GSG will stop. You'll miss out on early copies of the paper Newsletters, and also of intermediate email only Newsletters and announcements of caving meets and events.


REMINDERS

  1. Book now for the GSG Annual Dinner.
  2. Let Fraser know of caving trips you'd like to see on the GSG Meets List.
  3. Send address list changes and corrections to Ivan and if you are not on the email distribution list send him an email and ask to be added to it.
  4. Send your articles NOW to Goon for the October 2002 GSG Bulletin
  5. Let Ewan Duncan know of any mid-week caving (0131 447 7065)

GSG publications (prices to non-members in brackets)

Caves of Skye          - 6.00 (8.50)  QRA Assynt and Coigach
Caving Songs of Mendip - 3.00 (4.00)  Field Guide       - 10.00 (12.00)
The Southern Highlands - 1.20 (1.50)  Caves of Schichallion 3.00 (4.00)*
Appin Cave Guide       - 1.50 (2.00)* Buddy reading
                                      (Caving in Couplets)  2.00 (2.50)
                        * out of print - photocopies available
Postage extra - order from:-    Alan Jeffreys, 8 Scone Gardens,
                                Edinburgh, EH8 7DQ (0131 661 1123)
                        or:-    Ivan Young, 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston,
                                West Lothian, EH29 9AP (0131 333 3084)

                Please make cheques payable to "G.S.G."


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