Newsletter @ g-s-g.demon.co.uk
Bookings for this year's Annual Dinner at the Inch have been flowing in. So far there are 51 confirmed bookings with several more expressions of intent - but no booking form or cheque! If you have not booked your place, now is the time to do it. Use the booking form in the last Newsletter, or if you can't find it send me a cheque (made payable to 'GSG') for 16.00 per person and tell me your choices of main course - venison, gammon, salmon, or vegetable lasagne. The dinner is on Saturday 30th October and this year's fancy dress theme is Sound of Music. There is a special reduced B&B rate of 19.00 per person per night for GSG members in the hotel. A few bunk spaces are still available in the hut for Saturday night. Friday night is already full, but that does leave the sofa-beds, the spare mattresses, the conservatory, the shed and the loft as well as camping available.
Hotel bookings to 01571 822202. web site:- http://www.inchnadamphhotel.co.uk/. Send dinner and hut money to me at 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston, West Lothian, EH29 9AP.
Rana Hole - It has been a quiet summer down Rana Hole with only two visits. The first was by Julian Walford and Bob Jones. They installed a large Jewson one ton bag behind a scaffolding wall at the bottom of BBC pitch and started filling it with spoil from the dig. Provided the dig doesn't migrate back towards it, this will be left in situ. It meant much less work compared to hauling spoil all the way to the surface. On 10th October Martin Hayes, Bob and Rosemary Jones with daughter Katherine, Ivan, Roger and soon-to-be new member Murdo Macpherson removed about 20 loads from a wet dig site. Some work with a crowbar did temporarily see the water gurgling away into the floor, but the water level soon started rising again. Before we left Roger found that he could insert a large diameter pipe along the narrow continuation of the rift and bale the water into it.
ANUSC - Recent trips by Chris Chapmen and friends and later the same day by Mark Tringham found the river flowing past the entrance and threatening to overtop the concreted barrier. It was a struggle to ford the river and once inside nobody braved the very wet connection into the Farr Series. We really do need to put some work into improving this short crawl and the passage beyond. Volunteers?
Pretty Pol - This is a short 9m passage almost opposite Uamh an Jedi found in 1959. Goon investigated it with Boffin (the dog) in June and Ivan found it a month or so later to GPS it (NC 26112 22040) getting thoroughly soaked in the process on yet another typical 2004 summer's day.
Lon na h-Uamh - Reported by Nigel Robertson:- "We did the usual Bone Caves and ANUS tourist trips but we also managed a sandstone rock shelter and boulder caves on the northern flanks of Stac Pollaidh - a place called Lon na h-Uamh at NC122111. It's marked on the new Explorer map but not on the old 1:50 000. It's only worth doing to say you've done it - I'm sure someone from the club will have been there before. We wrote it up in the hut log but didn't have the map to hand so the NGR was just an estimate from the map."
Glen Creran / Glen Duror - Trevor Faulkner has written his thesis on cave formation in Norwegian caves. He recently took his academic supervisor, Professor John Gunn, to view some of the Appin caves since they are in similar strata and of similar age, formation and morphology. Ivan acted as guide because it had been some time since Trevor had last been there; forests and paths are now very different. We started with Chamber Pot, continued with Uamh an Coire Sheileach and finished the day by moving round to Glen Duror and Draught Caledonian. Ivan tried a dye test from a supposed sink for Draught Caledonian, but we were not around for long enough to see the result.
Another visit was made by Kate Janossy and George Kennedy who went for an evening jaunt down Chamber Pot just before she left Oban. She thought it "a really nice cave, pretties too. Even the midges weren't as bad as I expected (until I stood still that is!)"
High Pasture Cave - Steve Birch (GSG) and fellow archaeologist Martin Wildgoose organised three Open Days at High Pasture Cave in September. The general public turned up in hordes to view the displays in the hut and learn about the site. Steve took a total of 32 people down the cave to the site of the dig - without any injuries. The following week there was a torrential downpour on the night of 13/14th September. This resulted in the sink for the cave backing up until the flood continued across the surface and ponded up over the cave entrance to a depth of about 1.5 to 2 metres. It also inundated the hut (photo in last Newsletter) to a depth of about a metre, and then flowed on down the dry valley to rejuvenate the dry waterfall above Terminal Chamber. Everything in the hut was soaked. Amongst other items Martin's digital camera must have been floating on the water in its pouch, but after careful drying it is still working. The local farmer declared that he'd never known such a flood in all his 50 years on the island.
The effects inside the cave were minor. Rocks had been moved around in the entrance passage, but the water hadn't backed up enough to enter the dig. A visit during the club meet a few days later found fresh vegetation and foam in the roof of Terminal Chamber and for some distance upstream. We didn't notice any other after-effects.
Historic Scotland - The autumn 2004 issue of this magazine includes a three page article on High Pasture Cave featuring Ivan's photos of Steve Birch and Tim Lawson. Historic Scotland is one of the organizations funding the work in the cave.
The GSG arrived in force for the September Skye Meet. A total of 25 members and friends arrived in 14 vehicles to stay in (or near) the Torrin Centre. Nigel Marsh arrived in his camper van which reduced pressure on the 18 bunks in the Centre. Thanks to an unpublicised ** practice at the Skye Bridge we all crossed for 1.34 each way instead of the one-off price of 5.70. In fact 10.00 per head covered both the accommodation and the bridge and still gave a surplus after buying supplies of tea and coffee.
On the Friday, early arrivals Ivan, Dave Warren and John Crae met Steve Birch after their pub lunch for a confusing stroll through Coille Gaireallach looking at all the sites that Steve thought deserved pushing. The opportunity was taken for a couple of short through trips in Upper Through Cave and Cave of the Seeds.
Saturday saw most of the GSG in several parties criss-crossing Coille Gaireallach and descending almost everything in and out of sight. Overnight rain and continual showers make some of the passages too wet, but the names of caves not entered would be far shorter to write than to list those descended. Cavers were popping up and down all manner of small holes and finding - not very much. Several do have more potential and a return should be made in dry weather. The sink just upstream of the upper entrance to Upper Through Cave had opened up - perhaps during the flood of the previous week - which gave the most new passage of the day. This was penetrated from both ends for a total of 8 metres, but the through trip awaits a drier day.
After Coille Gaireallach most of us walked across to High Pasture Cave. The earliest group found the duck well and truly sumped, whilst an hour or so later the next group found it aqueous but passable. Steve was there to explain the surface features - round houses and walls - and to conduct tours of the dig site as several full descents to Terminal Chamber were made by the more adventurous members. Luckily there were not any more downpours that afternoon. A late afternoon attempt to reach Spar Cave was repulsed by the rising tide.
On Sunday the weather worsened and in continuous rain many members explored most of the caves in the Allt nan Leac valley with some continuing on to Allt na Pairte Cave. An attempted descent of Valley Head Cave was abandoned due to high water. Steve led Goon, Martin, John and Ivan round to the sites he'd been investigating on the lower slopes of Beinn na Caillich just NNW of Broadford and north of Shelter Cave. Digging was started in a promising stream sink, and it was named Clavicle Cave after a rock formation at the entrance. When we left an hour later the water had increased by several hundred per cent. The risings for the cave are about 40m away and appear too tight. Nearby a stream sink was swallowing an impressive amount of water and another nearby 'dry' rift was not dry any more. Further uphill, at the granite limestone contact, another sink gave perhaps 10 or 12m of passage. The rising is only a few metres away (confirmed with a dye test) so there isn't much potential there.
Subterranea Brittanica held a study weekend in Edinburgh in mid-September. Staying on the Heriot Watt campus at Riccarton they arrived on Friday afternoon when a visit to the Scotland Street railway tunnel was changed because we couldn't find anybody who would admit to having the key.
On Saturday the itinerary started at the Barnton bunker which vandals set alight in the 90s. The interior is past recovery though there is still some air-conditioning and other machinery to see on the lowest level. The surface buildings are decorated with an ever-changing gallery of graffiti. A steam train ride on the Bo'ness railway took everyone to Birkhill Fireclay Mine. I'd last been there in 1986 just after work started to open it as a tourist attraction. The manager seemed to appreciate the knowledgeable audience and gave an enthusiastic description of the mine, its history and working practices, and the plans for extending both the underground tour and opening up access to the surface buildings where most of the machinery is still in situ.
The day continued with visits to all the canal tunnels in Scotland (the two in Falkirk!) and finished with the party splitting in two. Alan took one group to Levenseat Limestone Mine and Ivan took the rest to Whitequarries Shale Mine near Abercorn. The planned circuit here was somewhat more adventurous than planned: the water level was about 0.5 metre higher than on our last visits and resulted in some wet feet. A reduced group did penetrate to the inclined haulage way and admired the rotting machinery. This ended Saturday's outings and the guides were rewarded by being invited to an excellent dinner in the Heriot Watt dining room.
Sunday had a single objective - Inch Keith. Sub Brit said that they had a very choppy ride out to the island, but it was great fun. They had four hours on the island inspecting the decaying emplacements dating from 1880 onwards. Martin Dixon, one of the organisers, reported that the south end has a particularly fine fort with shell hoists/caponiers etc all intact.
A fine time was had by the multitudes that descended on Dave and Maeve's home in Reeth for a showery July weekend. Descents of Thackthwaite Beck Cave and the 'Spiral Mine', Scrafton Pot, Brandy Bottle Incline to Hard Level, and Windegg Mine Caverns were all on the agenda. On Sunday on the way to Brandy Bottle Incline, Dave, Paul, Kate and Derrick took the opportunity to explore one adit Dave hadn't been in before. Others contented themselves with strolling around the extensive surface remnants of the lead mining industry.
While in Poland Roger Galloway visited a few short caves in the Tatra Mountains, then with Annie and Tangent (both BEC and now working in Poland) did a six hour through trip guided by local cavers. This was an amazing trip that went via a series of free climbs and abseils right through a ridge. This was followed by an even more amazing tour of the local salt mines. Highly recommended.
Seven members had a pleasant quinze jours in Canada at the end of August enjoying once again the fine hospitality of Canadian cavers.
This time the weather wasn't initially as kind as previously, with rain for five and a half days out of the first seven. However it stopped raining long enough for us to get up onto Weymer Ridge for the last few days of the Weymerfest and pitch our tents in the relative dry. The Canadian use of tarpaulins makes camping marginally more civilised and allows sitting round fire in the rain.
A few days caving followed during which a good few trips were undertaken, some surveying done and some new cave found. Martin Hayes at last had the pleasure of a dig that actually went in Arch Type Cave, and soon had the pleasure of knocking up 250m of new passage with others rapidly following on behind. The final day's caving was a trip into the Ursa Major system starting at Slot Canyon and heading up to Nun's Nightmare, a good sporting trip. Pete Ireson much enjoyed the upgrade on our transport with the four wheel drive 5.3 litre V8 proving invaluable in getting up and down the Weymer tracks.
There then followed a few days on Hornby Island to the east of Vancouver Island, courtesy of Dale Chase, who we had first met at Weymer. Hornby is an interesting place, with a lot packed into its small size, with some old growth trees, interesting coastline, pleasant walking and a fine bakehouse. It is also home to a population of ageing hippies and an environmentally friendly culture that recycles a large proportion of its garbage including free exchange of unwanted items at the local dump.
Pacific Rim National park followed, on the west coast of the Vancouver Island with huge windswept beaches and surfers and the two small towns of Ucluelet and Tofino. Much beer & fine food was consumed and with some pleasant walking the length of Long Beach.
Back to Vancouver for a little culture and a visit to the IMAX before heading home. A very pleasant city with many diversions.
A full account will appear in the next bulletin.
A select group of GSG members visited a selection of show and wild caves in France during September. The caving list included Peche Merle, Saut De La Purcell, Gouffre de Padirac, Grotte de Marut, Grottes de Lacave, Grotte de Jonquilles, Perte de Themines, Grotte de Combe Cullier, Grottes de Foissac and Gouffre de Roc de Cor. Some swimming, shopping and other more touristy activities filled in the time for the team of Tony Boycott, Peter Ireson, Bob and Rosemary Jones, Graham Mullan, Davie Robinson, Jayne Stead, and Linda Wilson.
An important part of the Group's work is to keep records of members' speleological activities. The ideal would be for all trips to be written up in either the Edinburgh or Elphin Log Book. We recognise that that isn't always possible, and email reports are welcome. These should be sent to the Hon Recorder - Alan Jeffreys - and include all the normal details such as date of trip, name and location of the cave(s) visited, a report of what was done, and a list of who was there. The report can be only a few words long if it describes a normal tourist trip, or can be several pages of text if new discoveries are being made. Please keep the overall file size down and sent it as text or as Microsoft Word. Don't include large diagrams and pictures as Alan's hotmail account will get indigestion. You can also copy the message to me for possible inclusion in the next GSG Newsletter.
The gradual restructuring of UK caving is proceeding - gradually. The BCRA AGM was held during Hidden Earth 2004, and apologies were forthcoming from the chairman for the lack of communication over the summer about the next steps. Quite understandable since everyone involved is a volunteer and does have other priorities and a life to lead. A plan does exist and in essence it is for BCRA to become a 'sub-group' inside BCA with the reorganisation being complicated by the BCRA's charitable status. When it does happen the hope is that all the present BCRA members will become individual BCA members who elect to pay an extra subscription to join the BCRA sub-grouping. The process is under way and the advice from the BCRA chairman, Nick Williams, is that if you've got a standing order set up to pay the annual 25.00 sub to BCRA you should cancel it now.
This year's Hidden Earth National Caving Conference was held at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. The two day event was kicked off with a China caves spectacular on the Friday night in conjunction with the R.G.S. This was the end part of a week-long event celebrating and supporting the China caves project with a delegation of eminent Chinese cavers attending. An excellent presentation culminating with a visually gobsmacking 3D slideshow by Andy Eavis.
Over the weekend there was a rolling program of talks, workshops, videos and presentations in three theatres. This included Simon Brooks on Meghalaya (photo left) reinforced with an excellent video by Nicky Bailey. There was a full house roughly 350 people attending the presentation from the ill fated Joint Services expedition to Cuetzalan Mexico which resulted in the media circus frenzy and the misreporting which most of the world got to hear about. The well-presented lecture gave members of the team an opportunity to give the caving world a more accurate representation of the incident.
All in all an excellent weekend with some of our German caving friends making the effort to attend. It would have been nice to see more GSG members attending the event which for once was within easy travelling distance for us Northerly members.
Incidentally all three bars were drunk dry of real ale by 10.30pm on the Saturday night with two and a half hours still to go on the licence, which goes to show what a thirsty bunch cavers are even when they are not caving.
A visit to Staffa last May, left me wondering what speleological work had been done on the island. A very abbreviated look by Ivan at information on the GSG library lists indicates no modern work has been done. What is clear is that there are 5 sea caves, some of which are enterable to some extent on foot. Is it time GSG mounted an expedition to Staffa Sea Caves?
Clearly this will take some preparation as landing on the island is subject to permission from SNH. My incoherent thoughts are to do a reconnaissance trip in May / June 2005 using a boat trip around the island to take photos of the whole coast line, so as to identify sites. Then planning in detail could be started for a trip in say 2006. Various challenges exist, like getting permission from SNH, finding a hire boat to take us out and back and devising techniques to survey the caves which can't be fully accessed by foot. This will include possibly sea canoe work (though the light swell I saw would crush a canoe within the cave) and SRT over cliff edges.
I offer the idea as something different to talk about at the dinner. I will bring some prints of my photos of Fingal's Cave to show what the demands might be.
Anyone interested in bobbing about in boats or swinging over cliffs on string can also make their interest known to Bob at home - tel:- 01704 569107.
This year's Mendip Migration to Assynt continued the trend of the last few years with numbers down. Next year's flock may not even appear there. After many years of diving and caving in Assynt in April/May, Peter Glanvill is proposing a change of venue for May 2005. He is thinking of booking the Torrin Centre in Skye for a week around the first and second weeks in May. Because of the costs this is only likely to happen if there is enough support. If you are interested in caving/ diving/walking in Skye next May contact Peter - Tel home:-01460 64262, and register your interest.
See the events page.
Matt Hutson is very keen to arrange a long weekend in Slovenia - flights currently around 29.00, car hire & accommodation very affordable. Contact him (firstname.lastname@example.org) to express interest.
Upcoming meets include the caves & mines of North Wales, a return to Swaledale, a 'learn to SRT' weekend (Dolly Tubs & Sell Gill) & a weekend in Nidderdale (Goyden Pot & Manchester Hole) - details to follow.
Send your requests and suggestions for other meets to me. I can be contacted at home on 0131 667 3698, or at work on 0131 2474345 and
Fiona Ware - GSG Caving Secretary
To celebrate attaining his first half-century, Martyn Elwell is organising a party in the Glen Affric Backpackers Hostel, Cannich (01456 4152630) at the beginning of November. This has the usual facilities and costs about 8.00 a night. Martyn is planning a big curry on the Saturday night (6th) and extends an open invitation to everyone who knows him. They just need to arrive ready for some good partying in the evening and good walking and biking during the day in the surrounding countryside. If you are going to attend give Martyn a phone call so he knows the numbers for accommodation and food. (to lend the location some speleological legitimacy the Braes of Craskie Cave might be found nearby)
There has been a continual stream of members, friends, and other clubs keeping the hut busy almost every weekend this summer. The new conservatory is proving to be a fine place for festering and Peter has started trimming the trees at the front so the views are not obscured.
The next events in the hut will be after the Annual Dinner, when we expect to have a full gastronomic program over the winter months. One that can be announced is the date of the Xmas party - Saturday 18th December. There are also Italian and Burns evenings on the list. We also expect a good turnout over the New Year period. Book your places early if you want a bunk. Camping probably isn't a viable option then!
During a clean-up at the hut several items were found - see picture. If you recognize them please put in your claim now. There are also sleeping bags, boots and several items of clothing that may have been left deliberately by members for their next visit, or have been forgotten and are unclaimed. After a short delay the Hut Warden will assume the latter and either transfer such items into club stocks if useful, or into the wheelie bin if not. So if you have left items in the hut you better tell us or they may have disappeared by your next visit. If you do want to leave something behind then there are lockers in the shed (contact Peter for details), or you could write your name on it or attach a label.
New pillows are being bought for the bedrooms. Pillow cases are needed so please give all your old ones to the GSG (like you do with towels and tea towels!). Contact Carol Walford or Peter Dowswell.
Hut fees are 5.00 per night for non-members and 2.50 for GSG and BEC members. Reduced to 3.00 and 2.00 for children, students, the unemployed and OAPs. Camping is at a reduced rate of 2.00 only when the hut is full. Day fees are 1.00 for members and 2.00 for non-members.
If you want to stay in the hut please contact the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell as soon as possible to check if there will be space (01456 229250).
The GSG meet in the Cambridge Bar every Tuesday evening from about 8:30 pm onwards. This quiet retreat is steadily becoming more popular and much noisier on the nights when football matches on the projection TV drown the caving conversations. Does anyone have suggestions for an alternative venue which is central, has good car parking, reasonable beer reasonably priced and is quiet on Tuesday evenings? Perhaps we'll form a sub-committee to test the alternatives?
The loss of the window beside the gas range meant smoke from incinerating breakfasts was more likely to set off the smoke alarms. This summer's installation of a cooker hood should cure that. It has a three speed fan capable of shifting 450 m3/hr of cooking fumes at top speed. Its five inch flue goes straight up through the roof without bends to minimise back pressure and maximise smoke removal. Assynt's gale-blown horizontal rain was managing to defeat the outlet on top of the flue so an additional baffle was fitted to keep everything dry inside. Just to be consistent the extractor is on the same ring main circuit as the ignitors for the gas range and hob, so keep your pound coins handy!
One operational detail is that if you attempt to light the stove with the extractor switched on and all doors and windows closed, some airflow comes down the chimney and smoke will come into the room. This isn't a problem as soon as the fire is lit, the chimney has warmed and convection is under way. If it does happen switch the extractor off or open a window for a few minutes. I may increase the size of the air vents above the windows to help reduce the effect.
David Warren and family spent a week in the hut this summer during which he repainted the walls and ceiling in the kitchen area and the floor in the seating area. Dave's ambition is to complete all the walls and floor by the Annual Dinner and he has made more progress. The floor paint takes several days to dry properly so this will need to wait till the hut is unoccupied for long enough.
Other improvements in the hut include the replacement of the kitchen table with an island unit - that should discourage folk from eating in the area. A large extending table has been installed in the conservatory as has a two-seater sofa. The brown seating of some antiquity and doubtful flammability by the fire has been evicted and replaced by two sofa beds. The old seats are presently distributed between the conservatory and the bunk rooms awaiting disposal. You may also notice that the round table has been converted by quadruple amputation to a coffee table.
Hiba Aboulhosn, Mark Halliday, Lisa Kamphausen, Murdo Macpherson, Mark Tringham, Simon Turner.
Paul Archibald, Paul Craddy, Peter Dowswell, Mary Harrison, Julie Hesketh, Kate Janossy, George Kennedy, Daragh O'Hare.
Martin Hayes, Dave Hodgson, Ricky McKelvie, Suzanne Peggie.
The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:- http://www.gsg.org.uk/
The amount of on-line data for armchair cavers is always growing and here is another sites that I used recently:-
The Statistical Accounts of Scotland:- http://edina.ac.uk/statacc/
Both the 1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts of Scotland are available on-line. The casual user only has access to images of the pages. These can be searched by county then parish to home in on an area of interest. Some maps are included. There is also a subscription service which gives searchable access to the full text.
The first Statistical Accounts of Scotland 1791-1799 was instigated by Sir John Sinclair, a Caithness landlord. He produced a questionnaire and persuaded the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to send it to all their ministers. By 1794 775 of the 938 parishes had replied. Eventually reports were collected from all but 12 where more extreme methods were employed - he sent in his "statistical missionaries." The New Statistical Account was produced 40 years later and makes an interesting comparison with the first set.
And for 19th century maps remember:- http://www.old-maps.co.uk/
Another new caving site has been created:- http://www.deeppenetration.info/
With ukCaving.com already well established and doing a good job, do we really need yet another caving forum? The volume of entries so far seems to indicate that most cavers think not.
Caves of Skye - 6.00 (8.50) Caves of Assynt - 6.00 (8.50)* Caving Songs of Mendip - 3.00 (4.00) Caves of Schichallion 3.00 (4.00)* The Southern Highlands - 1.20 (1.50) Appin Cave Guide - 1.50 (2.00)* Appin Cave Guide Supplement 2.00 (2.50) Buddy reading (Caving in Couplets) 2.00 (2.50) * out of print - photocopies available GSG Ties - 5.00, T-shirts 8.00 and sweat shirts 10.00 Contact Alan to hear what colours are 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."
Note that all e-mail addresses have been removed from this on-line edition of the bulletin. Please contact the GSG (see home page for address) with any queries.
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