Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 129, December 2006

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Annual Dinner 2006

It had been a few years since the last GSG Annual Dinner in S. Wales and, for several of the 39 members attending, this was their first visit ever to the area, and their first time underground in the principality. A special welcome was extended to non-members Robin Sheen and Henry Bennett - especially the latter since he brought the BEC's key to Agen Allwedd with him! Commiserations are due to Bob Batty whose plans to attend were thrown awry by a dose of flu.

The Rifleman's Arms served up an excellent dinner (on hot plates even!) and many mentioned that it was exceptional value for the money. The combination of Peter Ireson's laptop and Fraser Simpson's projector served an accompaniment of images of the Group's activities over the previous year. One of the PowerPoints had been intended for Goon to present at Hidden Earth, but there hadn't been room in the programme to squeeze it in.

After the meal Peter Dowswell proposed the toast to absent friends and Goon presented the Golden Gnome with accompanying recitation to the duo of David Morrison and Richard Simpson. This was to recognise all the excellent work they are doing in Skye, Applecross and Kishorn. New discoveries and extensions are being found by them at a rate only exceeded by that of the very first explorations, and evidently there is more to come as well as a publication. Unfortunately Richard was feeling under the weather and had had to abort the morning's trip into Ogof Draenen after ten minutes. He was still suffering from suspected food-poisoning in the evening and missed the dinner. He was recovered enough on Sunday, however, for a trip into Aggy. It would have been a real shame if he'd travelled so far and missed out on caving on a scale unheard of in Skye.

Golden Gnome Award 2006

Oh, the far Cuillins, they interrupt the view
As step we with our tackle to the isles.
If you're thinking, 'what a plonker to be underground today'
You've never smelt the peat mud in a while.

So by Kishorn and by Applecross and along the Sound of Sleat
With our digging tools and slimming pills and line
We'll attempt to visit all the caves discovered by this pair
As long as we are midgets we'll be fine.

Oh, the far Cuillins, they interrupt the view
And divert us from whatever lies below.
But Messrs Morrison and Simpson have revealed so many caves
They win the Gnome in all its golden glow.
(to be recited to the cadence of 'The Road to the Isles')

After a few post-dinner drinks in a well-heated if not over-heated dining room, most members returned to the Pwll Du Centre to continue partying into the wee small hours. As part of the recent extensive renovations a plentiful supply of fire doors provided what were almost airlocks between most of the bunk rooms so the partying didn't disturb those wanting an early night.

During the weekend there were several trips into Ogof Draenen, Agen Allwedd, Eglwys Faen and, amongst other sites, a local mine tunnel was visited and Henry showed some of us his digs on the Blorange. These are well away from the furthest known passages in Ogof Draenen, and with no caves known in the immediate area there must be a chance of finding another Draenen there. Peter Dennis (now residing in Aberystwyth) made use of the Aggy key to take a party from the university caving on Sunday after a long Draenen trip on Saturday visiting some of the spectacular formations.

On Saturday despite the locked gate on Aggy, Martin had an unwelcome surprise to find his rucksack missing from inside the entrance and the gate forced ajar when he completed his trip, Suspicion fell on some local(?) lads, but there wasn't anything of real value stolen so the loss was chalked down to experience.

AGM 2007

The 2007 GSG AGM will be held in Elizabeth and Derek's house in Winchburgh on Saturday 20 January 2007 starting at 10:30 am. An agenda is enclosed with this Newsletter. There is one resolution affecting the GSG constitution. This is to increase the minimum age of membership to 18 to align it with recent legislation. This does not affect any current members.

We now urgently need a new Caving Secretary. For an increasingly obvious reason Fiona has other priorities in mind for the near future (see Membership News), and has effectively stood down. Any member wanting to be nominated for either that post or any of the others should find a proposer and seconder within the Group and make themselves known to the Secretary.

We need 10% of the membership to attend for the meeting to be quorate. Please enter it into your diary now and make a New Year resolution to attend. Tell Elizabeth in advance if you will be there.

Resolutions other than those affecting the constitution may be accepted by the Chairman at the meeting. If you want to propose a resolution, or there are issues you want to raise at the AGM please let Elizabeth know in advance of the meeting, though it will still be possible to raise them on the day.

GSG Annual Subscription

Your annual payment for GSG membership becomes due on the 1st January. A major part of this goes to the BCA for your membership of that body. This year the BCA have decided that their subscriptions will remain unchanged for 2007 and we have done the same.

Members who do not pay by the end of January will find their membership of the BCA has lapsed and they will therefore be uninsured. The GSG constitution does allow until the end of March for its members to pay, but if you want uninterrupted access to caves nation-wide you shouldn't wait till then to renew your membership. If you do not pay by the end of March your membership of the GSG will automatically be terminated whatever class of membership you have - even Life. You have been warned!

GSG Subscriptions for 2007

Subscriptions are the result of adding a GSG specific amount and a BCA component. Both are unchanged from last year. The GSG part is L12 for full membership and L14 for joint. Both are reduced by 50% for those in full time education, the unemployed or those over 65 years old. The BCA part is L15 for those actively caving and L5 for those who do not require caving level public liability insurance. If you have joined BCA as a direct member, or are a member via another club, or CDG then you do not need to pay the BCA part again to the GSG.

NOTE:- Please let me know your BCA membership number if you are claiming exemption from the BCA membership fee. This helps BCA identify you in their records.

Please ensure that you clearly identify yourself as the person making the payment when you set it up, and send me an email so that I can check that it arrives. It takes several days for electronic transfers to trickle through into the GSG account.

Standing Orders

In January I bemoaned the lack of notice of subscription levels given by BCA in previous years. Perhaps they were listening because this year they have set them early enough for me to tell you of the 2007 GSG subscription while there is still time to adjust standing orders. A form is enclosed for those that wish to amend or start one. While they do ensure that your membership doesn't lapse, they have the danger of becoming more trouble than they are worth if subscriptions keep changing. For the present we will persevere with them, though with more and more members now signing up for on-line banking, direct electronic transfer or amending a standing order while sitting at your PC is going to be the future and should make paying the correct amount on time simple (viruses and Microsoft permitting!).






Several more Yorkshire trips have been held this summer and autumn. One attended by Mark Lonnen, Peter Ireson and Derek Pettiglio was aiming at Nick Pot, but switched to Alum Pot main shaft because of the weather.

In late November Mark, Peter, Ivan and Rachael Huggins spent a weekend at the YSS hut in Helwith Bridge for a wet descent of Heron Pot on Saturday (only to the bottom streamway as the lower exit would have been impassable) and a Calf Holes/Browgill Cave traverse on Sunday. All enjoyed the latter so much they returned through the caves rather than walk in the sunshine across the fields.

Yet More Discoveries in Upper Flood

In the last Newsletter we reported that GSG/MCG member Julie Hesketh had been on the trip into Upper Flood, Mendip that added a conservative 500m to its length. The latest issue of Descent reported on more discoveries, adding at least the same again and taking the length of the cave up to almost 2km.

This is now old news. Julia has just reported another breakthrough. In her own words:- "I went down Flood on Friday (having taken a day of work to push the place) with Bill Chadwick, Mike Richardson and Tony Jarratt our guest. We went down "Neverland" so called because it was soooo pretty we were never going to push it.... Erm, ach well. It WENT!!!! For 500m!!!! To the most unbelievably fantastic formations I have ever seen. And we only dug for about 10 minutes with our bare hands moving rocks aside.... Wake me up someone; I think I am dreaming...."

With results like that we just have to persuade Julie down to the bottom of Rana Hole!

Crucifixion Cave Restored after Vandalism

On 27 July 2006 the Crucifixion painting on Davaar Island, Campbeltown was over-painted with an image of Che Guevara by an unknown person. This was widely reported at the time in the national press. The much restored and repainted scene was originally created by local art teacher Archibald MacKinnon and discovered by local fishermen in 1887.

What hasn't been reported is that the damage has been restored by local artist Ronald Togneri. He first repainted the scene in 1978, and I write repaint rather than restore as the painting deteriorates so much between restorations that the artist usually has very little of the previous version to guide him. For more details on the history of this painting and photographs of some of the different versions view the Historic Kintyre website.

This includes the information, unknown to me, that near the main painting there is a painting of a cherub that first appeared in the 1934 restoration by Archibald MacKinnon and hadn't been repainted until now.


Latest news from our Golden Gnomes - David Morrison and Richard Simpson - is that during a weekend's caving with Toby Speight taking photos for the forthcoming guide book, they encouraged him to connect Heretics Cave via a squeeze to Aten's Chamber giving a tight 60m through trip. A couple of metres were also added to The Cellar

Farmyard Fun

Some time ago three members surveyed an underground drainage conduit - the cundie - under Ratho Park Golf Course. Recently a nearby farmer, Joe Barry of Ratho Main farm, asked our help to investigate a chamber he'd found under his steading. He'd descended a 6m shaft to a lowering version of the Ratho Park cundie and found it entered a comparatively large chamber. The team of Mark Lonnen, Peter Ireson, Jim Salvona, Rachael Huggins, John Crae and Ivan Young arrived with surveying gear plus Heyphone and spent an intriguing couple of hours poking into all parts of this local artificial cave system. This involved some technically difficult caving manoeuvres to enter a higher inlet passage up a narrow stone chute. Mark managed with a bit of difficulty and some help from below. Pete only managed with assistance from above and below and tells us that his arm is gradually returning to its normal length after Mark's vigorous help.

The chambers and nearby passages were surveyed and locations verified using the Heyphone in 'radiolocation' mode. The chamber proved to lie under a room built onto the outside of the steading and labelled "Thrashing Mill" on the 19th century OS map. This also showed a now vanished reservoir uphill from it. On an earlier plan this was called a Millpond; confirmation that the chamber once held some form of water powered mill. It was most likely a waterwheel of some kind though there are several puzzles to solve about its type and the configuration of the chamber. It is physically possible to house a 5m diameter wheel in the chamber, but there is now nothing there to hint at what was actually installed. Investigation continues and a comprehensive report is planned for the GSG Bulletin next year.

2006/7 Meets and Events

See the events page.

If the meets list looks sparse that is because we need a new Caving Secretary. In the interim, meets are still going ahead though organised at shorter notice and therefore missing all the Yorkshire caves that need permits. Information on these meets is distributed by email to the GSG's distribution list. If you have email and are not on it a simple request to Ivan will get you added.

Membership News

This month's new member is:- Alison Boutland - who started caving in 1985, whilst living in Cumbria, with a memorable(?) ladder trip down Calf Holes. She was persuaded into Coniston copper mines, Hodge Close Slate mines and iron ore mines around Egremont, as well as more Yorkshire trips. Some Mendip caves followed then when she moved back north she and some friends formed the Elysium Underground Group (EUG) and got back into Yorkshire caving. Over the last year she and other EUG members have joined forces on some Yorkshire meets with the GSG. She writes that her main caving interests are photography and staying alive!

New Members

Alison Boutland

New Addresses

Peter Dennis

Vale Boffin

We are sad to report the demise of Boffin, Goon's faithful canine companion of some years. Many of you will have encountered Boffin on trips across the Yorkshire moors, Assynt and elsewhere. Though not so much of a speleo-dog as his predecessor Braco, Boffin was a fine travelling companion and will be greatly missed.


Elphin Caving Centre

As a result of a clash of events, holidays and other jobs the attendance at the proposed Italian theme meal in November dwindled and it was cancelled. This won't happen for the Xmas Party on Saturday 16th December and a large turnout is expected. Peter's menu for the event is given here and there will be vegetarian options. If you haven't already booked your place and your bunk do it now! Cost is expected to be between L5 and L10 per head.

The "Bring Your Own Curry" on Saturday 7th October after the SCRO/AMRT autumn exercise was a great success with a multitude of cooks not spoiling any broth, but serving up a fine assortment of curries suitable for vegetarians and carnivores.

Suggestions for future theme evenings should be made to Peter. One suggestion is for Polish cuisine, which could be appropriately scheduled with a hut maintenance weekend to paint and polish the hut!

Hut fees are L5.00 per night for non-members and L2.50 for GSG, Bradford and BEC members. Reduced to L3.00 and L2.00 for children, students, the unemployed and OAPs. Camping is at a reduced rate of L2.00 only when the hut is full. Day fees are L1.00 for members and L2.00 for non-members.

If you want to stay in the hut at any time please contact the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell - to check if there will be space (hutbookings @ There will usually be a few bunks spare if large groups are staying. Even if all bunks are occupied the bed-settees by the fire are recommended and spare mattresses in the front bunk room can be used in the conservatory.

Internet Caving

When investigating a new area for caves one of the first priorities is to obtain a map of the area and see just what the Ordnance Survey have included. Especially at the larger scales many caves can be found. Buying your own set of maps is prohibitively expensive when a few minutes might reveal absolutely nothing of interest and a wasted purchase. It is possible, however, to find mappings at a variety of scales on the Internet.

Several sites give OS maps up to the Landranger scale (1:50,000) and street maps at larger scales eg. multimap and streetmap.

The Ordnance Survey site provides maps up to 1:25,000 using Get-a-map. At that scale each download gives about a 2x2 km square.

For 1:10,000 mapping Julian Walford recently found This displays about 1000 x 750m at a time and while it lacks contours does include more detail than the 1:25,000 mapping on Get-a-map.

Another favourite is old-maps where mid-19th century 6" maps can be seen admittedly at a rather coarse resolution.

All these sources allow you to grab the screen image but only of a small area. By repeated panning left and right, up and down a collection of overlapping images can be saved then pasted together into a larger image. I use Paint Shop Pro, but any similar programme can be used. You should note that while you can do this for your own use, there are copyright implications and a careful reading of the relevant warning on each web site is recommended if wider distribution is planned.

Nigel Robertson writes that folk using Google Mail get a series of adverts down the side of the page linked to topics in the email. The last GSG Newsletter generated offers for jobs in Wales, Welsh hotels, the Fron Male Voice Choir, Direct Hygiene, Sanitary Disposal, Refuse Truck Rental and Waste Disposal. There seems to be a common theme running through some of those!

21-LED Headlamps

Julian Walford is continuing to act as LED lamp supplier to the GSG. The current 21-LED lamp is naturally brighter than the previous 12-LED model at the expense of shorter run times. The price remains L10. With 2000mAhr NiMH rechargeable cells Julian reported 2.5 hours of light. Good AA alkaline cells will give perhaps 4 hours, but at a far higher cost per hour. For more details and to check availability contact Julian - jdwalford @

GSG publications

Prices to non-members in brackets, items marked * are out of print but photocopies are available. Postage is extra. Contact Alan to find out what colour clothing is available.

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)
T-shirts 8.00 Sweat shirts 10.00
GSG Ties 5.00

Postage is extra. Order from:- Alan Jeffreys, 8 Scone Gardens, Edinburgh, EH8 7DQ, or Ivan Young, 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston, West Lothian, EH29 9AP. Please make cheques payable to "G.S.G."

Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation News

October Exercise

This was a joint SCRO Assynt MRT exercise. The scenario was that three students wandering around the Knockan area had got separated and two were now missing and thought to have come to grief in one or more of the caves. A search of the area was necessary and with the AMRT Landrover and Bus ferrying folk along the track, three teams clutching lists of GPS co-ordinates set out into the cold wet morning to discover if their GPS receivers could find cave entrances.

For two of the teams success meant finding a note that the reader had to change role and become a casualty. More gear was ferried to the hill and Mark Campbell who'd found himself with a 'damaged' leg in Poll Eoighainn, insisted on an aided self- rescue out to daylight where he could relax on a McInnes stretcher. He preferred that to being trussed in the Gemini stretcher and hauled out of the cave.

There were three 'casualties' to find and on the first sweep one wasn't found because the team leader decided water levels in Uamh an Tartair were dangerously high. A later re-appraisal with more SCRO gathered there, decided it was passable and the third casualty (laminated note!) was recovered.

Also found/rescued nearby from Cul Eoghainn was an inflatable sheep (thanks Roger!) and a bag of goodies for the teams to snack on.

Overall this was a productive day in terms of familiarising members of both teams with the terrain and working together on an area search. There were some shortcomings that were noted during the debrief discussions. Thanks to Suzie Peggie for creating the scenarios and preparing the information packs, to Roger and a modestly hypothermic Rachael who installed the 'casualties' and sheep in the caves, and to everyone else who took part - 21 SCRO members, 3 SCRO/AMRT members and about ten other AMRT members.

Annual General Meeting

On the morning after the Assynt exercise while there was a captive audience, an AGM was held in the GSG hut. Minutes for this will shortly appear in the members' area of the SCRO web site (access instructions will be emailed to members) The committee was elected unopposed.

Shell / Boots across Scotland Seminar 2006

On a frosty November evening, members of mountain rescue teams from all parts of Scotland descended on the Broomlee Centre, West Linton for a weekend of films, lectures, training and exercises.

On the Friday evening there was a screening of E11 - a very entertaining film about one man's determination to climb the (allegedly) hardest route in the world at Dumbarton rock. A well stocked bar contributed to a relaxed atmosphere as people got to know each other. Only one other group was using the Broomlee Centre that weekend - a meditation group - who asked curiously what MRCofS stands for. A quick witted member of a team who shall remain nameless explained that we were the "Most Reverent Church of Satan". We didn't hear much from the meditation group after that!

Saturday morning included a training session on search management. Search management focuses on techniques to evaluate the "probability of area" e.g. how likely the target is to be found in the area, and "probability of detection" which is a measure of how likely it is to find the target if they are in the area. These techniques could be usefully applied to a search of complex limestone workings or abandoned mines to improve the effectiveness of a search.

There was a session on despondent persons (potential suicide cases) which included some useful tips on how to handle such a person if you find them - and the importance of getting an overdose case to hospital within 24 hours of the overdose.

DI Craig Dewar provided training on scenes of crime and forensics. The basic rules being that any incident is ruled as a scene of crime until the police determine otherwise. After taking any necessary actions to preserve life the scene should be left undisturbed as far as possible. Leave the scene by the same route you entered and await debriefing by the scene of crime officer. The capabilities of modern forensics are quite fascinating - the forensic officers can determine who has been at the scene and even know if you scratched your head (or anything else!) whilst there!

During the afternoon there was practice of our search management skills in preparation for the night exercise. Chris Chapman (with a little help from Ivan and Dave Warren) had arranged a complex scenario for the evening exercise and even arranged for some realistic weather conditions - wind, rain, snow and freezing temperatures - nice one Chris!

The residents of West Linton must have been wondering what was happening as mountain rescue vehicles arrived and departed all evening deploying teams to three separate search areas following reports of a missing micro-light aircraft. The reality was more serious there having been a mid-air collision between the micro-light and an army land rover (sorry, Chinook helicopter) resulting in a scattering of fatally wounded cardboard cut outs and a number of surviving volunteers from the local army base. The mid-air collision had caused the Chinook to metamorphose into old computer and photocopier parts which were scattered over a wide upland area. A couple of drunks (one of whom was virtually comatose) added to the complexity of the operation and had to be evacuated from the crash site. The entire search operation was run by Chief Inspector Ciorstan Shearer who very capably fulfilled the role of tactical command. The operation ran until almost midnight, although after debriefing some rescue personnel continued the operation in the bar area until the small hours became significantly larger!

The peace was shattered at 8am on Sunday morning by the arrival of the air ambulance - I'm not sure what the meditation group made of this particular interruption!

A slightly later start on Sunday morning led to a briefing on the changes to search and rescue services in the UK - in particular the migration of search and rescue aircraft provision and maintenance to the private sector. This migration will start in July next year, but it will be several years before all UK search and rescue aircraft are provided in this manner. It is probable that most of the current RAF, Navy and Coastguard aircrews will be manning the new aircraft. There will be ample opportunities for training exercises when the new aircraft come into service so that may be a good time to arrange another winch practice in Assynt.

A brief presentation on the Civil Contingencies Bill led to an update on the MRCofS by Alfie Ingram. After an early lunch there were a number of practical sessions including waterside search, GPS, hill party leadership, navigation and more search management. By late afternoon the fun was over and all the cakes had been eaten. The convoy of mountain rescue vehicles departed once more to the far corners of Scotland.

An excellent weekend with some quality training.

Mark Lonnen


The Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland has issued SCRO four of the standard ICOM radios used throughout Scotland by Mountain Rescue Teams. Mark Lonnen, our Technical Officer, will be organising training. Mark is hoping to obtain more radios via a combination of gifts of old kit and sales and purchases on Ebay. At present the four radios are allocated to Mark, Ivan, Roger and Peter Ireson. It might be thought better to have them at a central location so they can be issued to whoever is available when there is a call-out; however, that would probably guarantee flat batteries. Allocating them to individuals is more certain to keep them charged and ready to go.

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