Author Topic: caves of the avon gorge  (Read 8334 times)

Offline rhychydwr1

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The Body in the Cave
« Reply #25 on: January 19, 2016, 09:43:38 am »
BY TONY AND ANNE OLDHAM

Recently we were asked to write an article for the 25th Anniversary of the Bedminster Down Boys' Club.  We thought readers might be interested in the following anecdote, especially as the characters mentioned are still active cavers.

Our association with Bemmy Down Boys' Club goes back almost a quarter of a century, when we received a letter from Steve,  asking for volunteers to take members of the BDBC caving.  From the word go this really took off and soon a separate little group of club members had formed itself into the Down Under Club with its own Logo and woven club badges (surely our never used one must be a real collectors item now).

Looking at Tony's log books of the era our first recorded trip seems to have been to Rod's Pot at Burrington on 3rd January 1965 when the entry reads "A 4 hour trip, long
winded, but interesting.  7 boys and one leader, Stephen Long......"

The next notable occasion seems to have been the Scavenging Trip to Goatchurch Cavern on 24.10.65 when our social conscience caused us to remove "litter from the end of the drain pipe and in many of the out of the way passages.  The burnables were burnt and the soft organic material buried.  The walls were also attacked, carbide lamp inscriptions scrubbed off etc.  Old bottles, tins etc., 2 sacks full, were removed to Bristol for the dustbin."

On 21st November 1965 on a trip to Swildon's Hole, club members helped to rescue a party of cavers from Wells Cathedral School, who got stuck at the bottom of the 40 ft. drop when they found their ladder was too short.

There were numerous other trips and if anybody ever contemplates writing a history of the Club, the log books will be made freely available.  However, the incident which has surely gone down in the annals of the club, and which we believe is still related by Steve when the juniors need subduing before bed on club camps, is that of the Body in the Cave.


It happened like this.  For many years Severn Valley Caving Club members and Tony had been digging, on and off, in Mercavity Cave, high up in the Avon Gorge.  Early in 1967, a student, Rosslyn Evans, who was a caver,  had mysteriously disappeared from his lodgings in Bristol.  So sudden was his departure that his books were still open on the desk and the light burning, but his whereabouts were a mystery.  Possibly sensing a keen and untapped labour force to help with the cave digging, Tony suggested to the BDBC that he might have gone down Mercavity and been trapped by a roof fall, as in fact, the entrance to the lower series had collapsed at about that time.  On 3rd March, Tony, Don Rogers and a party from the Club started to dig.  Nothing came of this trip, and a further trip was made on the evening of 16th March.  This time Tony and the BDBC boys were accompanied by Mike Jeanmaire, a cave diver who also had a genetic abnormality which meant his toes were webbed, thus he enjoyed the nickname of "Fish".  Now let Tony's log for the night take over......

"We removed quite a lot of spoil and just as we were thinking of leaving we finally broke through into the lower series.  I had a quick peep through expecting to see a grinning skull leering at me, but no dice.  Fish reckoned he could get through, and sure enough he did (he is a little shorter in the leg than me!)  A quick inspection confirmed my hasty glance.  Before coming out he took the shovel and scratched around quickly, uncovering a caving helmet.  A very subdued and shocked Fish's voice said "My God, he's here", only to be met with a flippant "Well, I told you so", from Tony.  With a lunge Fish thrust his head and shoulders through the hole.  "Oh my God, get me out", he cried, followed by a further bout of frantic thrashing about.  After some quiet words and a little persuasion, a very shaken Fish emerged.  "God, what a stench", he cried, "I'm going to puke".  Needless to say he didn't and after a few questions, the following picture emerged.  The body was partially buried with only the skull, legs and boots showing.  It was lying horizontally, and in line with the lower passage.  Fish reckoned that it had not died outright, but had laid down and been covered by a later fall.

The first thing was to tell my father to bring  a camera, so we all made our way down the cliff.  Fish was still very shaken and nearly passed out on the climb down and had to have a rope thrown to him.  I rang my father and  Anne.  Needless to say she did not believe me at first.  We took the boys back to the club and returned to the cave.  Steve and Don at the club, although saying they didn't believe us, came back to have a look.


Back at the Tennis Courts, Anne was waiting with the flash and camera and had been joined by Jim Smart, another well known Bristol caver. Jim, Fish and I  went up to the cave and  I went down to the squeeze and enlarged it to look in - I couldn't see anything.  I crawled in a little more, rather reluctantly I might say, not wishing to have festering flesh rubbed on my clothes.  Yes, there was the helmet.  Gingerly I lifted it and...... nothing underneath it!  All through this Fish was mumbling like an idiot "revolting", "going to puke", "horrible" etc.  It was agreed that as I was the leader I should have the honour of going through first.

I tried to think of all sorts of reasons why I shouldn't go first, and started digging the squeeze away.  After I had made the hole large enough for two people to get in I reluctantly had to go through, I could think of no excuse for not doing so.  In I went, very slowly.  "God, it's tight" I lied.  After ten minutes I was in and I handed out the leg..... a piece of blackened wood.  I dug the entrance a little larger before going on to explore - not that there was much to explore, barely ten feet of passage.  Jim came down after me and poked about in the choke.  He  reckoned it was about three feet thick. 

Anne was still at the bottom of the cliff, unaware of what we had now discovered and she was joined by my father with him camera.  He had visions of taking exclusive pictures which would find their way onto the front pages of all the main dailies.  Now the Oldhams never go far without food, and he had also provided himself with a thermos of coffee and a packet of sandwiches, presumably envisaging a trip of epic proportions rather than a 100 ft climb from the road.  He started off in good heart, but being a somewhat portly gentleman was forced to hand the thermos over to Anne, at the second climb he relinquished the sandwiches, and at the third climb, all thoughts of photographic fame fled and he gave up and came down leaving Anne to struggle up the rest of the way with thermos, sandwiches, camera and flash.

By the time Steve and Don arrived the sandwiches and coffee had gone, but they still had a good laugh, first at Fish, then at me. 

Fish was now very subdued and we made our way down to the foot of the cliff.


However, the matter was not yet over.  One of the boys we had taken back to the Club earlier began to have nightmares about it all.  His mother was furious, and first of all tore Steve off a strip and then phoned the Police.  That weekend we were going to Drake's Island in Plymouth Sound with the Club for a weekend of sailing, canoeing, climbing and caving.  To digress slightly, Anne had been put in charge of the catering and had made a real effort to get away from the baked beans and bread cuisine of past trips, planning such delicacies as hot dog sausages, rice and tomatoes.  The boys looked with horror on her offerings and complained bitterly to Steve and the rest of the helpers, who were somewhat unsympathetic as it meant all the more for them.   Steve only remarked with a somewhat wistful air "I think Mr Heinz has made a special study of the taste buds of teenage boys, he certainly seems to know what they like", and the Tuck Shop sent out for re-inforcements of Mars Bars.

To return to the cave story, however.  The Police, somewhat miffed at not having been told about the body, managed to discover our whereabouts, and Tony was recalled urgently to the mainland to explain himself.  They were even crosser when they found it was a false alarm and although we laugh at the whole incident now, I can't recollect that we did so at the time!!!!  Incidentally, as far as we know, the whereabouts of Rosslyn Evans is still a mystery.



Offline dugadig

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Re: caves of the avon gorge
« Reply #26 on: January 19, 2016, 09:35:05 pm »
Sorry Tony..

But before anyone parts with any money you can check this page out!

Loads of Avon Gorge caves with grid reference and pics!  ;D
http://duo.irational.org/tunneling/

Offline Aubrey

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Re: caves of the avon gorge
« Reply #27 on: January 19, 2016, 10:20:39 pm »
Really good and extensive reference.
Someone has spent a lot of time generating it - well done  :clap2:
make more cave - we have the technology!

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: caves of the avon gorge
« Reply #28 on: January 19, 2016, 10:22:58 pm »
It's an artist (loose term) Heath Bunting; some of his work has been supported in the past by the Arts Council. Not entirely sure that photographing his team breaking and entering is art, though.

http://duo.irational.org/tunneling/observatory_hill_cave_ST56667324/

Nonetheless it does seem a comprehensive archive.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2016, 10:31:34 pm by Cap'n Chris »

Offline crickleymal

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Re: caves of the avon gorge
« Reply #29 on: January 20, 2016, 01:44:16 pm »
Sorry Tony..

But before anyone parts with any money you can check this page out!

Loads of Avon Gorge caves with grid reference and pics!  ;D
http://duo.irational.org/tunneling/

At least one of those is a service duct leading into the Maternity Ward in Bristol Hospital. I did contact the hospital security about it when I worked there but they couldn't figure out how to use the link I sent them!
Malc
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Offline rhychydwr1

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Re: caves of the avon gorge
« Reply #30 on: January 20, 2016, 04:05:59 pm »
Sorry Tony..

But before anyone parts with any money you can check this page out!

Loads of Avon Gorge caves with grid reference and pics!  ;D
http://duo.irational.org/tunneling/

Heath used my books with my permission as a basis for his website.  Saves me reprinting them  ;D

Offline dugadig

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Re: caves of the avon gorge
« Reply #31 on: January 20, 2016, 09:30:33 pm »
It gives enough information for anyone who wants to look. No nonsense.. just helpful and an incredible amount of work!
I saw the Avon Gorge books in Tony Jarrett's shop years ago and wish I'd bought them.. You can't beat a good old guide, but this page has many more new cave's listed along with sites of a more modern industrial archaeological interest.  :thumbsup:



Offline mikem

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Re: The Body in the Cave
« Reply #32 on: May 24, 2018, 06:17:30 pm »
« Last Edit: May 24, 2018, 06:33:24 pm by mikem »

Offline jbaer

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Re: caves of the avon gorge
« Reply #33 on: May 24, 2018, 08:36:41 pm »
I have a spare copy of the two volume book Caves of the Avon Gorge.