Westminster Spelæological Group

Cave Exploration and Investigation

Newsletter No. 2002/1 January 2002

This newsletter is published for the dissemination of information and is copyright ©WSG 2002. Articles are the copyright of the respective authors. If you wish to reproduce any part, please include the source.

We need a new Logo, incorporating the club's website address. All contributions (in any format) considered!

Caerllwyn By Moonlight..."Caerllwyn by Moonlight"

Headquarters - Caerllwyn Cottage Halt Road Rhigos ABERDARE CF44 9UW Tel: 01685 811080 http://www.wsg.org.uk

The caving calendar is on the main website. http://www.wsg.org.uk. Follow 'Club Meets' and 'Online Diary'. Members can access further information from the 'Members Only' part of the website. Follow 'Diary Dates' to check it out or 'Club Diary' to make changes/bookings for events

Contact mail addresses for the club officers can be found on the main website under 'Contacts'.

The cottage can be booked on line at www.wsg.org.uk ... click 'Cottage' then click 'Book Cottage'. There is also a multimap button to locate Caerllwyn.



There's considerable work involved in editing and preparing a newsletter as I've found out over the last few weeks. The previous incumbent in this job has performed this task since way back into the last millennium, collating, printing and distributing without fuss or complaint. The newsletter of any organisation is only as good as its material and its editor - suffice to say that there is now a team! Thanks for your efforts in keeping up all informed Toby, they are much appreciated.

There have been discussions as to what the N/L ought to carry and as to what methods ought to be employed for distribution. For the present, there is a firm commitment to produce a periodical printed newsletter, sent out to the membership by post. The format of this publication will remain largely as it has been although the use of colour has been discussed, but has, for the moment, been put on hold. However, the N/L source is produced with colour for photo's etc. so it will be put on the website as a complete document so that those with access may download if desired. (See the members only section on the website). The club's website also hosts an e-mail reflector on which late breaking news, changes to plans etc. can be notified. Let Phil have you e-mail address or preferably update your contact details on the site. There is a check box to enable the mail reflector there. For those of you not so web wise, or have not used the WSG website, there is a fair amount of info already there and there are plans to make it even more useful as a database. For example, committee minutes and newsletters are available at present as well as members' contact details. An events diary is under trial at present. To access this stuff, you need to know a password. This is clearly not the place to publish such info, but Phil or any other user of the site will enlighten you. In order to correct/change your contact details, you need a user ID and access code. These are available only from Phil. Contact address on the main website.


Club Admin and News.

Cottage Stuff

A Word from the Chairman

Virtual Caving

Ogof Draenen

You've Just Got To Go - To The West Coast...

Library Additions

A Bit About Cave Art

Last Gasp



Club Admin and News

The next committee meeting will be held at Caerllwyn on Sunday 10th Feb 2002 at 10 am when applications for full membership will be considered. Please ensure applications are submitted to the Secretary in good time before the meeting. (Forms are available in the members' only section on the website or from the membership secretary).

Motions for the AGM, to be held on 20th April, should be submitted to the Secretary by 8th March in order to comply with the constitution. The AGM handbook will be sent out in March in readiness for the AGM.

Details of the annual dinner will be sent out shortly.

Hello and Goodbye - the following from the Membership Secretary…

Following on from our incredibly successful bonfire weekend I would like to welcome the following who not only had the time of their lives but decided to join the club as well! Jane Pulford, Jon Woodhead, James Evans, Tracy Kortright, Jan Evetts (after a short lapse decided to rejoin) and, from the January weekend, Sarah Payne.

Sadly we say goodbye to the following who have left for all sorts of reasons, old age, the pull of the armchair was too great or perhaps they just couldn't get it together to renew their membership. Anyway, farewell and good luck to them all: Katrina Barton, John Heale, Lyn Harrington, Bob Kynaston, Richard Lockyer, Mike McClean, S.Middleton, M.Rogerson, S.Thomas, Bob Wilkins.

There remain 5 "members" who have yet to pay….. Membership cards for this year are attached unless you got yours on the Jan weekend. Apologies for lateness and lack of lamination - normal service will be resumed ASAP.

Happy Caving, Jeanette. Membership Sec.

Matthew Reports...

Craven Pothole Club have made an extension to Lizard Pot on the Allotment. They have found another pitch and the whole cave has been bolted for SRT.

Bradford Pothole Club have 2 major finds near Gaping Gill. Christmas Cracker is an ongoing dig which is now quite extensive and deep but not sure of the dimensions. "Henslers" is the main project at present where they've had much success and are digging and blasting constantly. There are some 3 SRT pitches and the cave is currently heading for Henslers High Aven. Once connected this will be another entry to the Gaping Gill system.

Also from Matthew...

Matthew, Bob and Elisa had a good trip last w/e (10th November). We accompanied the BPC (I'm now a member) on a Flood Entrance Pot (via Wades Entrance) trip in Gaping Gill. We met the Craven at the top of the big pitch and as they (CPC) had Bar Pot rigged we did an exchange. Yes a CPC/BPC combined trip! Matthew and "Cas" and Mike (all BPC) forced our way through the very tight and seldom used crawl from the top of South East Pot to the top of Bar Pot's big pitch thus achieving a descent of both Wades Entrance and Bar Pot on the same trip. Simon Froude attempted the crawl too but set himself on fire - his carbide ignited his rubber gloves! Not having much luck he followed Bob & Elisa down South East pot where Matthew, Cas & Mike then joined them and Simon promptly had his carbide expire on him. Then, en-route to GG Main Chamber he knocked his helmet on the roof and his back-up LED went out too! Eventually got this working to get to the main chamber and see an impressive sight. It's unusual to be in GG this time of year and not to find it full of lights and people. There were three powerful waterfalls and the whole chamber was swirling in mist, very ethereal. The de-rigging went very smoothly and we all came out via Wades Entrance and came out in the dark and mist. Back to the New Inn for dinner and beer.

Ireland 2002 August 10th to 17th a place to have great craic, and bring the other half and the kids. There is caving, fishing, mountain biking and of course drinking Guinness. Contact Martin on 01277 213765 if you are interested.

Martin is having a St. Patrick's day bash at his house (provided he has not been evicted to smaller premises). Peter Wynn and friends have agreed to provide some live music, so for a bit of banter, coel agus ol, plus plently of craic come to the session in Brentwood.

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A word (or two) from the chairman

Dear all,

Welcome to the brave new world of 2002: gone (we hope) is foot & mouth and open (we demand) are all the hills and mountains that we all enjoy, above and below.

The first caving weekend of the year was a very great success with the cottage bursting at its seams. Cavers, cavers everywhere and not a drop left to drink: the drunk and the disorderly, the new comers and the old timers. All enjoying what we love at Caerllwyn - and Wales - wind, rain and cold showers! Saturday saw three well-attended trips to Pant Mawr - the hard way (from SWCC) - Aggi and OFD1; and the oft-thought extinct tradition of Sunday caving was revived with jolly around OFD2. And this is only the beginning I hope of an active year's caving.

In this new look Newsletter you will see a list of the proposed caving weekends and trips abroad. The Easter expedition to Cuba will take place under the leadership of Martin McGowan as will a summer trip to Ireland. Closer to home, there will be a weekend down Draenen with Tim and a summer weekend catering for all the families among us. So watch out for new trips as they are published over e-mail, on the web or in the Newsletters. And if there are any trips that you would to do, you must speak up: without your suggestions caves will get overlooked and trips will not get organised. So start thinking, start suggesting and start pestering the committee for caves that you really want to do. If we can, we will do them.

To brighten up an otherwise dull weekend of the February committee meeting (9/10) we will be celebrating St Valentine in whatever way you wish. Ensure the roses are red and ply your nearest and dearest with… well I leave that to your imagination. Above ground or below, a blind-eye will be turned. And so this will lead onto the next issue of the Newsletter. It is intended that there will be a Newsletter published shortly after each committee meeting with all the latest news, gossip and hot tips for the coming months. The Bulletin will be published shortly before the AGM each year.

Your articles, diagrams, photographs and plans must be sent to our new editor (Graham) by each committee meeting, and all material for the Bulletin should get to him by November. Every word you write will be welcomed, no matter if it about caving trips or not, other outdoor sporting activities will interest everyone I sure. With renewed vigour, verve and Vim, I say get caving, get writing and enjoy yourselves!

Jerry (Chairman).

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Virtual Caving - a few useful websites with a caving flavour (Yuk!).

http://www.cave-register.org.uk/index2.shtml takes you to the Cave Register for Mynydd Du (The Black Mountain). This site has been set up by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority to help meet its conservation and public enjoyment aims and also to assist cavers in the conservation and exploration of the mountain. (Their words, not mine. Ed.). Have a good furgle round this site - it has the potential to be quite useful although at present, the database is limited. You are encouraged to add to the data, particularly about dig sites and there is an area to register digs. The NPA would eventually like the site to be taken over by the caving community. There is also a discussion board.

http://www.caving.uk.com/ takes you to Caving UK. This site has been running for a while now and has some useful info for cavers.

Dudley's website is at http://www.dragon-speleo.co.uk/ allowing you to browse his tackle (?) and order on line.

The Council of Southern Caving Clubs site can be found at http://www.tuoni.demon.co.uk/cscc/

and the NCA have their site at http://www.caveinfo.org.uk/ This site holds the "National Cave, Karst and Mine Register".

Another site worth a look is at http://www.caves.org.uk - some good stuff..

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Ogof Draenen - Tim Barter

I have been working with Ian Wilton-Jones in part of the Wyvern Hall Series over the last two months, and can report the discovery of a nice length of passage. We have about 1.2km of passage in a series sandwiched between two known areas, where you wouldn't have thought more passage could be found. The area is being kept secret for now, since it is only 2 hours from the entrance, and we don't want any old tom getting in on the act! The passage starts as low tube crawls, but develops into tall rift streamway, with a stream! A high level rift has bought us into a huge shaft down, which the stream plunges. The rift is very tiring, although only 15m long, being narrow and without footholds. The discovery was made off an obvious chamber on the Grade 5 survey, and the rift although narrow was 'wide open'! We reckon the shaft is probably 50m in height, our entry point being 15m above the floor of the pitch. The shaft is typically Yorkshire in scale (and very much like that into Under Underworld in Draenen), being 10 m long by 5m wide. We will return with SRT kit shortly! However, we have found an upstream crawl, which we believe, must be the stream that flows from the shaft bottom, so perhaps we should also take wetsuits. This is particularly relevant when one considers that the downstream continuation at the south end of the rift streamway has diminished into a 1.5m high, narrow, sharp and difficult wet crawl. So 3 main places to go at. Last trip on New Years Eve was 11 hours. We did get out before Midnight though. That trip was enlivened by the presence of 4 inches of snow, and a frozen sheep! We would be happy to let interested parties in on the exploration which continues, but Insomniac skinnies only need offer their help!

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You've Just Got To Go! - To the West Coast - Brian Bowell.

The New Zealand Speleo Society (NZSS) is the national organisation for caving down here. Like most organisations it has an AGM. And, in line with other caving AGMs it involves caving, dancing, drinking to excess and bragging. Sort of sex, drugs and in a hole! This year's AGM was hosted by the Nelson S.G. and was on Takaka Hill in N.W. South Island. Takaka is solid limestone apart from the caves and there are loads of them.

The Nelson SG Hut on Takaka Also in line with caving AGMs elsewhere, it rained hard most of the weekend. So hard on Friday night that Jane, Jennifer, Dave the Pom and I gave up trying to reach Takaka and settled for the Irish bar and backpackers in Nelson. We reached the NSG place on Saturday and pitched tents before the storm continued. Saturday's Dinner and Dance was all a cavers' do should be and most of us saw our beds at 3ish.

Sunday I'd volunteered to ferry air bottles into Riwaka Resurgence Cave in order to set up a dive when it stopped raining. One of the divers was one Martin Groves AKA 'Lump', of SWCC who seems to have fallen in love with the place. All went well till a 25Kg bottle of air was dropped onto my hand from the top of a slope and one finger took on the shape of a question mark - sort of bent and hooked. We continued to the would-be dive site and stashed the bottles, by which time the water was rising rapidly and a swift retreat was called for. Back on the surface we changed in the rain and went back up the hill for the BBQ.

A BBQ for 60 on a narrow verandah (the rain again) is fun. A sort of pass the parcel with lamb chops and beer. While we ate an exchange trip through a nearby system was developing into an interesting struggle for survival. We were just finishing dessert when the parties arrived back.

On Monday of course the sun was shining and the clouds had cleared. Most people were heading back home and many had a ferry to catch over to the North Island. But us four had another plan. The West Coast of the S. Island has some classic NZ systems and we were going to see some of those. I'd been told that the west coast was Nirvana for NZ cavers, so I was looking forward to the trip and I wasn't disappointed.

We had organised a bunkroom at the motor camp in Charleston, which is really fine if you are on a budget. Mainly because the food shop opens after you go caving and closes before you get back. Another bonus is the local pub, which only opens on weekends. We had arranged to meet Moira and Derek Lipyeat, who seem to know everything about the caves nearby. Moira produced a 'must visit' list of 40 caves to get round in five days and Derek took us into them. Kerry Silverwood also spent time with us and made sure we did came to no harm. The caving diary goes like this.

Xanadu - The entrance by the river bedMetro / Ananui cave. It's up on the Nile River and the team visited it with the intention of visiting all of it via all of its entrances. The walk in passes the new track built to ease the journey for tourist cavers. There are passages for all sizes in Metro and some spectacular tomos. The main routes: Whiteline, the Conference Chamber, Overflow, are marked with tapes. We continued down Pigalle and the Spillway, where there's black water rafting for tourists. From here we reached the Main Entrance and tried several of the other ways in. Back in the cave we visited Pollen Passage, which is marked by DOC to protect ancient spores. At the end we followed a narrow rift for a long way both left and right of the passage. It wasn't marked on the survey, and had a carbide arrow pointing up where a rabbit would have trouble going - we never figured this one out. From the Pollen exit we went in for a third go, this time using the Kakapo entrance. Then out via Chamonix and Whiteline.

Time to head homewards - the quickest way was out Pollen exit, finding the route back in through the adjacent Kakapo entrance. A long stony crawl past Chamonix Hall and we linked back up with Whiteline passage on the way out.

There's a swingbridge over the Nile close to the entrance, beside it we could clean off before walking back to the Lipyeat's van for tea.

Kublai Khan. The next day Derek led us in here as part of his mission to find the connection with Xanadu, which is just next door in Bullock Creek. We were encouraged to push on as far as we could in every direction looking for the connection but without success. I was intrigued by a rift at the bottom, which needs either a traverse line to cross it or a rope to drop down to its floor.

After Kublai Khan we visited Xanadu. The entrance series of this cave is a labyrinth; every junction has at least three ways in and out. So without a guide it could take a while to get anywhere. Luckily we had Derek 'this way I think' with us, so progress was smoother.

The cave is littered with dead trees of all sizes brought in by flood water, and it's a sobering thought to imagine the place in flood. If you were caught out the options would be drowning or being torpedoed. We climbed up and down to get to second and third levels of the cave, ending up in a large passage blocked by Brighton beach. A house-sized mound of pebbles rising from the floor to the roof. Derek mentioned something about how it used to be possible to climb over but nobody took the hint. Leaving by the main entrance, we climbed round and up to a second, pitch entrance, for a short through trip. It's so close to Kublai Khan there's gotta be a connection.

For our last trip Kerry Silverwood joined us for a visit to Te Tahi. He suggested using the pitch entrance since a party of students were using the main one. The tomo shaft is magnificent, 40m and almost circular. We were quickly at the bottom and started down to the main level. An old electron ladder was a help but, since it was broken off about 3m short of the floor, a bit of old rope came in handy.

Big Rock - 9m high in the bed of the Fox river - flooding covers it in 1 hour!River Passage was easily traversed downstream, the water being very low. We came eventually to Whale Passage and went along to view the whale. On the way along I passed a pile of old wood piled on the side but thought no more about it because I'd just scraped my nose on the wall and was bloody cross. Five minutes later I called out 'any sign of the whale?' to Dave who was leading. 'No' came the reply, and then we ran out of passage. Concluding that there might be more to the pile of old wood than we first thought, we backtracked. Coming across said pile from the other end it was obvious that this was the beast and we duly admired it. The skeleton - spine and ribs are fossilised black, just like a pile of old wood. Back on the main drag we reached the tomo by the Nile River and exited via a low passage full of liquid mud to the river bank, there to wash off. That was a complete waste of time because we went straight back in and got filthy all over again.

Our route back upstream was to take us out the main entrance, negotiating several climbs through waterfalls. In high water they would be very entertaining, but we were lucky with the conditions. Just before the exit we visited the Iron Room where the formations are stained red and black by Haematite(?)

As well as caving the west coast has some fine tramping routes. Our last day was spent walking up the Fox River to visit Fox Rover Cave another site open to the public. From there we continued upstream for several kilometres and crossed the river at least 10 times. The route led us to the Ballroom an enormous overhanging feature 100m long sticking out about 30m. It's close to the Inland Pack Track and a major campsite complete with a long drop and a kitchen.

During our visit we visited just 10% of Moira's top 40 caves. So there is plenty left for a return trip. The landscape down there is spectacular, big, deep gorges and dense rain forest. We were lucky to have Kerry and the Lipyeats with us as guides, many of the caves are well off the tracks in deep bush and not easy to find without help. It was a really fine week's caving and a perfect introduction to the west coast. I'm going back and perhaps some of you might join me.

P.S The Takaka Resurgence divers were dogged by rain all week after we left them and they abandoned their push. The bottle severed the tendons in my finger and it's still in a splint.

P.P.S. All these caves are described in the 'Atlas of New Zealand Caves - South Island' of which Dudley has a copy.

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Domestic Publications:

Bradford Pothole Club Bulletin Vol.7 No.1 (1933-2001)

Cave & Karst Science Vol.28 No.1 April 2001

Chelsea Speleological Society Newsletter Vol.43 No.8/9 August/September 20001, Vol.43 No.10 October 2001 Vol.43 No.11 November 2001, Vol.43 No.12 December 2001, Vol.44 No.1 January 2002

Craven Pothole Club "Record" No.64 October 2001, No.65 January 2002

Descent No.162 October/November 2001, No.163 December 2001/January 2002

Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin 4th Series Vol.1 No.1 October 2001

Plymouth Caving Group Journal & Bulletin: 132 (1999), 133 January 2000, No.134 April 2000, No.135 July 2000, No.138 September 2001

Red Rose Cave & Pothole Club Newsletter Vol.38 No.3 October 2001

South Wales Caving Club Newsletter No.122 2001

The Way Out Vol.1 Issue 9 Summer 2001

University of Bristol Speleological Society Proceedings Vol.22 No.2 2001

Wessex Cave Club Journal Vol.26 No.277 December 2001

White Rose Pothole Club newsletter Vol.20 Issue 3 August 2001

Foreign Publications:

Speleologia (Rivista Della Societa Speleologica Italiana) No.44 Anno XXII Settembre 2001 O Carste (Brazil) Vol.13 No.4 Outubro 2001

Matthew Setchfield - Librarian

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Cottage Works.

Toby the Elder carried out a fire risk assessment back in December 2000. One of his recommendations was to convert the small window on the side of the bunkroom into a fire escape. Having passed (with some trepidation) the measurements for the new fire escape in the bunkroom via the ether to Toby the Elder, I was pleased to see the result in place (on the working weekend that wasn't). Thanks must go to Toby and Nick Dallman for their efforts in fitting and to Derek Fincham for constructing the escape. Toby e-mailed this through …..

…"We have completed the new fire door and there is now a 4 foot drop from the sill. If there is need to jump out, throw down a couple of mattresses first. We thought that the best solution to the jump is to hang a suitable rope from above the doorway (something like the handrail on the stairs)". Clearly, the area below the escape should be kept free of debris.

Toby and Nick also carried out repairs to the chimney capstone and discovered a wasp's nest in the tackle shed. The sycamores around the boundary also got a 'seeing to' and I believe it was Jumbo who replaced the lock on the WC block - thanks to him also.

We will need to hold a working weekend this year in order to carry out some essential maintenance. Jobs that come to mind as needing attention are:

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A bit about Cave Art - from the Daily Telegraph…(sent in by Toby Clark and in reference to cave art found in Cuba).

Two pieces of ochre - a form of iron ore - engraved with geometrical patterns more than 70,000 years ago reveal that people were able to think abstractly and behave as modern humans much earlier than previously thought. The discovery in a South African cave suggests that humans have created art for twice as long as suggested by previous discoveries, notably by cave paintings from France that have been dated to less than 35,000 years ago. The surfaces of the red ochre, measuring two and three inches long, were first scraped and ground smooth. They were then marked with cross hatches and lines.

Prof. Christopher Henshilwood of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and the Iziko South African Museum in Blombos Cave Art - One of the pieces of ochre that archaeologists believe was carved more than 70,000 years ago.  They say the geometrical pattern suggests modern human behaviour.Cape Town, said: "Deliberate depictions, whether abstract or pictorial, signify modern human behaviour. "These finds point to Africa as the cradle of both human anatomical modernity and behavioural modernity". "The importance is that African people, from whom we are all descended, were modern in their behaviour long before they got to Europe as Cro-Magnons and replaced Neanderthals." Prof. Henshilwood and colleagues recovered the two pieces of ochre from the Middle Stone Age layers at Blombos Cave, a site on the southern Cape shore of the Indian Ocean, 180 miles east of Cape Town. "We have no idea what the engravings represent," said Prof. Henshilwood. They are abstract and one is fairly complex. They almost certainly had significance to the makers and this meaning was probably conveyed and is associated with modern syntactical language.

Ochre is frequently found in Stone Age sites less than 100,000 years old and may have been used symbolically as a body or decorative paint and possibly also for skin protection and tanning animals' hides. While genetic and fossil evidence suggests that humans were anatomically modern in Africa before 100,000 years ago, scholars are not yet able to agree on whether human behaviour and physique developed in tandem. Some believe that modern behaviour arose relatively late and rapidly, 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, while others believe that it evolved earlier and more gradually. The diversity of views reflects the lack of agreement among scientists on what behaviour best defines the difference between modern humans and their earlier ancestors. But there is a general consensus that a clear marker of modern, behaviour is cognitive ability that would be used, for example, to create abstract or depictional images.

Indian Cave Art"Archaeological evidence" of abstract or depictional images indicates modern behaviour," Prof. Henshilwood said. "The Blombos Cave engravings are intentional images." The Blombos Cave is a rich site that has yielded early evidence of bone tool manufacture and fishing, both also widely regarded as markers of modern human behaviour. "At Blombos there is evidence for fishing, manufacture of very finely crafted bone tools, sophisticated manufacture of bi-facially flaked bone tools, symbolic use of ochre possibly for body decoration and now the production of engraved objects" the professor said.

The ochre pieces were found in 1999 and 2000 and both were located close to hearths and in an undisturbed deposit of ash and sand. To determine their age, two dating methods were applied. One dates the burnt stone found in the same layer as the engraved ochres and the second the sand grains from the dune sand that overlies these layers.

Dr Geoff Duller, of the Aberystwyth Luminescence Laboratory, at the University of Wales, said: "Dating of burnt rock fragments associated with the ochre pieces and an overlying dune suggest that the pieces are approximately 77,000 years old, supporting the model of an earlier rise of modern human behaviour in sub-Saharan Africa.


Toby Writes…..

Had a reply from the folk at New York State University, suggesting our findings (in Cuba) are no big deal!

Dear Toby,

We are not familiar with the Cuban material. Very similar engravings to the one from Blombos Cave occur in a number of places in the world, all dating after 40,000 years. The first colonisation of the Americas by people ca. 20,000 years ago (and I know this date is debated but it cannot be earlier than 30,000 years) places a lower limit on the age of the Cuban engravings.

I have no idea when Cuba was first settled but it would likely be 10,000 or so years ago?

Thank you for your interest,

Sincerely, Royden Yates.

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Last Gasp

Martin McG at the squeeze into the new stuff in Cueva Chiquita. Shortly after this it opens up into a caverns measureless to man. Heading back in March 2002 to survey it and many more caverns. (Yeah, Yeah…)

Thanks to this edition's contributors: Tim Barter, Jerry Complin, Toby Clark, Phil Mack, Jeanette Rosato, Brian Bowell, Matthew Setchfield, Martin McGowan Your name could should be here!

Club Trustees. Toby, Su Lacy and Jerry have stood down and there are vacancies. You will need to have been a member for a while but anyone may apply.

Trustees hold the club's property (i.e. Caerllwyn) in trust. Have a word with Jerry or Graham.

Table traversing prowess and/or a 3000 word essay "Why I should be a WSG Trustee" will be considered if there's a rush.

Deadline for next N/L - 4th April 2002.

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