GSG Newsletter 166 February 2017

Liar’s Sink (Poll Breugair)

Arriving just too late for the last newsletter in September was the news of the discovery by Toby Speight and Jessica Morin-Boute of a new cave in Applecross in the Allt Breagach, upstream of the Cave of the Liar (Uamh nan Breugair). In January 2016, Toby and Gwenllian Tawy excavated a 2 m deep hole in the stream bed in search of a second entrance into Nightmare Passage, using larger rocks to divert the water away from the dig. ‘Although I'd known for nearly ten years that the burn sinks a short distance upstream of Cave of the Liar, it had always looked impenetrable under cold water. In January 2016, I saw it in dry conditions and looked more thoroughly’. Inspired by Alex Latta and Derek Pettiglio’s efforts at digging the stream bed in October, Toby Speight conferred with Alex and found they had been digging at spots about 2 m apart. Toby returned on 10 October with Saber King to widen the hole and remove a few more boulders and lots of gravel and cobbles.

Settling in for a pleasant few days (years) digging, on 17 October, Toby was assisted by Jessica Morin-Boute, a Canadian student on a 4 month exchange visit to Scotland visiting from Canada - on her second caving trip and first experience of digging. While Toby manfully laboured at the base of his dig, Jessica pulled a few rocks out of the side of the hole. A void opened where Jessica was digging and Toby encouraged her to explore. As she continued forward until she was out of sight Toby was compelled to follow.

A descending hands and knees crawl led approximately 50 m to a tight section but pushing through that Jessica and Toby emerged into a T – junction in a walking height streamway passage. A body length downstream, the water disappeared into a boulder choke which will require major effort to remove. Upstream, a further 130 m of passage passed well decorated ox-bows before emerging into a ‘massive’, 10 m wide and 10 m high chamber, now named Canada Chamber in honour of our foreign visitor. Beyond this in another similarly sized chamber a waterfall descended from a ledge near the roof.

With only 3 days until the deadline for submitting entries for the J’Rat Digging Award, Tony and Jessica returned on the Sunday and surveyed the new discovery. Unfortunately rumours of larger discoveries in Mendip meant that Toby stopped after surveying 181 m of the cave and did not measure the decorated ox-bows which would have added at least a further 20 m to the survey.

After Toby announced the find the following Tuesday, rapid recounting in Mendip followed as some sections of the various Mendip digs were excluded (having been found and surveyed before 2016). The final measurements were close but in the end, the dig at Tween Twins won the trophy but Liar’s Sink got an honourable mention.

Following a wet visit on Sunday 13th November, Toby Speight, Gwenllian Tawy, David Morrison and Ritchie Simpson returned to Liar’s Sink on Saturday 26th November to attempt a Maypole climb to the top of the waterfall but unfortunately the maypole was too short. While it may be possible to bridge or bolt across the waterfall chamber from the top of Canada Chamber, attempts are also underway to manufacture new lengths for the maypole. Subsequent visits dye tested the above and below ground streams proving Liar’s Sink has a separate flow from that in Cave of the Liar and the water sinking at Alex Latta’s dig does not join Liar’s Sink.

Toby Speight/John Crae

GSG Christmas Dinner

During a Saturday ‘morning’ search of the hillside east of Glenbain Cottage. Ivan Young managed to get consistent GPS locations for Pol Eighe and at least seven other small and unpromising but ‘diggable’ holes. On his way to join the others Martin Hayes located a geocache or possible ‘deer stalking’ prize of a chocolate stag
beside a white marker on the hillside. Further up the glen and in the right
hand bank of the Traligill below the footbridge an unexplained small 'harbour'
has appeared. It looks almost too rectangular to be natural, and water did
appear to be sinking until Martin stirred up the sediments. At the top of the
cascade before Lower Traligill Cave a large percentage of the river was
disappearing into the left bank. On a previous visit Martin saw the entire
river sinking there instead of continuing on to Lower Traligill Cave. StuL, and
Ian Greig digging at UNCABAC pushed another 3 m. Turkish themed dinner as
always excellent. Provided of course by Peter Dowswell and his many assistants.

John Crae

Muddy Slump in Allt a’ Bhealaich Streamway

On Saturday 28
January, both Martin Hayes and Cormac Seekings on independent hikes across the
Traligill Valley above UCP  encountered a
large 11.4 x 7.5 m slump in a former grassy meander at the side of the dry Allt
a’ Bhealaich (from the timing of their visits Martin was probably there first).
Although a tiny gap was visible at the foot of a 4.4 m solid rock wall to
the south the rest of the meander is filled with soil and peaty silt with a 14
m diameter area looking set to slump further. Unless there is a massive void
below this material is likely to slip into the present hole and eventually
stabilize as a large shakehole but it is always possible that future floods
will wash away enough of the silt to give access to the cave beneath.

Martin Hayes/Cormac Seekings

Michiel Servaas Van der Byl (Postojna Visitor)

A request by Trevor
Shaw for information about a signatory to the visitors’ book at Postojna Cave
(Slovenia) on 12 Sep. 1871, led to a bit of historical and genealogical
research. The initial information stated that he was in business in Cape Town
from 1870-1876 as a merchant, shipping & commission agent, and thereafter
disappeared from the record. Cape Town genealogical records tell us he was
baptised on 15 July 1832 and died on 5 Feb. 1907. They then tell us that on 19
June 1861, he married Charlotte Eliza Campbell of “Borland, New Brunswick” in
Scotland. Charlotte apparently had three brothers.

Searching genealogical
records in South Africa found Michiel Servaas Van der Bijl, his father Pieter
Voltelin vander Bijl and mother Johanna Van Breda (also siblings Pieter
Gerhard, Hester Elizabeth, Alexander Jacobus, Johannes Albertus, Phillippus
Johannes, Gerhart Hendrick, Pieter Lourens, Adriaan Phillipus and Anna

Stephen Craven
corresponded with archivists in New Brunswick, Canada, and New Brunswick, New
Jersey who denied having a town or suburb called Borland or having any record
of the couple. Neither has a death notice and estate record in the S.A.
archives, which indicates that they died outside South Africa, and with no
local assets.

The Scottish
connection led to the GSG and by luck to Edinburgh where it was discovered in a
note in the Greenock Advertiser that M.S. Vander Byl married Charlotte E.
Campbell daughter of Charles William Campbell of Boreland (Perthshire) who was
living in Danube Street in the New Town of Edinburgh. By some twist of logic
this area in Edinburgh now known as Stockbridge was originally called New
Brunswick by its developer.

A reference to a
Captain Charles William Campbell of Boreland meeting Queen Victoria led to the
Earls of Breadalbane but this Charles William Campbell was too young to have
been the father of Charlotte Eliza. However his grandfather was also Charles
William Campbell of Boreland who later in his life inherited the title Earl of
Breadalbane from a distant cousin. This information was enough to find the
birth records of Charlotte Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of Charles William
Campbell of Borland and Charlotte Olympia C. Campbell, a fuller record of her
marriage to M. S Vanderbyl Esq., Cape of Good Hope and the names of her
brothers and sisters (John Erskine Campbell, Major-general Charles William
Campbell of Boreland, Colonel Colin George Lorne Campbell and Mary Gavin

Having disposed of the
links to Canada and New Jersey as red herrings, Michael S. Vanderbyl was
eventually tracked down in the 1891 Census, living on his own means with his
wife Charlotte E. Vanderbyl in Queens Gate East, Kensington, London. His
brother Pieter Gerhard Vanderbyl was also living in London but at a different
address. There are records which mention the bankruptcy of a joint stock
company in South Africa of which Michiel was a director which may have caused a
rift between him and the rest of the family but there are as yet no details of
his visit to Slovenia.

John Crae

A Cave in the Cairngorms

Chris Platfoot and Sam
Corless on a hillwalking/climbing trip to the cairngorms (intending to bivvy at
the Shelter Stone on the flanks of Ben Macdui) at the end of September managed
to locate or ‘relocate’ what appears to be Quartz Diggers Cave on the south
side of Cairn Gorm, NW of the SW end of Loch Avon or A’An, roughly 0.5 km from
the Shelter Stone. After a successful climb, they were descending back into the
Loch Avon Glen to have a jolly up Afterthought Arête on the west side of Stag
Rocks, when they consulted the climbing guide to discover there was a ‘cave’ a
little further up the Stag Rocks from the start of Afterthought Arête
(NJ001021). ‘Being cavers and only pseudo climbers we thought it worth
investigating. After clambered up moist grass and rocks, trending diagonally
upwards for about 30m from the start of the Arête, and after some of the
sketchiest scrambling of the day, we got to Quartz Diggers Cave which is
actually an old mine thought to have been dug by Victorian gem hunters’.

Chris Playfoot

Cave Database

Slow progress on the
database but finally things seem to be coming together. The Excel spreadsheet
version is slowly being reassembled. I have the information needed from the BCA
(Dave Cooke) regarding web hosting and Matt Voysey has produced a test version
and is advising on the set up for the fully searchable database. I hope to have
at least a preliminary version of the site up and running before the mid-summer

Gary Douthwaite,
webmaster for the CNCC has requested a few of the more popular Scottish Caving
trips be included in the CNCC database. A short list of appropriate trips has
been compiled and edited extracts from the Database, ‘Caves of Assynt’ other
publications will be provided.

John Crae

A Remembrance of Dick Grindley

Recently (probably
tripped by some whisky connection) I remembered a tale Dick had told me years
ago and which is worthy of recording.  He
was in New Zealand and probably stopping at a B & B.  His host either distilled his own whisky (as
Dick did) or had a well-stocked drinks cupboard.  Invited to have an after-dinner dram, Dick
could hardly decline so they started chatting… Sometime later they got round to
the best pub they had encountered.  His
host stated as far as the UK was concerned he had only found one … in Somerset
… up on the hills above Wells … at a lonely crossroads.  Dick enquired whether it was called “The
Hunters’ Lodge Inn”?  To which his host
excitedly said yes that was the name … and asked Dick whether he knew it ….

Martin Mills

GSG Annual Dinner

Very late news as the
last newsletter was published just prior to the annual dinner, at the Bowlish
House Hotel in Shepton Mallet.

A few early arrivals
(Ian Greig, Stuart Lindsay and Duncan Butler) made a Worlds End style tour of
the pubs of Wells (with penguin) and others (Toby Speight and John Crae)
visited some of the caves at Burrington Coombe.

The prearranged or
‘LED’ trips to Charterhouse Cave, Reservoir Hole and Withyhillcave were enjoyed
by all involved possibly because the numbers attending were lower than expected
leading to smaller groups moving through the caves with fewer delays.

Despite a few early
organisational hiccups (ours not theirs), this was well received by all
attending. The dinner venue was excellent, the food and surroundings raising
the standard for future meals and just enough Potholer was laid on. The last
pint was being drunk as the coach arrived to take us back to the Belfry.

At a separate event in
Assynt, the Golden Gnome was presented to Imogen Furlong for her sterling
efforts in organising the various GSG family trips.

John Crae

← Back to Newsletters