Ferret Shed (Home)
This page provides simple answers to a few very basic
questions. It is unashamadly biased towards
Mendip (Somerset, UK) because it is widely
recognised that this region contains the Centre of the
Universe1. There is a small
amount of information of more general appeal to UK readers
towards the bottom of this page.
1: Long and exhaustive testing has established without doubt that
Hunters' Lodge Inn is the exact centre of
- Where is Thrupe Swallet ?
- Thrupe Swallet is near the hamlet of Thrupe,
which lies to the north-west of Wells, in Somerset,
UK. Confusingly, there are two cave
sites with more or less the same name. Thrupe
Lane Swallet, close to the road, was dug by the ATLAS
team in their younger days. They broke into the cave
there over twenty five years ago. Thrupe Swallet
is about 5 minutes walk away to the north east. This
swallet was the first to be dug in the area, excavation having
started in 1936. The present excavation is the fourth
to take place at the site. All earlier attempts were
abandoned, largely because of problems with unstable and
generally unfriendly boulders.
- What is cave digging ?
- On Mendip, cave passages are relatively small and they tend
to be blocked close to the surface. It is the job of
the cave diggers to get through the blockage and into the open
passages which (they hope) lie beyond. Virtually all
the caves on Mendip that are now accessible have been dug
open. At Thrupe Swallet, the diggers started working
through a choke of boulders on the surface. Intensive
efforts took the digging face to more than 230ft below the
surface, but even so, the diggers did not reach open caveable
passage and the dig has been abandoned. Digging is
not an occupation for the impatient.
- Why do you do it ?
- Difficult question, makes the meaning of life question seem
- Who or what is ATLAS ?
- The cavers who dug at Thrupe Lane were a group of friends who
came from various caving clubs. Lacking a group
identity, they referred to themselves, (tongue-in-cheek) as the
"Association of Thrupe Lane Advanced
Speleologists". Nowadays, the Association of
Thrupe Lane AGED Speleologists would perhaps be more
- Why Ferret Shed ?
- During the digging at Thrupe Lane, the diggers were allowed
to use part of an old shed in the corner of Nelson Butt's
farm yard as a shelter, changing room and tool store.
Eventually the ferrets, whose home it was, couldn't stand the
company any more and moved out, leaving the hut entirely to the
cavers. Many a happy hour was spent in there.
- What is a swallet ?
- Swallet is a local term for a place where water sinks into,
(or is swallowed by), the ground. In the case of
Thrupe Swallet, a small stream sinks in a wooded hollow a short
distance from a low cliff face.
- Where can I find out more ?
- Visit the pub: While they are
generally upright and temperate souls, cavers and diggers may
sometimes be found in public houses. Try Hunters'
Lodge Inn or the Queen Victoria (both in Priddy).
Wednesday evening is a good time to find diggers.
Contact a club: - a few with
headquarters on central Mendip are listed below, but there are
- BEC (Bristol Exploration Club): The Belfry,
Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. BA5 3AU Tel: 01749 672126 http://www.bec-cave.org.uk
- MCG (Mendip Caving Group): Nordrach Cottage,
Charterhouse-on-Mendip, Blagdon, Bristol BS18 6XW. Tel: 01761
- MNRC (Mendip Nature Research Committee):
Research Station, Wells Hill Bottom, Green Ore, Wells, Somerset.
Tel: 01761 241609 http://www.mnrc.org.uk
- SMCC (Shepton Mallet Caving Club): The
Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset. BA5 3AU http://www.shepton.org.uk
- WCC (Wessex Cave Club): Upper Pitts,
Eastwater Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. BA5 3AX Tel: 01749
- Where can I find general information about
caving in the UK ?
- Try these for starters. They both give good
general introductions and are packed with information.
The external links on
this page were OK on 08-Oct-2008