Mendip Underground Edition 5

Recent News and Updates

Jan 2019 - All new copies of Mendip Underground 5 are now SOLD OUT. But fear not, the team is already working on a new and revised edition targeted for release in 2021 (or thereabouts).

26 Jan 2014 - You can purchase a copy of Mendip Underground online direct from the publishers, the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive. See this page for details.

14 Dec 2013 - Following more than three years work Mendip Underground 5 was officially launched at the Hunters' Lodge Inn. A big thank you to everyone who turned up to make it a very successful evening.


Fourteen years have elapsed since the last edition of Mendip Underground rolled off the presses, and in that time cave exploration beneath the Mendip Hills has taken several dramatic leaps forward.

Appropriately, it was the Herculean efforts of former author Tony Jarratt that set the scene, widening a very narrow rift in the Hunters’ Lodge Inn car park to gain entry into the impressive and well decorated Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink. Other notable discoveries soon followed, then, in 2006 Mendip Caving Group cavers found a way through the terminal boulder choke in Upper Flood Swallet to enter many hundreds of metres of large and well decorated passage, a discovery that was to be the first of three major breakthroughs. Two years later a consortium of cavers passed a choke in Charterhouse Cave to gain a lengthy streamway and a vast fossil network, and over the course of the next three years, they explored several kilometres of new passage, reaching a depth of 228m, making it by far the deepest cave on Mendip and the fifth deepest in Britain. In 2012, another consortium, this time working in Reservoir Hole, entered a series of large fossil passages, including The Frozen Deep, a huge chamber, and the largest by floor area in the entire country.

These discoveries alone would be worthy of a new edition, but cavers elsewhere have been far from idle. Alongside the ‘big three’ there have been finds right across the plateau, ranging from Upper Canada Cave and Loxton Cavern in the west to Thrupe Swallet and Withybrook Slocker in the east, with many other significant discoveries made in between. Cave divers too have played their part, discovering important extensions in Pierre’s Pot, Wigmore Swallet and Wookey Hole, the latter establishing a new British cave diving record of 90m below the water surface.

Dave Irwin, alongside Tony Knibbs, produced the first two editions of Mendip Underground, then carried on with Tony ‘JRat’ Jarratt through editions three and four. Sadly, neither of these two great characters is still with us. Dave, Mendip’s foremost caving historian and bibliographer, died in 2007, and JRat, a caver of genuine world-wide renown, passed away a year later, leaving us with the exhortation to “Keep on diggin’ ’’. Both had a deep love of Mendip caving and its colourful history, and were keen to see Mendip Underground updated at appropriate intervals. In a generous gesture shortly before his death, JRat handed the remaining stock of the 4th edition to the MCRA to be sold to raise funds for his chosen cancer charity and to help fund a long overdue 5th edition of arguably Britain’s most popular guidebook.

Now, following a collaborative effort lasting three years, that wish has finally been realised. Lavishly illustrated, with full surveys and dozens of specially commissioned photographs, this thoroughly revised publication contains no less than thirty-four new entries. Many, such as Bath Swallet, Spider Hole and Templeton are entirely new discoveries, but also included are a few well known caves and mines omitted from earlier editions, plus a handful of sites previously considered ‘lost’ to Mendip caving, but which have since been rediscovered. Axbridge Hill Cavern, Balch Cave, Banwell Ochre Caves, Cloford Quarry Big Cave, Fernhill Cave, Loxton Cavern, Sally’s Rift and Triple Hole fall into these categories.

And that’s by no means all. As part of a thorough revision of the text, every single entry has been revisited and checked for accuracy, as a result of which, many, including the ever popular Swildon’s Hole, Eastwater Cavern, Goatchurch Cavern and Stoke Lane Slocker, have been either heavily revised and expanded, or in some cases, entirely rewritten. Informative notes on literally hundreds of smaller sites have been added, and a small number of historical errors and omissions have also been corrected. Several entries, including Rhino Rift, Hunters’ Hole and Thrupe Lane Swallet, have been updated to reflect more modern caving techniques, particularly in regard to their popularity with SRT enthusiasts.

To cater for the vast number of new additions and alterations, the old black and white paperback format has been upgraded to a full colour, hardback publication, 485 pages long. This not only enables larger and much clearer maps and surveys to be included, but also allows for rigging guides and SRT Topos, both of which appear here for the first time.

Mendip Underground retails at £25 and the proceeds go towards financing future MCRA publications, including a thoroughly revised History of Mendip Caving and a detailed guide to the underground quarries beneath Bath and Wiltshire.

Website by Matt Voysey. Graphics by Gonzo. Content Copyright © 2013-2014 Mendip Cave Registry and Archive.