Cambridge Underground 1989 pp 32-33

The ExCS Bit

Ex-Cambridge Speleologists usually manage to write a few lines for the journal on what they have been up to. Before summarising recent events, and whilst the 40th anniversary is still fresh in our minds, it might be appropriate to summarise the history of ExCS.


In the early years of CUCC the club consisted of members with prior experience and affiliations with other caving clubs. By the early '70s this position had changed, and CUCC tended to take in novices and train them. This resulted in a closer association between the post-graduates and the resident members. Post-graduates who wanted to carry on caving after they had left Cambridge began to realise that using CUCC tackle was a bit of an imposition so they formed themselves into a club, buying their own tackle, and becoming a member club of CNCC.

In the late '70s the post-graduate members who still came on CUCC trips and helped a good deal with novice trips were known to those of us in Cambridge at the time as Northern Branch. A subset of Northern Branch formed Ex-CS, the Ex-Cambridge Speleologists, though they may have referred to themselves as Northern Branch. Northern Branch or ExCS formalised its membership in 1975 and held its first annual dinner in 1977, though it was still only a small group of the northern members.

In 1979, former CUCC President Mike Perryman, who was completing a PhD at Cambridge, and Tony Malcolm, a graduate at Fitzwilliam, were the main Cambridge protagonists in 'opening up' ExCS to all graduate members of CUCC. Andrew Nichols started producing newsletters in December 1979, Tony became secretary and Simon Farrow was treasurer. The first 'modern' ExCS dinner was at the Hill Inn in July 1980.

Since then ExCS have produced a regular newsletter, and our activities have been reported in Cambridge Underground. Cave exploration has not always been very comprehensively reported because the people doing it have tended to cave with other clubs, notably NPC and CDG. But ExCS work has been done, on and off, in Ogof Rhewl, Magnetometer, the long running saga of the Goyden system and on 'Great Knoutberry Inviolate' (C.U. 82), to name but a few.


ExCS has evolved into, or perhaps has brought together, groups of people who pursue their own activities of caving, diving (above and below ground), cycling, walking, climbing, drinking, holidaying in foreign parts but who remain in touch via the newsletter and the frequent dinners. With a club of our size it is difficult to organise events and the current view is that members should organise their own events and use the newsletter to publicise them.

Recent events

ExCS members have been as active as ever in the last few years. walking in Scotland has become popular, especially Munro Bagging, though the two main contenders, John Bowers and Andrew Nichols, deny any competition. Skiing and more exotic sports have been contemplated. Many people have been visiting foreign parts, holidaying in Turkey, Nepal, Peru, Thailand, Japan and all over the place really. Pete Lancaster, who earlier completed a tour of South America has been in Africa or Asia for most of the last six months, last known whereabouts Malaysia. Phil Townsend's stint in Ecuador courtesy of B.P. was convenient for the many people who dropped in to visit, including Doug & Gail, and Nicky who also went to Mexico, Guatemala,... Nearer home, official ExCS events over the last few years have included the London to Brighton cycle ride, Wadloping in Holland, bicycling in the Peak District (both above and below ground), canoeing and climbing in the Wye valley, barbecuing on the Gower Peninsula (this was a CUCC recruitment drive and offered caving and climbing besides, but no CUCC tuned up) and cycling in Coverdale.

There seems to be a new-found interest in caving, with several members finding their second wind. South Wales has been visited several times, and people seem to be getting a curious obsession with Daren Cilau, Mike P, Nicky, Vic, Jack and Sarah to name but a few. Last year Mike Perryman and Jack Upsall did a figure of eight in Aggie in about eight hours, spurred on by the understanding that they were beating a time set previously by the Barnsley Solicitor. Nick Thorne has bought a new set of SRT gear, and the self-employed members have created a 'Midweek' faction to avoid the M1 /M6 congestion. So far in 1989 Winnat's Head and P8 were done by David Gibson, Doug, Nicky and Ben, and Swildons by Dave, Doug and Nick. A feature of these trips was the 'invited guest' where a potential old-lag was cajoled into coming underground. Both Ben and Nick claimed to have 'really enjoyed it'. ExCS have also had trips in Peak Cavern and St Cuthbert's this year, and at the time of writing, Mike is organising another OFD 1-3-1 trip.

There have of course been numerous dinners. The Barbon Inn has been popular as an Autumn venue, whilst a selection of pubs have featured for the summer dinner. Last year this was at the Thwaite Arms in Coverdale.

Cottages have been booked in the Dales at New Year, in the Lakes and Scotland, and in North Wales courtesy of Wellingborough Mountaineering Club. The Lake District has been the scene of a number of long walks culminating in Mike Perryman's Bob Graham Round last year. This is written up elsewhere in this journal. For the future there are plans by several people for more Bob Graham Rounds, Andy Connolly is thinking about a Welsh version. An older member is contemplating 'something spectacular' for his 40th birthday this Autumn - there is some discussion about the Gouffre Berger for 1991 - watch this space.

Addresses, membership, newsletters

ExCS maintains an address list of all ex-CUCC members, primarily to ensure that we get an invitation to the CUCC annual dinner. This list is now, thankfully, complete. Please notify any changes of address to David Gibson. ExCS membership is now about 80 with another 35 or so on the ex-CUCC list. Newsletters are sent out roughly every two months, or when there is something to report. Doug Florence is currently newsletter editor and Gail Smith is the treasurer, to whom you should send £5 membership if you wish to subscribe. Tackle is looked after by Julian/Naomi Griffiths. We have recently bought some new ladders.

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