Book Review - Mendip Underground - A Caver's Guide

D.J.Irwin & A.J.Knibbs
Mendip Publishing, £5.95 ZlZpp

It has been a full ten years since Mendip Underground was last published and about 3 years since the previous edition became scarce due to its print run finishing. The guide is once again written by Dave Irwin and Tony Knibbs and bears a un-canny resemblance to its predecessor.

The first feature of the new book that struck me was the increased size of it (almost forty more pages) as well as the increased photographic content. The photo's, scattered liberally throughout the book, are all new and generally of a good quality. As there seems to be an inordinate increase in the number of photographs compared to the larger size of the guide it seems a pity that there could not have been more new surveys included instead. The surveys are once again mostly drawn as a silhouette with the more important features marked clearly. This peculiar form of drawing suffices in most cases but a few caves could have done with more detail to cope with complex nature. The survey in the book of Lionel's Hole is perhaps a good example of how this should of been done.

The new finds within the book seem to bear witness that digging on Mendip has increased rather than declined over the last ten years with cavers occasionally finding completely new systems as well as minor extensions. Completely new systems such as Charterhouse Cave and Pierre's Pot are included in this new edition and the reader will also find many descriptions of minor and major extensions to already known caves such as Eastwater Cavern and Wookey Hole.

The maps that show the location of most of the main caves are still to be found at the front of the book but there is now also a section on minor sites included at the back. My main criticism of the new section is that more should have been included and I feel that not having them in the correct alphabetical order doesn't make their reference any easier!

Despite the fact that the old guide was less than half the cost of the new one; when one takes into account the effect of inflation on production costs the new book is very reasonable for its size and detail. The editorial standard is high and the new guide seems to be marginally easier to use than the old one. Any caver who has an interest (whether sporting, geological or historic) in Mendip (however occasionally) should think about buying this guide for it will provide him with a wealth of information about the sport within this not to be forgotten limestone area.

Paul Stacey