CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Wealden Cave and Mine Society - Join the club

PUBLISHED: 12:22 02 November 2011 | UPDATED: 16:13 20 February 2013

Wealden Cave and Mine Society (Pete Gardner)

Wealden Cave and Mine Society (Pete Gardner)

There's a whole subterranean world of caves and mines beneath Surrey, and one group of committed residents who spend their lives exploring them. Here, we speak to Peter Burgess, of the Wealden Cave and Mine Society, to find out more

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2009

There's a whole subterranean world of caves and mines beneath Surrey, and one group of committed residents who spend their lives exploring them. Here, we speak to Peter Burgess, of the Wealden Cave and Mine Society, to find out more

SUBSCRIBE to Surrey Life magazine
BUY SL online

When was the club set up?
Our club was formed in 1967 and brought together a number of like-minded people who were keen to get underground and explore caves and mines in Surrey.

How often do you meet?
We have a diary of regular events, monthly social meetings in Merstham and run visits for members to Surrey mines. We also go on trips to caves and mines further afield.

What's the best thing about the club?
There are several things I really like about being a member. I think getting underground has kept me fit and healthy and, as I'm no fan of competitive sports, it's great to combine keeping fit with a curiosity to explore unusual places.

On a totally different note, being a member of a caving club has also allowed me to study and investigate some very unusual local history in the ancient mine-workings and tunnels that we explore. Sharing this knowledge with others via our publications and our website is also something I love to do.

Do you find being surrounded by like-minded individuals inspiring?
It would be difficult to derive much benefit from our society without having like-minded people around. Caving is very much a social activity, and much of the fun would be absent without the friendships that develop, or the wider contact we have with other clubs.

How many members do you have and what is the age range of the group?
We have about 100 members, and nearly all our new members join through our website. Our adult membership starts at 18, and our oldest member is in his 80s. Children of a full member can join as a junior, usually once they are 16.

Do you have links with other clubs?
When you enjoy an activity as unusual as caving, it is inevitable that you will meet and forge links with other groups.

WCMS is a member society of the National Association of Mining History Organisations, which allows us to make contact with other groups around the country, arrange visits to places they study and reciprocate this for them in Surrey. We are also a member of the British Caving Association, and this provides us with similar contacts in the caving community throughout Britain.

What's the most interesting story from the group's history?
There is no one specific event that stands out, but there are plenty of stories.

When I joined in the 1970s, it was an ambition of the club to help preserve the sand caves under Reigate. At the time, we were not really taken that seriously as the caves were considered a public liability by many. But by the 1990s, we had arranged for some of the caves to be made safe for public tours and were running regular open days, something that continues to this day.

For the last 25 years, it has also been an ambition of the club to have a permanent headquarters where we could stay while caving away. After much fundraising, we are this year hoping to secure the use of a cottage in the Brecon Beacons, right next to some of the finest caves in Britain. We hope this will be the start of a new chapter in the story of our society.

...and the funniest?
I always laugh when I hear the story of the cavers who were exploring the old mine-workings at Merstham - at a time just before the M23 motorway was built. Contractors had drilled holes into the ground to find out where the old mines were located and some of these had come through into the tunnels beneath.

One day, a group of cavers were at the bottom of one of these holes, and could hear voices on the surface. They shouted up to the family who were out for a nice Sunday afternoon walk. Totally astonished to hear voices coming out of the ground, and unaware of the old mines that run under the fields, mum, dad and the children were completely flummoxed by the voices of The Little Green Men who lived under the North Downs.

All was revealed later in the pub, much to the relief of mum and dad, no longer convinced they were going mad!

When is your next event that is open to the public/potential new members?
We have four days each year when we open the Tunnel Road caves and Barons' Cave in Reigate and people can come and chat to us. The next one is on Saturday September 12 from 10am to 4pm.

Describe your club in five words...
Motivated. Ambitious. Welcoming. Diverse. Busy.

Let us know about your Surrey club or society at or by joining us on Facebook and Twitter

More from Surrey Life

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search