The prestigious Tratman Award is given annually to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978, to recognise excellence and encourage future improvement. It is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation. It both recognises excellence and encourages future improvement, and is considered one of the UK’s premier national awards. It is judged by a team of independent cavers. For 2016 these were Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys, Martin Mills.
The 2016 awards saw a departure from the established norm, in that there was no announcement made prior to the presentation at Hidden Earth in September. Only then did the authors learn of the commendations and the eventual winner, which received a superb statuette of a caver bookend created by Ceris Jones.
Of interest is that from within the wide range of publications and articles considered by the judges for 2016, a significant number of authors and journals have previously been commended or won the award.
The final shortlist was:
The Castleton Mines
A finely researched and published work about the area’s mines, some of which intersect caves, by Jim Rieuwerts and Phil Wolstenholme. The subtitle ‘A descriptive and visual history’ indicates the content of this extremely attractive production.
Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club Journal (11)
This is a journal packed with the results of digs and extensions in and around the Yorkshire Dales (as well as details of the club’s activities, including the extensive conservation work its members undertake), with high-quality production standards.
Irish Speleology (22)
Editors Peter Barry and Alasdair Kennedy were commended for their work on Irish Speleology (21) published in 2013, and again gather plaudits for the depth and quality of this latest journal with wide-ranging topics and excellent research.
A Spider’s Thread of Shining Silver
A compilation of Mike Boon’s writings, in particular reprinting his classic and scarce Down to a Sunless Sea, by Andy Chapman – a welcome addition to most cavers’ libraries, making Mike’s authored pieces (with comments) accessible to all.
Tratman Award winner in 2015 Marion Dowd again features in these listings, with another title concerned with Irish archaeology. Underground Archaeology is an incredibly important work in that it gathers all (!) known instances of finds in the country within categories as a one-stop shop for checking existing records.
Special mention also goes to the second part of the series of books on Meghalaya, India, edited by Thomas Arbenz. As with part one, published in 2012, Cave Pearls of Meghalaya is a superb compilation of text, surveys and photographs; this latest publication covers the expeditions from 2005 to 2009.
The winner for 2016 was difficult to determine, given the high standards involved, with the Red Rose Journal coming out on top. The award follows in the footsteps of the club’s 2010 commendation for the previous journal, and this latest publication is a very worthy winner and many congratulations go to the club and editor Ray Duffy.
The Tratman Award has been awarded annually since 1979 to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978. It covers books, journals and articles published in a calendar year and is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation, but judged by independent cavers; for 2015 these were Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills (though other opinions were also sought). From an initial shortlist (to which titles were added and subtracted) the judges argued the strong and weak points of each title, taking into account the standard of printing and binding as well as the inclusion of an index where appropriate, the layout and the quality of writing. In alphabetical order of author, the final shortlist was:
Michael Adams: One Man One Pan
A wonderful, personal tale of exploring caves in China over the course of two early expeditions
Peter S. Burr: Mines and Minerals of the Mendip Hills
In a two-volume set, an incredible amount of research is packed into a thousand pages that is already the definitive work on the subject
Ralph Crane and Lisa Fletcher: Cave. Nature and culture
Cave is unusual in that it succeeds in crossing divides, merging legend and fact, science and art – any caver willing to be challenged with new ideas will enjoy this book
Marion Dowd: The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland
Marion’s impressive work on caves and archaeology in Ireland is extensive, interestingly written, beautifully presented and well indexed: a superb publication
Elaine Hill and Adrian Hall (comps): Northern Sump Index 2015
A description of ‘index’ hardly does justice to this invaluable resource from the Cave Diving Group; the amalgamated surveys at the rear were especially appreciated
Dewi Lloyd (ed): NPC Journal 2015
After a 28-year break, this latest Northern Pennine Club journal brings a host of quality material to readers, providing a finely presented and valuable archive of exploration in the Dales
Duncan Price: Underwater Potholer
Simply a damn good read from this cave diver and explorer, written on a personal level
Michael Shaw, David Poyner and Robert Evans: Aerial Ropeways of Shropshire
Another high-quality account from the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club; while the title might suggest a dry, obscure publication, it is eminently readable by any enthusiast
Trevor Shaw and Alenka Cuk: Slovene Karst and Caves in the Past
Past winners of the Tratman Award, Trevor and Alenka have broadened the appeal of cave history, making the text more accessible to a wider Slovene readership
After much discussion, made vastly more difficult by the high number of excellent publications considered, the Tratman Award for 2015 goes to Marion Dowd for The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland. Congratulations are due for her outstanding work ‘from which the sun shines’ to quote one judge, who also suggested that it ‘should act as a model for similar regional books in Ireland, the UK – and indeed Europe’, a sentiment backed by the other judges. The remaining works are all highly commended, in itself a prestigious achievement. The award is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which will be presented at EuroSpeleo 2016.
Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges
The Tratman Award has been awarded annually since 1979 to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978. It covers books, journals and articles published in a calendar year and is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation, but judged by independent cavers; for 2014 these were Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills (though other opinions were also sought).
An initial shortlist was drawn up, after which discussion ensued. Aside from the obvious value of being written well, other elements that affected the judges’ decision included the quality of photographs and diagrams, inclusion of an index where relevant and the printing and binding. The shortlist was reduced to the following books and journals (presented here in author order):
Editors Peter Barry and Alasdair Kennedy for issue (21) of Irish Speleology, another superbly produced and impressive volume in the series.
Mining in Cornwall and Devon by Roger Burt and others, a readable volume packed with research and analysis, accompanied by a CD carrying yet more data.
Matt Ewles and Gary Douthwaite for editing The Journal of York CC & North York Moors CC (2), raising the bar even higher than for their previous commendation for the first issue.
The proceedings of NAMHO’s 2011 conference, 50 Years of Mine Exploration edited by Kelvin Lake and David Poyner and published in 2014 as a packed volume worth waiting for.
Caves of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Jean Shaw, published as part of the excellent caving atlas series by Michael Laumanns and a thoroughly researched history and gazetteer of what is known in the country.
John Wilmut, Chris Proctor and David Jean for Exploring the Limestones of South Devon published by the William Pengelly CST, nicely produced as a walking guide to the area.
Mark Wright and Robbie Shone for Gouffre Berger, a beautifully presented volume – even with a slipcase available – covering this classic cave’s history as well as a modern description, backed up with sumptuous photography.
The final decision was unanimous, granting the 2014 Tratman Award to Mark Wright and Robbie Shone for Gouffre Berger with many congratulations for their fine production. The remaining works are highly commended, each a prestigious achievement on its own. The award is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which was presented at the Hidden Earth 2015 conference.
Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges
The Tratman Award has been awarded annually since 1979 to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978. It covers books, journals and articles published in a calendar year and is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation, but judged by three independent cavers; for 2013 these were Joe Duxbury, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills (though other opinions were also sought).
As usual, a great deal of discussion ensued around a short list of titles that grew longer before becoming shorter. It is worth mentioning Thomas Arbenz’ editing and publication of Cave Pearls of Meghalaya, given its links to UK expeditions, but although it is of a superb standard it lies outside the scope of the Tratman Award. The final shortlist was winnowed to the following, here presented in author order:
Tim Allen and Frank Pearson, for the linked articles ‘A Midge-infested, draughtless no-hoper ...’ and ‘We should have gone to Aygill’ in Descent (230), which the judges picked out as particularly evocative of digging.
Peter Barry and Alasdair Kennedy (eds) of Irish Speleology (20), which clearly presents not only solid information, but also maps and surveys with a range of highly interesting topics – an almost perfect example of what a journal should be.
Martyn Farr for the attractive Classic Darksite Diving, covering cave diving sites in Britain and Europe and data-packed with locations and details on how to safely undertake dives.
Dave Gill for ‘Bottoming the Berger – on Ladders’ in Descent (235), an article which brought an element of speleohistory to the fore in an engaging and entertaining manner.
Alan Gray, Rob Taviner and Richard Witcombe for their work compiling Mendip Underground, a monumental task to have been completed work on a regional guidebook to such a high standard.
Jim Rieuwerts for Adventurers in the Lead Trade, not forgetting the photography of Phil Wolstenholme that made this well-researched volume so highly visual.
Tony Waltham and David Lowe for Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales, another in-depth title that will become a standard reference for the area.
The final decision went unanimously to the comprehensive and attractive Mendip Underground. Congratulations therefore go to Alan, Rob and Richard, who we are sure would wish to also note the involvement of a huge number of other cavers in checking details of references and cave descriptions, and producing surveys and photographs, with (once again) Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley’s fine touch in layout. The remaining entries above are highly commended, a prestigious result on its own. The award is a piece of original artwork by Gonzo, which was presented at the Hidden Earth 2014 conference.
Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges
The Tratman Award is presented to the author of the best caving-related publication of the year, being judged by independent cavers who make their recommendations to the Ghar Parau Foundation, which funds the award. The judges for 2012 were Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills, who also sought opinion from a wider readership and, with four judges available, where required were able to exclude themselves from discussing any title causing a conflict of interest.
A wide range of books and journals was considered, creating a shortlist that was whittled down to six for further discussion. These were:
Derek Hawkins’ Bath Stone Quarries, a fine photographic record of this complex of mines, oft visited by cavers and mining enthusiasts alike.
The Cave Radio & Electronics Group Journal, in recognition of the long-running specialist nature of this publication (the current issue is no. 80), being maintained at a high standard and a credit to the production team.
Tim Allen for his series of articles on the Three Counties breakthrough published in Descent issues (224) and (225), bringing the accurate story to cavers in a complete and timely fashion.
Earth Colours by Marie Clarke, Neville Gregory and Alan Gray. Another fine hardback book from the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive stable, it is packed with information and photographs concerning ochre mining on Mendip.
Phil Hendy’s series of caving features in the Mendip Times, a free local publication; these have placed caving in front of the public in a good light for the past five years.
Slovene Caves & Karst Pictured 1545–1914 by Trevor Shaw and Alenka Cuk, a softback book concentrating on the region’s photographs and illustrations, many of which are accompanied by biographies.
To choose a winner proved incredibly difficult, in particular being a close call between Earth Colours and Slovene Caves & Karst. In the end, the judges came down in favour of Slovene Caves & Karst, given its sheer quality of research, readable content and fine presentation.
Congratulations therefore go to Trevor and Alenka; this is not the first collaboration we have seen from this pair, and we trust it will not be the last. All the shortlisted authors also receive our congratulations for their commendations and should note the prestige conferred: to attain a shortlisting is in itself an achievement. The award is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which was presented at the Hidden Earth 2013 conference.
Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges
The Tratman Award is presented to the author of the best caving-related publication of the year, being judged by three independent cavers who make a recommendation for the award to the Ghar Parau Foundation, which funds the award. The judges for 2011 were Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes and Martin Mills, who also sought opinion from a wider readership.
Both books and club journals were considered and a shortlist was produced for further discussion. In alphabetical order of author or editor, the titles were:
Caves of the Peak District by Iain Barker and John Beck – an excellent guidebook published by DCA. The publication year was printed as 2010, but the volume was not released until too late for consideration in 2010, so – as the rules permit – it was shortlisted in 2011.
Decades in the Dark, edited by Alan Jeffreys and subtitled ‘50 years of Scottish caving’, covers the history of the Grampian SG from 1961 to 2011.
Sheffield University SS 50th anniversary journal 1961-2011, a club history with similar coverage, edited by Rob Middleton.
Shuttleworth Pot into Witches Cave II, edited by Pete Monk and published by CNCC, being a comprehensive and timely documentation of the cave’s exploration (a factor that the judges felt that other caves would benefit from).
Aspects of the History of Slovene Karst 1545-2008 by Trevor Shaw, a fine piece of research immaculately presented to the reader, just as we would expect from this author. It is also dated 2010 but was not available for consideration until 2011.
After much deliberation, from among these commended publications the judges unanimously decided that the 2011 Tratman Award should go to Decades in the Dark. In reaching their decision, the judges noted that it contains a high volume of material written specifically for the publication (rather than only reprinting past articles), it is liberally scattered with photographs and the text is interesting and readable (this publication is far more than a chronology).
Congratulations therefore go to Alan ‘Goon’ Jeffreys and his team from the Grampian SG. All entries in the shortlist should note the prestige that is conferred here, though there can only be one winner. The award itself is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which was presented at Hidden Earth 2012.
Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges
For the 2010 award the rules were rewritten and clarified (the rules appear below) and judging reverted to a requirement for three independent cavers to make recommendations to the Ghar Parau committee for ratification. For 2010 these judges were Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills.
The judges considered a wide range of publications, including both books and club journals. From among the many the final shortlist became: Matienzo, edited by Juan Corrin and Peter Smith, this being an amazingly packed book devoted to the exploration of this area of Spain and including maps and data on CD-ROM, Is That So?, compiled and edited by Rob Taviner in support of the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive, Wookey Hole by Jim Hanwell, Duncan Price and Richard Witcombe, being both a superb book as well as a club-based publication, and the Red Rose CPC Journal (10) edited by Paul Swire.
It is worth noting that although the latter journal bears a 2009 imprint, its publication was delayed until 2010 and thus it was eligible for consideration this year. It is an excellent example of a general rise in production quality of club journals, both in design and printing, which the judges noted across the board and which we hope will continue.
All these titles are therefore commended but the final decision was, it must be stressed, an extremely difficult and close one to make with Matienzo and Wookey Hole competing for the award. Thankfully, as there was no award made in 2009, the Ghar Parau Foundation committee offered to support two prizes in 2010, so both editorial teams accepted awards at Hidden Earth in September, on behalf of the many cavers who had input into the respective projects. Congratulations go to all involved. The award itself is a framed piece of original artwork by Mark 'Gonzo' Lumley depicting the respective books.
Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges