Astrys Adit – Coalpit heath – 3rd August 2011

who: Dave G, Ivan E
where: Astry’s Adit Coalpit Heath
when: 7:30-11:00 3rd August 2011

link to photo album

Astry’s Adit

We made a last minute decision to visit Astry’s Adit – we had planned a trip to Darren Cilau and I was having second thoughts as there was only two of us (and I was not feeling too good). So we decided to
take the easy option and visit Astry’s Adit which is near to where I live and near a pub. This meant we would avoid the 2 hour travel time to Llangattock and get more time underground or in the pub.

Astrys’s adit was started around 1680 by Samuel Astry the owner of the coalpit heath collierty company
(the real CCC). It was build to lower the water levels before steam powered pumping was available but the network was added to and extended as mining went deeper when steam engines were started to be used (the adit allowed water to just be pumped upto this level). The adit cuts across to the river frome from Coalpitheath and emerges just north of Damsons bridge. Maggot posted a picture of the adit on one of his dog walks, his dog only just fitted through and Maggot demonstrated his camera on a stick skills to get a photo.

There is rumoured to be around 5 km of underground passages, although only the lower section that we have visited has been explored directly the route of the adit through coalpit heath has been established by lifting manhole covers and the occasional collapse (one happened at NAMHO 2010). There are rumours that it went as far north as nibley but this has not been established and the actual route from the southern adit to coalpit heath is not known for certain.

The existence of the adit was a closely guarded secret of Hades caving club and the south gloucestershire mine research group for nearly 10 years. I was fortunate to get a visit over 5 years ago. We entered down an old access shaft (now used by the golf course as a source of water to keep their greens green). We went down stream but did not reach anything. This was my first and only trip but this was systematically explored by the SGMRG and its route plotted. However the SGMRG went public with their discoveries last year at the NAMHO conference and elsewhere. Access has been negotiated with the golf course and farmer for the SGMRG, but access is freely available to anyone who is silly enough to enter via the resurgence. Actually all the access shafts to Astry’s adit are very close to or on public footpaths and none of the manholes are yet gated.

Our plan was simple we were to enter via the resurgence on the Frome and go to the end. No need for permission. When the SGMRG surveyed the adit they tried to use surfing body boards – but they were too heavy or the boards were not buoyant enough. So they obtained some industrial thickness polystryrene.
Our approach was to wear a wet suit under our caving oversuits and just crawl or walk bent doubled over.
Crawling is slow but at times the adit is too low to walk even bent double and sometimes you need to go under straw stalactites. Walking bent double kills your back the next day, and is hard work but it is a lot faster than crawling.

Here is Ivan crawling the first part of the adit resurgence – it is lower than the rest of the adit, but luckily the rest of the adit is larger.

Unfortunately just after the crawl is an area that opens out and seems to have been used as a dog toilet!
It was at this point I started to wish I was wearing some gloves, and Ivan was rather pleased to be wearing his. Rather annoyingly the need for gloves became more apparrent – the upper reaches of the adit are coated with black mud and the floor of the adit coated with black silt. The lower reaches are just brown.
My hands are now a blacky orange colour and the fingernails are stained. However my toenails are stained as well and they were inside wet suit socks within a pair of wellingtons. So a floatation device might have other benefits.

Here is Ivan bent double (I am slightly taller so it is worse for me), but actually Ivan preferred to Crawl (my wet suit was not so good) whereas I preferred to walk doubled up. My Back and legs kill now though.

The view of the adit is not very scenic and it is like this most of the time

Actually this is not quite true as I was bent double most of the time looking at the water – which was pretty clean for me on the way in as I was first, but for Ivan is was a muddy slurry and did not look inviting to say the least.

After what seemed a long way we reached a junction and a short muddy crawl led to a capped access shaft – here is Ivan emerging from the muddy crawl.

The shaft is about 12 feet deep but it covered up and here is a not too revealing photo

This shaft revealed the boredom that was the normal state within the adit itself, I think Ivan was wondering why we were in this shaft, but he kept quiet until near the end when I ignored his wishes extracted an agreement for another 100 yards and then went over 500 yards more!

Eventually afte rwhat seemed like ages we reached a sluice gate

Above the sluice gate was another access shaft

Here is the sluice gate from the other side

I took this photo whilst hiding from the spray of debris falling below as Ivan climbed the shaft.

After another eternity – we reached another larger junction passage on the right that led to a manhole cover. This passage was clearly well used with many footprints in the mud and even a dogs paw print. Cleqarly the SGMRGs norma entry route.l

The manhole cover was easy to open from inside and we looked briefly out in to the evening sunshine – but not too long as the manhole is overlooked by several houses. I recognised them and knew where they were as we not too far from the bandminton road. We were perhaps less than halfway to Serridge house!

We continued on passing through solid rock at one point as we went under the road (reassuring) to emerge back into our familiar arched roof and a display of straw stalactites.

There are quite a lot of straw stalactites which you have to be careful to pass under (take a dip) – they are a reassuring site as it means the water levels have stayed below them.

Eventually we reached the familair sight of the golf course access shaft – where I had entered over five years ago.

Here is the entrance shaft – showing that we are about 20 feet underground

A little upstream from the entrance shaft is another junction – probably the so called missing section leading to the northern coalpit heath end of the adit – someone in the SGMRG has been economical with the truth!?!

This branch of the adit is clearly more of a problem than the rest of the adit but it looks doable – but a lack of a turn around point would make the return arduous. Another trip not tonight. From here the northern branch must head directly up hotwater brake!

The junction with this northern branch is pretty interesting in its own right

After this the adit went on for ages – where we almost dispaired of reaching the end – it is filthy back mud on the bottom of the stream and dry bacl dust (coal) on the roof and sides of the passageway. However there were some stals to cheer up the place.

Eventually reached the end – I had been told that the adit ended somewhere short of serridge house with a blockage which was surprisingly soft – but no one knew what was on the other side and everyone wanted someone else to find out.

We heeded their warnings and headed back .. we soone realised we were already tired just reaching this point and it was demoralising retracing our steps. Arms were tired from the crawling the back was acheing from being bent double – and so we exited from the manhole cover in the horses field near the houses. But now it was pitch dark. In the field we almost walked into the electric fence for the horses and the evening could have ended with a severe electric kick. Unfortunately it was 11 pm – so we went back to my house
and drank my beers.

Good evening I have been wanting to go back into Astrys adit for ages. Now it is public


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Box Northern Workings – 29th July 2011

who: Dave G, Pete H, Ivan E, Simon (Monkzy)
where: Box Northern Workings
when: 29th July 2011

Navigation; Pete

The search for the crab winch

This was Ivans first trip into Box and we were torn between a trip to see the MOD frontier or to have a mooch around the northern workings. Simon wanted to visit the crab winch (which I am sure we had seen on various trips with Jasper and Root but ..) and there are instructions to find it on the wiki. But of course no one had looked as it was a last minute decision. I had lost my northern section of the survey, but luckily Pete had his pristine version. So Pete was to be the navigator – normally he sits back and points out when the navigator (usually me) goes wrong. My daughter had stolen my cave camera and disappeared to Barcelona (hopefully it will return soon) – but no photos this week.

We parked on the green along from the quarrymans (good aren’t we – for once) – as it was quiz night!
We had a quick look for Rubber Duck but clearly Mads charms triumphed. We saw them later as we emerged to go the pub as they were about to start! We entered via backdoor. Ivan had not visited Box before so we took a slight detour to the cathedral. A quick look at the light from outside – nearly walked down the well!?! We took the OR route to the y over deads and joined the main motorway AO route to the tank and well. Sadly in out hurry we missed the first saw bench and were not doing a good tour for Ivan. However by the end of the evening he was becoming an expert on saw benches and much else.

We headed up to clift quarry and passed the sad remains of the iron door – Petes navigation was not really needed and was generally right. So most of the time we listened to him (Simon and myself that is). Sadly we were doing a jasper impression and walking to fast for the map reader to read the map. We would pay the price later.

After the iron door we had a couple of deviations up the left – as Simon had remembered hearing that the crab winch was up the left (somewhere after the iron door). To Petes dispair we disappeared up every nook and cranny – occassionally retreating from some dodgy hanging death. We expected the crab winch route to be well worn – if it is where we looked then it is not. However we spent a fair while satisfying our curiosity. We found several remains of cables, barallels which were not on petes survey. But we found no
crab winch.

We gave up and had a quick look at the rubbish heap at the bottom of the shaft. We then commited our navigational blunder of the night and plowed straight on (well what we thought was straight on but which was actually a left turn). Our navigator did not have a say in any of this .. jasper style but without jasper know how!?! The way on becomes blocked with a fall – interestingly the route we thought we were on also becomes blocked with a fall. Haha .. we found a route through a slot that most of us had been through before and emerged into another series of passages. Excellent except that it did not bear any resemblance to the passages that we though we would see on the map. Pete was dead puzzled and sat down whilst we had a ferret around anyway. We returned to find pete complaining that his compass was wrong by a massive factor – he point on the map where we were and showed how the compass was wrong. He moaned about the compass being a cheap one and almost threw it away! Actually the compass was functioning perfectly and we were just not where we thought we were! We were not perturbed as we knew the way back and had not been looking at the map anyway. But the map contains vital clues as to where the features of interest are scattered. Eventually Pete worked in out and we retreated back to the shaft and
resumed our straighton progress down the correct passage. We passed a very muddy collapse to emerge under a very memorable bar – shook our heads in amusement and then headed off on the left to rejoin the passages (beyond the window/slot) we had been exploring earlier.

However we were beginning to pay the price for our earlier incompetence and we timed out so that I could visit the pub (pete was driving). So we retraced our route withour incident – back through the iron door to the well and tank – we had a quick inspection of the end of the cliftworks passage. This is in a rather surprising state. Despite Simons predictions of more navigational errors we followed the AO route round to the y-route over deads and took the route dodgy boulder collapse to backdoor.

As we emerged from love lane – Mad and Rubber Duck began their evening underground and we wished them well as we entered the quarrymans. Good trip. Fun but it is clear we should visit more often without jasper and root.


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GB Devils Elbow 20th July 2011

who: Dave G, Lianne G, Vincent M
where: GB Devils Elbow route
when: 7:30-9:45 20th July 2011

Link to photos albums

Devils Elbow – GB 20th July 2011

It was Vincents first trip into GB and he would be in for a visual treat. However Lianne had already done the trip I usually give as a first trip into GB. So I decided to spice things up and do the Devils Elbow route into the cave. This is a series of crawls culminating in a short climb/traverse/jump on to a boulder opposite. I decided to bring a ladder and lifeline. This meant dragging the ladder bag through the crawls. So Vincent would be put through mild torture before the formations he was expecting.

Lianne led the way into the cave, here is Vincent climbing the ladder at the start of the crawls to the devils elbow

Lianne led the way through the crawls which had several inches of brown muddy water, much more than I had come to expect.
Lianne shot through the crawls whilst Vincent and myself struggled with the ladder bag. Eventually we reached the Devils elbow and Lianne had to perform gymnastics to make room for me to rig the ladder and lifeline. Ther ewas no room for Vincent so
he had to watch from the inside of the squeeze before the devils elbow pitch

The crawls had been longer than expected and so I decided to whimp out of returning through the Devils elbow crawls and so I did the pull through trip. First Lianne and Vincent went down and I abseiled on a doubled rope through an italian hitch on my body belt!?! Smooth enough but not without risk. We climbed down to the main streamway and we were walking again.

Here is Vincent GB streamway above the bridge – the loose boulders make it quite difficult to walk.

Eventually we reached the stal bridge over the streamway.

We crossed the bridge and climbed up to the viewing platform for the usual visual tour, Here are formations near the bridge

Roof detail just after the bridge

Looking back in the direction of the bridge

Formations in the ceiling above the bridge

Formations near the bridge

Lianne noticed some strange formations above the viewing platform they were some superb helictites


Liannes hand next to the helictites

We then climbed up passing an interesting formation in the passage off the bridge


A closer up of the strange formation

At the top of the passage we passed poached egg near the hole marking our route onwards towards the viewing window over the 50 foot waterfall. This provides a nice little circuit.


formations in our route to the window


formations in the passage to the window



More formations in the passageway


Formations in the passage to the window


Close-up of passageway


Stals destined to join

We returned via the normal route which has a couple of obstacles but is nowhere near as challenging as the Devils Elbow route,
We got changed and were in the pub for just after 10.. Lianne got her mouth burned eating the chilli whereas Vincent was convert to the veg pasta – I went for the Cheese and onion roll. Good trip and shock horror both Lianne and Vincent seemed to like the Devil Elbow route! Hmm perhaps we should have came out along it as well!


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Waterwheel Swallet 13th July 2011

who: Dave G, Lianne G, Ruth R, Ivan E, Sacha D
when: 8:00-1010pm 13th July 2011
where: Waterwheel Swallet velvet bottom, mendip

roles: lifelining Dave

waterwheel swallet 13th July 2011

This was our groups first trip into Waterwheel Swallet. Access to the key was easily available after contacting the charterhouse centre. The cave had been recommended for a more adventurous beginners trip. But I had also been warned that it was a wet cave and that a wet suit would be needed. The trip to the swimming pool certainly involves wet crawls and the swimming pool itself provides a mild base jumping opportunity (Ivan did it three times). As for beginners any accident below the ladder in the swimming pool would mean the unfortunate person getting cold very quickly. I did not heed the warning to wear a wet suit (nor pass it on to everyone else). Oversuit and polypropylene underwear was more than sufficient for me, but Ivan and Sacha positively enjoyed the wet crawls and swim because they were overheating from wearing a wet suit. Ruth and Lianne were not impressed about not being told it was a wet suit cave (its nots). I got some grief for this Lianne because she had a wet suit hanging unused in the garage and she complained of numb hands, and Ruth because her camera met an unfortunate end.


We spent ages trying to find the cave entrance, partly from the lack of preparion on my part – but also because we were misled by Ivans GPS – it took the grid reference on the survey to a place nearly a 100 yards away from the entrance which more importanlly was the wrong side of a fence which shaped our search strategy. Eventually I climbed the fence again and my area search yielded success. it was galling to find the cave so near to where we had walked when going to the grid reference! We found other several cave entrances but either their lids would not lift or the key would not fit their padlocks.


This trip was not a big success for photography. There are formations worth capturing but I would have liked to have captured the adventure provided by this cave. The wet crawls through the old slumps and descent to the swimming pool. I was usually in the wrong position for a photo or busy lifelining and so did not get the shots I wanted. Flash was not useful because it was so wet. Ruths camera took a dip and was ruined and I may be facing legal action (Am I covered by the BCA insurance?) . My own camera nearly was lost. It was dropped in the swimming pool and rather surprisingly the butty box it was in floated and I was able to recover my waterproof camera.


The cave entrance is a circular lid on top of a concrete tube. Here is Sacha descending the concrete tube at the entrance (it ends with a little unassisted climb at the bottom as well).

The initial part of the cave feels like a mine because there are steps and concrete walls with lots of engineering, Actually even when it gets wet and more natural – this is because of the engineering the series of dams and bungs controlling the water flow. Apparently we have William Stanton to thank for the engineering which would stand comparison with the work of the forest of dean cavers.

The way on is down always down – mainly steps to begin with but the climbs get more sporting the further you go into the cave.


There are a few formations in this cave (although it is certainly not highly decorated). There are black gour pools, red stals, grey straws – see my album – I chose not to use them in the report as it would create the wrong impression of the trip. Here is one – showing Ruth inspecting a formation

Ruth led the way on until having been lured by the easy stepped climbs she baulked for a moment at a slightly awkward climb – I dived down it and momentarily took the lead before Ivan and Sacha took their turn. With Ivan leading it almost immediately turned dour as we confronted the old slumps – a series of wet crawls with only inches of airspace at its worst. Those without wets suits lingered at the start hoping for the rumoured bungs could be releashed to let the water out. Unfortuately those in front were actually enjoying the wallowing in the water as they were in wet suits and did not give any priority to the bungs. Anyhow it would have taken ages to have lowered the water level. anyhow we did not try and some of the bungs seemed rusted in position anyway.

After a series of such wet slumps we reached the head of the pitch down to the impressive swimming pool. Before I could rig the pitch Ivan and Sacha had descended. Sacha would have appreciated a lifeline but Ivan was repeatedly base jumping from the ledge. There are two pairs of eco bolts providing one of the best protected pitches on mendip, The first belays provide safety for the rigger who must lean out to rig the y-hang or place a ladder, The ladder free hangs but is not well placed for getting on and off – so most of us got off the ladder and transferred to the ledge/climb to the side – there is a cave chain to assist with this climb.

We then crawled over the front floors and Ivan had a swim in the final sump pool. On the exit my camera took a dip in the swimming pool, but luckily its protective case (tesco butty box) saved the day as it floated!?! Otherwise I would have been diving the bottom of the pool in a porbably fruitless search for my camera. The pool is pretty deep – around 5 feet as Lianne could not stand – but there is a ledge with a fixed traverse line from the bottom of the ladder which allows those not so keen on base jumping to avoid the swim.

We then backtracked through the slumps and up the climbs and steps. Here is Ruth ascending the entrance climb out

We got changed in velvet bottom to the erie muffled sounds of people from the charterhouse centre shouting and laughing – it had been going on all evening – at one time we thought there were cavers in one of the holes we explored. We went back to the hunters for food and a beer. Good trip we will certainly go again.


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Bristol Castle Moat – 6th July 2011

who: Ivan E, Dave G, Pete H
where: Bristol castle moat
when: 6th July 2011

Underground boating – Bristol castle moat 6th July 2011

The story of Bristols underground river is told in Secret underground bristol. The river frome flow south into Bristol but becomes a culverted river near Staples. Last year 28D did a circus like exploration of the castle moat in childrens beach dingies bought for around ten pounds. This joins up with the frome underground.
We decided to repeat their adventure but in a boat and a sit on top kayak. None of us had done the trip before.
Our route is marked in Pink, as you can see we did not get very far, but it was our first visit and we are a cautious group – we did some experments trying to canoe against the current, and decided not to wade out to the staples entrance.


After a roomy passage the moat becomes an older tunnel.

Here are our boats tied up next to the platform at the wier down to the river frome. This surprised us because we came in from the level of the floating harbour and the river was flowing quite quickly at a lower level.

However it is also clear that the Frome can be much higher and can rise up to the level of the wier. The wet mark shows it has done so recently, and there is a depth guage below. When we were there the water level was less than welly height (around a foot)

We did some experiments with canoeing against the water flow – it would not be easy and almost certainly we would have ended up wading back. The issue was whether the water would get deeper as you went on.
We had not got any waders and heavy rain was forecast so we turned around

There is plenty more exploring to be done, but some problems to be overcome and acquistion of some waders and better boats


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Swildons Two 29th June 2011

who: Dave G, Ruth R, Ivan E, Monkzy(simon)
where: Swildons two up the landing
when: 6:30-10:20 29th June 2011


lifelining Dave,Ivan

firsts: Simon and Ruth through Swildons Sump

Ruth and Ivan the stal squeeze
A Link to my photo album

Up the landing – Swildons Two

We all arrived early – 6:10 rather than half past and I was in a state of shock. A quick discussion outside the barn vetoed my plan to visit south east inlets. Simon had never been down the ladder pitch before and Ruth had also never been through Swildons sump before. Ivan was rather keen to look at sump two again, and one at a more sedate pace so that he could remember the route. So we embarked on another trip to Swildons sump. I managed to persuade everyone to take a brief diversion to visit the stal squeeze near the end of the short round trip which could be reached from the landing. I had just upgraded my duos halogen light to a single led which now gave a fantastic light (but only lasts around 3 hours now). This light is so bright that I managed to avoid taking photos without flash and so I got pictures in swildons which I would not have captured with a flash.
We almost had an accident within the first few yards of the entrance as Ivan chose to jump down from the old climb (rather than crawl amongst the boulders and step over the hole). I was in shock that anyone would ever do this, but jumping seems to be part of his bouldering/climbing technique.
Ruth navigated through the entrance series, but she was merciless and chose to enter via the long dry way. So I was soon pouring with sweat as I had the ladder and rope bag. We arrived at the ladder pitch to find it had been rigged by a master rigger (captain chris it turned out).. a y-hang for the ladder with a backup to the third bolt. Unfortunately they had tied their rope to the bottom and so we could not use their lifeline. So after some phaffing I put a crab on a single bolt for an improvised pulley and used another bolt for the belay. I lifeline Ruth down first but then Ivan lifelined Simon and myself with me lifelining him from below.

Here is a shot of Simon taking his first step ever on an electron ladder as he descends Swildons twenty foot ladder pitch.

Ruth and Simon in the canyon

Formation in the streamway

Ruth admiring another photo

We bumped into captain chris’s tour party just before the sump. Sadly the sump was so low it was a duck. Ivan tried to encourage the two sump virgins that it was easy and went through to the far side and we were able to see his light and chat and see how short it really was. Here is a photo showing Ivans light shining from the far side of the sump

Ivan came back and I decided to go through so that I could get a photo of everyone as they came through, but these pictures did not come out. I was not using a flash to avoid problems with the water vapour and no one would emerge from the sump/duck slowly and so every shot was ruined with motion blur.
However Ruth tried to pass Swildons sump as a duck – feet first with her nose in the air space. This was slow motion and I was able to enter the sump/duck as she came through. She was not too impressed with me for temporarily blocking the sump/duck to take the photo. The photo is from the far side of the sump looking back and captures ruth as she tries to pass the duck it really shows how the sump is really a duck.

Ruth did the duck by the more traditional approach but without her helmet. He is her helmet floating through the sump/duck

Here is Simon next to the famous wookey hole sign showing that he has passed Swildon Sump/duck

Here is Ivan thoroughly wet after passing the sump three times (he seems to like doing it)

Ruth in the erie streamway of Swildons two – the cave goes through a dramatic change of character after the sump

Simon climbing the landing

The duck just before the stal squeeze (right turn after emerging from the hole from the landing)

Ruth liked this duck even less than sump one.

On the other side of this duck is the famous stal squeeze and an impressive set of formations. This trip was not all thrutching and ducks – the formations before the stal squeeze are excellent

The stal squeeze is too narrow for me these days and I struggled to get inside it at all, and did not even try to force my chest into its tightest point. After my dishonourable failure Ruth took up the challenge and slid through to the tightest point in no time, and passed it completely rather than reversing out.
Ruth was the first to pass the stal squeeze but here is Ivan in the stal squeeze. He came back head first!?!

We returned back through the duck (head first in a duck – no one took my advice)

Ruth descends the landing (not as fast as Ivan who treated it as a slide)

We also took a look at sump 2 – here is Ivan just before he freedived to the airbell!?!

We had a little problem in the airbell – he did not hold onto the rope and could not find it again. Ruth shone her light back towards him and he just swam back. Luckily nothing went wrong.
We returned through the sump and came back through Barnes loop. We got back to the ladder pitch and was pleased to find that captain chris had re-purposed my rope tape (provding a long handline from the top of the ladder) into a 3-way safety line using a series of bowlines (magical work). We made it back to the pub with plenty of time to spare – we all had food and Ivan was won over by the chilli. Roger the landlord told us that the blackbirds and laid another clutch of eggs in hunters lodge sink entrance and so it will be another 6 weeks before we can visit.

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Colerne Bury Hill 22nd June 2011

who: Dave G, Pete H, Madrab, Ivan E
where: Colerne Bury Hill
when: 22nd June 2011

Bury Wood Camp caves/quarries

This trip was conclusive. None of the caves marked on the MCRA permit entry and none seem to be good candidates for digging. There was little sign of quarrying other than for local use for the nearby drystone walls. No chance of major passageways.
We spent ages searching for the site of Bury Wood camp cave 3 – eventually we found the trench from an archaelogical dig, but no sign of the entrance which was filled in long ago.
“Boulder filled, half metre wide, fissure leading to small grotto. Found during archaeological excavations. Filled in about 1959.”

Bury wood camp cave 2 did not permit entry but there was sign of
“Empty space or a void to the right or left of the entrance hole visible along a small rift.”

Again this was a natural feature rather than an industrial quarrying entrance.
Bury Wood Camp Cave 1 permitted entry through a horizontal crawl for 3 metres – the leafy floor could be lowered and more space created . However this was not an industrial mine entrance.
This was not a successful evening and I was somewhat in trouble for arranging the trip. We retired in disgrace and had a drink (and sulk) in the quarrymans.


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