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VALE: Dave 'Pooh' Yeandle.

1951 - 2002.

by Stuart (Mac) McManus
with photographs by Martin Grass

Dave was born on the 13th June 1951 and died in a paragliding accident in Alicante, Spain on Friday 5th April 2002.  He was 50 years old.

We had known each other since we were schoolboys over 35 years ago, the things I shall always remember about Dave was his enthusiasm and commitment in all that he wanted to do. He always made you smile, as he talked about all those madcap ideas and things he got up to or things that always seemed to happen to him throughout his life.  He was always good company.  Though our lives took different paths over the years, when ever we met up we would chat about old times and also what each had been doing since we had last met and I think it was a sign of how good a friend he was as we would just continue from where we had left off.

Dave in GB, one of his last caving trips.

Dave would always recount tales of expeditions or trips he had been on with his normal matter of fact tone describing why he was at the bottom of a 50 metre pitch with water cascading on him only wearing his SRT gear and a pair of underpants whilst we would roll about laughing.

I know many people told him he should write a book about his exploits, and encouraged by us all he did complete a manuscript for a book before his untimely death.  The book has been published by the Internet book publishers - Diadem Books.  He certainly packed a lot into his 50 years.

Dave started caving in June 1967 with the Axbridge Caving Group, which like most of us in the sixties involved going down Goatchurch and Sidcot as his first taste of caving.  He was hooked, and quickly advanced onto the major caves on Mendip knocking off work from his Saturday job at Jones C a department store in Bristol) to do sump I in Swildon's.  His log book reads as a foot note to this, his best trip to date, P.S. “nearly got sacked from Jones's!”

His caving continued on both Mendip and South Wales doing all of the classics with the Axbridge C.G., though with the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 1967/68 putting a temporary stop to caving on Mendip, Dave started climbing in the Avon Gorge.  He took to climbing like all things he wanted to do, with total commitment, even his small legs did not stop him from jumping for a tree branch when he couldn't get to a hand hold, which he missed, leaving him dangling some 100 foot above the Avon Gorge!  To Dave, climbing was nearly as good as caving.  He continued to climb throughout his life returning to it seriously in the early 1990's achieving a good E2 standard, surprising quite a lot of his mates with his new found climbing skills.

His first recorded trip with the BEC was in May 1968 with a trip down to Swildon's II which followed with his first visit to Yorkshire with Alan Thomas in June, where typical of Dave he wanted to do everything, his first trip included an Alum/Long Churn exchange and Long Kin West, with Dave stating in his log that he must improve his ladder technique as the 280 foot pitch took him nearly 30 minutes to climb against Alan Thomas's 6 minutes.  It was on these first trips that his love for Yorkshire caving was formed.

Having joined the BEC in 1968 he was to acquire one of his two legendary nicknames that of the "Belfry Boy".  Dave was constantly running the gauntlet, fetching tea for the older BEC members, he didn't mind the constant shouts of "Boy more tea, Boy fetch my caving boots" his objective was to be in the BEC and progress his caving, and I think he was proud of the title "Belfry Boy".

Dave was much involved with the digging and exploration of Cuthbert's in the late 60's and early seventies he was also part of the BEC's Ahnenschacht expedition in August 1969 and the French Ariege trip in 1970.

On hearing about the caving successes of the University of Leeds Speleological Society (ULSA) Dave decided to go to Leeds to study physics.  I remember Dave coming back to Bristol after his interview at Leeds saying he thought he might have blown it, as the department head kept asking him why he had selected Leeds, and Dave said "oh its because I have heard so much about the good results obtained by the physics department" but the head kept asking about his hobbies, suspecting some ulterior motive, Dave eventually had to come clean and mentioned the dreaded C word Caving!!

They let him in and Dave went up to Leeds in 1969 and set about gaining very quickly a reputation as one of the hard men of the ULSA, he did do some physics as well. While at Leeds he was given his second and perhaps most enduring name of "Pooh" after the AA Milne character.

It was when Dave went to Leeds University in 1969 that his caving career really went in to top gear, as Geoff Yeadon put it in his tribute to Dave in Descent, “Dave's rise to the forefront of British caving in the 1970's was mercurial, one minute he suffered the indignities of being Mendip's Belfry Boy, and the next he had become one of the hard men of Leeds University (ULSA)”

Dave was involved in the new discoveries in Pippikin Pot, and at the sharp end of the notorious Langcliffe Pot.  In 1970 he was involved in the breakthrough into Gasson's series which was at the time considered one of the most serious undertakings in Britain with trips lasting over 18 hours.  His log book (July 1970) records one of these epic trips emerging from the cave at 8.00 am "off to Bernie's for some food and then the start of a long hitch back to Bristol (42 hours with 2 hours sleep followed by work on Monday proved interesting)."

In 1972 after he dived Dementor sump at the end of Langcliffe he and his carrying team were flooded in. They all came out under their own steam after 44 hours in the cave. Another Yeandle epic.

There are two permanent reminders of Dave's past caving exploits, with places named after him. One is in the Pierre St Martin in France where in 1972, Dave with such names as Wooding, Mike Boon, the Brook brother to name but a few explored an area in the cave called the Maria Dolores, to which they hoped to claim the world depth record.  Dave found what he hoped to be the pitch to take them all to great depths beneath the Pyrenees, the expected breakthrough so eagerly wanted was not to be, though his efforts were recorded on film by Sid Perou.  They named the pitch "Puits Pooh" and as Dave put it "a little bit of France will always be Puits Pooh."

The other passage named after him is in Pippikin named by Geoff Yeadon after Geoff pushed the downstream sump and broke through to a dry passage and named it "Pooh's Revenge" in recognition of Dave's efforts to make the connection between Link and Pipikin by diving some years earlier.

GB Cave. March 2002.

Dave went off to Australia several times, once overland in 1973 returning in 1975 to join a caving expedition to New Guinea, returning to the UK again in 1978 for what was to be a brief period but staying for nearly three years.  It was during this period as Dave put it, he did his best caving and diving, with trips such as upstream King Pot main drain sump, Alum pot, and the helping with the Keld Head film to name but a few.

Dave returned to Australia as a mud logger in 1980/81, where he took up his other hobbies of windsurfing, gliding as well as Himalayan trekking, which included Everest base camp.  He even apparently managed a 6000 metre peak in Wellingtons!  It was during one of Dave's slide shows that I noticed that some of the slides showed him wearing what I thought was a new design of black anorak, some of these slides had him wearing this new type of anorak high in the mountains in deep snow but the black anorak turned out to be a black plastic bin liner.  Dave as usual stating that that was all he could find after his gear had been stolen earlier in the trekking trip.  Nothing seemed to phase him at all, whatever disaster would be fall him he would just get on with it.

Dave finally returned to the UK from Australia in 1991 and settled down initially in Bristol before buying a house in Wells.  He trained as a mud engineer and travelled around all the oil fields of the Middle East, as well as the North Sea.  The 4 weeks on 4 weeks off enabling him to have money and time off to do the things that he wanted to do.  His interests though having diversified still maintained his interest in caving, as well as skiing and climbing.  The sport that was to take his full attention was paragliding.

Dave took up Paragliding with his usual enthusiasm for anything he wanted to do.  He became a very accomplished pilot obtaining his club pilot rating very early on and was a very popular member of the Avon Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.  Dave spent quite a lot of time out in Spain, the Alps and even went to South Africa to paraglide where the weather and conditions allowed more frequent flying opportunities than here in the UK.  I know he so much enjoyed the pleasures of flying.  I had only been talking to him several days before he went out to Spain, and Dave as ever, was excited to be getting out there to do some decent flying.  The rest as they say is history.

I know that I can speak for everyone who knew him that his sudden death was a great shock to us all and his passing has left a rather large hole in all of our lives.

I would like to pass on all of our condolences to his sisters Joan, and Alison and his brother Mike, but in particularly to his mother Dorothy who I know feels the loss deeply.