digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 15, 2019 20:52:41
I was away this weekend, digging on Gower, the following report
was submitted by Jon:
of the digging team (Jon, Tav and Duncan) were available for duty. All arrived
in good time and made a prompt start at the farm. Ignoring recent
tradition, the team picked up the key before walking up the hill.
for the day was the removal of bang debris from the Gnarly North. There
were too few diggers to haul around the corner at the top of the slope in one
go, so the team were forced to stack rocks and bags of gravel along the side of
the lead position and Tav volunteered for the deeper lake, leaving Jon to stack
along the side of the shallow lake. All the bang debris was removed to
this point. Then the team retired for some liquid refreshment.
bag was successfully removed to the surface. It contained the bang
wire. This is now to be found in the shed.”
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, July 06, 2019 16:22:00
With Jon, Nick and Tav.
The Cold Gnarly North was my destination today, the others decided
to dig in the Soft South, which is the easier, more comfortable option.
Drag line attached, bags attached, drill tube and wire reel in
hand I set off along the passage north. I was a bit surprised to find that
there were two puddles of standing water, 50mm – 75mm depth, in the ‘lake’ but
it wasn’t an issue. My plan was to widen the next constriction just beyond the small
rift to improve access and make digging and spoil removal easier. Drilled 4no. holes,
550mm, length x 12mm, diameter and charged. I looked around for “Trevor’s ball
of tamp” that I had put to one side for safe keeping, but it had gone, added to
the spoil heap I assume. Unfortunately, this is probably the only part of the
cave where there is not any mud suitable for tamp. I had to make do with arisings
and the little bit of mud that I could scrape up.
All done, I made my way south, dragging/shoving by bags and kit
along the passage while reeling out the wire. At the junction, the ‘Soft Southerners’
were about finished digging, just the hauling out and emptying of bags to be
done, so I gave them a helping hand. About 70 bags were hauled to the surface
and emptied. When the bags were all empty, I returned underground to bring my
morning’s task to a satisfactory conclusion.
Then down the hill to the farm in the warm sunshine, changed and
up the hill to the Hunter’s for refreshments.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, July 06, 2019 16:21:25
I was at a BCRA Field Meeting - Hypogenic Caves of the North Pennines, UNESCO Global Geopark at Nenthead. The rest of the team had other commitments, no digging took place.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 22, 2019 15:37:04
With Jon and Brockers
A small team assembled for today’s activities and it was soon
decided that the best and most effective use of manpower was to dig in the Soft
While Jon packed bags, Brockers went ahead to start digging and I headed
up to the Cold Gnarly North. I wanted to look and make an assessment for the
next phase of IRS and expand the low grovel that is the continuation north. On the
way back to join the others I scraped up the loose material lying in the low
Back in the “comfort” of the Soft South I took my position
stacking bags in the entrance ready to be removed later. Jon was at the
junction/bend and Brockers was busily digging away.
It was a pleasant way to spend the morning, chattering away to Jon,
stopping occasionally to stack another bag in the entrance. It’s surprising how
big the pile gets as the session progresses.
Then the time came to clear-out the spoil, Jon and I went up to
the surface and took it in turns to haul up the skip. Brockers remained below
ground to load the skip. When all the bags were out of the cave, they were then
emptied onto the spoil heap and the bags hung-up to dry. Today’s tally; 49
filled and emptied bags, and a stone that didn’t qualify as a load or even half
a load really.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, June 21, 2019 07:26:55
Another flint knapping
workshop at Butser Ancient Farm for me. I didn’t dig but the rest of the team
did. The following report was written by Jon:
1. A state of confusion, bad organization, or untidiness, or something
that is in this state.
2. A butcher's slaughterhouse
(archaic except in place names).
3. Five diggers at Halloween
Rift on Saturday 15th June 2019.
The usual call to action is via a text-based messaging system
(e-mail). This week, attempts were made to circumvent this and use
instead a text-based messaging system (SMS). Four members of the team
(Tav, Nick, Duncan and Jon) assembled at the appointed hour. A fifth
member (Paul) sent a message to indicate he was running late.
The team patiently waited and, after further reference to the
messaging system, waited some more. Finally giving up on the latecomer,
the team moved on to the farm, to be met by the latecomer. For his sins,
he was appointed hut warden.
With echoes of past failures, the team set out without a
key. A Sage Elder saved the day; a runner was despatched to get
one. Fortunately, a second team member also went back and got the correct
Effort was directed at the Cold Gnarly North, with Paul in the
lead. Nick took the wet spot, in his lake. Tav hauled at the
corner, a position gaining a reputation for being cold and miserable.
Duncan and Jon hauled and stacked at the entrance. 44 bags of spoil and
11 loads of rock were removed. Paul reports that this was largely loose
spoil that had previously been stacked along the sides of the passage.
The team learnt from their earlier mistakes and made sure that
they finished on time. They then retired to a local hostelry for liquid
…or rather, three team members did. Those who had manned the
wetter, colder positions went straight home.”
notesPosted by Vince Simmonds Fri, June 14, 2019 05:52:10
Notes by Vince.
Just after the breakthrough into An Unexpected Development in
August 2018, we’d had a discussion regarding the possible origins of the cave
system along with other geomorphological processes and events, i.e. Pleistocene
frost and ice damage. At the time I started to put together the following
Notes on geomorphology. Is there a
hypogenic origin for Hallowe’en Rift?
Cave development can occur in deep-seated conditions, without
direct recharge from the surface, by recharge to the cave-forming zone coming
from depth. This type of speleogenesis is termed hypogenic (or hypogene).
The concept of hypogene speleogenesis does not necessarily mean cave
development at great depth but refers to the origin of the cave-forming agency
from depth. Hypogene speleogenesis is defined as the formation of
solution-enlarged permeability structures by water that recharges the cavernous
zone from below, independent of recharge from the overlying or immediately
The following elementary cave patterns are typical (although not
necessarily exclusive) for hypogene speleogenesis:
Single passages or rudimentary networks of passages;
Cavernous edging along transverse hypogene conduits;
Irregular isolated chambers;
Rising, steeply inclined passages or shafts;
Collapse shafts over large hypogenic voids and breccia pipes.
Network maze caves of hypogene origin are known in limestones,
dolomites and gypsum, in mixed limestone-dolomite-gypsum strata, and in
conglomerates. A common feature of network mazes is a very high passage
Rising, steeply inclined passages or shafts are outlets of deep
hypogene systems in which the “root” structure remains unknown in most cases.
Possibly formed by rising thermal waters charged with CO2 and H2S.
Composite 3D systems are comprised of various elementary patterns
at different levels, such as irregular chambers, clusters of network or
sponge-work mazes and rising, subvertical conduits and other morphs connecting
Hypogenic features may become relict but still, remain within
contemporary systems, for example, in a system where original confinement was
breached and the flow pattern reversed from upwelling to descending (Klimchouk,
Alexander Klimchouk. Speleogenesis, Hypogenic in The Encyclopaedia of Caves.
Elsevier, 2012, p748-765
Nick made the following comments (first reported 21/08/2018):
polished nature of the dolomitic conglomerates was noted throughout most of the
cave with hard limestone/dolomitic pebbles and crystalline red marl matrix
having been eroded equally. This erosion pattern is in marked contrast to
the dolomitic conglomerates in Home Close where the softer matrix is eroded
preferentially compared to the limestone pebbles that stick out as knobbly
lumps. The polished erosion pattern is consistent with a base of a
streamway or a passage full of water as opposed to slow dripping of water. As
similar polished conglomerates are clearly seen down the new pitch, as well as
in the roofs of the horizontal passages which are phreatic in shape and have
well developed scalloping, the logical conclusion is that water that initially
formed the pitch was upward flowing. Undoubtedly there has been a limited
amount of inflow from above later in the history of this cave’s development but
it is relatively insignificant in terms of passage dimensions although highly
significant for the development of the formations.”
Duncan and Tav also made some valid comments noted while carrying out
a survey of the cave.
These thoughts might be more salient following a recent paper by
Smart and McArdle published in the UBSS Proceedings Volume 28 (1) 2019,
p65-102, suggesting a hypogenic origin for Denny’s Hole.
It is obvious that further investigation and research is required.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 08, 2019 22:15:40
With Jon, Brockers and Nick
We made a return to the Cold Gnarly North to finish off the job we
had started last weekend. Jon was the first to cross the “sea of slurry” and go
up to the nice dry bit to fill bags. Somehow, Brockers had talked himself into
the cold mucky job in the slurry, I was positioned at the bend in the north
passage just beyond the first “pinch-point”, Nick was at the junction where he
stashed the filled bags and rocks, although some went to the bottom of the
Although my position had started off dry it was soon rather wet
and squalid with a good deal of splashback coming from the haul-rope, at least
the skip route was well lubricated.
Jon cleared the loose debris left-over from the IRS and quite a
bit more stuff too, Brockers busied himself improving the access to the passage
north from the “lake”, Nick, meanwhile was quietly digging something, anything,
it’s like a ‘nervous-twitch’. The stash of spoil was accumulating.
Eventually, it was decided that we shift back and clear-out the accumulated
spoil from the cave. Some quite large boulders had appeared, and they hadn’t
come from the north. They were to stay below ground ready to be hauled-out
another day. There were 64 loads hauled to the surface today, 48 filled bags
and 16 skip-loads of rocks.
The warmth of the June sunshine was very welcome after spending a
couple of hours or so in the Cold Gnarly North.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 02, 2019 06:38:08
With Jon, Nick and Tav
The only plan for today was to clear the debris from last
weekend’s application of IRS up in the Cold Gnarly North. While the others were
packaging the dry bags ready for use later, I went ahead to reel in the wire.
On arrival at the “pinch-point” it was evident that the IRS had
been effective, further progress prevented by a “wall” of shattered rock and
gravel. Initially, spoil removal wasn’t easy, the skip was a bit too big for
the passage and difficult to load, the larger lumps of rock were moved behind
me then, I reversed along the passage, kicking the rocks ahead to a place where
Jon could reach them.
Eventually, I was able to squeeze over the top of the rock and
gravel pile and get into the small “chamber” beyond, from there it was easier
to load the skip and the spoil removal was more rapid. The larger cobbles and
boulders placed directly into the skip, Jon sent up some empty bags for the
smaller cobbles and gravel. Interestingly, as the “wall” of debris was
breached, a feint movement of air could be detected.
We hadn’t finished the rubble clearance, when word come to us that
there was a large accumulation of spoil that needed to be taken up to the
surface. Jon came up to have a brief look at the progress so far, while I set
about with a hammer and chisel to remove some fractured rock flakes from the
roof. We then left to join the others and clear out the cave.
It was noticed that Jon appeared to have a liberal coating of mud,
whether he was particularly happy about this was difficult to gauge, his face
masked in a veil of mud. Apparently, the shallow puddles that had remained in
the “lake” chamber had quickly turned to slurry with the passage of skips, this
creating splashback from the haul-rope and the skips made quite a splash on
arrival. We were, of course, unsympathetic.
It was positively tropical on the surface, and the flies are
starting to make a comeback. It had been noted, that below ground, bluebottles
were annoyingly present. Anyway, today’s final count: 31 bags, filled and
emptied, and 28 skip-loads of rock, more wall building material. There is still
plenty of loose spoil to be removed from the area of the, now former,
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, May 25, 2019 21:03:46
With Duncan, Brockers, Jon, Nick and Tav
I had to collect some supplies at 09:00 and then met the team at
the Hunter’s 10:00. From there we drove down to the farm. I stayed behind for a
while at the farm to prep things, the others got changed and made their way up
to the cave to get digging underway, they carried some of my stuff up to the
cave with them. When I had thing sorted I made my way up to Hallowe’en Rift to
join the others.
The digging team had decided to dig in the Soft South, I picked up
my bags and other gear and headed to the Cold Gnarly North. My plan was to
apply some induced rapid speleogenesis and enlarge the next pinch-point and so
ease progress towards our objective. The puddle wasn’t quite as dry as had been
predicted and there was still some slurry in places, nothing to worry about too
much. Dragged the kit through the constriction and drilled 4no. holes, 12mm
dia. x 550mm length. There wasn’t any sediment around suitable for tamp so
decided to make my way up to the terminal [at
least for now] aven. Looking around I found a ‘ball’ of mud, Trevor’s ‘ball
of tamp’. I returned to the focus of today and completed the next phase, and
then, pushing all my kit ahead, made my way south, unravelling the wire as I went.
The digging team were just finishing up, 100 bags and a rock, the
tally for this session. When all were out of the cave, the proceedings were
brought to a satisfactory end. The cave entrance secured, we made our way back
down to the farm in the warm sunshine, got changed and up to the Hunter’s for refreshments.
Some of the afternoon was spent cleaning kit.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 19, 2019 06:11:54
I attended a Flint Knapping Workshop at Butser Ancient Farm (Chalton,
Hampshire) today. The rest of the team were at Hallowe’en Rift, the following summary
of the morning’s activities penned by Tav:
"Tav, Duncan, Brockers, Jon, Jake and Alex
Tav installed the hose extension into the old dig (which in the
end wasn’t needed) and then headed up to the Cold Gnarly North armed with the
new pump and main hose, which Dunc straightened out to ease the flow of water.
While Tav pumped the pool, the rest of the team continued work in the
Soft South (Jon’s report to follow). The new pump worked very well and cleared
almost all the water until it finally became blocked with slurry when down to
the final dregs. Both pump and hose were later removed for cleaning. With the
water gone, Tav set about clearing the bang debris, which was strewn quite a
long way down the crawl in mostly handy plate-sized lumps. A few larger pieces
were levered off the roof and wall, but these were easily broken up with a lump
hammer. It proved a long drag back down the crawl and across the bed of the
ex-lake, to reach the skip which Dunc hauled up from his familiar position on
the corner. However, all proceeded smoothly and by close of play all the bang
debris had successfully been removed."
Jon' account of the morning's activities:
Tav and Duncan addressed matters in the Cold Gnarly North, the rest of
the team (Jon, Paul, Jake and Alex) resumed work in the Soft South.
returned to underground duties, initially working at the junction.
Alex, who cycled to the morning’s activities, was lightly dressed and
only ventured to
the bottom of the entrance shaft. That left Paul and Jon once again
working at the dig face…
the music stopped. The first time this happened, Alex found himself at
the surface, with Duncan at the bottom of the entrance. The second
had returned North, Jake was at the bottom of the entrance and Jon was
at the junction. At the third time of asking, Alex and Jake shared
surface duties Jon loaded at the entrance and Paul manned the junction…
…and so on.
Total tally for the day from both ends was 70 bags and 16 rocks.
Another useful session."
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 12, 2019 06:49:36
With Brockers, Jon, Duncan, Nick, Jake and Tav
For me, the first stop of the day was to collect the necessary
supplies for the task ahead and then meet the team in the Hunter’s car park at
the allotted time.
In the cave, while the others were digging in the Soft South, I headed
to the Cold Gnarly North to apply the IRS. Keeping the kit out of the puddle
was my main concern; as I had found to my cost previously, lithium ion
batteries do not like getting wet! Luckily there is a shelf on one-side where
the kit could be laid-out. Then to the drilling, I spent some time trying to
work-out whether I could achieve the task in hand and stay reasonably dry, I quickly
came to the realisation that this wasn’t going to be the case. I drilled 4no.
14mm x 260mm pilot holes in the required locations, that was okay, it was the
full length, 12mm x 550mm holes that required me to lie flat-out in the puddle.
Once soaked, I began to feel a bit chilly. Anyway, with a bit of care, the task
was completed and the kit re-packed. I went back to retrieve the wire reel from
where I had left it, Duncan came up to take the drill and bit tube. I returned
through the puddle. All wired-up, I made my way back south to join the team.
Brockers and Jon were digging and filling the last few bags. Duncan,
at the bend/junction was hauling the loaded skip part-way then Nick, at the
bottom of the entrance, pulled the skip the rest of the way. The load was
transferred to the surface skip where Jake and Tav were rotating the hauling
and emptying, in the pleasantly warm morning sunshine. The count for today; 120
loads, 110 bags and 12 loads of rock (some of these were ‘extra’s’ provided by
Nick, who just can’t help himself).
When all were out of the cave, my task was brought to a
satisfactory conclusion. The gate was replaced, and the cave made secure. We left
to walk down to the farm. The usual refreshments at the Hunter’s followed,
although I didn’t tarry long, I was still cold so returned home to soak in a
Just the caving kit and other equipment to clean in the afternoon.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 05, 2019 05:50:40
Note: no activities took place last weekend (27th April). I was over on the Gower
peninsular digging with Jon and Alex at Harry Thomas’s Cave, Overton. Others
had their own commitments.
With Brockers, Duncan, Jon and Jake
The digging effort, once again, was concentrated in the Soft South
due to numbers, and there is still a puddle in the Cold Gnarly North. Brockers
and Duncan were digging and filling bags, Brockers worked on the east-side,
Duncan to the west. I was at the junction (more like a bend, really), Jon at
the bottom of the entrance, Jake on the surface.
While Jon was replacing the skip, I ventured up to the north to
collect some tools and can confirm, there is still a pool of water. As I was
there anyway I had a good look at the way ahead and gave some thought to an
easier solution to moving forward. I arrived at the decision that some ‘rapidly
induced speleogenesis’ might prove fruitful, if I had some help to keep the kit
dry. It’ll be a lot quicker than digging, I’ll ponder and see if I can make
some arrangements. I remembered to collect some tools although the big bar
could not be located.
Back at the dig, we settled into a steady rate of removal and the
banter flowed freely. Now that I was wet, the draught from the south-west
passage was increasingly noticeable, as the session progressed I became cooler.
Towards the end of the session, Duncan had wormed his way into a
small space, a possible cross-rift, that was interesting but requires some more
work to fully see what’s going on. This was the last action of the day and we
exited the cave. Jake had hauled and emptied 66 bags and 2 skip-loads of rock
onto the spoil heap.
Walking back across the fields to the farm, I had a feeling that I
was missing something, then it dawned on me – my camera. I returned to the cave
and to retrieve it – another senior moment!
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 21, 2019 06:20:51
With Brockers, Nick, Jon and Tav
A view from the Junction. Jon to the north assists with the pipe from the pump. To the east Tav, at the bottom of the entrance, contemplates, it was sunny on the surface.
Today circumstances dictated that the digging effort was to be
concentrated beyond the former ‘pinch-point’ in the cold, Gnarly North. The perceived
‘dry and dusty’ conditions did not come to fruition and pumping was deemed to
be required. Unfortunately, this action was a failure, the pump sprang a leak and
did not work, so the pump and all its attachments were removed to be fettled,
back at Tav’s place. This left Nick and Brockers to wallow in a larger than
anticipated pool of slurry at the digging end. They said it was cold, how we
chuckled. Earlier in the session, another skip had been put together and this
was set-up from the dig to the ‘snug’ spot where Jon was lying. This too,
became ‘damp’ as the spoil was transferred between skips. I was at the Junction
and Tav at the bottom of the entrance, where the filled bags and rocks were to
be stashed awaiting removal at the end of the session.
The bags were filled partly with sediment, partly with slurry, it
was a good job that the sediment was granular. It was, rather forlornly, hoped
that the water would drain out and the bags become a bit lighter, it didn’t,
and they weren’t. The skip between myself and Jon soon wore out and became
difficult to haul, so that was replaced, and the hauling was much smoother. Most
things, by now, were liberally coated with slurry and splashbacks were a common
Soon the time came for digging to cease and for the entrance to be
cleared of spoil. The bags hauled out to the surface to be emptied, the rocks
piled ready for walling, a few were added to the wall as a token gesture. Those
of us on the surface rotated the hauling, leaving Brockers, who had been digging,
to load the skip to the surface. This he wasn’t so impressed with, he reckoned
he was cold after lying all morning in the slurry pool in the cold, Gnarl
North. We, however, were warm in the very pleasant spring sunshine – warmest day
of the year so far, I believe. 49 bags were hauled out and emptied plus 10
skip-loads of rock.
Satisfied with the morning’s endeavours and in high spirit, we
departed and made our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for the usual refreshments.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 14, 2019 07:01:50
With Jake, Jon and
Due to other
commitments, a smaller team today so the digging effort continued in the Soft
South. Tav filled bags and moved the occasional rock to Jon, who was positioned
at the junction. I was at the bottom of the entrance hauling the skip away from
Jon and transferring the load to the surface skip, this was hauled out of the
cave by Jake.
It all seemed to
be at an easy-going pace this morning, but at the end of thesession 85 bags
and 16 loads of rock, a total of 101 loads, removed to the surface. A good,
Jon, at the
junction, hauls the skip away from the digger
the bags onto the ever-growing spoil heap
Jake remarked that it been very pleasant on the surface in the
warm spring sunshine with the bird’s singing and only very rarely could a car
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, April 06, 2019 16:51:00
With Jake, Jon,
Duncan and Tav
weekend it required three persons to secure the cave, only one was necessary to
re-open the cave for this session. Given that we were a team of five, when it
was suggested that we should dig in the ‘Soft South’, there wasn’t too much
I went ahead and
clambered down into the cave. I called up for some empty bags and, before I
could get out of the way, I received several packs thrown down the entrance by
those team members remaining on the surface above.
In the ‘Soft
South’ I spent the session lowering the floor of the ‘chamber’, also removing
sediment from the southern and eastern extents. Jon, in between loading the
skip to Duncan, at the bottom of the entrance, modified the skip haul route
into the ‘Soft South’. There had been a delay to the start of today’s
proceedings while Jon had to go across the border, beyond the former
pinch-point, to the ‘Cold Gnarly North’ to search for tools. The bar that had
been used last weekend (lastly, by Brockers, it seems), despite a determined
search, had disappeared. Jon reported back with tools from the north and
commented that there wasn’t as much water in the puddle as might be expected
following this week’s heavy rain. The missing bar was later rediscovered,
buried under a considerable pile of loose spoil that had been left un-bagged.
A couple of
substantial boulders were loosened, then dragged and cajoled to the base of the
entrance, where the surface team comprising Jake and Tav accepted the challenge
of getting them out in their entirety. This task called for the use of two
ropes. A successful challenge completed, and two more fine rocks were on the
surface ready to be used in the base of another stone wall, sometime in the
On the surface it
had turned into a fine and warm spring day. Today’s final tally was 83 loads
out to the surface; 68 bags and 15 loads of rock. Another productive session.
And, I remembered
to pick-up my camera – didn’t take any photos though!
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, April 01, 2019 21:02:59
I attended the Somerset
Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) Annual Archaeology Day at Wells
and Mendip Museum, and was unavailable for the Saturday morning digging session
at Hallowe’en Rift.
report was provided by Jon:
“Five of the team
(Tav, Jon, Duncan, Jake and Paul) met at the appointed hour. Although one
later admitted that it was only because he had nothing better to do on a
attendance a little lower than usual, it was proposed that we should dig in
what is now known as the ‘Soft South’. The motion was carried unanimously,
and the team set off up the hill on what proved to be a fine spring
The decision to
dig south was influenced by the need to keep all team members involved (a key
factor for a successful dig) and by the wish to ensure that all digging spoil
was removed to the surface (another key factor). Another key factor
is the key.
Digging started a
little later than usual.
There was much
debate about who should work where. Digging took place at two faces
during the previous week and involved three of the team. Under the normal
rules of rotation, Tav, Duncan and Paul could all claim a place on the surface
on a fine sunny morning. Paul and Duncan each tabled motion’s claiming
their own right. Tav, as the sagest of the elders on duty, ruled that any vote
on the matter could only be indicative and that the team had to abide by the
house rules. As a result, Jon was moved up the order from surface duties
the previous week, directly to the dig face, with Paul in support. Tav worked
at the bottom of the entrance. Jake and Duncan worked on their sun tans.
81 bags of spoil
were removed along with 25 loads of stone, mainly from the previous week.
At the end of the
session, three members of the team successfully locked the cave, and all
retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment.”
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 24, 2019 07:07:01
With Jake, Jon,
Nick, Duncan, Brockers, Tav and Mike (Moxon)
After digging last
weekend, Jon was on the surface with Jake, who managed to add some more stone
to the wall, but spoil is required to back it up. I was at the bottom of the
entrance, Nick took up position at the junction.
Nick at the
junction, viewed from the bottom of the entrance.
Tav headed down to the “soft” south with an array of new
implements he had purchased from ‘Proper Job’, a good source for cheap digging
tools. Mike, on light duties following some eye surgery, was in the small the
small “chamber” just beyond the former pinch-point. That left Brockers and Dunc
“up-front”, surprisingly, after a dry week, the pump was required, this took
some time to assemble and drain the water away. A miscalculation in the
drainage route resulted in the south passage, downslope from the north,
suddenly becoming much wetter. Some hasty readjustment of the pipe allowed the
water to drain elsewhere.
Soon, the “lake” was
“dry”, digging was underway. Earlier in the session there had been some time
for quiet contemplation, this was soon to end as the bags and rocks began to be
shifted through and out of the cave. Jake and Jon rotated the hauling and
emptying roles, 115 loads of bags and rocks were brought out to the surface,
and there are still rocks left at the bottom of the entrance, including a
rather large one. Its “twin” had been removed with some effort earlier.
On their return
from the north, Brockers and Dunc were cold and a little grumpy, which was of
some amusement to the rest of us. It was obvious from their attire that the
north had been just a little bit squalid. Still, nothing that some refreshments
at a certain local hostelry wouldn’t sort out.
out of the entrance.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 17, 2019 06:48:32
With Tav, Jon,
Dunc, Nick, Jake and Brockers
Jon’s turn in the
“pond”, Dunc chose to be next in-line again and took up position in the small
“chamber” just beyond the former “pinch-point”. It took some time to assemble
the pump and drain away the considerable quantity of water. A task made more
onerous as the pump had been left, in a safe position, on the far side of the
“lake”, the “pond” now re-designated.
Meanwhile, in the
nice dry and comfortable south passage/chamber, I was happily digging away,
filling bags, finding the occasional lump of rock, just an ideal digging spot.
the “lake” was drained, the water that had been spilt lubricating the haul
route, Jon was able to start digging. Tav, at the junction, was soon very busy.
Nick, at the bottom of the entrance, had been “tidying”, the step that had accumulated over many sessions was now gone, the rocks there had joined the pile
on the surface waiting to be incorporated into the ever-growing wall.
digging last session, was on the surface with Jake, hauling out the spoil from
the cave. Jake continued the wall building until a steady flow of bags started
to arrive at the surface to be emptied.
It was another
productive session; 108 loads out to the surface, 81 bags and 27 loads of rock
for the wall.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 17:14:48
Just a brief visit
underground to collect my camera that I managed to leave behind yesterday. Took
a few snaps of the magnificent spoil-heap.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 07:03:19
With Jake, Tav,
Nick, Brockers and Duncan
Tav and Nick discuss prospects to the south.
After some heavy
rain during the week, it was obvious to us that Tav’s pump was going to be
required. The pump was set-up and proved to be very effective, the water soon
was drained away.
Duncan gives Brockers a helping hand to set-up the pump.
The water gone,
Brockers was able to dig away to his heart’s content. Merrily filling bags,
some of them with very sloppy sediment, and loading rocks into the skip. Duncan
was next in line, lying in the small chamber, aiding the skip along its route
to me at the junction. Once again, I had made a small error and suggested Nick
might go south and dig there. He was in his element. It was a busy session for
me, Tav at the bottom of the entrance and, especially, for Jake who hauled up ~85
skip-loads to the surface; ~70 filled bags and ~15 loads of rock, including one
rather weighty boulder that required the use of the strops. Good wall building
the two most enthusiastic ‘fillers of bags’ digging in tandem, it was necessary,
at times, for me to decant some of the bags to more suitable weights for
hauling out of the cave, and so easing some of the pressure on Jake’s back. At
the close of the session, Nick found some large boulders that he happily
reduced in size to more manageable proportions. These were then rolled to the
bottom of the entrance where they await extraction.
It had been another
productive and convivial digging session, rounded off with a stop at the Hunter’s
Lodge Inn for the customary refreshments.
NOTE: the digging effort, at present, is concentrated on the enlargement
of the north-west leading passage, to the south-west side of the entrance (towards
Trevor Hughes old dig). Also, there has been some activity in the opposite
direction on the south-side.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 03, 2019 07:27:45
Brockers, Jon, Nick and Jake
The induced rapid
speleogenesis applied last Sunday morning had the desired effect and we were
presented by a considerable pile of fractured rock and gravel. This took quite
some time and effort to remove. I went ahead, scraping back the gravel and
fractured rock to Tav, who was bagging up the gravel and loading the skip with
rock. Brockers and Jon then dispatched the spoil to the surface where it was
being dealt with by Nick and Jake.
was enough space to get past the debris and get to work with a small bar to
remove the loose and fractured rock, clearing it back to Tav. When that task
was completed, Tav moved forward, passing me to reach ‘Nick’s pond’, which
wasn’t too wet today. Brockers was able to take up occupation of the position I
had held for the last few weeks. He set about enlarging the passage towards
Tav. I moved back, clearing away the last remnants of gravel and fractured rock
before heading out to the surface to assist Jake. Jon was at the junction, Nick
had moved down to the bottom of the entrance, trying to entice Jon into some surreptitious
removal of an imaginary obstruction. How does the saying go, “idle hands make
That aside, it had
been another enjoyable and productive session; ~100 loads out to the surface,
>60 bags and over 30 skip-loads of rock, more material for the wall.
The banter and
joviality continued at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, where we partook of the usual
refreshments after a mornings hard digging.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 21:11:18
day weather-wise and it was a warm walk up the hill to the cave with kit.
Lowered the bags down the entrance, then pushed them through to the north-west
passage. There, the bags were clipped together to form a train and I dragged
them through to the other side of the pinch-point. It took a bit of
organisation to arrange the kit neatly in the somewhat confined space. The
drilling was a tad awkward, so I sank some pilot-holes in the required spots. I
managed to snap a drill-bit but luckily, I had another one. I took a lot more
care finishing the 4no. holes with a 550mm drill-bit. All the holes primed and
tamped, kit packed away and the bags, carefully, pushed through the pinch-point,
I pulled the hauling line out of the way too. All wired up the mornings task
was bought to a satisfactory conclusion on the surface. Disturbed a couple of
pheasants. Hopefully, there will be some more rock for the wall to clear out
That’s phase one
of dismantling the ‘backstop’ to allow the free movement of people and
materials to pass unhindered between the north and south completed.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 06:52:51
With Nick, Tav,
Brockers, Jonathon, Jake and Alex
A strong team
today, seven of us. Note that I’ve resisted the temptation to add the prefix
For the fourth
week in a row, Nick was dispatched to his pond, although this was almost dry
after a week of fine weather. Once again, I passed through the pinch-point to
take up position in the snug, low chamber I had cleared out during the last few
sessions. Tav was “up the junction”, a decision he was later to rue. I had
suggested to Brockers that he might find some suitable wall-building material
in the southern passage, where Trevor Hughes et. al. had dumped most of the digging
spoil in the 1980s. This is also, an area that Willie Stanton had suggested
there may be some potential for palaeontological remains. He also thought it
was a resurgence but that in now believed to be unlikely. Tav was to be very
busy, when Brockers and Nick got underway, occasionally I was able to add a few
loads too. Brockers found some very decent large boulders, ideal for
wall-building, but a challenge to get out to the surface.
Jon, at the bottom
of the entrance, was responsible for dispatch, Alex on hauling duties today.
Sixty-six filled bags and more than three-dozen skip-loads of rock, well over
100 loads out today. Alex mentioned that his arms and shoulders were a little
sore, he’ll get over it.
Anyway, it was a nice
morning on the surface in the warm ‘spring-like’ sunshine.
pinch-point will be dealt with and others can delight in the joy of Nick’s
pond, that is, currently a ‘dust bowl’ (Nick’s
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 17, 2019 08:10:20
Jonathon, Alex and Jake
The plan was to
continue to enlarge the north-west passage. Unfortunately, Tav didn’t make it
today so, neither did the pump. Nick was, sort of, volunteered to bail-out the
pond of his own making. When he got there, Nick was relieved to find the water
level was quite low and it didn’t take long to bail the water out. It was
noticeable that, after a dry week, the drips were not so pronounced. I was back
in the same position as last weekend and managed to get some bags filled and slabs
shifted, not many though as Nick was sending back a steady supply of bags and
rocks. Jon was at the junction, where we had removed the ‘boardwalk’, and was now
clearing away the accumulated detritus that had been around and under it. Alex was
at the bottom of the entrance, hauling away the spoil and loading the skip to
the surface to be pulled up by Jake. Jake had constructed a wooden platform
that straddled the entrance, making it easier underfoot and more stable for his
conditions are not ideal at the moment, it was an enjoyable session with a
constant flow of banter and not too much character assassination this morning.
By the end of the session 55 loads had been hauled out to the surface: 35 bags
and 20 skip-loads of rock ready to be added to the wall, when there is time.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 10, 2019 08:36:32
Jonathon, Tav and a massive welcome back to Jake
A jovial group of
diggers ventured up the hill from the farm to the cave entrance. The loose
bags, left-out to dry at the end of the last digging session, were packed-up
and dispatched to below ground. I descended the entrance and headed to the
north-west passage followed by Jon. Nick and Tav followed on too. Jake, still
recovering from knee surgery, remained on the surface to begin constructing
another spoil retaining wall.
got to the pinch-point but not quite through it. After turning around to have a
look, and a discussion I could now see what needed to be removed to make it
passable for all. I will have to arrange with the supplier, a Sunday morning
collection soon. At present, work commitments rule out a mid-week evening trip.
It was then decided that Nick go to the end
and dig because he would be happier there. And he needed to confirm his
thoughts last session that he was digging a pond. This, indeed, turned out to
be the case. There was a lot of water and some hasty improvisation of equipment
was required to remove it. The removal of the water ensured that the passage
was now well lubricated, some might have suggested, squalid. Eventually, it was
almost dry enough to dig and spoil removal could commence. To supplement Nick’s
endeavours, I filled some bags with loose sediment from the position I was
lying in, made a little more space for myself too. Strangely, lying in the squalor
of liquid slurry, I find the passage to be rather aesthetically pleasing,
lights reflecting off the glimmering slurry and constantly dripping water. It was
cold though now that I was completely soaked, glad that I had decided to wear a
fleece undersuit today. There were some grumbles from the entrance, where Tav
was stacking the filled bags, regarding the weight of some bags, unfortunately,
this fell on deaf ears and Nick carried on regardless.
Soon it was time
to move back and deal with the products of today’s effort. Some bags were
easier to empty than others. Thirty-nine bags and three skip-loads of rock were
disposed off on the surface. During our time underground, Jake had constructed
a fine wall and had used most of the available rock. We will have to create some
more very soon.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, February 05, 2019 21:29:06
Due to some adverse
weather conditions, quite a lot of snow, digging activities for today were
cancelled. Jonathon made a gallant effort to make the Hunter’s but was thwarted
when he came across a damsel in distress on the Old Bristol Road. I think she
had managed to park in the hedge and needed some assistance to free her
notesPosted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 27, 2019 12:00:10
Thanks to Gina Moseley we have some more dates on speleothems sampled from Hallowe'en Rift.
230TH Age (yr BP) Corrected
HR1-T 215,221 +/- 2476
HR1-B 219,378 +/- 2429 correlates with MIS7
HR2-T 125,341 +/- 1532
HR2-B 126,834 +/- 2197 correlates with MIS5e
BP stands for "Before Present" where the "Present" is defined as the year AD 1950.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 27, 2019 06:58:10
Jonathon, Nick and Tav
After the lurgy
and a week at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Lab, it was good to
get back into Hallowe’en Rift for my first digging session of 2019.
The plan this
session was to continue the enlargement of the passage along to Trevor’s Old
Dig, trending circa north-west. There had been some mention of a ‘pinch-point’
so this is where some of the effort was directed. Nick set-off to the end so
that he could free an old bang wire that was impeding the skip hauling.
Meanwhile, I started to remove some of the loose material that had been stashed
to the sides of the passage just beyond the pinch-point to make more room. Nick
returned and asked that I pull the old wire through, that done, Nick started to
enlarge the passage about 6m beyond me, his plan was to see if could remove
layers of calcite from the floor and so. Enlarge the passage. He did wonder
whether, or not, he was digging a pond, I guess we’ll find out next session. Filled
bags and rocks were being removed at a steady rate to Tav, positioned at the
junction, who re-directed the skip to Brockers, at the bottom of the entrance. To
keep himself occupied in between loads, Brockers had decided to do some ‘tidying’,
keeping Jon, on the surface, busy. There was an occasional grumble from above
ground, ‘Nick bag’, too heavy, too claggy, very difficult to empty, below
ground, the comments passed by.
Today’s count: 76
loads, 54 filled and emptied bags and 22 skip-loads of rock. It had been
another productive session and I, for one, enjoyed it!
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, January 08, 2019 07:33:56
I had succumbed,
like so many others, to the lurgy and so, was out of action. Jonathon sent the
following summary of the morning’s activity at Hallowe’en Rift, the first session
of the year:
“We were down to
two diggers - Jon and Paul.
there was little to do with just two, we took a quick look to the East.
There were a few pools of water, but not as bad as expected. Specifically,
we went to have another look at the cross rift just after Thou Shall Not Dig
Here. We removed a few rocks until we could get a better view and then
decided it was not worth trashing the place any further. I cannot see any
reason to dig there now.
We returned to
Trevor 's old dig and removed what we could. We then cleared the rocks from
the entrance. The count: 8 bags and 23 loads of stone.”
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 30, 2018 09:06:46
With Jon and Brockers
Finally managed to hand-over goodwill bag to Mark, who was in the
yard when we arrived at the farm.
Up the hill at Hallowe’en Rift, the loose bags were packed up and
the packs stored underground. We decided to start the quest along the
north-west passage, the enlargement began. Jon digging, assisted by Brockers,
my task was to stack the filled bags in the entrance for removal later. Some
very large slabs were removed and required a considerable effort to drag them
back to the entrance where I could reduce them to more manageable pieces.
Sediment removal wasn’t easy.
usual the last act of the morning was to haul-out the filled bags, 21 of them
and a couple of rocks, the rest of the rocks were left at the bottom of the
entrance. The bags were not easy to empty, the sediment was claggy and placed
into wet bags, then compressed while stashed in the entrance. Still, it was an
enjoyable morning’s digging session and I had remembered the WD40 to give the
lock some care and attention.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 23, 2018 08:42:40
With Jon, Brockers and Nick.
Nick turned-up with a large, heavy bar to try and deal with an
obstruction underground. At Hallowe’en Rift, Nick went ahead to attempt to
remove the obstructing slab of rock, although he required some assistance to
get the bar down the entrance. Jon, Brockers and me had decided to clear-out
the accumulation of rocks at the bottom of the entrance. The smaller ones were
loaded into the skip, the large ones placed into a strop we had devised,
specifically for rock removal, the rock-net had long ago been purloined by
persons unknown. The strop was effective, and thirty-six loads of rock were
hauled-out to the surface. Brockers argued that some of the larger boulders
were worth four skips but this was discounted. When the rocks were cleared we
made our way underground to assist Nick. The large bar didn’t have the desired
effect and the obstruction remains, so we worked around it. Spoil removal proceeded
at a rather sedate pace today, the digging is a bit constricted and awkward.
Discussions took place, in my opinion we should put digging along
the south-west passage on the back-burner and switch the effort to follow the passage
trending north-west (Trevor Hughes’ old dig), at least that is going in the
At the end of the session twenty-five filled bags were hauled-out
and emptied and a further eight skip-loads of rock. There are plenty of stones
on the surface for wall building now.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 16, 2018 07:47:36
With Jon, Duncan, Nick and Brockers
It was a wet and miserable morning with a cold south-easterly
wind, not a good day to spend too long on the surface, everyone underground.
Brockers digging with assistance from Duncan, Nick was at the mid-way haul
position, I was sat at the junction, Jon stacking the spoil in the entrance.
In between bags, Nick, of course, began some surreptitious
excavation, “clearing around a large stal boss” he said. I, too, bagged up some
loose stones that were lying on the floor of the south-east passage. We were
mindful not to use too many of the dry bags that had been stored below ground
or someone (Jon) would have to retrieve some wet bags from the surface. Jon reported
that the trickle down the entrance had become a small stream as the rain got
heavier, I could hear the wind blowing from where I was.
Eventually though it was time to bite the bullet and some of us
return to the surface to haul-out and empty the bags, 45 of them, the rocks
were left to accumulate at the bottom of the entrance again. Nick and I did have
a brief discussion regarding another wall extension being necessary, but that’s
a job for another [drier] day. We were all rather damp as we made out way back
down to the farm.
At the Hunter’s we met Ivan Sandford who had been clearing out his
containers and he donated some long ropes to the cause, very useful.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 09, 2018 13:51:11
With Jon, Brockers and Nick
Jon digging, Brockers assisting, I went to the mid-way hauling
position because Nick had gone on a quest to explore the ‘north-west passage’.
Bags and the occasional rock were temporarily stashed at the mid-way point
until Nick returned from his exploration. Actually, he had gone up to look at
Trever Hughes old dig back in the 80s. On his return the back-log was soon
cleared and we settled down to an evenly paced session. In between skips Nick
fettled the ‘boardwalk’ and started to tidy-up the south-east chamber where TH
had dumped most of the spoil from his dig. Willie Stanton, back in the 80s,
suggested this might have been an area where bones could be found.
Eventually it was time to move back clear-out the filled bags (36
of them) to the surface where they could be emptied. The rocks were left for
another day, the stone supply for wall building is growing steadily.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 02, 2018 09:12:05
Brockers, Jonathon, Duncan and Alex
Alex, Brockers, Jonathon and Duncan disappeared underground to get
the digging underway and started to fill bags and shift rocks. Nick remained on
the surface for a short time to build some wall, I passed some rocks to Nick
and generally tidied up.
Soon it was just me on the surface and I was thankful that the
rain earlier this morning had passed over. The bags and rocks started to arrive
at a steady rate and there wasn’t any spare time to add to the wall. The bags
were all emptied, the sediment compacted into the space behind the wall that
Nick had created earlier. It was warm work and I was kept busy.
At the very end of the digging session, Nick returned to the
surface to help haul out the last few bags and rocks. A total of 82 loads out of
the cave, 62 filled bags and 20 skip-loads of rocks. A large pile of rocks
remains at the bottom of the entrance ready for shifting out next session, all
good stuff for wall building.
I was thirsty and the refreshments at the Hunter’s were very
welcome. Another productive session.
notesPosted by Vince Simmonds Thu, November 29, 2018 14:37:13
Published in December's issue of Descent, 2018.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 28, 2018 20:49:05
A gentler, more considered solo digging trip to retrieve some
small mammal bones that Alex had noticed and pointed out on Saturday. The
remains are relatively recent. The animal bones were recorded (photographed)
in-situ before carefully lifting and placing in a sample bag. They will be
washed and dried tomorrow before identification and recording.
Whilst digging noticed this ichneumon wasp, I think it’s Diphyus pallatorius, managed to get a few photos. Note the yellow banding on the antenna.
Not a long trip and didn’t bother to stop at the Hunter’s this evening.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, November 26, 2018 07:08:04
With Alex, Jonathon, Duncan, Brockers and Nick
We continued the quest to the south-west. My turn to be up-front
digging, Alex was next in line and did some extra widening of the passage, Jonathon,
also moonlighting, in between skips, Duncan and Brockers sorted out the distribution
of filled bags to the surface where Nick was on the end of the hauling rope –
85 loads up the entrance and emptied.
By the end of the session, the pinch point was just about big
enough to wriggle through and get to where we had been digging in the early
90s. I could see the obstruction ahead that had frustrated us back in the day, I
also retrieved some digging tools that had not seen any action for nearly 28
years, the chisel will be ok but the wooden handle of the lump-hammer was
Saturday evening was the Digging Thingy at the Hunter’s. I put up the
Frost and Ice poster produced for the recent BCRA Cave Science Symposium in
Bristol and gave a presentation on Hallowe’en Rift (pdf below). The cave came second, I didn’t
enter HR, someone else must have.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 18, 2018 07:50:59
With Brockers, Jonathon, Nick and Alex
While the empty bags were being removed from the drying line, I
took the opportunity to go underground and have a quick look at progress so
far. The enlargement of the south-west passage to hands and knees crawling
rather than a flat-out wriggle is an improvement and means that removable of
obstructions is easier. Haven’t reached the limit attained in the early 90s yet
and looking at the size of passage immediately ahead, squeezes we easily passed
back then, we must have been keen!
Nick joined me, and we swapped places. Nick started digging and
filling bags, I hauled the skip back and transferred the load to another skip,
Alex hauled that away, then Jon took over hauling the skip to the bottom of the
entrance. The filled bags were hauled up to the surface by Brockers who then
proceeded to empty the bags, 57 of them and a skip load of rocks. The empty
bags re-bundled, ready to go back underground at the end of the session.
In between hauling the skip, Alex became distracted by an obstruction
that wobbled the skip and occasionally caused it to tip over, spending a long
time cursing it and hitting it with a lump hammer and chisel. Eventually, some
progress was made, and Alex returned to hauling the skip, he seemed pleased
with his achievement.
At the end of the session, I returned to the end to discuss with
Nick the best way to remove an annoying obstruction, a calcited slab of
conglomerate. The outcome of the discussion was to dig to the left-hand side of
the calcited slab, possibly exposing more of it, enabling removal, or by-passing
it all together. A metre or so ahead the passage is much roomier, progress will
Back at the shed, we shared the bubbly, my 501st trip.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 14, 2018 06:26:25
My 500th trip into Hallowe’en Rift.
The purpose of this trip was to try and capture some images of the
low stuff approaching An Unexpected Development, to show it how it really is. The
cave is still very dry. Got some good photos too.
On exiting the cave, Roz presented me with a bottle of bubbly, which was unexpected. At the Hunter’s I was surprised to see Alex there, then Jonathon turned up, apparently summoned by Roz. Then, Roger bought out a fruit cake that Roz had baked earlier to celebrate the 500th trip. Bloody marvellous!
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 11, 2018 08:08:31
With Brockers, Nick, Alex and Jonathon
Brockers experienced the “loneliness of a long-distance digger”
far away from Nick, who was hauling the skip with filled bags, and digging a
hole in the middle of the skip-run, why, something about trying to
remove an obstructing lump of conglomerate and calcite. Maybe, a Gaia effect was anticipated whereby, a hole
dug somewhere will result in the offending bulge disappearing, who knows. Alex was at the junction,
also helping to haul the skip on its journey to be emptied at the entrance
where, initially, Jonathon was positioned. I had headed east, along Merlin’s to
the top of the slope where I retrieved the last of the tat left there, a 20-litre
container and some tools. On the way back, I dismantled the remainder of the
bridge over the pot, the iron ladder and boards would be useful in the current
When I got back the entrance, Jonathon went up to the surface
after swapping the worn-out skip for an undamaged one. I took over the hauling.
The accrued back-log of bags at the entrance were hauled out to the surface and
we settled down to a steady rate. In between hauling bags, Alex and I fettled
the skip-run by positioning the ladder and boards retrieved earlier, making a
wider, more effective skip-run over the drainage channel.
Jon’s initial enthusiasm for being on the surface in the sunshine
was all too brief and was soon dampened as the rain came down.
It was another productive session, although I have no idea of the
progress made, I suppose I will get a look soon.