Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

Excursions [and other notes] involved in the exploration of Hallowe'en Rift; a cave, so far, formed within Triassic Dolomitic Conglomerate.

The exploration of Hallowe'en Rift was started in 1982 by Trevor Hughes with other members of the Bristol Exploration Club, then during the early 1990's Vince Simmonds and other, mostly, local diggers were active at a number of locations within the cave, including the start of the present dig with Graham Johnson in December 1991. The current phase of exploration was commenced in 2009, with the majority of the early work being carried out by Vince Simmonds and Alex Gee, now the regular team includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Matt Tuck, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price and Mike Moxon. There has been occasional help from others including Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, with a couple of guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

14th August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 15, 2018 06:47:35

With Roz, Duncan, Tav, Nick, Brockers and Jonathon.

I went with Roz to the new extension of An Unexpected Development to take some photo’s, Duncan, Tav and Jon went to Trick or Treat area to continue with the survey, Brockers and Nick went down the rift to start building a wall and do a bit of digging.

Photo’s done, ended up at the top of the rift where we met Jon emerging from the annex chamber. Nick and Brockers ascended the pitch and before leaving the cave, a loose boulder was removed from a precarious situation and some more loose gravel and cobbles cleared from the head of the pitch.

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11th August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 12, 2018 11:09:40

With Brockers, Nick, Jonathon, Duncan, Tav and Alex.

A bit of a consolidation session was planned for this morning. Brockers and Nick set off into An Unexpected Development descending the rift to start digging at the bottom, Brockers re-rigged the ladder and line on the way. Jon and I helped carry tools to the rift before marking-out a pathway to avoid the formations along the approach passage to the rift. Duncan and Tav were surveying, while Alex went to some less well visited areas in the cave to collect the tat that has left behind, a cave de-clutter is going to be done.

To the right-hand side of the breakthrough point into An Unexpected Development, another small gap had been noticed. While surveying on Wednesday evening, Duncan and Tav had recorded a length of 6m with the Disto X, an upper continuation of the passage beyond some calcite formations. Me and Jon decided to enlarge the gap and see what lay beyond. After clearing away the loose gravel and cobbles we encountered a rather obstinate boulder that, at first, I thought was solid floor, but after scratching around it for a while, I managed to jam the small pick under an edge and it moved. Eventually, we managed to remove the boulder and with a bit more digging I was able to wriggle through into the passage beyond. I went forward a few metres to look around a left corner and returned, “better get the others” I said to Jon, who was busy enlarging the squeeze. Jon went to the rift and called down to Brockers and Nick. When they reached us, Brockers went on to find Duncan, Tav and Alex. Jon and I continued to enlarge the squeeze and wait for the team to arrive.

We were sat at the corner, when voices could be heard from a small hole above us, there is a connection to the small rift chamber before the low crawl to An Unexpected Development. All assembled, Brockers led the way followed by Alex and the rest of the team. A sizeable well decorated chamber was entered. There were some big formations, again with evidence of fracture and re-growth. Around a right-hand corner the passage closed-down, although continuations beyond some calcite formations and a low sediment filled bedding were noticed it was thought these probably led to known sections of the cave. Later, the survey confirmed this. Not worth pursuing. While Duncan and Tav surveyed the new section, I went to join Brockers and Nick digging at the bottom of the rift, Jon and Alex continued with the de-cluttering.

It was soon time to exit the cave. On the surface, a brief discussion as the cave was secured, 30m is the surveyed length of the new extension, 80m in a week. Another very satisfying session!

Below, the latest line survey carried out by Duncan and Tav, later, drawn by Tav.

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Latest Survey

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 10, 2018 06:57:46

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8th August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, August 09, 2018 07:05:54

With Roz, Nick, Mike, Tav, Jon, Brockers, Duncan and Alex.

Photographs by Roz.

A big group assembled tonight but, plenty of room in the cave. Between us we dragged enough kit to rig several pitches. Nick leading the way followed by Mike and Roz, the rest of us were in the cave on Saturday when the breakthrough was made. They were impressed.

At the rift, Nick and Mike descended to the jammed boulder, while Brockers and I put in a bolt and tied-off another hand-line (later, a ladder was put in place). We then descended to the jammed boulder, bolted and rigged a ladder and line for the descent to the bottom of the rift. Nick descended first. From the bottom of the ladder, a steeply sloping floor goes down northwards. The floor is comprised of very loose, very shattered calcite flowstone and other formations, probably the result of earth movements (or frost shatter). The way on is choked, more digging will be required yet. We spent some time removing several boulders, cobbles and gravel, a gap can be seen and there is good air movement. We can remain optimistic.

Meanwhile, Duncan and Tav were surveying the latest discovery, c.50m of passage, this brings recent progress to c.90m, good going!

When the team had had their fill, photo’s taken, it was time to exit. It’s a proper caving trip now. To the Hunter’s for refreshments, of course.

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4th August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 05, 2018 08:29:32

An unexpected development!

With Jonathon, Duncan, Tav, Brockers and Alex.

The first task of the day was to set-up a drag tray to make the digging in the low bedding a bit easier. That done, I went into the bedding and filled the skip, Jon then hauled the full skip back to the rift chamber and bagged the contents, the bags then sent on their way to be stashed in the entrance. The spoil mostly comprised variable sized lumps and slabs of degraded and fractured calcite flowstone, occasionally some finer sediment. Progress along the low bedding was quite rapid and it wasn’t too long before I was able to gain access to the roomier chamber on the south-side (wrong direction). A quick scan of the chamber, some gardening to make it more comfortable, then, at the base of a marl-filled fissure a small gap was noticed, beyond which a mud-covered floor could be seen. “There has been an unexpected development” I called back to Jon, who followed me through into the chamber, later Duncan joined us. I pulled some rocks from the small gap and soon it was just big enough to wriggle through on my back kicking finer sediment ahead of me. I was gobsmacked by what I saw, a roomy chamber with some very fine formations, at the end, an opening to a continuation, the air was cool. Jon and Duncan followed me through, it was decided that we should get the others and Duncan went back to get them. While we were waiting the access-point was enlarged.

The team was soon assembled in the chamber, there was excitement, Jon led on through the window into the space beyond, taking care to avoid a rather fine, but vulnerable, stalactite. I followed Jon and was surprised to see him standing-up, “got a ladder” he said. He was standing on the edge of a rift c.15-20m deep. Everyone came through and it was an exhilarating experience after all these years. Tav tentatively descended the slope with Alex but they decided a handline was required and came back-up, Brockers went back to the sit-up chamber to get a rope. Meanwhile, I partly descended to the slope and dug my way into an annex chamber, a continuation of the main rift. I returned to find the handline was in place and climbed down to a jammed rock part way down the rift, from the boulder a clear drop to the floor below. It was decided that we should return with bolts and ladders so that a safe descent to the bottom could be made. A traverse across the rift and scan with a torch revealed what looks to be a continuation, but that will be confirmed later in the week. We exited the cave to clear the bags from the entrance, perhaps for the last time.

After the survey had been carried-out a couple of weeks ago, Tav had mentioned that we really needed to go north or go down – well the cave has done both of those. Just goes to show persistence pays off.

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28th July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 29, 2018 09:13:56

With Alex, Jonathon, Jake and Brockers.

Alex digging, lowering the floor of the rift to be able to get into the passage beyond. Meanwhile, there was a backlog of spoil to shift from Thursday’s activities. I loaded the skip to Jonathon who hauled it along to the sit-up chamber, there he transferred the load to another skip hauled by Jake to the slope. Jake then man-handled the load up the slope, into another skip down to Paul on the haul and shuttle. Pouring a little water down the passage makes the skip hauling much easier. The spoil was stacked at the bottom of the entrance to be removed later.

Eventually, Alex made enough room to gain access to the low passage and make some forward progress. Filling a couple of bags then dragging them back, sometimes with a few stones too, and passed them up to me in the rift where the spoil was dispatched on its journey to the entrance pile.

At the end of the session, I swapped places with Alex to have a look at the dig. Wriggled forward over some lumpy sediment, brushed loose stuff aside and gained another couple of metres in the low, but wide, passage. Can’t really see the full extent to the left and ahead, a lot more clearance required, but to the right it does appear roomier, in-line with the east/west rift. There is a big stal boss on the floor and I think some cryogenic crystals on the roof – need my specs to see properly, next session, bring the camera too.

It was time to make our way out of the cave and to clear the pile of bags and rocks from the entrance. Thirty-nine bags were hauled out and emptied, Jon had used a couple to fill holes along the haul route to ease the passage of the skip. There were lots of rocks too, but no-one was counting, at least thirty probably. Plenty of wall building material now available. It had been another good session, but not the passage gained as hoped, still plenty to do.

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26th July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, July 27, 2018 06:50:13

Due to meetings, work commitments and some other reasons the Wookey Hole digging team was rather depleted only Jake and Jonathon were available. Not much the two of them could achieve in the sand dig in 20 so they went to Hallowe’en Rift.

At the draughting dig, the floor was lowered, the filled bags and rock stacked in any space available, and the large slab of degraded flowstone removed and reduced to more manageable pieces. The way ahead is still obstructed but the digging is easier, mostly smaller slabs and finer sediment.

The team were enthused when we met-up later after the progress meeting with Wookey Hole Caves.

The survey drawn by Tav, latest section in red 40m, overall cave length 220m.

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24th July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 25, 2018 06:45:46

With Jake and Tav

I wanted to look at the current dig to see whether an application of IRS might be required and to photograph the fractured stal in the north/south rift at the [current] furthest point of the passage, perhaps evidence for earth movements. Jake is off to Scotland for a month, also wanted to get a good look at the current dig. Tav thought it a good time to get some surveying done. We did all those things. About 40m of passage surveyed. A good evening and the prospects ahead look very encouraging.

The way forward is obstructed by some slabs of degrading flowstone, they are loose but there’s not quite enough space to shift them. The floor can be dug-out to give more room for progress to be made. About 4m ahead there appears to be more space and there is cool air movement.

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21st July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 23, 2018 15:41:19

I had spent the early part of the week (16th-19th) at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Labs attending an intensive but informative course “The History of the British Fauna: wild and domesticate vertebrates”. The course was delivered through lectures and practical sessions.

Following the three-day course, a visit to Creswell Crags, including a tour of the museum and caves to see the faunal remains and some of Britain’s oldest ‘cave-art’

Unfortunately, the latter part of the week was marred by some negative correspondences, which meant I wasn’t really in the mood to go digging in Hallowe’en Rift. Others did, and their report follows:

“John, Jake, Paul, Alex

Paul and Jake went to the new chamber, where Paul started digging in the floor’

Whilst Jake loaded the spoil in to skips that passed to Alex at the stal boss and thence to John who stacked them on the slope. After 26 bags and 13 skip-loads of rock had been removed, the whole team then moved back and cleared the days efforts out of the entrance. It was noticed that whilst Paul was removing spoil from the pot, the draught increased considerably, making things very chilly indeed; Moving Jake to complain of having white finger.

The prospects ahead look very good, with 3-4 metres of passage being visible, with airspace of 5-6 inches over a bed of rock slabs and stal, overlying gravel.”

Tav, obviously with too much time on his hands, came up with the following statistics:

“Based on your blog here's a list of the number of trips (i.e. time and effort) expended by the current team since 1991.

Vince - 478 trips; Tav – 217; Jake – 214; Alex – 173; Nick – 166; Jon – 86; Brockers – 64; Matt – 39; Roz – 26; Dunc – 17; Mike M – 10.


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14th July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 15, 2018 08:28:20

As previously mentioned, the title “Up the Garden Path” has been used elsewhere, in line with some recent correspondences, Jake has suggested the name “The EGO has landed!”.

Duncan and Naomi’s wedding today. Only Jonathon and Alex were available to keep up the good work in Hallowe’en Rift. Alex penned the following summary (edited):

“A diminished but strong team today. It was initially quite warm underground with little sign of the draught. This was to change!

Jon and Alex went to the new chamber “The EGO has landed!” and discussed what best to do. The advice of the sage elders was ignored, the feckless youths deciding to follow their senses, the draught, and the moon milk instead! Therefore, Jon started to dig out the floor of the pot, whilst Alex broke up the boulders from the previous session. Once the boulders were removed, Jon continued to dig downwards in the pot, and Alex retreated to the original rift chamber to haul and stack the spoil Jon was removing; Whilst in between loads, battering the calcite boulder that impinges on the new skip run. As Jon removed spoil from the pot, the draught returned, and the air became distinctly chilly again.

After digging ceased, Alex returned to the chamber to find that at the bottom of the pot, Jon had uncovered a strongly draughting bedding plane appearing to head due north. 2-3 inches of airspace is extant in the bedding and it appears to be filled with small rocks, formerly bedded stal and gravel. This is probably the best prospect for now?

20bags and five skip loads of rocks were removed to the surface.”

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10th July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 11, 2018 06:44:54

With Nick, Jonathon, Jake, Alex, Brockers, Duncan and Tav.

Nick was digging, Alex on the haul and shuttle, Tav and I were on the surface, the rest of the team positioned themselves wherever they needed to be to move spoil out of the cave.

Initially, Tav was hauling and I was emptying bags and adding rocks to the wall. Then, Alex moved up to the slope and I went below ground to do the haul and shuttle. Later, Alex returned to do the haul and I continued with the shuttling, a back-log to clear. As the session was nearly over, I decided to go up to the end to have a look at progress. We must have gained c.20m during the last few sessions, in fits and starts maybe but good progress. From the rift chamber entered 30/06/18, the way forward leads north-east to east, low c. 0.4m but there is width c.2m, although it does pinch in on either side, the low passage continues c.10m then further progress is stopped at a speleothem blocked north to south aligned fissure. Here are some fine fractured stalactites 100mm to 150mm dia. lying on the floor (?). Although air movement can be detected at this point, it seems much diminished. A clear direction forward is not obvious, yet. The current approach through the low passage is minimalist and requires some further attention, the best way to proceed might then be better assessed. The glimpse of something to the north is still a possible option, as is keeping east and following the line of the west to east aligned fissure. Still, all good stuff and the skip route is much improved.

It was time to leave. 55 skip-loads of spoil – bags and rocks – were hauled out to the surface, a fine effort for a Tuesday evening, and another successful outcome, more metres gained.

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7th July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 09, 2018 06:36:43

I was away on Gower this weekend but Tav penned an account of Saturday’s activity in Hallowe’en (it has been slightly edited).

“Tav, Nick, Jonathan, Jake, Duncan, Brockers & Alex.

A strong team assembled for what promised to be a particularly busy session. Three main tasks were planned. First was to clear the bang debris created the previous Tuesday. Second was to complete excavation of the crawl to the new chamber discovered last week and install a new return skip, and third was to begin work on opened the continuation of the bedding beyond the new rift chamber. This had provisionally been named Up the Garden Path but as there already is one in Withybrook Slocker it will have to be renamed.

While Tav set about installing the new skip and examining the bedding-plane, the rest of the team began removing the bang debris. Nick was behind Tav, with Jonathan and Jake between him and Duncan, who was situated at the top of the slippery slope. Brockers drew the short straw and spent a non-stop session on the haul and shuttle, passing them on to Alex to haul them out to the surface. Nick then moved up to enlarge the entrance end of the new skip run, while Tav enlarged the other. This was quickly sorted, and attention shifted to pushing the pointy end. Using an obvious access point located to one side of a fake ‘T’old Man’s Wall’, situated immediately above the pot in the floor, Tav quickly gained 3m of wide and continuing bedding plane. The possible black space to the north proved to be a mirage – the only way on being the main route to the east which continued in fine style. Numerous slabs were quickly removed and sent out of the cave before proceedings were slowed slightly by a very large flowstone boss, which obstructed access to what appeared to be more open passage beyond. A combination of Tav, Nick and especially Jake, eventually persuaded the very large slab to exit the bedding plane, where it was deposited on the floor above the pot. This allowed Jake to quickly push forward for a further 2m until the lateness of the hour, coupled with a call for help to remove a backlog of rocks accumulating further back in the cave, brought the days digging proceedings to a close. It is estimated that only a further 15-20 minutes work will be required to enter an open section of bedding a couple of metres ahead. This looks to be about 3m long with a possible extension down to the right and the bedding-plane can be seen to continue beyond – albeit partially choked. A strong draught continues to blow out, and immediate prospects look very encouraging.

Due to several team members being unavailable for next weekend it has been suggested that we return on Tuesday night to try and gain access to the visible space. Alex lost count but estimated that 100 skip loads were removed, two-thirds of which was rock. A solid and positive session, fully deserving of the usual, if slightly later than normal refreshment.”

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3rd July 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 04, 2018 06:27:18

With Roz and Alex

We arrived at the farm to find that the cows had escaped from the field and were exploring the yard. We helped to round them up and persuaded the cows to return to the fields, before getting ready to walk up to the cave.

After many years of digging, all have gone down the slippery slope and followed Another Emotional Journey, it now seems that we are being led Up the Garden Path.

The skip route Up the Garden Path is obstructed by two boulders and a bulge of rock; 4no. 500mm x 12mm holes were drilled, 2no. in the bulge and 1no. into each boulder. While this was being done Roz and Alex carried on to the dig where they dug some more sediment from the floor and bagged it up. They went through to the end to look at the newly accessed rift chamber and see the potential ahead for themselves. Alex took some bearings, confirming that the passage is trending west to east.

When they returned, I could make the necessary connections, retire to a safe location and bring the evening to a satisfactory conclusion.

There will be plenty to clear on the weekend.

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30th June 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 01, 2018 08:42:36

A successful session!

With Tav, Nick, Jonathon, Jake, Duncan and Brockers.

Me digging, Tav clearing the spoil and filling bags, then loading the skip to Nick positioned in the intermediate hauling spot at the beginning of Another Emotional Journey, Jonathon on the not so slippery slope, Jake and Duncan on the haul and shuttle. Water had been collected and poured down the haul route facilitating an easier passage of the skip. Brockers on the surface, wrapped like ‘The Invisible Man’, protection from the biting, buzzing flies.

At the digging front, much of the spoil initially comprised slabs of degraded flowstone, coarse gravel to boulder size, some conglomerate too. Finer sediment was then removed. Forward progress was quickly made, and I wriggled through into the open passage glimpsed last session. Some clearing away of slabs of flowstone and I slid into a finely decorated rift chamber. The chamber aligned east/west, about 4m length, circa 3m at the widest point and up to about 4m high, has some decent flowstone on the south-side and some small botryoidal formations. The chamber has a gravelly floor and a ‘lawn’ made-up of thin tree-roots. The floor drops down at the east-end where there is a small hole, a place we are not to dig. The bedding on the north-side of the rift chamber continues, low and partially filled with sediment. Just beyond the pinch point, another phreatic arch looks to go north, a small gap beyond a mud cone can be seen. To the east, the bedding still goes on, again low and partially sediment filled, there’s plenty of digging to be done yet. The initial investigation over returned to the pinch point to enlarge it and the approach through the bedding. The spoil was again loosened and pushed back to Tav who bagged and sent the skip on its way to Nick and the journey out of the cave. Eventually, we had progressed forward, everyone had to shift forward a position and Nick came-up to join Tav and me at the dig. We’ve probably gained a good 10 metres this morning. Digging was finished in time for the team to look at today’s progress. Any suggestions of digging downwards in the rift chamber were to fall on deaf ears.

Back on the surface, ‘The Invisible Man’ had hauled 33 bags and 25 skip-loads of rock, according to the Brockers method of counting whereby, any skips of rock deemed too light are not counted individually but are added up to make one decent load.

It was almost time for the pub, but we were temporarily delayed by ‘four damsels in distress’ who had lost their way in the wood. They were given directions to find the right path and we were able to go the pub for refreshments.

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23rd June 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 24, 2018 07:28:20

With Brockers, Tav, Nick, Jonathon and Duncan.

A rather subdued Brockers, suffering from a self-inflicted malady, hung-over, was digging, I was clearing away the filled bags and rocks, loading the skip to Tav in the intermediate position guiding the skip on its way to Nick on the slope. Nick transferred the loads to the next skip down to Jon on the haul and shuttle. Duncan, unable to dive in Wookey Hole today due to a wedding taking place, had volunteered for surface duties, not entirely sure whether he was fully aware of the flies, especially on this fine and very warm morning, stoically he carried on. Alex, unable to dig today due to surgery, was out on a ramble and paid a brief visit to the cave entrance before continuing-on his way.

At the dig, Brockers had worked his way into the bedding and, after some fettling of the skip run, I was able to sit-up in the little rift chamber and fill bags as Brockers loosened the sediments and load the skip from there. Some large detached lumps of flowstone were dragged into the rift where there is room to swing the mini-sledge. After a while, Brockers reported back that the prospects ahead looked very good and he could see something to the right-side. The haul and shuttle again difficult due to the dry conditions had accrued a small backlog, I stopped filling bags, and went to the end to look. Shifted back some more slabs, inched forward a bit more, turned on the focused torch, and it does look very good indeed. Just ahead, to the right, a continuation of the rift appears to be open, probably another digging session away. To the left, a phreatic tube/arch is seen to continue, how far is difficult to assess at this time. Called back to Tav and Nick that they really wanted to come and look, they came, and they were enthused. Nick couldn’t understand why we were going to the pub but, I was desperate for a wee. In truth, there’s still quite a bit of digging to be done to gain access to the passage ahead and make it comfortably workable.

I’ll probably try and come in and apply some IRS on Tuesday evening. There are a couple of boulders and a bulge of rock that are impeding easy passage of the skip. It’s getting a long way from the slope to the dig-face now.

Back on the surface, Duncan had survived the flies, with copious applications of ‘Skin-so-soft’ and had hauled 64 loads out of the cave.

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16th June 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 17, 2018 07:32:55

With Jake, Nick, Tav, Alex, Jonathon and Brockers.

A good team assembled today. Alex forging ahead, Brockers clearing away the filled bags and occasional rocks to Jake and the intermediate transfer station, I was on the slope pulling the skip through to remove the contents, take the spoil up-slope to load into the skip to Tav on the haul and shuttle with Nick, or so I thought. I had mistakenly suggested to Nick that, if there was time, he might like to continue opening the low passage to West Side, and so improve drainage along the haul and shuttle route. The outcome was, Tav did the haul and shuttle, Jonathon, on the surface had a lot more bags to haul-out and empty, at least he wasn’t being plagued by clegs today.

Back at the dig-front, I had to concede, one of the large boulders impeding the free passage of the skip was manhandled through and dropped into Tuck Shop, where it can be dealt with later. There’s room to swing the sledge in the chamber. The other, larger boulder was subjected to a concerted beating from Jake, but only partially did it succumb. I rolled one large lump down through Merlin’s to Tav.

The skip along Merlin’s to the haul and shuttle soon needed to be replaced, the cave has dried out considerably, the skips will probably wear out even quicker now. The dryness has increased the drag on the skip and rope requiring a lot of effort to pull the skip along, we had to resort to one bag at a time.

At the end of the session, Brockers, Jake and myself all went to the dig-face to peer into the prospects ahead. It does look enticing, the c.200mm gap over the sediment continues, perhaps 4m is visible at the present, and there is air movement. Plenty of spoil to shift as well.

Today’s tally was 100 loads out to the surface.

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9th June 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 09, 2018 17:09:40

With Jonathon, Alex, Tav and Brockers.

Jonathon at the sharp end, Alex clearing the filled bags and rocks, Tav, returned from injury and it’s his birthday, jumped the queue and was on the slope, Brockers on the haul and shuttle, leaving me on surface duties.

On the surface, there were flies, lots of flies, and the clegs seem particularly vociferous this year. I did try applying plenty of ‘Skin-so-Soft’, but that doesn’t stop them surrounding you and buzzing, always buzzing. Tried to keep moving around, find a bit of breeze and avoid standing too close to the entrance until necessary. The clegs appear to accumulate around the entrance, probably waiting until you are committed to hauling-out of the cave, then they pounce.

Still I survived, and today’s tally was a total of 62 loads, comprised 44 bags and 18 skip-loads of rocks. Not all the spoil came from the end, Brockers busied himself ‘tidying’, the low passage leading to the West Side receiving special attention.

When the team emerged from the cave, there was lots of positivity regarding the prospects ahead.

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2nd June 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, June 04, 2018 06:37:43

I was away on the Gower this weekend exploring coastal caves and digging Harry Thomas’s Cave with John Cooper. Alex sent the following summary of Saturday’s activity in Hallowe’en Rift. I suspect the team comprised Alex, Jake, Jonathon, Nick and Brockers:

“Dear Vincey On the Gower, I have news about the shower, and their efforts digging underground today! The Foreman twas quite mean, also a little green; he forgot the timepiece! which means that there is overtime to pay! The tally man doth say the score was 65! some rocks, and an ever-growing void.”

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26th May 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 27, 2018 14:57:51

With Nick, Jonathon, Alex and a late, but welcome, appearance by Tom Chapman.

It was my turn to dig this session, Nick was aiding the clearing of filled bags, assorted rocks and modifying the skip-run. Jonathon was on the slope and loading the skip to Alex doing the haul and shuttle to the entrance. Tom had turned-up, without any kit, hauled-out the spoil and emptied the bags onto the heap.

At the dig-face, things were progressing satisfactorily, when a small hole opened, from which air movement could be felt. After a bit more work the hole was large enough to see space beyond. Nick came through to have a look. Following a more concerted effort, a small rift chamber could be seen, more digging and eventually, I wriggled through into the rift chamber. It was c.2.00m long, c.2.00m high and c.0.40m wide, it is blocked at the eastern extent by a rather fine ‘stal’ boss, more interestingly, to the left-side (north) a low bedding continued with c.0.25m high space over sediment, the full extent of the bedding could not be ascertained at this time, it was from this that the air movement was emanating. It looks a very interesting prospect indeed, obviously there is a lot of spoil to shift to make access easier and the way ahead workable. Nick and Jonathon both came through to take a gander.

As for the skip-run, it is more aesthetically pleasing to look at but it’s functionality is rather less satisfactory, let’s say, it is a work in progress!

About 40 bags and, possibly 10 skip-loads of rocks were hauled out to the surface and added to the spoil-heap. All in all, a productive morning’s work and it was pub-time.

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19th May 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 20, 2018 07:12:11

With Alex, Brockers and Jonathon.
Alex digging, Brockers clearing away and doing some tidying-up, I was on the slope and loaded the skip to Jon, on the haul and shuttle. The bags, and very occasional rocks, were stacked at the bottom of the entrance.
At the end of the digging session, 38 bags were hauled-out and emptied, somehow Alex forgot about the rocks, they’ll have to wait until next time.

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12th May 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 13, 2018 07:18:15

With Jake, Tav, Brockers, Alex and Jonathon.

Jonathon digging with assistance from Alex, who was clearing the filled bags and occasional rocks to Brockers, on the slope. The spoil, loaded into the skip and I hauled and shuttled the bags and rocks to the entrance where Jake and Tav were on surface duties. In addition to hauling spoil from the cave, wall building was continued.

It wasn’t too long before the skip required replacement, this done, the skip moved smoothly along the passage, a joyful thing. Ahead, on the digging front, it seems there were a variety of discussions taking place, such as, the benefits of alternating left-handed and right-handed diggers in the low passage, and the merits, or demerits, of having two people in-line that have issues with authority. Never mind, spoil was removed at a steady pace. I had some time to dig some sediment from the low passage that leads to the west series, a follow-on from Brockers effort last session, it is hoped the passage to the east will drain into here.

At the cessation of today’s activities, 51 bags and 9 skip-loads of rock were hauled out from the cave. The surface team had depleted the supply of available rocks, we’ll need some more to continue the wall building. Another productive session, pub-time.

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5th May 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 06, 2018 09:50:50

With Brockers, Jonathon, Alex and Duncan.

As our guest of honour, Duncy got to go upfront and dig, assisted by Jon, Alex went to the slope, Brockers on the haul and shuttle and I was on the surface again.

Duncan supplied some insect repellent that proved to be very effective. It was warm on the surface and there were plenty of midges and other flying insects but, none bothered me. I managed to get a good bit of walling done in between hauling and emptying bags, any rocks were added to the construction too. It was peaceful and rather pleasant on the surface in the warm sunshine, the leaves now bursting open, a vibrant green, the birds were singing.

Soon though the session was over, 60 bags had been emptied, 11 skip-loads of rock added to the wall. It was thirsty work and refreshments were eagerly anticipated, time for the Hunter’s.

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28th April 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 29, 2018 07:20:24

With Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Alex.

After missing a digging session last weekend, due to a variety of reasons, the team re-assembled to return to the fray.

Jake upfront digging aided by Nick, Jonathon was on the slope clearing away the filled bags and rocks, loading them into the skip at the top of the slope to Alex, on the haul and shuttle. After doing the digging last session, it was my turn on the surface.

I had mistakenly thought that the cooler weather recently would result in an absence of midges, I was wrong, in the shelter of the woods, the entrance to HR seems to have its own micro-climate, it was still and warm, and there were midges, lots of them. That aside, I did manage to get some rocks added to the wall before the flow of bags and rocks from below ground became a bit too regular. The task of hauling the spoil up the entrance wasn’t made any easier by the claggy, slippery rope.

Today’s total count was 73 loads out to the surface; 64 bags were emptied and 9 loads of rocks, most of which had been added to the wall, some interesting pieces were put to one side for examination later.

Another productive digging session.

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14th April 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 15, 2018 07:36:52
With Jake, Jonathon and Ray Deasy.

An, otherwise, small team assembled bolstered by the unexpected, but welcome, arrival of the antipodean contingent - Ray.

At the end of the current focus of attention, I was digging, filling bags and removing rocks, passing the spoil back to Ray, who was clearing and loading the skip to Jake, on the slope. Jonathon was at the top of the slope, where the bags and rocks were stored, ready for removal later.

Initially, I opened-up a small connection back towards the slope, this will allow for an easier passage of the skip. There is a lump of rock causing an obstruction that will require some attention, another trip in with the capping kit will sort this out. That done, attention was concentrated on making some forward progress. Although awkward in the constricted space, it is enjoyable digging. There is some clear space over the top of the sediment, but it is small, we are, at present, following a fine, phreatic arched ceiling. Every now and then, some fractured stalactites are found within the sediments, along with sections of detached, broken calcite floor.

Digging isn't speedy in the rather snug passage, there is some air movement, Ray wearing cotton overalls was getting a bit chilled as the session progressed. It was soon time to move back and clear the spoil from the cave. I was amazed at the tidiness of Jon's bag stacking and the temporary drystone wall created from the rocks removed. Today's total, out to the surface was 30 bags and 10 skip-loads of rocks.

Another fine well-being session for the OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Diggers!

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7th April 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, April 10, 2018 06:32:51
With Jonathon, Alex, Jake, Tav and Nick.

Tav digging, Nick clearing, I was on the slippery slope, Jake at the top, Alex on the haul and shuttle, leaving Jon on the surface.

On arrival at the end, we discovered, there had been a bit of a slump on the slippery slope, a large flake of rock had become detached and was now lying on the slope. It was an obstruction, that took a combined effort from me and Jake to ease down into Tuck Shop, along with another smaller rock that had also fallen. That done, we settled down to some steady spoil removal. Occasionally, the odd bag was topped-up with some of the loose sediment that the rockfall had brought down. At the end of the session, 52 bags and 10 skip-loads of rock had been hauled-out to the surface. Another good effort, the digging at the end is, somewhat, constricted.

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31st March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 01, 2018 08:19:00
With Alex, Jake, Nick, Tav, Jonathon and Brockers.

The Magnificent Seven. Jonathon digging, Tav clearing, Brockers and Nick on the slippery slope, I was hauling, Alex doing the shuttle, leaving Jake on the surface, in the rain, and feeling hungover after a night of over-indulgence.

The has been a lot of rain recently, throughout the cave there are plenty of very active drips, and it was squalid...very squalid. Each skip arriving accompanied by a wave of slurry. I got quite chilly sat in a puddle of thick muddy water.

The skip, of course, needed to be replaced, not an easy task to free-up the muddy knots, but it was done. A grand total of 51 bags and 22 skip-loads of rock out to the surface. Most of the rock removed comprised 25mm to 75mm thick calcite, the remnants of a false floor situated between sediment comprising silty fine sand.

By the time we had all exited the cave the rain had ceased, we made our way down to the farm, then to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

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24th March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 25, 2018 09:42:36

With Jake, Jonathon, Tav, Nick, Brockers and Alex.

A good team turn-out today. Jake went ahead to start digging, with Tav assisting. They were followed by Jonathon, Nick and Brockers, Alex and I remained on the surface. While Alex hauled the spoil from the cave, I went dry-stone walling, continuing the reconstruction of the spoil-heap wall.

The bags started to come from the cave at a good rate, the reason being, Nick had started digging somewhere along the approach passage. Alex didn’t have much time to empty the bags, so I stopped wall building and went to help-out.

About 70 bags and a dozen or so skip-loads of rock were hauled-out of the cave, about 40 of the bags were from the ‘official’ dig-site.

The focus of attention has switched to a route that leads over the top of Another Emotional Journey (AEJ), an area we paid some attention to in 2014 (I checked the log-book), before getting side-tracked by a hole in the floor and followed that downwards, eventually emptying out quite a large chamber, that is now connected to AEJ. It is, however, much easier to get to now, and spoil removal will be far more efficient.

At the end of the session, Jake was suitably impressed, and enthusiastic, by progress and the prospects ahead. The dig, a partially choked phreatic arch with some fine scalloping in the roof, the sediment fill is a mixture of sandy silt and thin calcite ‘false’ floor, there is a gap over the top, c.100-150mm height, the direction is trending east. Sounds very interesting.

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17th March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, March 19, 2018 07:17:02
I was attending a BCRA Cave Science workshop on cave climate at Pooles Cavern, Buxton, Derbyshire so unavailable for digging. However, other team members were in attendance, this witty ditty was penned by Tav:

The Ballad of Hallowe’en Rift

by Bard Senseless

For the log of Hallowe’en
On this day, March Seventeen
Four hardy souls did brave the beast
Descending earthwards from the east

Through horizontal rain and sleet
They battled on with frozen feet
To reach the safety of the mound
From whence they vanished underground

Jon was on the slippery slope
Brockers up front diggin’
Jake in darkness in between
Tav on haul and sleddin’

For two hours they did all they could
Until the final tally stood
At 22 bags and 4 of rocks
Lord bless their little cotton socks

Then up to empty out the spoil
The product of their worthy toil
A-shivering’ in the icy blast
They spoke of hopes for caverns vast
Does it go then? Does it bugger
Then quick lads to the Hunters’ fast
Then home to watch the rugger

Which was shit by the way.

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10th March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 11, 2018 09:13:47
With Nick, Brockers, Jake, Jonathon and Matt.

Digging resumed after a brief postponement due to last week's snowy weather.

Scratched around for a while at the end of Another Emotional Journey (AEJ). Here, the fissure has become choked with calcite and the lower bedding appears to pinch-out. The rest of today's session was spent excavating another narrow fissure on the north-side of AEJ. The silt fill become silty sand at the base, and is also calcified here. There is some space at the top, but this doesn't appear to develop further, at this stage. Filled c.40 bags. At the end of the digging session, Jake and myself had a discussion, we thought that it would be an idea to try digging along the bedding, over the top of AEJ.

On the surface, Jonathon relayed the count for the day, c.50 bags and c.10 skip-loads of rock, Nick had been busy elsewhere, 'tidying' along the approach passage.

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24th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, February 27, 2018 06:20:57
I was away this weekend attending a workshop 'Integrated Microscopy Approaches in Archaeobotany' at the University of Reading. And, very good it was too.

However, there was an attendance at Hallowe'en Rift. Nick penned the following summary:

" A four-man team, Brockers, Jake, Matt and Nick, assembled.

After the usual pre-session discussions on the inappropriate actions of all those not present digging commenced. It was Nick at the face, Jake, then Brockers and Matt in the newly designated ‘Spastic Spot’ at the top of the slippery slope. There were 10 loads of rocks hauled out and 30 bags of mud and gravel. When the production rate slowed, Nick continued digging while the others moved outwards to clear the cave. The way on, well, it’s sort of lacking an air space, and isn’t the most compelling lead, but we have seen worse! 4 full bags were left in the cave. A retreat towards the Hunters was made in a timely manner, i.e. early."

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20th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 21, 2018 06:06:57
With Brockers.

Straight-up to the current focus of attention to continue the expansion of the fissure; 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, were drilled and filled. While I was doing that, Brockers replaced another of the skips and fettled the wire. All preparation and other tasks completed, the evenings work was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

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17th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 18, 2018 11:28:57
With Jake, Jon and Tav.

A small team for a Saturday again, no bother, still plenty to keep us occupied.

On arrival at the farm, it appears that the 'Bambi-Man' is not pleased with us and had left us a little note:
Some people are so tetchy about their 'sheds on wheels'!

At the end of Another Emotional Journey, I went ahead to check Tuesday's effort before Jon started digging, all was good. Tav was second in-line, on the long-drag back to load the skip to me, on the slippery slope, where I man-handled the bags and rocks up-slope and loaded the skip to Jake, on the haul and shuttle. As usual, the spoil was stashed at the bottom of the entrance rift, to be removed later.

The 'mud-crete' had set, making a smoother drag-run for the skip, although the skip eventually succumbed, and a replacement was required, the skip had been in a poor state before today's effort began.

It was another good steady session and a total of 58 loads were cleared-out to the surface; 41 bags and 17 skips of rocks.

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13th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 14, 2018 07:11:24
With Jake.

Always good to have some company and a helping hand with the kit.

At the current end of Another Emotional Journey, another 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, were drilled and filled, continuing the expansion of the narrow fissure.

While I was doing the drilling and things, Jake practiced his alchemist arts, combining sloppy sediment and cement to create 'mud-crete', this was then used to fill the deeper divots, near to the bridge over the pot, along the haul route. This will ease the passage, and prolong the life, of the skips. There were some tricky moves required on the way out with the wire to avoid the repairs.

The evenings work was brought to a satisfactory conclusion, this resulted in disturbing the peaceful slumbers of the roosting pheasants in the trees near to the cave entrance.

It was a cold, frosty evening, the stars were good though.

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10th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 11, 2018 08:53:53
With Jake, Jonathon and Tav.

A smaller team assembled at the Hunter's on another wet Saturday morning, ready to go digging.

At Hallowe'en Rift, while I opened the gate, the others packed bags prior to going underground. Jake, then went ahead to start bailing before digging, there were a few bags at the end left-over from Thursday evening. Jonathon was next in-line, clearing the filled bags and occasionally rocks, along Another Emotional Journey, loading the skip to Tav.
The haul through from Another Emotional Journey. Photographed by Mike Moxon.

With the smaller team size, Tav had the double-handling task of hauling the spoil from Jon, then up the slippery slope to transfer the spoil to the skip down to me, on the haul and shuttle.
Brockers at the top of the slope. Photographed by Mike Moxon.

The bags were then, stacked neatly in the entrance rift ready to be hauled out later, the few stones were put to one-side. A steady pace was maintained through the session, some of the bags seemed like they were going to be a joy to empty. Then, it was time to all move back and clear the spoil from the cave, up-top it was still raining but not too heavily. We took it in turns to haul the loaded skip up the rift, the rope wet and very muddy, making it slippery and difficult to grip. Once on the surface, the bags weren't too much of a problem to empty. The count for the session was 49 bags (or 50, if you prefer rounded-up numbers) and a few skip-loads of stones.
Jon in Another Emotional Journey. Photographed by Mike Moxon.

As it did on Thursday, as soon as we were back at the shed, it rained heavily. Time for the pub, then rugby (6 Nations).

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8th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, February 09, 2018 06:41:37
With Jonathon, Mike M, Brockers, Duncan and Tav.

At the end of Another Emotional Journey, I cleared the debris that resulted from Tuesday evenings effort, Jon shifting the rocks and bags filled with gravel along the rift to load the skip to Mike, on the slippery slope. Brockers, at the top of the slope, transferred the debris into the skip down to Duncan, on the haul and shuttle. Tav was on the surface. As usual, this wet winter, bailing was required before the digging activities commenced.

A total of 41 loads were moved-out to the surface, 14 skip-loads of rocks and 27 bags of gravel and finer sediment were emptied.

We arrived back at the shed just in time, the skies opened, and it bucketed down, again!

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6th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 07, 2018 06:09:18
With Roz.

Drove over the hill in quite a flurry of snow.

Underground, at the end of Another Emotional Journey, continued with the expansion of the rift, 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, all nicely charged and tamped, rolled out the wire and the evening, brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

The snow, by now, had turned to sleet and come to, not much.

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3rd February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 04, 2018 07:48:10
With Nick, Jake and Jonathon.

For one reason or another, a smaller team today.

Nick's turn to dig, after bailing of course, Jake clearing away, it's getting a long way now, the rift is c.10m in length and progressing. I was on the slope, man-handling the bags and occasional rocks to the top where, due to the size of the team, I loaded the skip to Jon, on the haul and shuttle, the bags and stones being stacked in the entrance rift.

Jake had cut-up a piece of quarry conveyor belt to fit inside the skip and provide some cushioning, this seems to have prolonged the life of the skip and it didn't need replacing this session.

At the end of the digging, I went to the end to assess whether some induced rapid speleogenesis would be required in the mid-week. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a small space had been revealed, Nick commented that air movement could be detected, it's always encouraging to have space to follow. As for IRS, it will be done, keeps the working space more comfortable and spoil removal better managed.

As usual, the last task of the session was to haul-out the bags and empty them, the stones were cleared-out too. Today's tally: forty-two bags and half a dozen skip-loads of stones.

Today's refreshments had been earned!

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1st February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, February 02, 2018 06:28:20
With Jonathon, Jake, Brockers, Nick and Duncan.

Initially, I went to the end, reeling in the wire as I progressed, to check the results of Tuesday evenings effort. It had done just what it was supposed to do. Satisfied, I turned back and took up position on the haul and shuttle. Brockers, after bailing out the pond, was upfront, aided by Nick, who was clearing back to Jake on the slope, Duncan was up top loading the skip to me. That left Jonathon on the surface, hauling and emptying.

After not very long, I had to replace the skip, we are wearing them out at an alarming rate, the plastic used to form the drums is not very resilient, probably something to do with biodegradability. Later, at the end of the session Jake mentioned the replacement skip was already worn-out. Changing the skip caused a backlog of spoil and it wasn't too long before the team decided to move back and get the cave cleared out, I went up to the surface to join Jonathon.

The total count for this evening, 49 loads out to the surface, 25 skip-loads of rock and 24 bags.

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30th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, January 31, 2018 06:16:33
With Roz.

After a decent dry day...it's still wet and muddy underground!

Continuing the expansion works at the current end of Another Emotional Journey. Drilled 4no. 550mm x 12mm holes on the left-side of the rift. It's so much better with some assistance, keeps the kit that bit cleaner. The evening was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

We stopped in at the Hunter's on the way home, well, churlish not to!

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27th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 28, 2018 08:49:25
With Brockers, Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Tav.

Jon digging, Tav, back into action after a few weeks off, was clearing back to Nick, on the slope, Jake, up-top, loading the skip to Brockers on the haul and shuttle. Surface duties for me.

While waiting for the first bags to arrive, cleared-out a broken branch and re-located the pterodactyl to a new branch. Then the bags started to arrive, I can't say they were a joy to empty, but it was okay. The rain, which didn't let-up all morning, kept the haul rope usable, it didn't become caked in mud, which usually means it is difficult to grip. Odd thing, at 40, 50 and 60 loads out, an especially heavy bag or two, the old back was not a fan of these. On one occasion, I heard some grumbling from below, the skip that had been replaced on Tuesday evening had already failed and needed another skip to take its place. Getting the frayed ends of the haul rope through the holes is never easy when everything has a liberal coating of mud.

The final count 74 loads out to the surface, 67 filled bags, all emptied, and 7 skip loads of stones, waiting to be used in the wall. Another fine session.

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