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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.

16th October 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 17, 2018 05:29:14

Solo

A steady trip into An Unexpected Development to de-rig the rift following up from Sunday’s trip. Pulled-up the ladders and handline too, it could do with cleaning. All the kit bagged up and ready to go, I decided to spend a short time cleaning some of the foot marks from the calcite. Then, a slower trip out with two weighty bags.

An early start for me tomorrow, so missed out a visit to the Hunter’s.



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14th October 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, October 16, 2018 06:36:33

With Dr Gina Moseley, Dr Marc Luetscher and Roz, we were later joined by Ray Deasy.

Gina and Marc are Palaeo-climatologists, with a specific focus on cave sites, and had accepted an invitation to visit Hallowe’en Rift and comment on the processes that might have caused the damage to the speleothems and to look to see if there are any deposits of cryogenic calcite. Some time was spent in the rift in An Unexpected Development discussing the processes that might lead to a cave becoming filled with ice during periods of fluctuating temperatures, other thoughts were also expressed. Unfortunately, despite a thorough search no cryogenic calcite was found, Gina suggested that perhaps any CCC’s had been buried under later sediments. It was an enjoyable and informative trip.

Ray was late arriving at the Hunter’s this morning and had missed a ride down to the farm. Not to miss out on a caving trip he continued his bike ride from the MNRC down the hill to catch us up. We had already walked up to HR and were underground, Ray met us at the rift. After the trip he insisted on pedalling back up the hill to the Hunter’s, in his wet-suit, to meet up with Tangent and go digging in Stockhill Mine Cave.





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13th October 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 15, 2018 06:23:46

On Saturday I gave a poster presentation at the BCRA Cave Science Symposium, University of Bristol.

Evidence for frost and ice damage of speleothems in Hallowe’en Rift, Mendip, some initial observations.

Abstract:

Recent discoveries in Hallowe’en Rift, Mendip Hills, Somerset, UK during 2018 have revealed some interesting morphological features and an abundance of shattered speleothems. It had been suggested that this damage was caused by earth movements. However, after a close examination of the speleothems, it is apparent that the cause of the fracturing and damage has been through the actions of frost and/or ice during the Pleistocene.


Tav, Nick, Jonathon and a big welcome back to Brockers, went to Hallowe’en Rift and continued the downstream dig (west-side of the entrance). Tav sent the following account of the activities:

Brockers was pushed up front to enlarge the way ahead, Nick was deepening the trench, while Tav hauled and smashed up the odd rock too big to fit in the skip. Jon earned the clear distinction of ‘digger of the day’ for hauling a gargantuan 102 non-stop skips out to the surface (65 rocks, 37 bags). Then off to the Hunters’ for well-earned refreshments where we were joined by Jake and Matt and showed a bit of old bone to a couple of good-looking young women on their way to G.B.

Rock of the day had to be the ‘old bone’, which subject to a clean-up we decided could be rock, bone stal or metal!

Unfortunately, when the ‘bone’ was scrubbed clean of the attached sediment it was found to be a speleothem masquerading as a bone. Fooled me too!








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9th October 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 10, 2018 19:39:29
Solo (not really digging though!)

Dragged some kit including water and a brush to An Unexpected Development. Going to have another cleaning speleothems session next week sometime. Took the camera along too, just for something else to carry. Actually, I wasn't satisfied with the images last time I tried the big LED array so thought I would try again, remembered my glasses this time. The results were better and good half decent shots were achieved.


I could spend hours in this part of the cave, the more you look, the more you see, especially with the illumination the LED gives. Some fascinating formations and phenomena to observe and ponder, bloody marvellous!


Early start again tomorrow so didn't stop in the Hunter's on the way home. Got back and stuck the oversuit into soak, will wash off in the morning, a dry day forecast for tomorrow.




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6th October 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 07, 2018 07:28:29

With Jonathon

A much-depleted team due to work commitments, injuries and malaise. To cap it all, it was raining and rather chilly.

We discussed our options while getting changed in the shed and, as Jon hadn’t really had the opportunity to look at the passages west (downstream) of the entrance we decided to continue the enlargement in that direction. The ladders were left in the shed, although I filled the water container and carried that up to the cave. I have a day off on Monday and plan to continue the ‘stal’ cleaning later that day.

At the downstream dig, Jon was upfront doing the brunt of the work, I was hauling the skip and stacking the spoil in the entrance. Some large boulder-size slabs were dragged back to the entrance where there is more space to swing a hammer and reduce them to skip-size pieces. By the end of the mornings digging, the passage is much roomier. A channel has been dug in the floor to allow water to drain, a length of pipe can be inserted, and a board placed over it will allow the skip to be dragged freely. The last task of the day was to haul-out and empty the bags on the surface – 29 were counted, the rocks were left for another day. A good morning's digging.









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29th September 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 30, 2018 12:17:41

With Jonathon, Alex, Tav and Ray Deasy.

Another antipodean visitor to the cave, Ray, back for an update, his last visit was earlier this year in April.

Jonathon and Alex set-off with the ladders to rig the climb down the rift and continue digging while I took Ray on a tour around the latest extensions. Tav stayed near the entrance to carry on the enlargement of the passage to the west-side of the entrance and access route to the old digs (80s and 90s).

Ray and I eventually, arrived at the bottom of the rift where Ray joined in with the digging effort, it’s currently hard going, very compact gravel and shattered calcite. I climbed back up the rift to put the pressure spray together, it was at this point that I wished that I had remembered to bring my glasses. Still, managed to cobble the spray together and started to wash the muddy footprints off the speleothems. Used all the available clean water and will require more to finish the job, probably bring in a soft brush. I called down to the others that I was going to make my way out taking the empty water container and spare ladders. They were going to dig for a little longer before making their way out and would de-rig the rift. I stopped, briefly to visit Broken Stal Aven to look for cryogenic calcite crystals, there were some possible, then continued out of the cave.

At the entrance, Tav had stacked some bags and rocks there ready to be hauled up to the surface. So up I went and sorted the skip and rope then pulled up the spoil. All clear, the others arrived, all out of the cave, gate secured and a walk down the hill to the farm in the warm sunshine.



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22nd September 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, September 24, 2018 06:28:18

With Pete “Snablet” McNab, Pete Bolt, Jonathon, Duncan, Nick and Alex

Snablet’s on a week-long visit from New Zealand, couldn’t let him miss the opportunity for a digging trip.

At the cave, Jonathon, Nick, Duncan and Alex set-off to the rift in An Unexpected Development to get on with digging. I led the two Pete’s for a look around the more recent discoveries before joining-up with the digging team. Snablet got very involved with the digging so we left him there, Nick had decided to return to the entrance and continue the enlargement of the passage leading to the west series. Pete Bolt and myself headed towards Trick or Treat, the duck is still dry, we returned along Toil and Trouble to join up with Nick and start clearing the backlog of spoil at the entrance, Pete loading the skip, I went to the surface to haul out. It was raining. By the end of the session, there is plenty of material for wall building.

After a brief stop at the Hunter’s for some refreshment, several of us, Snablet, Pete Bolt and myself, we also persuaded Tangent to join us, headed down to Churchill to attend the BCRA Hidden Earth conference. A really, pleasant social afternoon/evening chatting to old chums.

Below surveys drawn by Duncan.


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8th September 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 09, 2018 08:35:33

With Jonathon and Alex

A small team again, mostly due to injuries and work commitments, but still an effective group.

At the top of the rift, I decided to try out the new cows-tails and shunt on the descent (and, later ascent) but, concluded that some tweaking is required.

At the bottom, I was digging, Alex and Jon hauling away the filled skips with occasional rocks and dispersed the contents. The slope has been terraced to give some stability and space for spoil dispersal. The spoil comprises sandy, fine to coarse gravel of calcite and some conglomerate with cobbles and boulders of the same. There is some finer silty sediment at the farthest extent of the dig. A large obstinate boulder was getting in the way and required Alex’s assistance to remove it. When it had succumbed, it was man-handled, with some considerable effort, to a position where, with some mighty blows with the sledge, Alex could reduce it to more manageable pieces. Once it was out of the way, a better view of the way forward was possible. There are some small holes from which air movement was detected, roof pendants were also noted at the end. There does appear to be a way around a large stal boss but the floor needs lowering and, at least, one large boulder removing.

It was, by now, time to make our way out of the cave. I collected an old skip from the top of the slope, filled it with tools and took it to the entrance where, there is quite an accumulation of digging paraphernalia awaiting removal from the cave.



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1st September 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 02, 2018 07:40:55

With Jonathon and Tav

A small, but sufficient, team today. On the way to An Unexpected Development, I climbed down into the Tuck Shop to free a hauling rope jammed under a rock and tidy away another of the old skips ready for removal later. When I arrived at the rift, Tav was busy clearing some loose debris from around the jammed boulder. A lengthy discussion ensued regarding the stability of the boulder ensued, the outcome was it is fine, but we could do something to make it even safer sometime in the, not too distant, future. At the bottom of the rift, Jon got on with digging, me and Tav hauled and emptied the skip, a large rock was hauled out too. We finished digging a bit early as Tav wanted to remove an obstruction in the low passage leading to the old digs to the south-west of the entrance. After a joint effort, hammering, chiselling and barring, the obstruction was removed. The will allow water to drain more freely along the passage when it gets wet again. There is a plan for a mid-week dig here when the dig in Wookey 20 becomes flooded or too wet.

It was noted that there are a lot of Tissue moths in the cave, near the entrance, didn’t notice any Heralds though.





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25th August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 26, 2018 10:47:56

With Nick, Jonathon, Duncan and Tav

On recent trips into Hallowe’en Rift it has been observed that along the hands and knees crawl from the entrance to Stal Bend, there is a significant scatter of moth wings, Tissue moths (Triphosa dubitata) are common visitors to the cave. I assumed they are being predated by spiders, Meta sp., the soft body parts consumed, and the wings discarded.

Duncan and Tav continued the G5 survey. The rest of us went to the bottom of the rift in An Unexpected Development and continued with the dig. I was digging, filling the skip, Nick was hauling it away and emptying the contents, Jon continued the construction of the retaining walls. Initially, the effort concentrated at the very bottom until it was decided a well developed stal boss was blocking the way. Moved back a little bit and started to clear away the debris against the left-hand wall, towards the end of the session air movement was detected.

Took some more photographs before climbing the ladder, exiting the cave to join the team at the entrance.

Frost shattered calcite forms the sloping floor of the rift, An Unexpected Development.


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21st August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, August 23, 2018 07:47:09

Solo

A trip to take more photographs and have time to get a good look around and make some observations of my own. It was a chilled and peaceful time spent in the cave.

There is a change in the sediments that partially filled the low bedding sections on the approach to the breakthrough into An Unexpected Development. Initially, the sediments are mostly sandy silt with occasional cobble and boulder-size fragments of fractured calcite flowstone. The fractured calcite flowstone becomes more frequent and after the drop down through the draughting rift becomes the dominant component of the sediment fill. It was suggested that the damage was caused by earth movements but, after close examination of the sediments and some documentary research, this is unlikely, and the cause of the fracturing is through frost and/or ice.

Most of the passage in Hallowe’en Rift is shallow below the surface and root growth has been noted in several areas, there are snail shells in the extension to An Unexpected Development and some rare bat droppings.

During the Pleistocene, interglacial and warmer interstadial periods produced calcite flowstone deposition in the cave. Glacial or stadial periods caused periglacial activity in the cave, during which the calcite layers were fractured by frost heave and some redistribution by solifluction occurred.

Hallowe’en Rift was shallow enough for ice to form in the cave during glacial periods. During the build-up of ice and it’s subsequent thawing, ice can flow and slide, thereby stalactites and curtains can be sheared off the roof and stalagmites can be tipped over or sheared off their bases and displaced. Lumps of calcite enclosed in ice can be deposited on inclined surfaces or be left in precarious positions, i.e. at positions which would not be stable if deposited by falling.

Ice related damage covers a wide range of phenomena:

· Missing ceiling formations of older generations;

· Sheared-off stalactites and curtains, deposited on top of floor speleothems;

· Broken and deposited stalagmites;

· Sheared-off stalagmites which have shifted from their base but still stand upright;

· Cracked conical stalagmites;

· Tilted and leaning stalagmites;

· Moraine-like piles of floor flowstone;

· Precariously placed ceiling deposits.

In addition to speleothem damage, freezing and cave ice can leave other traces:

· Cryoturbation in cave sediments;

· Solifluction deposits;

· Transport of gravel without evidence of flowing water;

· High collagen content of fossil bones’

· Loss of uranium due to ‘leaching’;

· Scratch marks on cave walls.

Further observations and comments

“The 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.

Scalloping in the roof, An Unexpected Development. Direction of flow is left to right.

The only other passage development of notable magnitude has been by a group of nutters using explosives.” (Hawkes, 2018)

“From a speleogenesis point of view, possibly excluding the aven below the Tuck Shop and a few minor modern runnels, the cave is phreatic in origin. The few scallops that could be found all pointed outward, and this, coupled with the lack of any inflow passages into the pitch strongly suggested that the cave had been formed by water rising-up the pitch under a head of hydrostatic pressure before flowing outwards along the bedding planes. We considered that the original outlet was along the choked bedding-plane connection between the platform at the head of the pitch which emerges in the crawl just before the breakthrough point and then flows out along the upper series bedding planes. Later, presumably as the water level dropped, the water flowed out via An Unexpected Development and the various passages comprising the Lower Series.

Where all this water ultimately derives from and where it's going remain a mystery, which is of course exactly how it should be.” (Price and Taviner)

The enigma of the where the water comes from has several possible answers; including from fluctuating sea levels and/or from rising thermal waters.

References:

Nick Hawkes, Duncan Price, Robin Taviner (pers comms)

Joyce Lundberg and Donald A. McFarlane. 2007. Pleistocene depositional history in a periglacial terrane: A 500 k.y. record from Kent’s Cavern, Devon, United Kingdom. Geosphere, August 2007, pp 199-219

Stephan Kempe. 2004. Natural Speleothem Damage in Postojnska Jama (Slovenia), Caused by Glacial Cave Ice? A First Assessment. Acta Carsologica 33/1, 18. p265-289





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18th August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, August 21, 2018 07:07:19

I was away this weekend assisting with a cave exploration on the Gower Peninsula. However, other team members kept up the good work. The following summaries by Tav and Nick, respectively:

“Nick, Jon, Mike, Dunc, Tav

Dunc & Tav continued the survey, completing the section below the Tuck Shop, Another Emotional Journey and the links to the Lower Series and everything upstream as far as the breakthrough into An Unexpected Development. The only section left to do is the upstream part of An Unexpected Development, the pitch and the side Annexe Chamber, which we visited but did not survey.

Meanwhile Nick, Jon and Mike continued with the dig and walling.

A chilled and productive session.”

“Three retaining walls started, one at the base and two further up slope to attempt to stem the tide of scree that is trying to roll down, also to provide stacking space for spoil. All would probably be improved with a bit of cementing.

Only a few skip loads came out of the dig itself which would benefit from a proper skip and short rope system. Struggling to feel a draft at the end which is a tad worrisome, but this may be due to increasing mud content between the rocks.”

Some observations regarding speleogenesis were made and have been noted.





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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.

Mental!”







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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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