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.

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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25th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, January 26, 2018 06:45:42
With Jake, Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Mike M.

After reeling in the wire, I was upfront clearing the rock and gravel back to Jon. Mike, back on the slippery slope was then transferring the spoil up to Brockers. Jake was on the haul and shuttle, Nick on the surface.

The IRS had the desired effect and the end of the rift is now suitably widened. After shifting the loose debris, spent a little time with a hammer, bar and chisel to check for fractured rock still adhered, all good for digging on the weekend.

Nick had it good on the surface, busy, but not very many bags of slop to contend with, just bags of gravel and, the occasional cobble-size stone. The count was thirty bags and quite a lot of rocks, plenty of supplies for wall building.

Satisfied with the evenings work, it was time for the Hunter's.

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23rd January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, January 24, 2018 06:13:55
With Matt, Brockers and Duncan.

It was as wet and mucky as expected.

As I drilled the required holes, 4no. 550mm x 12mm, and sorted stuff out, with Matt's assistance, Brockers replaced the skip on the long haul and then, finally got the better of the last boulder in Tuck Shop. Meanwhile, Duncan took the opportunity to explore the rest of the East Series and completed the round trip before returning to help haul my kit out and the fragmented rock from Tuck Shop.

Everything done, the evening was brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The rock was left at the base of the entrance for another day.

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20th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 21, 2018 08:36:22
With Brockers, Jake, Nick and Matt.

Five go Digging!

Nick filling the bags, I was clearing the bags away to Jake, on the slope, passing the spoil up to Matt, who was loading the skip to Brockers on the haul and shuttle. The spoil was stacked at the bottom of the entrance climb.

Prior to the dig commencing, some bailing was required, the drip was strong today. The sediment, when first loosened is quite dry but, many of the bags are damp, causing the spoil to adhere to the inside, especially when the bags have been compressed. In between moving bags, I removed the old skip that had been wedged into a crack to form a platform, and replaced it with stones, makes the step up to load the skip a bit easier. The rift, at present, is about 7m long, with a vertical range c. 1.5 to 2.5m. The dig is becoming narrow, not quite shoulder width, so some alteration might...will be required soon. Keeping the drill and batteries dry and clean will be difficult though, still that's an issue for another day.

When four packs of bags (40) had been filled and stacked in the entrance, we decided it was time to go and move them out to the surface and empty them. Along with the bags, the rocks that had been left in the entrance for a while now, were also removed.

It was raining too!

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13th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 14, 2018 08:55:39
With Brockers, Jonathon and Nick.

On the surface, prior to venturing underground, the drier bags were collected, shaken to remove any loose sediment, packed-up and dispatched into the cave, ready to be re-filled.

A rather subdued Brockers, suffering the consequences of a self-indulged malady, was doing the digging. Nick was clearing away the spoil, loading the skip to me, on the slope, from here I man-handled the bags to Jonathon. Jon, on top of the slope, stacked the filled bags and stones into the available space there.

When four packs of bags had been filled and stored, a brief discussion, shall we fill another pack, or should we empty those already filled? It was decided to head out and clear the cave. Jonathon went up to the surface, I was on the shuttle, Nick hauling the skip, Brockers at the top of the slope loading the skip. The bags and stone were quickly moved, the bags were hauled out to the surface, the stones left at the bottom of the entrance. The final task of the day was to empty the bags, 39 of them. Some were easy to empty, some were not and some of the bags had reached the end of their usefulness.

Satisfied with the mornings effort, we left for the farm and refreshments at the Hunter's, where we were met by one of those that had fallen by the wayside.

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11th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, January 12, 2018 06:19:18
With Jonathon, Brockers, Nick and Mike M.

Jonathon up-front digging, Brockers clearing away the filled bags to Nick, on the slippery slope, Mike was on top of the slope, loading the skip to me, on the haul and shuttle.

It's still wet and muddy. After replacing the skip, they are wearing through at an alarming rate, around 40 bags plus some stone were hauled from the end and stacked in the entrance. At the end od the digging session, the bags were hauled out of the cave and emptied. There was plenty of jovial banter as the bags were being relieved of their contents.

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6th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, January 08, 2018 06:35:57
With Jonathon, Jake, Nick and Brockers.

Festivities over, things return to normality.

My turn up front, digging; Jonathon, after three days on his sick-bed had wrested himself away to attend, stood in the 'drippiest' spot and cleared away the filled bags to Brockers, back on the slippery slope. Brockers, in between bags, ventured down into Tuck Shop to break-up some of the rocks still there. Jake was on top of the slope and Nick on the haul and shuttle, the spoil stashed in the entrance. Nick, also, dug a channel to drain away the puddles along the passage from the entrance.

Some bailing of water was required before the digging effort could commence, this didn't take too long. Continued to follow the choked rift, as forward progress was made, the sediment remaining overhead became self-digging, largely induced by a strong seepage of water. A bar was utilised to alleviate this occurrence, revealing a narrowing of the rift above, lower down the rift continues, there is a small gap over the top where air movement can be detected, and it's wide enough to work.

The usual 50 bags took a bit longer to fill than anticipated and the call came that the team were leaving to start emptying the bags, Jonathon and I filled the last couple of bags and joined them. All of us were suitably coated in mud after today's effort.

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