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 regular guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

22nd June 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 22, 2019 15:37:04

With Jon and Brockers

A small team assembled for today’s activities and it was soon decided that the best and most effective use of manpower was to dig in the Soft South.

While Jon packed bags, Brockers went ahead to start digging and I headed up to the Cold Gnarly North. I wanted to look and make an assessment for the next phase of IRS and expand the low grovel that is the continuation north. On the way back to join the others I scraped up the loose material lying in the low section.

Back in the “comfort” of the Soft South I took my position stacking bags in the entrance ready to be removed later. Jon was at the junction/bend and Brockers was busily digging away.

It was a pleasant way to spend the morning, chattering away to Jon, stopping occasionally to stack another bag in the entrance. It’s surprising how big the pile gets as the session progresses.

Then the time came to clear-out the spoil, Jon and I went up to the surface and took it in turns to haul up the skip. Brockers remained below ground to load the skip. When all the bags were out of the cave, they were then emptied onto the spoil heap and the bags hung-up to dry. Today’s tally; 49 filled and emptied bags, and a stone that didn’t qualify as a load or even half a load really.

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15th June 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, June 21, 2019 07:26:55

Another flint knapping workshop at Butser Ancient Farm for me. I didn’t dig but the rest of the team did. The following report was written by Jon:

“Shambles /ˈʃamb(ə)lz/


1. A state of confusion, bad organization, or untidiness, or something that is in this state.

2. A butcher's slaughterhouse (archaic except in place names).

3. Five diggers at Halloween Rift on Saturday 15th June 2019.

The usual call to action is via a text-based messaging system (e-mail). This week, attempts were made to circumvent this and use instead a text-based messaging system (SMS). Four members of the team (Tav, Nick, Duncan and Jon) assembled at the appointed hour. A fifth member (Paul) sent a message to indicate he was running late.

The team patiently waited and, after further reference to the messaging system, waited some more. Finally giving up on the latecomer, the team moved on to the farm, to be met by the latecomer. For his sins, he was appointed hut warden.

With echoes of past failures, the team set out without a key. A Sage Elder saved the day; a runner was despatched to get one. Fortunately, a second team member also went back and got the correct key.

Effort was directed at the Cold Gnarly North, with Paul in the lead. Nick took the wet spot, in his lake. Tav hauled at the corner, a position gaining a reputation for being cold and miserable. Duncan and Jon hauled and stacked at the entrance. 44 bags of spoil and 11 loads of rock were removed. Paul reports that this was largely loose spoil that had previously been stacked along the sides of the passage.

The team learnt from their earlier mistakes and made sure that they finished on time. They then retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment…

…or rather, three team members did. Those who had manned the wetter, colder positions went straight home.”

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8th June 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 08, 2019 22:15:40

With Jon, Brockers and Nick

We made a return to the Cold Gnarly North to finish off the job we had started last weekend. Jon was the first to cross the “sea of slurry” and go up to the nice dry bit to fill bags. Somehow, Brockers had talked himself into the cold mucky job in the slurry, I was positioned at the bend in the north passage just beyond the first “pinch-point”, Nick was at the junction where he stashed the filled bags and rocks, although some went to the bottom of the entrance too.

Although my position had started off dry it was soon rather wet and squalid with a good deal of splashback coming from the haul-rope, at least the skip route was well lubricated.

Jon cleared the loose debris left-over from the IRS and quite a bit more stuff too, Brockers busied himself improving the access to the passage north from the “lake”, Nick, meanwhile was quietly digging something, anything, it’s like a ‘nervous-twitch’. The stash of spoil was accumulating.

Eventually, it was decided that we shift back and clear-out the accumulated spoil from the cave. Some quite large boulders had appeared, and they hadn’t come from the north. They were to stay below ground ready to be hauled-out another day. There were 64 loads hauled to the surface today, 48 filled bags and 16 skip-loads of rocks.

The warmth of the June sunshine was very welcome after spending a couple of hours or so in the Cold Gnarly North.

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1st June 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 02, 2019 06:38:08

With Jon, Nick and Tav

The only plan for today was to clear the debris from last weekend’s application of IRS up in the Cold Gnarly North. While the others were packaging the dry bags ready for use later, I went ahead to reel in the wire.

On arrival at the “pinch-point” it was evident that the IRS had been effective, further progress prevented by a “wall” of shattered rock and gravel. Initially, spoil removal wasn’t easy, the skip was a bit too big for the passage and difficult to load, the larger lumps of rock were moved behind me then, I reversed along the passage, kicking the rocks ahead to a place where Jon could reach them.

Eventually, I was able to squeeze over the top of the rock and gravel pile and get into the small “chamber” beyond, from there it was easier to load the skip and the spoil removal was more rapid. The larger cobbles and boulders placed directly into the skip, Jon sent up some empty bags for the smaller cobbles and gravel. Interestingly, as the “wall” of debris was breached, a feint movement of air could be detected.

We hadn’t finished the rubble clearance, when word come to us that there was a large accumulation of spoil that needed to be taken up to the surface. Jon came up to have a brief look at the progress so far, while I set about with a hammer and chisel to remove some fractured rock flakes from the roof. We then left to join the others and clear out the cave.

It was noticed that Jon appeared to have a liberal coating of mud, whether he was particularly happy about this was difficult to gauge, his face masked in a veil of mud. Apparently, the shallow puddles that had remained in the “lake” chamber had quickly turned to slurry with the passage of skips, this creating splashback from the haul-rope and the skips made quite a splash on arrival. We were, of course, unsympathetic.

It was positively tropical on the surface, and the flies are starting to make a comeback. It had been noted, that below ground, bluebottles were annoyingly present. Anyway, today’s final count: 31 bags, filled and emptied, and 28 skip-loads of rock, more wall building material. There is still plenty of loose spoil to be removed from the area of the, now former, “pinch-point”.

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25th May 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, May 25, 2019 21:03:46

With Duncan, Brockers, Jon, Nick and Tav

I had to collect some supplies at 09:00 and then met the team at the Hunter’s 10:00. From there we drove down to the farm. I stayed behind for a while at the farm to prep things, the others got changed and made their way up to the cave to get digging underway, they carried some of my stuff up to the cave with them. When I had thing sorted I made my way up to Hallowe’en Rift to join the others.

The digging team had decided to dig in the Soft South, I picked up my bags and other gear and headed to the Cold Gnarly North. My plan was to apply some induced rapid speleogenesis and enlarge the next pinch-point and so ease progress towards our objective. The puddle wasn’t quite as dry as had been predicted and there was still some slurry in places, nothing to worry about too much. Dragged the kit through the constriction and drilled 4no. holes, 12mm dia. x 550mm length. There wasn’t any sediment around suitable for tamp so decided to make my way up to the terminal [at least for now] aven. Looking around I found a ‘ball’ of mud, Trevor’s ‘ball of tamp’. I returned to the focus of today and completed the next phase, and then, pushing all my kit ahead, made my way south, unravelling the wire as I went.

The digging team were just finishing up, 100 bags and a rock, the tally for this session. When all were out of the cave, the proceedings were brought to a satisfactory end. The cave entrance secured, we made our way back down to the farm in the warm sunshine, got changed and up to the Hunter’s for refreshments.

Some of the afternoon was spent cleaning kit.

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18th May 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 19, 2019 06:11:54

I attended a Flint Knapping Workshop at Butser Ancient Farm (Chalton, Hampshire) today. The rest of the team were at Hallowe’en Rift, the following summary of the morning’s activities penned by Tav:

"Tav, Duncan, Brockers, Jon, Jake and Alex

Tav installed the hose extension into the old dig (which in the end wasn’t needed) and then headed up to the Cold Gnarly North armed with the new pump and main hose, which Dunc straightened out to ease the flow of water. While Tav pumped the pool, the rest of the team continued work in the Soft South (Jon’s report to follow). The new pump worked very well and cleared almost all the water until it finally became blocked with slurry when down to the final dregs. Both pump and hose were later removed for cleaning. With the water gone, Tav set about clearing the bang debris, which was strewn quite a long way down the crawl in mostly handy plate-sized lumps. A few larger pieces were levered off the roof and wall, but these were easily broken up with a lump hammer. It proved a long drag back down the crawl and across the bed of the ex-lake, to reach the skip which Dunc hauled up from his familiar position on the corner. However, all proceeded smoothly and by close of play all the bang debris had successfully been removed."

Jon' account of the morning's activities:

"While Tav and Duncan addressed matters in the Cold Gnarly North, the rest of the team (Jon, Paul, Jake and Alex) resumed work in the Soft South.

Jake returned to underground duties, initially working at the junction. Alex, who cycled to the morning’s activities, was lightly dressed and only ventured to the bottom of the entrance shaft. That left Paul and Jon once again working at the dig face…

…until the music stopped. The first time this happened, Alex found himself at the surface, with Duncan at the bottom of the entrance. The second time, Duncan had returned North, Jake was at the bottom of the entrance and Jon was at the junction. At the third time of asking, Alex and Jake shared surface duties Jon loaded at the entrance and Paul manned the junction…

…and so on.

Total tally for the day from both ends was 70 bags and 16 rocks. Another useful session."

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11th May 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 12, 2019 06:49:36

With Brockers, Jon, Duncan, Nick, Jake and Tav

For me, the first stop of the day was to collect the necessary supplies for the task ahead and then meet the team in the Hunter’s car park at the allotted time.

In the cave, while the others were digging in the Soft South, I headed to the Cold Gnarly North to apply the IRS. Keeping the kit out of the puddle was my main concern; as I had found to my cost previously, lithium ion batteries do not like getting wet! Luckily there is a shelf on one-side where the kit could be laid-out. Then to the drilling, I spent some time trying to work-out whether I could achieve the task in hand and stay reasonably dry, I quickly came to the realisation that this wasn’t going to be the case. I drilled 4no. 14mm x 260mm pilot holes in the required locations, that was okay, it was the full length, 12mm x 550mm holes that required me to lie flat-out in the puddle. Once soaked, I began to feel a bit chilly. Anyway, with a bit of care, the task was completed and the kit re-packed. I went back to retrieve the wire reel from where I had left it, Duncan came up to take the drill and bit tube. I returned through the puddle. All wired-up, I made my way back south to join the team.

Brockers and Jon were digging and filling the last few bags. Duncan, at the bend/junction was hauling the loaded skip part-way then Nick, at the bottom of the entrance, pulled the skip the rest of the way. The load was transferred to the surface skip where Jake and Tav were rotating the hauling and emptying, in the pleasantly warm morning sunshine. The count for today; 120 loads, 110 bags and 12 loads of rock (some of these were ‘extra’s’ provided by Nick, who just can’t help himself).

When all were out of the cave, my task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The gate was replaced, and the cave made secure. We left to walk down to the farm. The usual refreshments at the Hunter’s followed, although I didn’t tarry long, I was still cold so returned home to soak in a hot bath.

Just the caving kit and other equipment to clean in the afternoon.

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4th May 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 05, 2019 05:50:40

Note: no activities took place last weekend (27th April). I was over on the Gower peninsular digging with Jon and Alex at Harry Thomas’s Cave, Overton. Others had their own commitments.

With Brockers, Duncan, Jon and Jake

The digging effort, once again, was concentrated in the Soft South due to numbers, and there is still a puddle in the Cold Gnarly North. Brockers and Duncan were digging and filling bags, Brockers worked on the east-side, Duncan to the west. I was at the junction (more like a bend, really), Jon at the bottom of the entrance, Jake on the surface.

While Jon was replacing the skip, I ventured up to the north to collect some tools and can confirm, there is still a pool of water. As I was there anyway I had a good look at the way ahead and gave some thought to an easier solution to moving forward. I arrived at the decision that some ‘rapidly induced speleogenesis’ might prove fruitful, if I had some help to keep the kit dry. It’ll be a lot quicker than digging, I’ll ponder and see if I can make some arrangements. I remembered to collect some tools although the big bar could not be located.

Back at the dig, we settled into a steady rate of removal and the banter flowed freely. Now that I was wet, the draught from the south-west passage was increasingly noticeable, as the session progressed I became cooler.

Towards the end of the session, Duncan had wormed his way into a small space, a possible cross-rift, that was interesting but requires some more work to fully see what’s going on. This was the last action of the day and we exited the cave. Jake had hauled and emptied 66 bags and 2 skip-loads of rock onto the spoil heap.

Walking back across the fields to the farm, I had a feeling that I was missing something, then it dawned on me – my camera. I returned to the cave and to retrieve it – another senior moment!

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20th April 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 21, 2019 06:20:51

With Brockers, Nick, Jon and Tav
A view from the Junction. Jon to the north assists with the pipe from the pump. To the east Tav, at the bottom of the entrance, contemplates, it was sunny on the surface.
Today circumstances dictated that the digging effort was to be concentrated beyond the former ‘pinch-point’ in the cold, Gnarly North. The perceived ‘dry and dusty’ conditions did not come to fruition and pumping was deemed to be required. Unfortunately, this action was a failure, the pump sprang a leak and did not work, so the pump and all its attachments were removed to be fettled, back at Tav’s place. This left Nick and Brockers to wallow in a larger than anticipated pool of slurry at the digging end. They said it was cold, how we chuckled. Earlier in the session, another skip had been put together and this was set-up from the dig to the ‘snug’ spot where Jon was lying. This too, became ‘damp’ as the spoil was transferred between skips. I was at the Junction and Tav at the bottom of the entrance, where the filled bags and rocks were to be stashed awaiting removal at the end of the session.

The bags were filled partly with sediment, partly with slurry, it was a good job that the sediment was granular. It was, rather forlornly, hoped that the water would drain out and the bags become a bit lighter, it didn’t, and they weren’t. The skip between myself and Jon soon wore out and became difficult to haul, so that was replaced, and the hauling was much smoother. Most things, by now, were liberally coated with slurry and splashbacks were a common occurrence.

Soon the time came for digging to cease and for the entrance to be cleared of spoil. The bags hauled out to the surface to be emptied, the rocks piled ready for walling, a few were added to the wall as a token gesture. Those of us on the surface rotated the hauling, leaving Brockers, who had been digging, to load the skip to the surface. This he wasn’t so impressed with, he reckoned he was cold after lying all morning in the slurry pool in the cold, Gnarl North. We, however, were warm in the very pleasant spring sunshine – warmest day of the year so far, I believe. 49 bags were hauled out and emptied plus 10 skip-loads of rock.

Satisfied with the morning’s endeavours and in high spirit, we departed and made our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for the usual refreshments.

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13th April 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 14, 2019 07:01:50

With Jake, Jon and Tav

Due to other commitments, a smaller team today so the digging effort continued in the Soft South. Tav filled bags and moved the occasional rock to Jon, who was positioned at the junction. I was at the bottom of the entrance hauling the skip away from Jon and transferring the load to the surface skip, this was hauled out of the cave by Jake.

It all seemed to be at an easy-going pace this morning, but at the end of thesession 85 bags and 16 loads of rock, a total of 101 loads, removed to the surface. A good, productive effort.

Tav fills bags
Jon, at the junction, hauls the skip away from the digger
Jake empty’s the bags onto the ever-growing spoil heap

Jake remarked that it been very pleasant on the surface in the warm spring sunshine with the bird’s singing and only very rarely could a car be heard!

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6th April 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, April 06, 2019 16:51:00

With Jake, Jon, Duncan and Tav

Although last weekend it required three persons to secure the cave, only one was necessary to re-open the cave for this session. Given that we were a team of five, when it was suggested that we should dig in the ‘Soft South’, there wasn’t too much dissent.

I went ahead and clambered down into the cave. I called up for some empty bags and, before I could get out of the way, I received several packs thrown down the entrance by those team members remaining on the surface above.

In the ‘Soft South’ I spent the session lowering the floor of the ‘chamber’, also removing sediment from the southern and eastern extents. Jon, in between loading the skip to Duncan, at the bottom of the entrance, modified the skip haul route into the ‘Soft South’. There had been a delay to the start of today’s proceedings while Jon had to go across the border, beyond the former pinch-point, to the ‘Cold Gnarly North’ to search for tools. The bar that had been used last weekend (lastly, by Brockers, it seems), despite a determined search, had disappeared. Jon reported back with tools from the north and commented that there wasn’t as much water in the puddle as might be expected following this week’s heavy rain. The missing bar was later rediscovered, buried under a considerable pile of loose spoil that had been left un-bagged.

A couple of substantial boulders were loosened, then dragged and cajoled to the base of the entrance, where the surface team comprising Jake and Tav accepted the challenge of getting them out in their entirety. This task called for the use of two ropes. A successful challenge completed, and two more fine rocks were on the surface ready to be used in the base of another stone wall, sometime in the future.

On the surface it had turned into a fine and warm spring day. Today’s final tally was 83 loads out to the surface; 68 bags and 15 loads of rock. Another productive session.

And, I remembered to pick-up my camera – didn’t take any photos though!

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30th March 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, April 01, 2019 21:02:59

I attended the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) Annual Archaeology Day at Wells and Mendip Museum, and was unavailable for the Saturday morning digging session at Hallowe’en Rift.

The following report was provided by Jon:

“Five of the team (Tav, Jon, Duncan, Jake and Paul) met at the appointed hour. Although one later admitted that it was only because he had nothing better to do on a Saturday.

With the attendance a little lower than usual, it was proposed that we should dig in what is now known as the ‘Soft South’. The motion was carried unanimously, and the team set off up the hill on what proved to be a fine spring morning.

The decision to dig south was influenced by the need to keep all team members involved (a key factor for a successful dig) and by the wish to ensure that all digging spoil was removed to the surface (another key factor). Another key factor is the key.

Digging started a little later than usual.

There was much debate about who should work where. Digging took place at two faces during the previous week and involved three of the team. Under the normal rules of rotation, Tav, Duncan and Paul could all claim a place on the surface on a fine sunny morning. Paul and Duncan each tabled motion’s claiming their own right. Tav, as the sagest of the elders on duty, ruled that any vote on the matter could only be indicative and that the team had to abide by the house rules. As a result, Jon was moved up the order from surface duties the previous week, directly to the dig face, with Paul in support. Tav worked at the bottom of the entrance. Jake and Duncan worked on their sun tans.

81 bags of spoil were removed along with 25 loads of stone, mainly from the previous week.

At the end of the session, three members of the team successfully locked the cave, and all retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment.”

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23rd March 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 24, 2019 07:07:01

With Jake, Jon, Nick, Duncan, Brockers, Tav and Mike (Moxon)

After digging last weekend, Jon was on the surface with Jake, who managed to add some more stone to the wall, but spoil is required to back it up. I was at the bottom of the entrance, Nick took up position at the junction.

Nick at the junction, viewed from the bottom of the entrance.

Tav headed down to the “soft” south with an array of new implements he had purchased from ‘Proper Job’, a good source for cheap digging tools. Mike, on light duties following some eye surgery, was in the small the small “chamber” just beyond the former pinch-point. That left Brockers and Dunc “up-front”, surprisingly, after a dry week, the pump was required, this took some time to assemble and drain the water away. A miscalculation in the drainage route resulted in the south passage, downslope from the north, suddenly becoming much wetter. Some hasty readjustment of the pipe allowed the water to drain elsewhere.

Soon, the “lake” was “dry”, digging was underway. Earlier in the session there had been some time for quiet contemplation, this was soon to end as the bags and rocks began to be shifted through and out of the cave. Jake and Jon rotated the hauling and emptying roles, 115 loads of bags and rocks were brought out to the surface, and there are still rocks left at the bottom of the entrance, including a rather large one. Its “twin” had been removed with some effort earlier.

On their return from the north, Brockers and Dunc were cold and a little grumpy, which was of some amusement to the rest of us. It was obvious from their attire that the north had been just a little bit squalid. Still, nothing that some refreshments at a certain local hostelry wouldn’t sort out.

Looking up out of the entrance.

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16th March 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 17, 2019 06:48:32

With Tav, Jon, Dunc, Nick, Jake and Brockers

Jon’s turn in the “pond”, Dunc chose to be next in-line again and took up position in the small “chamber” just beyond the former “pinch-point”. It took some time to assemble the pump and drain away the considerable quantity of water. A task made more onerous as the pump had been left, in a safe position, on the far side of the “lake”, the “pond” now re-designated.

Meanwhile, in the nice dry and comfortable south passage/chamber, I was happily digging away, filling bags, finding the occasional lump of rock, just an ideal digging spot.

Eventually though, the “lake” was drained, the water that had been spilt lubricating the haul route, Jon was able to start digging. Tav, at the junction, was soon very busy. Nick, at the bottom of the entrance, had been “tidying”, the step that had accumulated over many sessions was now gone, the rocks there had joined the pile on the surface waiting to be incorporated into the ever-growing wall.

Brockers, after digging last session, was on the surface with Jake, hauling out the spoil from the cave. Jake continued the wall building until a steady flow of bags started to arrive at the surface to be emptied.

It was another productive session; 108 loads out to the surface, 81 bags and 27 loads of rock for the wall.

Happy days!

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10th March 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 17:14:48


Just a brief visit underground to collect my camera that I managed to leave behind yesterday. Took a few snaps of the magnificent spoil-heap.

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9th March 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 07:03:19

With Jake, Tav, Nick, Brockers and Duncan

Tav and Nick discuss prospects to the south.

After some heavy rain during the week, it was obvious to us that Tav’s pump was going to be required. The pump was set-up and proved to be very effective, the water soon was drained away.

Duncan gives Brockers a helping hand to set-up the pump.

The water gone, Brockers was able to dig away to his heart’s content. Merrily filling bags, some of them with very sloppy sediment, and loading rocks into the skip. Duncan was next in line, lying in the small chamber, aiding the skip along its route to me at the junction. Once again, I had made a small error and suggested Nick might go south and dig there. He was in his element. It was a busy session for me, Tav at the bottom of the entrance and, especially, for Jake who hauled up ~85 skip-loads to the surface; ~70 filled bags and ~15 loads of rock, including one rather weighty boulder that required the use of the strops. Good wall building material though.

With, probably, the two most enthusiastic ‘fillers of bags’ digging in tandem, it was necessary, at times, for me to decant some of the bags to more suitable weights for hauling out of the cave, and so easing some of the pressure on Jake’s back. At the close of the session, Nick found some large boulders that he happily reduced in size to more manageable proportions. These were then rolled to the bottom of the entrance where they await extraction.

It had been another productive and convivial digging session, rounded off with a stop at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for the customary refreshments.

NOTE: the digging effort, at present, is concentrated on the enlargement of the north-west leading passage, to the south-west side of the entrance (towards Trevor Hughes old dig). Also, there has been some activity in the opposite direction on the south-side.

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2nd March 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 03, 2019 07:27:45

With Tav, Brockers, Jon, Nick and Jake

The induced rapid speleogenesis applied last Sunday morning had the desired effect and we were presented by a considerable pile of fractured rock and gravel. This took quite some time and effort to remove. I went ahead, scraping back the gravel and fractured rock to Tav, who was bagging up the gravel and loading the skip with rock. Brockers and Jon then dispatched the spoil to the surface where it was being dealt with by Nick and Jake.

Eventually, there was enough space to get past the debris and get to work with a small bar to remove the loose and fractured rock, clearing it back to Tav. When that task was completed, Tav moved forward, passing me to reach ‘Nick’s pond’, which wasn’t too wet today. Brockers was able to take up occupation of the position I had held for the last few weeks. He set about enlarging the passage towards Tav. I moved back, clearing away the last remnants of gravel and fractured rock before heading out to the surface to assist Jake. Jon was at the junction, Nick had moved down to the bottom of the entrance, trying to entice Jon into some surreptitious removal of an imaginary obstruction. How does the saying go, “idle hands make mischief”?

That aside, it had been another enjoyable and productive session; ~100 loads out to the surface, >60 bags and over 30 skip-loads of rock, more material for the wall.

The banter and joviality continued at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, where we partook of the usual refreshments after a mornings hard digging.

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24th February 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 21:11:18


Another glorious day weather-wise and it was a warm walk up the hill to the cave with kit. Lowered the bags down the entrance, then pushed them through to the north-west passage. There, the bags were clipped together to form a train and I dragged them through to the other side of the pinch-point. It took a bit of organisation to arrange the kit neatly in the somewhat confined space. The drilling was a tad awkward, so I sank some pilot-holes in the required spots. I managed to snap a drill-bit but luckily, I had another one. I took a lot more care finishing the 4no. holes with a 550mm drill-bit. All the holes primed and tamped, kit packed away and the bags, carefully, pushed through the pinch-point, I pulled the hauling line out of the way too. All wired up the mornings task was bought to a satisfactory conclusion on the surface. Disturbed a couple of pheasants. Hopefully, there will be some more rock for the wall to clear out next weekend.

That’s phase one of dismantling the ‘backstop’ to allow the free movement of people and materials to pass unhindered between the north and south completed.

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23rd February 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 06:52:51

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

A strong team today, seven of us. Note that I’ve resisted the temptation to add the prefix “magnificent”!

For the fourth week in a row, Nick was dispatched to his pond, although this was almost dry after a week of fine weather. Once again, I passed through the pinch-point to take up position in the snug, low chamber I had cleared out during the last few sessions. Tav was “up the junction”, a decision he was later to rue. I had suggested to Brockers that he might find some suitable wall-building material in the southern passage, where Trevor Hughes et. al. had dumped most of the digging spoil in the 1980s. This is also, an area that Willie Stanton had suggested there may be some potential for palaeontological remains. He also thought it was a resurgence but that in now believed to be unlikely. Tav was to be very busy, when Brockers and Nick got underway, occasionally I was able to add a few loads too. Brockers found some very decent large boulders, ideal for wall-building, but a challenge to get out to the surface.

Jon, at the bottom of the entrance, was responsible for dispatch, Alex on hauling duties today. Sixty-six filled bags and more than three-dozen skip-loads of rock, well over 100 loads out today. Alex mentioned that his arms and shoulders were a little sore, he’ll get over it.

Anyway, it was a nice morning on the surface in the warm ‘spring-like’ sunshine.

Tomorrow, the pinch-point will be dealt with and others can delight in the joy of Nick’s pond, that is, currently a ‘dust bowl’ (Nick’s words!)

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16th February 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 17, 2019 08:10:20

With Nick, Jonathon, Alex and Jake

The plan was to continue to enlarge the north-west passage. Unfortunately, Tav didn’t make it today so, neither did the pump. Nick was, sort of, volunteered to bail-out the pond of his own making. When he got there, Nick was relieved to find the water level was quite low and it didn’t take long to bail the water out. It was noticeable that, after a dry week, the drips were not so pronounced. I was back in the same position as last weekend and managed to get some bags filled and slabs shifted, not many though as Nick was sending back a steady supply of bags and rocks. Jon was at the junction, where we had removed the ‘boardwalk’, and was now clearing away the accumulated detritus that had been around and under it. Alex was at the bottom of the entrance, hauling away the spoil and loading the skip to the surface to be pulled up by Jake. Jake had constructed a wooden platform that straddled the entrance, making it easier underfoot and more stable for his knee.

Although the conditions are not ideal at the moment, it was an enjoyable session with a constant flow of banter and not too much character assassination this morning. By the end of the session 55 loads had been hauled out to the surface: 35 bags and 20 skip-loads of rock ready to be added to the wall, when there is time.

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9th February 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 10, 2019 08:36:32

With Nick, Jonathon, Tav and a massive welcome back to Jake

A jovial group of diggers ventured up the hill from the farm to the cave entrance. The loose bags, left-out to dry at the end of the last digging session, were packed-up and dispatched to below ground. I descended the entrance and headed to the north-west passage followed by Jon. Nick and Tav followed on too. Jake, still recovering from knee surgery, remained on the surface to begin constructing another spoil retaining wall.

Underground, Jon got to the pinch-point but not quite through it. After turning around to have a look, and a discussion I could now see what needed to be removed to make it passable for all. I will have to arrange with the supplier, a Sunday morning collection soon. At present, work commitments rule out a mid-week evening trip.

It was then decided that Nick go to the end and dig because he would be happier there. And he needed to confirm his thoughts last session that he was digging a pond. This, indeed, turned out to be the case. There was a lot of water and some hasty improvisation of equipment was required to remove it. The removal of the water ensured that the passage was now well lubricated, some might have suggested, squalid. Eventually, it was almost dry enough to dig and spoil removal could commence. To supplement Nick’s endeavours, I filled some bags with loose sediment from the position I was lying in, made a little more space for myself too. Strangely, lying in the squalor of liquid slurry, I find the passage to be rather aesthetically pleasing, lights reflecting off the glimmering slurry and constantly dripping water. It was cold though now that I was completely soaked, glad that I had decided to wear a fleece undersuit today. There were some grumbles from the entrance, where Tav was stacking the filled bags, regarding the weight of some bags, unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears and Nick carried on regardless.

Soon it was time to move back and deal with the products of today’s effort. Some bags were easier to empty than others. Thirty-nine bags and three skip-loads of rock were disposed off on the surface. During our time underground, Jake had constructed a fine wall and had used most of the available rock. We will have to create some more very soon.

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2nd February 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, February 05, 2019 21:29:06

Due to some adverse weather conditions, quite a lot of snow, digging activities for today were cancelled. Jonathon made a gallant effort to make the Hunter’s but was thwarted when he came across a damsel in distress on the Old Bristol Road. I think she had managed to park in the hedge and needed some assistance to free her vehicle.

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26th January 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 27, 2019 06:58:10

With Brockers, Jonathon, Nick and Tav

After the lurgy and a week at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Lab, it was good to get back into Hallowe’en Rift for my first digging session of 2019.

The plan this session was to continue the enlargement of the passage along to Trevor’s Old Dig, trending circa north-west. There had been some mention of a ‘pinch-point’ so this is where some of the effort was directed. Nick set-off to the end so that he could free an old bang wire that was impeding the skip hauling. Meanwhile, I started to remove some of the loose material that had been stashed to the sides of the passage just beyond the pinch-point to make more room. Nick returned and asked that I pull the old wire through, that done, Nick started to enlarge the passage about 6m beyond me, his plan was to see if could remove layers of calcite from the floor and so. Enlarge the passage. He did wonder whether, or not, he was digging a pond, I guess we’ll find out next session. Filled bags and rocks were being removed at a steady rate to Tav, positioned at the junction, who re-directed the skip to Brockers, at the bottom of the entrance. To keep himself occupied in between loads, Brockers had decided to do some ‘tidying’, keeping Jon, on the surface, busy. There was an occasional grumble from above ground, ‘Nick bag’, too heavy, too claggy, very difficult to empty, below ground, the comments passed by.

Today’s count: 76 loads, 54 filled and emptied bags and 22 skip-loads of rock. It had been another productive session and I, for one, enjoyed it!

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5th January 2019

digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, January 08, 2019 07:33:56

I had succumbed, like so many others, to the lurgy and so, was out of action. Jonathon sent the following summary of the morning’s activity at Hallowe’en Rift, the first session of the year:

“We were down to two diggers - Jon and Paul.

Thinking that there was little to do with just two, we took a quick look to the East. There were a few pools of water, but not as bad as expected. Specifically, we went to have another look at the cross rift just after Thou Shall Not Dig Here. We removed a few rocks until we could get a better view and then decided it was not worth trashing the place any further. I cannot see any reason to dig there now.

We returned to Trevor 's old dig and removed what we could. We then cleared the rocks from the entrance. The count: 8 bags and 23 loads of stone.”

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