digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 21, 2019 06:20:51
With Brockers, Nick, Jon and Tav
A view from the Junction. Jon to the north assists with the pipe from the pump. To the east Tav, at the bottom of the entrance, contemplates, it was sunny on the surface.
Today circumstances dictated that the digging effort was to be
concentrated beyond the former ‘pinch-point’ in the cold, Gnarly North. The perceived
‘dry and dusty’ conditions did not come to fruition and pumping was deemed to
be required. Unfortunately, this action was a failure, the pump sprang a leak and
did not work, so the pump and all its attachments were removed to be fettled,
back at Tav’s place. This left Nick and Brockers to wallow in a larger than
anticipated pool of slurry at the digging end. They said it was cold, how we
chuckled. Earlier in the session, another skip had been put together and this
was set-up from the dig to the ‘snug’ spot where Jon was lying. This too,
became ‘damp’ as the spoil was transferred between skips. I was at the Junction
and Tav at the bottom of the entrance, where the filled bags and rocks were to
be stashed awaiting removal at the end of the session.
The bags were filled partly with sediment, partly with slurry, it
was a good job that the sediment was granular. It was, rather forlornly, hoped
that the water would drain out and the bags become a bit lighter, it didn’t,
and they weren’t. The skip between myself and Jon soon wore out and became
difficult to haul, so that was replaced, and the hauling was much smoother. Most
things, by now, were liberally coated with slurry and splashbacks were a common
Soon the time came for digging to cease and for the entrance to be
cleared of spoil. The bags hauled out to the surface to be emptied, the rocks
piled ready for walling, a few were added to the wall as a token gesture. Those
of us on the surface rotated the hauling, leaving Brockers, who had been digging,
to load the skip to the surface. This he wasn’t so impressed with, he reckoned
he was cold after lying all morning in the slurry pool in the cold, Gnarl
North. We, however, were warm in the very pleasant spring sunshine – warmest day
of the year so far, I believe. 49 bags were hauled out and emptied plus 10
skip-loads of rock.
Satisfied with the morning’s endeavours and in high spirit, we
departed and made our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for the usual refreshments.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 14, 2019 07:01:50
With Jake, Jon and
Due to other
commitments, a smaller team today so the digging effort continued in the Soft
South. Tav filled bags and moved the occasional rock to Jon, who was positioned
at the junction. I was at the bottom of the entrance hauling the skip away from
Jon and transferring the load to the surface skip, this was hauled out of the
cave by Jake.
It all seemed to
be at an easy-going pace this morning, but at the end of thesession 85 bags
and 16 loads of rock, a total of 101 loads, removed to the surface. A good,
Jon, at the
junction, hauls the skip away from the digger
the bags onto the ever-growing spoil heap
Jake remarked that it been very pleasant on the surface in the
warm spring sunshine with the bird’s singing and only very rarely could a car
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, April 06, 2019 16:51:00
With Jake, Jon,
Duncan and Tav
weekend it required three persons to secure the cave, only one was necessary to
re-open the cave for this session. Given that we were a team of five, when it
was suggested that we should dig in the ‘Soft South’, there wasn’t too much
I went ahead and
clambered down into the cave. I called up for some empty bags and, before I
could get out of the way, I received several packs thrown down the entrance by
those team members remaining on the surface above.
In the ‘Soft
South’ I spent the session lowering the floor of the ‘chamber’, also removing
sediment from the southern and eastern extents. Jon, in between loading the
skip to Duncan, at the bottom of the entrance, modified the skip haul route
into the ‘Soft South’. There had been a delay to the start of today’s
proceedings while Jon had to go across the border, beyond the former
pinch-point, to the ‘Cold Gnarly North’ to search for tools. The bar that had
been used last weekend (lastly, by Brockers, it seems), despite a determined
search, had disappeared. Jon reported back with tools from the north and
commented that there wasn’t as much water in the puddle as might be expected
following this week’s heavy rain. The missing bar was later rediscovered,
buried under a considerable pile of loose spoil that had been left un-bagged.
A couple of
substantial boulders were loosened, then dragged and cajoled to the base of the
entrance, where the surface team comprising Jake and Tav accepted the challenge
of getting them out in their entirety. This task called for the use of two
ropes. A successful challenge completed, and two more fine rocks were on the
surface ready to be used in the base of another stone wall, sometime in the
On the surface it
had turned into a fine and warm spring day. Today’s final tally was 83 loads
out to the surface; 68 bags and 15 loads of rock. Another productive session.
And, I remembered
to pick-up my camera – didn’t take any photos though!
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, April 01, 2019 21:02:59
I attended the Somerset
Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) Annual Archaeology Day at Wells
and Mendip Museum, and was unavailable for the Saturday morning digging session
at Hallowe’en Rift.
report was provided by Jon:
“Five of the team
(Tav, Jon, Duncan, Jake and Paul) met at the appointed hour. Although one
later admitted that it was only because he had nothing better to do on a
attendance a little lower than usual, it was proposed that we should dig in
what is now known as the ‘Soft South’. The motion was carried unanimously,
and the team set off up the hill on what proved to be a fine spring
The decision to
dig south was influenced by the need to keep all team members involved (a key
factor for a successful dig) and by the wish to ensure that all digging spoil
was removed to the surface (another key factor). Another key factor
is the key.
Digging started a
little later than usual.
There was much
debate about who should work where. Digging took place at two faces
during the previous week and involved three of the team. Under the normal
rules of rotation, Tav, Duncan and Paul could all claim a place on the surface
on a fine sunny morning. Paul and Duncan each tabled motion’s claiming
their own right. Tav, as the sagest of the elders on duty, ruled that any vote
on the matter could only be indicative and that the team had to abide by the
house rules. As a result, Jon was moved up the order from surface duties
the previous week, directly to the dig face, with Paul in support. Tav worked
at the bottom of the entrance. Jake and Duncan worked on their sun tans.
81 bags of spoil
were removed along with 25 loads of stone, mainly from the previous week.
At the end of the
session, three members of the team successfully locked the cave, and all
retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment.”
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 24, 2019 07:07:01
With Jake, Jon,
Nick, Duncan, Brockers, Tav and Mike (Moxon)
After digging last
weekend, Jon was on the surface with Jake, who managed to add some more stone
to the wall, but spoil is required to back it up. I was at the bottom of the
entrance, Nick took up position at the junction.
Nick at the
junction, viewed from the bottom of the entrance.
Tav headed down to the “soft” south with an array of new
implements he had purchased from ‘Proper Job’, a good source for cheap digging
tools. Mike, on light duties following some eye surgery, was in the small the
small “chamber” just beyond the former pinch-point. That left Brockers and Dunc
“up-front”, surprisingly, after a dry week, the pump was required, this took
some time to assemble and drain the water away. A miscalculation in the
drainage route resulted in the south passage, downslope from the north,
suddenly becoming much wetter. Some hasty readjustment of the pipe allowed the
water to drain elsewhere.
Soon, the “lake” was
“dry”, digging was underway. Earlier in the session there had been some time
for quiet contemplation, this was soon to end as the bags and rocks began to be
shifted through and out of the cave. Jake and Jon rotated the hauling and
emptying roles, 115 loads of bags and rocks were brought out to the surface,
and there are still rocks left at the bottom of the entrance, including a
rather large one. Its “twin” had been removed with some effort earlier.
On their return
from the north, Brockers and Dunc were cold and a little grumpy, which was of
some amusement to the rest of us. It was obvious from their attire that the
north had been just a little bit squalid. Still, nothing that some refreshments
at a certain local hostelry wouldn’t sort out.
out of the entrance.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 17, 2019 06:48:32
With Tav, Jon,
Dunc, Nick, Jake and Brockers
Jon’s turn in the
“pond”, Dunc chose to be next in-line again and took up position in the small
“chamber” just beyond the former “pinch-point”. It took some time to assemble
the pump and drain away the considerable quantity of water. A task made more
onerous as the pump had been left, in a safe position, on the far side of the
“lake”, the “pond” now re-designated.
Meanwhile, in the
nice dry and comfortable south passage/chamber, I was happily digging away,
filling bags, finding the occasional lump of rock, just an ideal digging spot.
the “lake” was drained, the water that had been spilt lubricating the haul
route, Jon was able to start digging. Tav, at the junction, was soon very busy.
Nick, at the bottom of the entrance, had been “tidying”, the step that had accumulated over many sessions was now gone, the rocks there had joined the pile
on the surface waiting to be incorporated into the ever-growing wall.
digging last session, was on the surface with Jake, hauling out the spoil from
the cave. Jake continued the wall building until a steady flow of bags started
to arrive at the surface to be emptied.
It was another
productive session; 108 loads out to the surface, 81 bags and 27 loads of rock
for the wall.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 17:14:48
Just a brief visit
underground to collect my camera that I managed to leave behind yesterday. Took
a few snaps of the magnificent spoil-heap.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 07:03:19
With Jake, Tav,
Nick, Brockers and Duncan
Tav and Nick discuss prospects to the south.
After some heavy
rain during the week, it was obvious to us that Tav’s pump was going to be
required. The pump was set-up and proved to be very effective, the water soon
was drained away.
Duncan gives Brockers a helping hand to set-up the pump.
The water gone,
Brockers was able to dig away to his heart’s content. Merrily filling bags,
some of them with very sloppy sediment, and loading rocks into the skip. Duncan
was next in line, lying in the small chamber, aiding the skip along its route
to me at the junction. Once again, I had made a small error and suggested Nick
might go south and dig there. He was in his element. It was a busy session for
me, Tav at the bottom of the entrance and, especially, for Jake who hauled up ~85
skip-loads to the surface; ~70 filled bags and ~15 loads of rock, including one
rather weighty boulder that required the use of the strops. Good wall building
the two most enthusiastic ‘fillers of bags’ digging in tandem, it was necessary,
at times, for me to decant some of the bags to more suitable weights for
hauling out of the cave, and so easing some of the pressure on Jake’s back. At
the close of the session, Nick found some large boulders that he happily
reduced in size to more manageable proportions. These were then rolled to the
bottom of the entrance where they await extraction.
It had been another
productive and convivial digging session, rounded off with a stop at the Hunter’s
Lodge Inn for the customary refreshments.
NOTE: the digging effort, at present, is concentrated on the enlargement
of the north-west leading passage, to the south-west side of the entrance (towards
Trevor Hughes old dig). Also, there has been some activity in the opposite
direction on the south-side.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 03, 2019 07:27:45
Brockers, Jon, Nick and Jake
The induced rapid
speleogenesis applied last Sunday morning had the desired effect and we were
presented by a considerable pile of fractured rock and gravel. This took quite
some time and effort to remove. I went ahead, scraping back the gravel and
fractured rock to Tav, who was bagging up the gravel and loading the skip with
rock. Brockers and Jon then dispatched the spoil to the surface where it was
being dealt with by Nick and Jake.
was enough space to get past the debris and get to work with a small bar to
remove the loose and fractured rock, clearing it back to Tav. When that task
was completed, Tav moved forward, passing me to reach ‘Nick’s pond’, which
wasn’t too wet today. Brockers was able to take up occupation of the position I
had held for the last few weeks. He set about enlarging the passage towards
Tav. I moved back, clearing away the last remnants of gravel and fractured rock
before heading out to the surface to assist Jake. Jon was at the junction, Nick
had moved down to the bottom of the entrance, trying to entice Jon into some surreptitious
removal of an imaginary obstruction. How does the saying go, “idle hands make
That aside, it had
been another enjoyable and productive session; ~100 loads out to the surface,
>60 bags and over 30 skip-loads of rock, more material for the wall.
The banter and
joviality continued at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, where we partook of the usual
refreshments after a mornings hard digging.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 21:11:18
day weather-wise and it was a warm walk up the hill to the cave with kit.
Lowered the bags down the entrance, then pushed them through to the north-west
passage. There, the bags were clipped together to form a train and I dragged
them through to the other side of the pinch-point. It took a bit of
organisation to arrange the kit neatly in the somewhat confined space. The
drilling was a tad awkward, so I sank some pilot-holes in the required spots. I
managed to snap a drill-bit but luckily, I had another one. I took a lot more
care finishing the 4no. holes with a 550mm drill-bit. All the holes primed and
tamped, kit packed away and the bags, carefully, pushed through the pinch-point,
I pulled the hauling line out of the way too. All wired up the mornings task
was bought to a satisfactory conclusion on the surface. Disturbed a couple of
pheasants. Hopefully, there will be some more rock for the wall to clear out
That’s phase one
of dismantling the ‘backstop’ to allow the free movement of people and
materials to pass unhindered between the north and south completed.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 06:52:51
With Nick, Tav,
Brockers, Jonathon, Jake and Alex
A strong team
today, seven of us. Note that I’ve resisted the temptation to add the prefix
For the fourth
week in a row, Nick was dispatched to his pond, although this was almost dry
after a week of fine weather. Once again, I passed through the pinch-point to
take up position in the snug, low chamber I had cleared out during the last few
sessions. Tav was “up the junction”, a decision he was later to rue. I had
suggested to Brockers that he might find some suitable wall-building material
in the southern passage, where Trevor Hughes et. al. had dumped most of the digging
spoil in the 1980s. This is also, an area that Willie Stanton had suggested
there may be some potential for palaeontological remains. He also thought it
was a resurgence but that in now believed to be unlikely. Tav was to be very
busy, when Brockers and Nick got underway, occasionally I was able to add a few
loads too. Brockers found some very decent large boulders, ideal for
wall-building, but a challenge to get out to the surface.
Jon, at the bottom
of the entrance, was responsible for dispatch, Alex on hauling duties today.
Sixty-six filled bags and more than three-dozen skip-loads of rock, well over
100 loads out today. Alex mentioned that his arms and shoulders were a little
sore, he’ll get over it.
Anyway, it was a nice
morning on the surface in the warm ‘spring-like’ sunshine.
pinch-point will be dealt with and others can delight in the joy of Nick’s
pond, that is, currently a ‘dust bowl’ (Nick’s
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 17, 2019 08:10:20
Jonathon, Alex and Jake
The plan was to
continue to enlarge the north-west passage. Unfortunately, Tav didn’t make it
today so, neither did the pump. Nick was, sort of, volunteered to bail-out the
pond of his own making. When he got there, Nick was relieved to find the water
level was quite low and it didn’t take long to bail the water out. It was
noticeable that, after a dry week, the drips were not so pronounced. I was back
in the same position as last weekend and managed to get some bags filled and slabs
shifted, not many though as Nick was sending back a steady supply of bags and
rocks. Jon was at the junction, where we had removed the ‘boardwalk’, and was now
clearing away the accumulated detritus that had been around and under it. Alex was
at the bottom of the entrance, hauling away the spoil and loading the skip to
the surface to be pulled up by Jake. Jake had constructed a wooden platform
that straddled the entrance, making it easier underfoot and more stable for his
conditions are not ideal at the moment, it was an enjoyable session with a
constant flow of banter and not too much character assassination this morning.
By the end of the session 55 loads had been hauled out to the surface: 35 bags
and 20 skip-loads of rock ready to be added to the wall, when there is time.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 10, 2019 08:36:32
Jonathon, Tav and a massive welcome back to Jake
A jovial group of
diggers ventured up the hill from the farm to the cave entrance. The loose
bags, left-out to dry at the end of the last digging session, were packed-up
and dispatched to below ground. I descended the entrance and headed to the
north-west passage followed by Jon. Nick and Tav followed on too. Jake, still
recovering from knee surgery, remained on the surface to begin constructing
another spoil retaining wall.
got to the pinch-point but not quite through it. After turning around to have a
look, and a discussion I could now see what needed to be removed to make it
passable for all. I will have to arrange with the supplier, a Sunday morning
collection soon. At present, work commitments rule out a mid-week evening trip.
It was then decided that Nick go to the end
and dig because he would be happier there. And he needed to confirm his
thoughts last session that he was digging a pond. This, indeed, turned out to
be the case. There was a lot of water and some hasty improvisation of equipment
was required to remove it. The removal of the water ensured that the passage
was now well lubricated, some might have suggested, squalid. Eventually, it was
almost dry enough to dig and spoil removal could commence. To supplement Nick’s
endeavours, I filled some bags with loose sediment from the position I was
lying in, made a little more space for myself too. Strangely, lying in the squalor
of liquid slurry, I find the passage to be rather aesthetically pleasing,
lights reflecting off the glimmering slurry and constantly dripping water. It was
cold though now that I was completely soaked, glad that I had decided to wear a
fleece undersuit today. There were some grumbles from the entrance, where Tav
was stacking the filled bags, regarding the weight of some bags, unfortunately,
this fell on deaf ears and Nick carried on regardless.
Soon it was time
to move back and deal with the products of today’s effort. Some bags were
easier to empty than others. Thirty-nine bags and three skip-loads of rock were
disposed off on the surface. During our time underground, Jake had constructed
a fine wall and had used most of the available rock. We will have to create some
more very soon.
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, February 05, 2019 21:29:06
Due to some adverse
weather conditions, quite a lot of snow, digging activities for today were
cancelled. Jonathon made a gallant effort to make the Hunter’s but was thwarted
when he came across a damsel in distress on the Old Bristol Road. I think she
had managed to park in the hedge and needed some assistance to free her
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 27, 2019 06:58:10
Jonathon, Nick and Tav
After the lurgy
and a week at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Lab, it was good to
get back into Hallowe’en Rift for my first digging session of 2019.
The plan this
session was to continue the enlargement of the passage along to Trevor’s Old
Dig, trending circa north-west. There had been some mention of a ‘pinch-point’
so this is where some of the effort was directed. Nick set-off to the end so
that he could free an old bang wire that was impeding the skip hauling.
Meanwhile, I started to remove some of the loose material that had been stashed
to the sides of the passage just beyond the pinch-point to make more room. Nick
returned and asked that I pull the old wire through, that done, Nick started to
enlarge the passage about 6m beyond me, his plan was to see if could remove
layers of calcite from the floor and so. Enlarge the passage. He did wonder
whether, or not, he was digging a pond, I guess we’ll find out next session. Filled
bags and rocks were being removed at a steady rate to Tav, positioned at the
junction, who re-directed the skip to Brockers, at the bottom of the entrance. To
keep himself occupied in between loads, Brockers had decided to do some ‘tidying’,
keeping Jon, on the surface, busy. There was an occasional grumble from above
ground, ‘Nick bag’, too heavy, too claggy, very difficult to empty, below
ground, the comments passed by.
Today’s count: 76
loads, 54 filled and emptied bags and 22 skip-loads of rock. It had been
another productive session and I, for one, enjoyed it!
digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, January 08, 2019 07:33:56
I had succumbed,
like so many others, to the lurgy and so, was out of action. Jonathon sent the
following summary of the morning’s activity at Hallowe’en Rift, the first session
of the year:
“We were down to
two diggers - Jon and Paul.
there was little to do with just two, we took a quick look to the East.
There were a few pools of water, but not as bad as expected. Specifically,
we went to have another look at the cross rift just after Thou Shall Not Dig
Here. We removed a few rocks until we could get a better view and then
decided it was not worth trashing the place any further. I cannot see any
reason to dig there now.
We returned to
Trevor 's old dig and removed what we could. We then cleared the rocks from
the entrance. The count: 8 bags and 23 loads of stone.”