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.

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post498

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!

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post497

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!

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post496

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.”

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post495

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post494

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!

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post493

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post492

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post491

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post490

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post489

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!)

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post488

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post487

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post486

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.

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post485

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!

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post483

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.”

  • Comments(0)//dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#post482