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Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

Excursions [and other notes] involved in the exploration of Hallowe'en Rift; a cave, so far, formed within Triassic Dolomitic Conglomerate.

The exploration of Hallowe'en Rift was started in 1982 by Trevor Hughes with other members of the Bristol Exploration Club, then during the early 1990's Vince Simmonds and other, mostly, local diggers were active at a number of locations within the cave, including the start of the present dig with Graham Johnson in December 1991. The current phase of exploration was commenced in 2009, with the majority of the early work being carried out by Vince Simmonds and Alex Gee, now the regular team includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Matt Tuck, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock and Roz Simmonds. There has also been assistance from John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Duncan Price, Bob Smith, Mike Moxon, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, with a couple of guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

15th December 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 16, 2012 07:53:16
With Tav. Alex is still not feeling 100% but should make a comeback soon. Continued with the clearance of spoil from the end of Toil and Trouble, gently teasing some of the larger rocks into submission with a sledgehammer. A couple of the rocks refused to give in and will probably require dragging out to the surface. When the area was cleared of debris it is surprising just how much space we have created, I can easily turnaround at the present end now. Eventually we were able to start gardening at the very end and get a better look at what lies ahead. It seems we are to spoilt by a choice of direction; to the right there is low open space [~0.15m high x ~1.0m wide] with some flowstone and straws, it looks likely that the roof gets a little higher by turning to the left and heading in a more forward direction. Looking to the left and ahead and beyond a temporary constriction the way on here looks rather more tantalising. Tried to remove a large boulder that hindered a better look but it was like a 'loose tooth' could wiggle it about but it refused to budge, a different tactic will be employed next session. Decided to call it a day, my light was getting ever dimmer and I couldn't be bothered to change the battery so we left the cave dragging a number of bags with us to be emptied at the surface. Particularly damp and muddy but satisfied with the morning session we retired to the Hunter's for the usual refreshment and discussion.

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8th December 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 09, 2012 08:10:19

With Tav, Alex still crook. Had a good clear out session removing the spoil from the bottom of Witches Cauldron back to the base of the entrance ready to be hauled to the surface at some other time. Also started to clear away some of the 'deads' stacked along the approach passage that have there for quite a while now.

Hunter's for some refreshment as usual.

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1st December 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 02, 2012 08:49:35

With Tav. Had a break from digging last weekend due to some adverse weather and lots of flooding. Alex is feeling crook this weekend so can't make it, however Tav was up for a digging trip and we met at the Belfry and set off promptly to the farm, changed, and walked up the hill to Hallowe'en Rift.

Made a rather more concerted effort on clearing the considerable pile of debris from the end of Toil and Trouble concentrating on the smaller stuff before battering some of the larger boulders into more manageable sizes. Did some gardening work at the end and was able to get a better look at the next phase of work - what looked good before looks better!

When the available stacking space was filled Tav came along to the end of Toil and Trouble to get a good look at the prospects - I think he was suitably impressed and is up for another digging trip.

On the return to the surface dragged a large boulder all the way out and Tav had been filling bags with some of the smaller spoil which he had dragged to the entrance, these were emptied out onto the surface spoil heap - a job well done.

As is usual ventured to the Hunter's for refreshment.

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17th November 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 18, 2012 08:56:15

With Alex. Plan was to continue with the enlargement process. When I got to the end of Toil and Trouble I found a scene of devastation and so set about moving the debris wherever I could to enable progress. Alex hauled several skiploads back to Witches Cauldron. Eventually managed to get a better look at the 'open' space in the rift to the left and after removing a few cobbles and boulders decided this wasn't the way on. Then decided the way on is to pursue the draught coming from the space seen to the right and beyond the fallen slab of rock. I scratched away at the sediment around the slab, which is about 750mm long, 400mm wide and upto 200mm thick, tabular in shape, got a bar under it and wiggled it. Using a combination of bars and various cobbles managed, after some considerable effort, to shift the slab into a suitable position where I was able to squeeze by it into the space beyond. It wasn't huge, more 'caverns measureless to mice' but there are some small pleasant formations - mostly straws, curtains and flowstone - and it still appears to go on ahead, although the air space is again restricted. The draught is still very strong and seems to emanate from passage that looks about 2 metres wide and air space upto 0.15 metres. There is some gardening work to be done that will allow better access and further assessment of what lies ahead, it still looks so good. Last job of the 3 hour session was to return to the squeeze to continue the enlargement process, this done we retreated to the surface, soaking wet, plastered in mud, very cold but very, very satisfied. And we just about made the Hunter's. Happy days indeed!

Looking back through my old logbooks I found the entry for 19/12/1991 when on a solo trip I first started to dig from the entrance:

"a bit of scratching about and I managed to get to a small aven with a squeeze, a large rock was causing the constriction so I spent some time removing it, after that spoil removal was a lot easier. Spoil consists mainly of dry, sandy mud although there are a few rocks in it. Managed in all about 5 or 6 feet..."

In the evening returned to the Hunter's to attend the Digger's Award - too packed and a pretty dull affair, so spent most of the night in the bar talking to more interesting folk.

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10th November 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, November 10, 2012 16:30:42
Solo. A continuation of the good work enlarging the end of Toil and Trouble to gain access into the anticipated open space. There is a considerable pile of debris beginning to accumulate that will require a couple of clearing out sessions in the near future. Can almost get into a comfortable position to begin work on removing the constriction to the perceived open space to the left side. Next session might be able to drag a few cobbles/boulders out beforehand. Another concerted effort is planned for next weekend, it's looking good.smiley

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3rd November 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, November 06, 2012 19:43:04

With Alex. Spent the early part of the morning on a runaround before meeting up with Alex at the Belfry where we were soon on our way to Hallowe'en Rift. Got changed at the farm Alex into his damp and muddy kit from last evening, me, smug in nice dry and clean spare kit. Carried on with the enlargement task along the right hand side of Toil and Trouble, eventually returning to the surface a bit later than anticipated although still managed to drop into the Hunter's before lunchtime last orders.

The biggest part of Sunday morning was spent washing and cleaning a pile of kit and equipment.

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2nd November 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, November 06, 2012 19:34:42

With Alex. Digging trip on a Friday night whatever next - been quite a while since we got up to that.

After a cold, rainy day spent digging and recording archaeological evaluation trenches on a site in Devon, on the way home grabbed a supper of fish and chips to eat on the way in Cheddar Gorge, it was then time to meet up with Alex at the Belfry and set off for Hallowe'en Rift. Started the task of enlarging the right hand side of Toil and Trouble to enable access to the [possible] open space seen on previous trips.

After a suitable time spent digging decided to call it a day and head off to the Hunter's for a Friday night of socialising!

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27th October 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, October 27, 2012 18:12:24

With Alex. Well, what can we say! After 30 years of endeavour by a number of diggers, along a variety of routes Hallowe'en Rift is again looking very interesting indeed!

We decided to concentrate today's effort on removing sediment from along the rather 'snug' right hand side of Toil and Trouble. After we had cleared several skip loads it was possible for me to move in to a position to look along the right hand side. I was very pleasantly surprised to see relatively open, and what looks to be caveable passage, unfortunately access is presently barred by a slab of rock and sediment that will require some further attention. We carried on with the removal of more of the sediment, this eventually resulted in being able to get a better look along the left side, looking up above the clean boulders that were pictured last session confirmed that there appears to be considerable open space above this area, although it should be said that when in small passages apparent size can become somewhat distorted. It seems that, at last, we are on the cusp of something very, very good indeed! If all the links seen in the left and right passages at end of Toil and Trouble are part of the same thing then we are looking at something at least 5 or 6 metres in width. It would seem that there are exciting times ahead.

We have planned a longer weekend session for next week. Keep watching this space!!!

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20th October 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, October 20, 2012 20:11:55

With Alex. The plan was to continue clearing spoil from both ends of Toil and Trouble (left and right passages). Although still wet and muddy the drip wasn't as strong as we had envisaged.

And at long last I remembered to bring the camera, although it now seems to be on it's last legs...

The image below is looking back down through "eye of newt" along Toil and Trouble to where Alex is ready and waiting to haul skips of spoil back to the base of Witches Cauldron.

Today our plan was to clear some of the spoil from the left hand passage (image below)...

at the end of this passage there is an open rift that is, tantalisingly, too constricted to gain entry...at least for the moment!

However, back along to the end of the right hand passage (images above and below) there is another very, very interesting lead (the BDH lid is about 100mm diameter)...

above the cobbles there appears to be [relatively] open space, it's a little too snug at the moment to get a proper look and to be sure how things are going to develop. There is a narrow rift, at this point about 200 to 300mm wide, that we assume is contemporaneous with the rift feature seen at the end of the left hand passage.

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6th October 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 07, 2012 15:17:03
With Alex. Descended into Hallowe'en Rift through a halo of flies - there are a lot of mossies in the entrance passage! Very active drips in the cave making it rather wet along the passages after some recent heavy rain. Continued to clear spoil from the dumping spot in Witches Cauldron (WC) I was filling the skips while Alex did the hauling and emptying. While the skips were being emptied I went along to the end of Toil and Trouble (left passage) and dragged back a couple of skip loads of rocks and played football with a larger rock kicking it all the way back to WC. As skips were pulled back to WC they were preceded by a wave of slurry that ran down into the pot and usually down my sleeve and splashing into my face. With the spoil removed from WC back to the bottom of the entrance shaft ready for hauling up to the surface at a later date, we emerged from the cave wet and muddy, ready for refreshments at the Hunter's.

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29th September 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, September 29, 2012 17:08:41

With Alex. After last weekends break back to work at Hallowe'en Rift. Started to clear away the spoil that is stacked at the bottom of Witches Cauldron. While Alex was emptying the skips I decided to go to along Toil and Trouble to clear the debris from the left hand passage. The large skip was a poor choice as there isn't enough space to get any rocks into the skip so ended up backing up and clearing gravel from the approach tube, also wearing my caving helmet I found head movement to be restricted and uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Alex felt unwell and left the cave so the trip was ended somewhat sooner than expected or planned.

Unfortunately I forgot the camera so was unable to take any photographs. The draught in the cave today was cold.

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15th September 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 16, 2012 09:20:11

With Alex. Walked across the field and up to the cave from the farm keeping a close watch on the bull just put out, he was far too interested in his 'ladies' to notice us. Got up to the entrance only to realise that I had left the key in the van and I had to go back down and collect it, again keeping a close watch on the bull. Very warm when I eventually arrived back at the entrance. Again lots of 'mossies and midges' in the cave. I went along to the end of Toil and Trouble (right hand tube) to removesome more of the loose cobbles and sediment that are hindering further progress, Alex hauled the skips from the base of Witches Cauldron and dumped spoil there ready to be moved on next session. It's quite a snug fit along the end of the right hand tube and needed some hammer work to take off some nodules to make it slightly more comfortable. To the left and looking up about half a metre appears to be open space although narrow, as usual the draught is strong. Looking directly ahead along the right hand tube about a metre further on the roof apparently rises sharply and the sediment seems to originate from above. Prompted by this development I decided to take another look along the left hand tube to re-evaluate the possible relationships between the two leads. Cleared away a quantity of loose debris to open up the rift again and peered down to assess the prospects, again there is a strong draught coming up from the relatively open rift, although entry into the rift is too narrow and some work will be required to enlarge the top. There are also quite a few delicately balanced boulders that will need some very serious consideration before any access into the rift is possible. I am still slightly pertubed by the apparent lack of a solid wall directly ahead, it appears to comprise occasional boulders in a matrix of densely compacted sediment, there are also some long tree roots that are still growing. By now Alex had filled the stacking space and it was time to retreat to the Hunter's for refreshment and to discuss the next move.

As I am helping out with geophysical survey work at Solsbury Hill with Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society next weekend we aren't digging but we plan to have a long session the following weekend. The objective will be to clear the spoil from the bottom of Witches Cauldron and then remove the loose debris from both the right and left hand tubes in Toil and Trouble. I will also try and remember to bring along the camera and take a few photos.

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8th September 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 09, 2012 12:37:57

With Alex and Rob 'Tav' Taviner. Tav is one of my oldest caving/digging friends and it has been a while since I last enjoyed his company when venturing underground. Tav is also involved, with others, in the updating of 'Mendip Underground' a guide to the caves of the Mendip area and the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive.

While I went up to the cave with Tav, Alex returned to the van to get the spanner that we had again managed to forget. Gave Tav a quick tour up to 'Merlin's' before sending him along to the end of Toil and Trouble for a look. We then changed places and I set about filling a skip with spoil and Tav doing the hauling back to 'Witches'. After several skip loads had been removed we decided to head back to the entrance, Alex had reected the tripod, and we hauled the spoil dumped there up to the surface. Standing at the bottom of the entrance shaft loading the skip could have been regarded a slightly dangerous position, the grille was almost knocked down the shaft before it was removed to a safe place, then the pulley became detatched, just as well that Tav was holding the rope, while Alex was fixing that he tripped and almost fell down the shaft along with the scaffolding. However, I survived, the shaft was cleared of spoil, the site was left tidy and we then set off to the Hunter's for refreshments and a good old chinwag!

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25th August 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, August 25, 2012 16:35:20

With Alex. What better place to spend your birthday! Cleared the remaining spoil from the bottom of Witches Cauldron (WC) to the base of the entrance shaft ready to be hauled to the surface. There is now plenty of room at the bottom of WC to dump more spoil from the end of Toil and Trouble and allowing forward progress to continue.

In addition to a huge number of very annoying and irritating Common mosquito's (Culex pipiens) in the entrance and along the upper approach passages, there are also a number of Tissue moth's (Trichosa dubitata) to be found in the cave, possibly as a consequence of the inclement weather that we are experiencing this summer, this particular moth species is one of several that are known to inhabit caves in the British Isles.

The image above is taken from the website: www.cambriancavingcouncil.org.uk and follow the links: Cave Life Website/Cave Life of Devon

The Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix) is another species of moth that is a regular sight within the Mendip cave environs, particularly during the winter months when they choose caves as hibernation sites. The image above was copied from the Wikipedia website.

On a rather more embarassing note we had to ask the farmer for a tow out of the field when the van became stuck after a sudden rain storm, especially after I had already hesitated about parking there.

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18th August 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, August 18, 2012 17:46:57
With Alex. Set up tripod to clear the spoil stacked at the base of the entrance pitch back to the surface. Clearance might at times appear to be rather tedious but with restricted storage space it is necessary and forward progress has to be put on hold until it is done, and it means that the digging only requires minimal manpower. After the spoil was cleared we spent a little time tidying and gardening around the surface in an effort to keep the cattle away from the cave entrance area.

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11th August 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, August 11, 2012 16:38:08

With Alex. We started the task of shifting the considerable stack of spoil at the base of Witches Cauldron back to the entrance ready to be hauled out to the surface. There was a very strong, cold draught today and now that the cave has become drier the mud is thicker,stickier and has developed an adhesive quality.

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5th August 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 05, 2012 21:24:05
Solo trip. Another miserably wet day on Mendip. Decided to remove some of the remaining gravel from the end of Toil and Trouble, also to get some barring and chisel work out of the way. After a light failure, swapped to a brighter lamp and managed to squeeze through and get a better look at the very rosy prospects that lie ahead - these things take time! There is no space left for spoil and a clearance session is now a priority.

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1st August 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 01, 2012 19:24:01
Solo trip. Continued with the removal of the loose debris and battered the slab of flowstone into more manageable lumps. Thought it would be more efficient while dragging the skip back to push the larger lumps down the passage with my feet, it did cross my mind that if one of the lumps were to become jammed in the passage then I might be in for an interesting few minutes trying to extricate myself - it didn't happen. Shifted most of the loose stuff back to the base of Witches Cauldron, but there is still a pile of gravel to drag back and then some barring and chisel work to be done. There is a lot of spoil stacked at the base of Witches Cauldron ready to be hauled out back to the surface. At the end of 'Toil and Trouble' the way ahead looks very, very interesting, and then, there is always the draught!

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28th July 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 29, 2012 11:26:58

There is a big pile of debris at the end to shift.

Alex set about removing the block of stal that obstructs the skip haul along the approach to the top of Witches Cauldron, while I set to work dragging spoil back to the base of the pot. I decided to use one of the larger skips so that I could shift more rock which just meant it was harder work. Eventually managed to reach the slab of flowstone obstructing the way ahead and with some barring work was able to get to grips with it. After some grunting and [a lot of] cursing I moved the slab into a position where I was able to batter it with my trusty lump hammer, reducing it in size, and then shift it to one side of the passage. With a bit more digging I was now able to get a better look at the way ahead, which isn't quite as open as expected or hoped but the prospects still look rosy, just requires some more effort. There is something that appears to look interesting about a metre or so ahead but some sediment will have to be shifted before that will develop. By this time my shoulders were aching from the effort and after 2.5 hours of digging and skip hauling decided it was time for refreshment at the Hunter's and to the Belfry to wash kit, exited the cave tired but very happy. 'Toil and Trouble' would probably be an apt name for the tube.

There is still a big pile of debris at the end to shift!

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22nd July 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 23, 2012 15:45:42
Solo trip to clear the end and continue the passage enlargement. There is a lot of debris to be cleared from the end of the tube. Once the end is clear might be able to get to grips with the slab or at least get a better look at it, still we are getting ever closer - just a question of time - patience is required!

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14th and 15th July 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 15, 2012 17:59:25

Saturday: with Alex.

Went along to the end of the tube to clear some of the debris and to see if I could get a better hand-hold on the offending slab - no chance! Back to Alex who was erecting the tripod and shifted more spoil back to the surface.

Sunday: a solo trip.

In the above image the BDH is about 125mm in diameter and the left side of the slab barring progress is visible - not so clear is the open space beyond.

A better view of the slab with space beyond on either side and where the draught seems to emanate. Slab is about 750mm in width, passage height is around 300mm at this point, the depth of the slab is unclear. The image doesn't do justice to the colour of dolomitic conglomerate that ranges from red to purple with white, grey, yellow and black pockets throughout - a fascinating rock. The enlargement work continues and soon the slab will succumb and the tantalising space beyond will be revealed - hopefully!

Following some refreshment at my favourite hostelry went back to the Belfry to wash my kit. Met up with Tangent and we walked over to Eastwater Lane where Jodie Lewis and co. from the University of Worcester are carrying out an archaeological investigation of a Bronze Age barrow site. A very interesting and informative discussion with David and later Jodie, will revisit the site to keep up with the progress. Even the weather was reasonably pleasant, a bit on the breezy side but dry.

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7th July 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, July 07, 2012 15:42:22
Solo trip. After recent persistent rain the usual drips in the cave are now mostly continuous trickles. Took the BEC drill for a trip along to the right hand side of the tube to continue the enlargement - it worked successfully - becoming quite spacious approaching the slab now. Funny how when working alone the mind drifts back to past digging trips and old mates - J'rat, Gobshite - Wigmore, Welsh's Green, Draenen - happy days!

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30th June 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 30, 2012 17:10:20
With Alex. Continued the task of enlarging the tube to access the slab barring progress. Nothing of note happened and a fairly brief in and out - job done. Probably take 4 - 6 trips to work up to the slab giving the required room to remove it. After a rather wet month it's squalid throughout the cave, it seems the days of dry, comfortable digging are over - at least for the time being.

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27th June 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, June 28, 2012 19:31:15

Mid-week trip into Hallowe'en Rift for a change. One of my best digging mates from the past has come from Columbia to the UK for a couple weeks with his family before heading to France on holiday. Decided to take Pete [Bolty] to enjoy the delights of HR, being on the tall side he really appreciates low muddy crawls. Cleared Sunday's spoil from the end of the tube back the base of Witches Cauldron and then to the bottom of the entrance before heading to the Hunter's for refreshments and reminisences of some epic caving trips and discoveries of the past such as Coventosa pull-through trip, Lechiguilla, Daren Cilau and, of course Ogof Draenen.

PB seemed to be suitably impressed by the prospects in Hallowe'en Rift and requested photos from beyond the slab!

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23rd & 24th June 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 24, 2012 17:57:54

Saturday: with Alex.

Seeing Alex in some recently purchased very garish lime green running tights is a sight to behold but not one to remember. We decided to have a clearout of the spoil so set up the tripod on the surface. We made a start with the slop at the bottom of the pot - Witches Cauldron - very glutinous! Cleared this to the base of the entrance and then set about clearing out to the surface. The hauling rope became impregnated with mud and was difficult to grip, particularly if the skip was a bit on the weighty side, however we persevered for a good two and a half hours before calling it a day. As usual refreshments at the Hunter's.

Sunday: with Callum.

An afternoon shift. The intended morning start was a non-event due to imbibing too much Addlestone's at Priddy Sheep Racing yesterday evening, a gloriously wet affair with some spectacular rain. Today's mission was to start enlarging the tube to enable removal of the slab of flowstone barring progress. This was to be my second attempt at using the club drill, I made sure it was fully charged but it was still an ordeal, real struggle to get the hammer action to function initially and the drill bit would not lock in. There isn't enough room along the tube to sort out any problems but eventually managed to complete the task although Callum was, by now, very cold so I sent him back up to the surface to warm up. The dig is very squalid at the moment.

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16th June 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 17, 2012 10:43:31

Alex unable to make it today so another solo trip. Tried to shift the slab utilising the excellent tape strops given to me by Trev Hughes - but the slab ain't moving. Digging is often a very frustrating process and things don't always go to plan and a great deal of patience is required. Decided to clear all the spoil dumped at the end of the tube back to the bottom of the pot, by the time I had finished there was easily enough space to turn around and quite a novelty to come back down the tube head first rather than backing out dragging a skip full of spoil.

The best thing about being underground on a solo trip is the peace and solitude, the only sounds you can hear are your own - breathing, heartbeat, movement - and the dripping of water in the cave. Just an excellent place to be!

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9th June 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 09, 2012 18:31:08

A spoil clearance session was the plan for today and a fine effort by Alex and myself to clear the spoil from the base of Witches Cauldron back to the bottom of the entrance. There was a considerable amount of spoil to shift and it will require another good effort to clear the spoil now at the base of the entrance up the shaft to the surface next session (?). After a period of extremely wet [and windy] weather there was a strong drip of water in the cave and very soon both of us had got very damp and had a good coating of mud. We even had time to pop into the Hunter's for refreshments. Unfortunately the refreshment break was cut short when a phone call was received by the landlady and passed on to me - cave rescue in Cheddar Gough's Cave. I ended up abandoning half my drink, heading to the Belfry, rousing a fine team, grabbing some kit from the rescue store and set off for Cheddar. Others were already present in Cheddar including paramedics and cave rescue wardens and it was a quick carry out of the cave for the female patient, who had fallen and injured her knee, she was then taken by ambulance for further treatment at a local hospital.

In the evening went with the family up to the Hunter's for supper and to attend a BCRC lecture presented by Tony Rich that gave an overview of cave rescue and the law. Cheddar Caves had very kindly put on a barrel of beer as a thank you to the rescue teams that had attended todays incident - marvellous!

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3rd June 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, June 04, 2012 12:42:43

Another solo trip and a return to try and persuade the slab of flowstone to succumb to my efforts. Alas, to no avail the slab appears rather larger than at first estimated, although I did just about manage to raise it a fraction. It is apparent that we will have to resort to a rather more robust advanced speleological technology to shift the slab. Frustrating because the prospects beyond the blockage look so very good!

It is worth adding a cautionary note, long experience in cave exploration has shown that when viewing open space through small gaps, particularly in restricted passage then first appearances can sometimes be deceptive and things ain't always as they seem!

I retired to the Hunter's for refreshment and some contemplation. Then off to a very wet Priddy Friendly Society Day on the village green and quaffed rather too many glasses of Addlestones (cider). Some excellent live music was provided by The Drystones.

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2nd June 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 02, 2012 16:55:22

Slight change of plans deciding on a solo digging trip in Hallowe'en Rift. Took a few snaps, not all that successfully.

The above image is looking into the left tube from where the rib of rock used to be.

Dragged a couple of skips full of sediment down the tube before deciding to leave the spoil to one side to be removed at a later date. Pushed ahead for just over a metre, it's a rather snug fit along the tube and pretty cool in the draught. On the right hand side there was open space, albeit small, and the roof appears to rise sharply. Worked along the left side where there was slightly more height, from where I moved some more sediment with the occasional rock opening more air space, again the roof appears to rise sharply after a metre. Unfortunately further progress was barred by a large slab of flowstone that resisted initial attempts to move it, dug around it for a while then decided to call it a day and will return when fresh. It's now looking very, very interesting!

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26th May 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 27, 2012 07:02:49

Glorious weather and a warm walk up the hill, underground it was rather cooler. While Alex hammered away ot the top of the pot I set about removing the large pile of rock debris along the tube. The more skip-loads that I dragged along the tube the stickier it became, all the water being absorbed into my fleece undersuit. It took about two hours to clear all the rock debris and I also removed a bit of the sediment along the right hand side. The draught was pretty strong today - cool and fresh. There just has to be something significant ahead - but how far and what? - only more digging will reveal that! I was going to take some photos but became so caked in mud I decided not to bother and will take some next visit before digging.

Meanwhile, Alex had battered the top of the pot into submission with trusty lump hammer and chisel making it significantly larger, skip should be easier to haul out now. On exiting the cave the difference in temperature was very noticeable, from breathing cool, fresh cave air to the warm, humid surface air.

Next session will require more spoil clearance from the base of Witches Cauldron back to the surface before we can continue along the tube.

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19th May 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 20, 2012 08:58:27
Continued with the task of removing the rock obstruction. Today's session will probably be enough and the next session will involve removal of a quite considerable pile of rock debris. After this clear out is complete we should be in a position to dig along the right hand tube following the draught and where airspace can be seen. A couple of metres progress might prove to be very interesting.
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12th May 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, May 12, 2012 17:38:28

A fine spring day day after some very wet weather. Dropped into Wells for a number of required items before a return to the quest. Not quite as wet in the cave as anticipated, if the dry weather continues it might even become reasonably comfortable again. Continued with the task of removing of the 'rib of rock' that is already looking successful. Very strong draught today noticed immediately on entry to the cave especially when approaching Witches Cauldron and the tube.

Another satisfying session and as usual we dropped into the Hunter's for some refreshments. At the Hunters we joined up with Tangent, who had been caving in Swildon's with Goon, and a fine fine discussion ensued regarding Mendip geology and geomorphology.

A fine morning indeed!

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21st April 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 22, 2012 10:48:52
Turned out to be a rather disappointing session. Slight misunderstanding resulted in Alex not bringing his drill so we dragged the BEC drill to the end to carry on the good work to remove the 'rib' of rock only to find both batteries were flat. We were probably a little naive not to have checked the kit or to assume that the last people to use it would leave it 'ready for use'. Never mind though better luck next time.

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14th April 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 15, 2012 08:48:31

After a break for Easter and family type things, including a caving trip with the kids to Brownes' Hole, Stoke St. Michael, a return to the delights of Hallowe'en Rift.

Pictured above is one of the young'uns exiting Brownes' Grotto, Stoke St. Michael on east Mendip.

After some discussion we have decided to modify the tube by removing the 'rib' of rock in the floor at the point where the left tube diverges from the right. This will eventually enable work to continue along the right side where the strongest draught emanates. I can get through the squeeze but cannot get into a position where I can work effectively. Removal of the the 'rock rib' also means that Alex will be able to get to the end. We have also modified the top of Witches Cauldron to make it easier for hauling the skip when clearing spoil.

Following a conversation with the farmer, the gates were locked because some young livestock were being turned out onto the hill and they can be a little bit frisky for a while until they get used to the great outdoors.

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31st March 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, March 31, 2012 18:20:10

Rather surprised to find the gate chained and locked at the farm so over to School Hill and a longer walk up to the cave. Spent a while prodding and scratching away at the sediments above the rift, still doesn't appear to be anything solid above - need to proceed with the utmost caution. The roots appear to have grown nearly 300mm since the last visit. Alex spent some time removing the lumps of calcite flow that impede the progress of the skip up Witches Cauldron. Crawled along to 'Merlin's' for a reassessment of the area - there is a possible route along the right hand side that would avoid damage to the formations, but would require a good deal of effort initially.

After digging took a stroll up the valley to the east of Hallowe'en Rift to take another look at the rock exposure and to explore the head of the gully. Came across this interesting little spot. A number of holes were noted in an arc that showed some signs of previous excavation, there is a large badger site on the opposite side of the gully or this is the site that Trevor Hughes tentatively dug in the early 1980s.

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17th March 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, March 19, 2012 08:43:05
We continued work at the top of the rift/pot. What appeared solid is not, and there are a lot of boulders, cobbles in a matrix of finer sediment above the opening. Managed to bring quite a bit of this down and now have a small chamber about 1m x 1m x 1m although not quite big enough to turn around in safely. The downside of this work is that a good quantity of debris has fallen into the rift/pot so there is a considerable amount of clearing to be done. We are puzzled by this passage development we did expect to see another wall to the rift - are we heading into a chamber? Only digging will reveal what lies ahead.

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10th March 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, March 10, 2012 18:04:48

After a prolonged break from digging at Hallowe'en Rift due to other commitments we got back to work. Due to the conditions I decided to wear a plastic suit (rather tatty Petzl) slipped easily along the tube like a bar of soap. With my shiny new bar started to prod at the dig face, 'that sounds hollow' I thought. Removed some cobbles and a root to reveal a tiny gap, interesting, removed some more cobbles the gap got larger, getting very interesting, pulled out some larger cobbles and small boulders to reveal open space!The image above shows the hole in the dig face, unfortunately the photos ain't very good! Passage height is about 0.30m and width about 1.00m.

After some more work removed a quantity of loose debris to reveal a clean washed rift/pot with abundant root growth. The top of the rift is too tight to allow entry and there is a lot of very loose boulders and sediment in the rift above - some serious gardening is required. The rift/pot appears to be about 1.0m deep to a maximum of 0.5m wide and a length 2.0 - 2.5m in length. It is possible that there is a continuation of the passage almost straight ahead, this will only be confirmed when the rift/pot is accessed. It looks very tantalising and exciting times are ahead - there are some seriously promising leads in this cave.

Looking down into the rift/pot. The main roots are about 12mm in diameter.

It's days like this that make digging so exhilarating - it's just such a buzz, I love it!

Of course we called in to our favourite hostelry for a little celebratory beverage.

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28th January 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, January 28, 2012 17:09:54

A fine winter's day, bit of a chill in the air and clear skies. We are interested in determining some of the rock strata characteristics in the area that surrounds Hallowe'en Rift so decided to venture up and take a few readings of the rock exposure east of the cave. The lower section (pictured above) has a very general alignment east/west 065/245 [all figures are degrees] and the upper section (pictured below) also has a east/west 070/250 alignment. We also took some preliminary readings of discontinuities recording strike and dip: upper section - strike 140/320, dip 20 southwest (sw); mid section - strike 140/320, dip 16 sw; and lower section - 125/305, dip 16 sw. We discussed the possibility of a fault(?) between the mid and lower sections [further investigation required]. As a comparison we took some readings in a small stone quarry just above Hallowe'en Rift: strike 140/320, dip 7 sw and strike 120/300, dip 10 sw.

After this brief detour we returned to the main task in hand, digging Hallowe'en Rift. Bit of a clearing session in the 'poo' mine, it seems to have become even more wet and muddy, and, after a while it's rather cold. I went to the base of Witches Cauldron to fill the skips and Alex did the hauling and dumping [at the base of the entrance]. All clear after about two hours, plenty of room for digging spoil next session. Refreshments at the Hunter's.

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21st January 2012

digging 2012Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, January 21, 2012 16:37:44
First digging session of the year, 2012 will be 30 years of exploration in Hallowe'en Rift, hopefully we have something good to celebrate. We were surprised to note that the field from the farm on the walk up to Hallowe'en Rift had numerous daisies, buttercups and dandelions in flower, evidence of the extremely mild winter so far. In between a lot of chatting we set about clearing the last bit of spoil dumped at the base of Witches Cauldron which didn't take too long. I went to the end of the tubes to continue to dig into the rift, Alex in the meantime settled down to clear more out from the lower part of Witches Cauldron. The rift is beginning to look very interesting and we have pulled out some quite large lumps of flowstone (about 250mm x 250mm in area and 50-60mm in thickness) there is not much evidence for this material to have been transported any great distance. Possibly this flowstone originates from a capping layer on the surface of the sediments. After 2.5 hours of digging and soaking up water and a rather cold draught today began to get cold and we had just about run out of stacking space so called it a day and returned to the surface. Excellent session and can't wait to get back down to continue the work. Popped into the Hunter's for quick refreshments.

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