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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.

28th December 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, December 29, 2014 07:29:11
With Nick and Tav.

We decided on a Sunday session this week due to various family type things and all that sort of stuff at this time of the year. On the way in rescued a frog from the puddle at the bottom of Witches Cauldron - it was lucky because I had just chucked a pack of bags down the pot and was moving the rope out of the way when I noticed a pair of eyes and a snout looking back at me. It's not got any drier along Toil and Trouble - not that we expected any different! There had been some more slumping from the roof including a sizeable boulder, so I proceeded to reduce that into more manageable pieces; nearly all of the rock comprised shattered calcite flowstone of a considerable thickness and with lovely banding and can only assume it is of great age. There must have been a catastrophic event in the past to break up this amount of flowstone. Cleared away the sediment from the floor then swapped around with Nick who spent time consolidating and clearing more from the roof. After this was done it was time to shift the bags out to the surface to be emptied, the rocks were left in the pot for next session when, hopefully, there will be a bigger team. Hunter's.



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Seasons shenanigans!

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, December 24, 2014 16:55:54
At the conclusion of Saturday's session, Alex couldn't quite get the timing right for an all inclusive photo and had to make do with this partial image and added message!


May all your hangovers be big ones!



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20th December 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 21, 2014 08:34:21
With Nick, Jake, Tav and Alex.

Full team today, well eventually when Alex joined us midday after his walk to help with hauling the bags out. Jake and Tav went to the end to do the digging and reported back that there had been another slump in from the roof. Plenty of loose stuff to clear away before digging could proceed. Nick was in the pot while I did the hauling and shuttling back to the entrance. Having a drag tray makes the shuttle a little easier on the knees moving three bags at a time or a pile of rocks. Digging done all bags were emptied on the surface and up to the Hunter's for some refreshment.

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13th December 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, December 15, 2014 05:54:50
With Jake and Nick.

Glorious morning, bright sunshine and a good frost, a pleasant walk up to the cave from the farm. Nick and I went up to the dig while Jake settled into the pot. Nick did the first digging stint and filled his quota we then swapped places. At the end the walls are pinching in although it seems that there might be a lead continuing under at a height of c.0.5m. It was while investigating the prospects ahead that, rather disconcertingly, a quite large section of the roof decided to come down including a couple of fairly large rocks, at least I now had plenty of loose spoil to bag up. After clearing the loose away it was time to start hauling the spoil out to the surface. It has to be said that after some persistent rain over the last few days Hallowe'en Rift is getting back to its squalid best! Bags emptied it was time to head off to the pub, after some body sliding in the field to remove excess mud from oversuits.

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6th December 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 07, 2014 17:21:59
With Jake.

Just the two of us today so straight up to the end to start filling bags. Filled a dozen bags each and shifted a few rocks back. Used the sledge to reduce one boulder that proved to be a lump of flowstone nearly 200mm thick with bands of growth clearly visible, there must have been a catastrophic event in the past to shatter flowstone this thick (- earthquake?). The bags were stashed in T Junction and the rocks left for a bigger team. When we had filled our quota [24 bags] we started to shift the bags out to the surface, quite an effort with two people. Bags emptied it was time for refreshment.



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29th November 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 30, 2014 15:32:52
With Jake, Tav and Alex.

Nick called earlier to say he couldn't make it today. Alex decided to go for a walk along the ridge and would meet us at the entrance later to help with hauling out the spoil, so dropped him off at Dursdon Drove. Got to the farm and started to get changed when I realized that I didn't have any wellies (they are in the shed on site in Charlton Marshall) so had to wear my nice clean trainers much to the amusement of my colleagues! Jake and Tav did the digging while I settled down in the pot and tried to avoid standing in the puddle at the bottom. 30 bags later along with some rocks it was time to shift the spoil out of the cave. I carefully bailed out the puddles along the approach passage and my feet remained dry but my trainers were rather soiled. Alex was at the surface as arranged and did the hauling. Diggers report that there is a solid wall to the left and there is looser spoil ahead [north] and that the air is fresh at the end, all sounds good to me. To the pub!





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22nd November 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 23, 2014 11:37:52
With Jake, Tav and Nick.

Me and Nick went to the end, Tav in the pot and Jake on the shuttle. On arriving at the T Junction I took a couple of minutes to bail out the puddles before settling into position, Nick was at the end filling bags. Tav and Jake set about clearing the stash of rocks in the pot. After a short spell of digging Nick called back to say he could see a very small space ahead and the spoil was becoming more rocky, which sounded interesting, a change in character. Nick filled about 20 bags and we then changed over and I went to have a look at the progress. On the left there appears to be a solid wall, or a very large boulder, with what looks like some old flowstone and fluting, ahead [north] and there are some tiny spaces amongst the stony fill, lower down close to the contact with the bedding the sediment in mostly stone free. I filled another 10 bags and cleared a pile of rocks back and it was then time to go and clear the entrance of bags and rocks. Easily 60 skip loads of bags and rocks out to the surface, cave cleared ready for the next session. Time to head up to HQ and refreshments.

Went to the Digging thingy in the evening at the Hunter's. Good to meet up with some old chums.




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15th November 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 16, 2014 08:27:17
With Jake and Tav.

Drove up from a fog filled Chew Valley onto a gloriously sunny Mendip plateau to meet up with the team at HQ - the Hunter's car park. Pleasant walk up to the cave from the farm, sorted out the empty bags and set off for the end. Then came the message back from Jake "there's a puddle in the crawl" - after a week of fairly persistent rain the cave is becoming wet again. Jake and Tav went to the end while I settled in the pot, I could hear the splashing as puddles were emptied, then I noticed that my arm was wet as the water trickled down the wall, last trip in cotton overall's for a while I suppose. Jake took the first stint at digging and bags were soon being shifted back to pot. I then had the company of a rather irritating buzzing bluebottle that always settled down just out of reach, then it was joined by the rest of the squadron some of them making their way up to Tav and Jake, some did not return. 30 bags were filled and a few rocks and it was time to clear out the spoil to the surface, and it was still warm and sunny. Getting to the stage where some extra help wouldn't go amiss! Returned to HQ for refreshment as usual.

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8th November 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 09, 2014 08:19:14
With Jake, Tav and Alex.

Tav took the first digging stint, I was at the T Junction and Jake opted for the pot. Unfortunately Alex didn't make it underground, not feeling too good at the entrance and returned to the farm. Tav soon got into digging mode and with some 'new' tools to aid the task made some good progress. The dig seems to have a few more rocks within the sediment and there are a few quite large boulders appearing. After a while we swapped around and it was my turn to dig and I managed to open up a tiny hole to the left (west) that seemed to have a very feint air movement. Ahead there is another small crack the is 'clean washed' and it would appear that there is a change at the north end of the dig occurring. It was soon time to move back and start clearing the bags and pile of rocks from the pot out to the surface. We concentrated on the bags and left the rocks until we have a bigger team and because Jake needed to get back for a personal commitment. 26 bags were emptied on the surface and there must be a dozen or so skip loads of rocks left in the pot - another good effort! Time for the Hunter's.

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2nd November 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 02, 2014 07:48:27
With Jake.

Filled 10 bags of spoil each, putting some rocks aside until next session, then moved back to clear the 20 bags out to the surface.

Yesterday I went over to Upper Canada Cave, Hutton to do a little job for the Axbridge CG digging team. Plan was to reduce a couple of boulders at the end of the cave to something of a more manageable size and enable a better look at the potential beyond. I'll have to wait until next week to find out how it went.

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18th October 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 20, 2014 11:31:12
With Tav, Jake and Nick.

Tav and Nick'Two Bags' Hawkes did the digging, 'Two Bags' because every now and again there was a tendency to try and get two bags worth of spoil into a single bag. I did the pot duties while Jake did the shuttling. 40 bags later and several loads of rocks and boulders it was time to clear out to the surface. Cave cleared out it was time for the pub.

As the Johnson's were child free this evening it seemed like a good idea for a few of us to meet up for a little soiree - so the Johnson's, Hawkes, Simmonds and Keith and Carole all met at the Hunter's and at closing time instead of going home we got some carry out's and with a bottle of Johnson's Sloe Gin we visited some local caving hut's to continue drinking until the early hours of Sunday morning. The result was quite a few sore heads for the rest of Sunday, I for one did nothing!

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11th October 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 12, 2014 08:02:35
With Alex, Tav and Jake.

Back for another good session in the Hallowe'en Health Club - best 2hr workout on Mendip, it's better than any gym I've been to!

I took the first digging stint shifted some rocks leftover from last session and then started filling bags. Used the mattock to loosen sediment from digging face which was then bagged up. Filled 3no. bags at a time before moving them up out of the c.2m deep pot where they are hauled to the T Junction and out to the entrance. Jake was at the 'T', Tav in the pot and Alex hauling and shuttling to the entrance. I filled c.20 bags then swapped over with Jake and cooled down at the 'T' while Jake filled another c.20 bags. That done it was time to move back and get all the spoil out to the surface. Another fine session shifting about a third of a ton of spoil out of the cave; there's still plenty more to come. To the Hunter's for some re-hydration fluid.

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4th October 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 05, 2014 07:49:01
No team available to dig today so took the chance to get out on the bike and ride some off-road trails on Mendip. Ended up at the Hunter's for refreshment obviously.

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27th September 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 28, 2014 09:12:01
With Jake, Nick and Tav.

Jake and Tav on digging duties, I settled down in the pot and Nick got the shuttling job because he was late on parade. A bit of frenetic action as the remaining rocks were removed from the dig and then some fairly steady bag filling. It was reported back that digging was much easier without the boulder in the way. 30 bags were quickly filled so the number was made up 40 before we moved back to clear the bags to the surface. Nick had made an impressive stack of bags in the entrance almost up to the ledge. The cave is very dry at the moment, almost dusty and this makes emptying the bags relatively rapid and the bags are cleaner. Jake stayed a while longer at the dig to batter some more boulders, he reports that there is a possible lower bedding plane beginning to appear - time will tell! To the pub for refreshment.

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20th September 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 21, 2014 11:52:02
With Jake and Nick.

I took the first digging stint, Nick at the T Junction, Jake in the pot. We are still working around the 'Sword of Damocles' a large boulder of dolomitic conglomerate that is beginning to get in the way. Used the mattock to loosen spoil and then cleared the spoil off the flat bedrock floor into bags, then up out of the dig, into the skip where they begin the journey out of the cave. After a while it gets a little warm so swapped over with Nick. 30 or so bags later it was time to start shifting the bags out from the pot to the surface, Nick stayed at the dig face a little longer to batter the boulder, eventually into submission; although most of it remains at the dig some large lumps were removed. Bags successfully emptied we retired to the Hunter's for a couple of pints of some fine Bath Ales Special Pale Ale, Nick missed out as he had to get back and prepare a presentation for the week ahead.



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13th September 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, September 13, 2014 07:11:29
With Tav, Jake and Nick.

Jake and Tav went to the end to dig, Nick settled into the pot and it was my turn to shuttle along with the bags to the bottom of the entrance, glad I wore knee pads. Another 30 or so bags and a few rocks later it was time to haul the spoil out to the surface and empty the bags.



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7th September 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, September 08, 2014 08:10:01
With Tav, Nick and Alex.

Digging on a Sunday this weekend to facilitate participation in the annual Cavers V Priddy Village CC cricket match on the village green.

Me and then Nick doing the digging, Tav in the pot, Alex shuttling to the entrance. 30 bags filled and a few rocks shifted, it was then time to move back, get the spoil to the surface and empty the bags. Another fine digging session, to the pub!

A pleasant warm, sunny afternoon on the green playing cricket, drinking more beer and eating cake. The outcome, after some initial optimism, a fine fielding effort but a batting collapse the Cavers, once again, were defeated.

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30th August 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 31, 2014 08:22:35
With Jake, Alex, Nick and Tav.

Fab Five re-united. Jake's back from touring the Scottish islands; Nick's back from market; Alex - well, I don't know where he's been; and Tav as well. Jake and Tav did the digging this week, I was in the pot, Nick doing the haul and shuttle with Alex on the surface pulling the bags and emptying them out. A lot of spoil and rocks was shifted. Some banter, reminiscing about digging in the past in Hallowe'en Rift, on one occasion involving a bottle of Amoretto, a couple of spliff's being hauled back and fro in the skip and then the pub. Work done for the morning it was, indeed time for the Hunter's Lodge Inn!

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23rd August 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 24, 2014 08:30:06
With Nick and Tav.

It seems that autumn is approaching so we have decided to buck the trend and head north, perhaps for winter. After collecting empty bags from the surface we ventured underground to settle in our respective positions; Nick doing the digging, me at the T Junction ant Tav stacking bags in the pot. 30 bags filled we all shifted back to move the filled bags to the entrance and then out to the surface to be emptied, ready for refilling next session. There is a lot of spoil to be shifted from the end. Anyway it was time for refreshment at the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

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16th August 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 17, 2014 15:24:46
With Tav, Nick and Alex.

Me and Tav shared the digging duties today, Nick in the pot and Alex on the shuttle run. We continued to clear sediment from the undercutting east wall, sort of following a low phreatic arch that appears to be filled completely. It is likely that we will concentrate our future effort on opening up the passage to the north. After filling 30 bags it was time to move back and remove the spoil out to the surface so there are empty bags for the next digging session.



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10th August 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 10, 2014 17:13:34
With Nick, Tav and Alex.

Change of day from the regular Saturday spot to accommodate Nick's unavailability yesterday, and because we want a strong team underground. Took 30 bags to the end ready to be filled. Stuffed some cruddy bags into the narrow crack at the base to prevent loose sediment from filling it up and then set about digging at the bottom of the dig, the east side of the dig appears to be undercutting and this is where we concentrated today's effort. At the moment all we can be certain of is that there is a lot of spoil to be removed, although it doesn't seem to be gaining any more depth. When the 30 bags were filled we dropped back to get the spoil out to the surface and left plenty of empty bags to be filled next session. Then to the pub!

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2nd August 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, August 02, 2014 16:00:14
With Tav, Alex and Nick.

Collected empty bags from the surface and set off to dig. Tav and Nick to the end, me in the pot and Alex doing the shuttle again. Just purchased a 28 LED torch for a fiver in a well-known supermarket that I thought might be useful when taking photos. Below is an image from the pot looking up to T Junction along Toil and Trouble.
After an initial speedy turnover of filled bags there was a slowing down, the message came back that solid rock had been reached with a narrow rift about a metre deep and a draughting, although faint. after clearing the loose spoil went up to have a look. A discussion followed the outcome being that we needed to clear all the sediment from around the rift and to assess how the passage might develop, it may be that we resort to a more advanced technology to progress further downwards.

Image above of Nick looking down into the dig, T Junction is about 3 metres behind him.

Image above of the narrow rift looking southwards, the bar is c. 300mm long. What you can't see are the rounded cobbles coated with black manganese so typical of Mendip cave streams just off the top of the photo.

After the talking was over we made our way back to clear the filled bags from the base of the entrance and empty them out on the surface. It was then time to retire to the Hunter's, although Tav had to miss the usual refreshments to attend to a plumbing problem at home. Our regular meeting place, the Hunter's Lodge car park had been, and still was, over-run by caving politico's attending a CSCC meeting to discuss a load of issues of their own creation!









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26th July 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 27, 2014 07:27:53
With Jake, Tav and Alex.

We began the morning's session by clearing the backlog of bags from the pot out to the surface and emptied them. Jake then headed up to the dig going north off T Junction to start filling more bags. Meanwhile I took up position in the T Junction, Tav in the pot and Alex shuttling to the entrance. Filled bags and an assortment of rocks and calcite were removed at a good steady rate and progress continues downwards. It appears that the east wall is starting to undercut a little, but this cannot yet be fully determined. Jake did report back that he had come across sediment that initially appeared to be stream derived, e.g. pebbles with black coating, and gravel, although this became buried under loose silt fill. After a while we decided it was time to clear all the spoil out to the surface and the cave was left empty of bags, etc. ready for next week's session. Up to the Hunter's Lodge to quaff some particularly fine Bath Ales SPA.

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19th July 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 20, 2014 07:34:13
With Tav.

Just the two of us, the rest of the team are of fulfilling other commitments, like family and work. Anyway bagged up some empties on the surface and took them along to the current dig so we could fill them up again. Took it in turns to dig and the filled bags were stacked in the T Junction. The digging is the easiest job although it's a bit of an effort to lift the bags up the slope; downwards progress has been quite rapid. The sediment is loosely compacted sandy silt interspersed with the occasional boulder and fragmented flowstone. There is a pocket of yellow sandy silt/clay that is ochreous and a bit more claggy. The cave is drying out and becoming more comfortable, apart from one short stretch in Toil and Trouble that remains damp. At the end of digging we hauled the considerable pile of bags down into the pot, which is now full, ready for removal to the surface next session. We emerged from the cave satisfied with the effort and made our way to the Hunter's for refreshment.



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12th July 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 13, 2014 08:02:11
With Nick, Tav and Alex.

Nick and I headed along to the current dig, with Tav in Witches Cauldron and Alex hauling and shuttling the bags to the base of the entrance. At last the cave is almost dry so no need for the plastic oversuit just cotton overalls for me. I took the first digging shift and concentrated on making it a bit wider, swapping with Nick after a while. The west wall comprises blocks of flowstone, some quite degraded, and the occasional boulder of dolomitic conglomerate in a very dense matrix of finer sediment of reddish-brown sandy silt, although there are pockets/bands of yellow sand lower down in the exposure. Forwards, in a ~northerly direction, a small airspace can be seen and some of the air movement emanates from this. The plan, at the present, is to dig on downwards and forwards (north) and see how things develop. The digging is just too easy at the moment and the bags are quickly filled, however, we left the digging to clear out the bags and rocks to the surface. It was warm on the surface hauling the bags and, once again the flies were a nuisance. The bags were soon emptied and it was time to make our way off the hill and head for the Hunter's, kit not quite so caked in mud today and too dry for sliding in the grass.



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6th July 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 06, 2014 18:05:18
With Tav, Jake and Nick.

The prime task was to clear the backlog of bags, Jake took up position in the pot, Tav hauling from Stal Bend, Nick on the shuttle run to the bottom of the entrance, while I was on the surface hauling and emptying the bags. After a while, and half the bags cleared, the buzzing of flies around my head proved too much and Nick and I swapped places. When the bags were cleared Tav and I went along to the end to fill some more bags, Tav doing the filling while I was in T Junction. There was a strong draught today and got a little chilled at the junction. We are following a well developed and very old fossil passage that is just full of crap; it will keep us happy for quite a while yet!

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28th June 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 29, 2014 07:21:24
With Nick and Jake.

Nick has just returned after a few weeks away working in Russia and Jake wasn't around last weekend so carried out the digging duties between them, while I took up position in Witches Cauldron to haul the bags back and stack them in the pot. Digging is relatively comfortable and the pot has been filled to capacity making it a little more snug to get out of it. There are a lot of bags to be removed out to the surface for emptying at a later date. At the end of the session I went up to the end to look at the progress made. The rift appears to be well developed and is roomy, unfortunately it's currently filled with sediment! The east side looks clean-washed, the west side has what appears to be a rather large 'stal' boss and flowstone, not yet fully exposed, if it gets wet it might make it interesting to get up and down from the dig. The way ahead is still trending in a ~northerly direction, which is where we want to go, and the draught was good today. Time for the Hunter's.

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21st June 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 21, 2014 17:41:41
With Alex and Tav.

The advanced technology had the desired effect, as expected, and there was plenty of rubble to be removed. After winding in the wire I set about removing the debris, still required some hammer and bar work to reduce some of the rocks, otherwise it was cobbles and gravel with some loose sediment. Tav suffered for the cause after a confrontation with a boulder actually drew blood, after which we swapped places. When Alex had filled the available space in the pot we all shifted positions to remove the spoil out to the surface. At this time of the year the surface is an unenviable task due to the number of 'clegs' and I was more than happy to do my time in the pot, comfortable underground. It is surprising how much spoil we are digging out each session and after clearance we were due refreshments at the Hunters, although a brief visit for Tav who had the 'in-laws' visiting and reluctantly made his 'weary' way home.

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20th June 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, June 20, 2014 13:52:37
A steady solo trip into Hallowe'en Rift to apply some advanced technology to the large rocks that are hindering downward progress, in readiness for Saturday's digging session. Of course I had to stop in at the Hunters Lodge for refreshment before returning to Rugmoor to wash kit ready to go back underground tomorrow. It's always interesting to see how things have worked and if ideas/plans have come to fruition.

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14th June 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 15, 2014 07:18:10
With Alex, Jake and Tav.

While the team removed the pile of bags stacked at the bottom of Witches Cauldron I went, with the newly purchased 7lb sledge hammer, to try and break up a large boulder that is restricting the digging. After some considerable effort it was becoming obvious that the rock wasn't going to succumb to this kind of hammering. I did manage to break but in the wrong place and the rock slid forward to be more in the way. I could have barred it out of the way but then it would be still in the way so decided to leave it where it is and resort to a more advanced technology to rid us of the rock and another that is behind it, but that will have to wait until another day. Cleared away some debris and filled a couple of bags, then needed to make a rapid exit, leaving the rest of the team to dig a little while longer. Up at the Hunter's, one of those funny, irreverent, politically incorrect lunchtimes that remind you why this particular group of people have been your friends for such a long time.



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7th June 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 08, 2014 10:36:37
With Alex and Tav.

As last week packed up the empty bags and dragged them along to the dig ready to be filled again. I took the first digging shift, Tav in the 'T' Junction and Alex hauling and stacking in the pot. We concentrated our effort on cleaning out and consolidating the space we have created going down. There appeared to be an exposure of solid rock in the west wall. After a while Tav and I swapped places. At the end of the session solid rock was confirmed and the large boulder at the top of rift(?) requires removal to open up access and ease the digging effort, will try to get hold of a new sledge hammer in the week. It is possible that we are at the top of a small vadose canyon but more digging will be required to investigate further. There was a faint draught detected today as the surface temperatures began to rise.



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31st May 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 01, 2014 06:46:40
With Jake, Tav and Alex.

We started the session by packing up the empty bags at the surface ready to drag them along to the end to be refilled. At the dig face Jake took the first digging shift, while I settled into the rather damp 'T' Junction, Tav in the pot and Alex doing the hauling from Stal Bend and shuttling the spoil filled bags and rocks along to the base of the entrance shaft. Eventually Jake and I swapped positions. Digging is relatively easy now that it's possible to stand up and dig with the spade; the spoil comprises of sediment with cobbles and boulders. There are spaces opening up in the floor to north revealing clean washed cobbles and boulders and a gradually undercutting clean, solid east wall. The height from the bottom of the dig to the ceiling above is about 4 metres and still going. Prospects ahead are looking good, although there is still a lot of spoil to be dug out and shifted yet. The last task of the day was to haul the filled bags to the surface and empty them ready for the next digging session. Then off to the Hunter's!





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24th May 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 25, 2014 07:24:56
With Tav and Jake.

Our usual meeting place at the Hunter's Lodge car park was overrun by cyclists who were taking part in some organised event. Unfortunately this caused Tav to miss us at the car park and we met up a bit later at the farm. The grass is getting long in the hay meadow and it requires some effort to walk through, especially as it was raining. Tav and colleagues have been doing some clearing out at Balch's Cave so we had some clean bags to take underground with us, much lighter to carry without the mud. At the end with both Tav and I digging the bags were filled quickly, Jake stacking them at the 'T' Junction. We can stand up in the rift chamber now and dig with the spade. Progress downwards in the rift is relatively easy and there appears to be space alongside the solid east wall leading north under the bedding. We then shifted around to haul the filled bags out to the surface to be emptied. At the surface we had an audience of inquisitive cattle that had come over to see what was going on. All done, cave secured, the now obligatory slide down through the wet grass and on to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.





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17th May 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 18, 2014 06:41:33
With Jake and Alex.

Walking up the hillside through the hay meadow, in the warm sunshine, there was an amazing scent of wild flowers and blossom. At Hallowe'en Rift we set about clearing the stack of bags and rocks from the base of the entrance. Alex decided to remain on the surface to empty the bags and tend to the spoil heap and wall, while Jake and I went to the dig. With both of us digging in the rift it wasn't too long before the bag supply dwindled to nought. So we then hauled the filled bags out the surface to be emptied. The warm sunshine is great, but it does bring out the biting flies, so we called it a day and went to the pub.



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10th May 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 11, 2014 06:36:58
With Nick and Tav.

Cleared out all the bags of spoil that Nick and I had filled up during the previous two digging sessions. There was a lot of spoil shifted to the base of the entrance shaft ready to be hauled out to the surface at a later date. The hauling of spoil is a particularly mucky and squalid pastime as the splatter of mud from the ropes and skips gets everywhere, mostly in the face. The dig is now clear for the next digging session downwards to explore the rift.

In seemed obligatory following last weeks comments, to slide through the grass on the way down the hill, leaving three brown streaks on the hillside.


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3rd May 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 04, 2014 07:11:31
With Nick.

Just the two of us this weekend. Started the session by hauling last weeks spoil from the 'T' Junction back to the bottom of Witches Cauldron. We then continued the digging effort, the plan was to lower the floor in the rift along the passage going north and quickly decided there was enough room for both of us to dig. Filled bags until we ran out of space around us and then shifted the spoil back to the 'T' junction and then resumed digging. Towards the end of the session I was using the bar to prise out some rocks when a small hole appeared. Quickly the hole was enlarged to reveal space below, we can see down c. 2m to another floor(?) and there is solid rock, at least on one side. There is, of course, plenty of spoil to be removed in order to follow the lead but the draught is there again. With a little more digging along the rift it became clear that the space noted last session and that found today are connected. The prospects going downwards are looking good. Hopefully the team will be around next weekend, there is a lot of spoil to shift!

It would appear that the practice of 'body sliding', a method adopted by some of the team to rid their oversuits of mud, has been the cause of some amusement. 'Body sliding' requires that you slide down the hill in the grass, first on the belly then turning onto your back, the momentum is provided by driving with the legs, and with some flailing of the arms for good measure, the result is a number of brown streaks left on the hillside. There was some disappointment that neither Nick or myself adopted this particular method today.

Anyway off to the Hunter's for refreshment!








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26th April 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 27, 2014 06:43:53
With Nick and Alex.

While Alex remained at the surface to do some 'gardening' Nick and myself headed off to the current dig going north from the 'T' Junction. Our plan was to try and remove the large boulder in the floor halfway along the passage so that it will be easier to move a skip to and fro. With the two of us working at shifting the boulder it wasn't too long before it succumbed. While Nick then set about reducing the boulder to a more manageable size(s) I continued to dig, removing more rocks and bagging sediment. After reducing the boulder Nick returned to assist in the digging effort. Nick then removed a small rock revealing a small open space below, some loose sediment falling away into the hole and a faint draught detected - seems very likely the way ahead is downwards. Funny thing was that Nick and I had just been having a conversation regarding vadose development and the possibility that, given the nature of the sediment, it would be relatively easy to block a [potential] lead. I placed a rock over the hole and we then proceeded in shifting a considerable pile of debris and bags back to the 'T' Junction before calling it a day. Nick's final defiant act was to brave the duck and go into Trick or Treat? to retrieve the new skip there in readiness for the next digging session. We made our exit satisfied with the effort and excited about the prospects. We all adjourned to the Hunter's Lodge for refreshment.







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19th April 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 20, 2014 07:35:56
With Nick, Jake and Tav.

Although we have been experiencing some welcome dry weather it hasn't dried up in Hallowe'en yet. Nick, Jake and Vince went up to the end and Tav volunteered for pot duties. Vince took the first digging stint, Nick filling bags and Jake in the 'T' Junction. Dug a bit out of the floor to maintain the working space; the spoil is a mixture of sediment, very old degraded flowstone and rock, and there is an awful lot of it! There is also a false floor which is being removed as forward progress is made. After a while we swapped around - Nick digging, Jake filling and me in 'T' Junction, Tav still in the pot. When there was no space to stack spoil in the pot we moved back to haul everything out to the surface. Another fine session and a lot of spoil shifted. To the Hunter's, of course!

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12th April 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 13, 2014 14:37:25
With the full team today - Jake, Tav, Nick and Alex.

Nick and Alex set about emptying the pile of bags in the entrance while the rest of us went along to the dig to fill up some more bags. It hasn't dried up at all so Toil and Trouble is still rather squalid. Jake did the first stint at digging while Tav filled the bags I was in 'T' Junction where the bags/rocks were temporarily stored. When we ran out of bags I went down to the pot and we hauled the spoil from 'T' Junction back. Nick arrived with more empty bags which were sent up to the dig while the spoil was removed to the surface. With the entrance cleared the full team was then able to shift spoil from the dig all the way back, progress at the dig face was good and a considerable quantity of spoil was excavated. Another fine session.

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5th April 2014

digging 2014Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 06, 2014 08:46:48

With Jake and Nick.

Started the session with Vince digging and filling bags, Nick at the 'T' Junction, Jake was in the pot; progress was a bit slow. At Jake's suggestion, Nick moved along towards the digface and filled bags, while Vince carried on digging and pushing the spoil backwards to Nick, Jake moved up to the 'T' Junction and stockpiled the filled bags there; progress was now rapid. When we ran out of bags and space to store them it was time to move around and to shift the bags back to the base of the entrance - all of us doing a shift in the pot! At the entrance there is a considerable stack of spoil ready to be cleared to the surface next session but we decided it was time for a well earned pint at the Hunter's. An excellent digging session.

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