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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.

31st December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 01, 2017 12:08:53

With Jake, Nick and Tav for the last digging session of 2016.

Nick's turn up front to clear the rock debris and continue the digging, my job was to haul the loaded skip up the slope and transfer the load to the next skip down to Jake, on the haul and shuttle run to the entrance. Tav was on surface duties this weekend, hauling up the bags and emptying them and distributing the rock debris on the ever-growing spoil heap.

At the start of the session, while Jake attached a new skip, I went down to join Nick and reduced a large boulder of dolomitic conglomerate into more manageable, skip sized pieces with the sledgehammer.

After we had shifted all the rock debris out to the surface, Nick started to dig out some of the sediment that blocks the way forward. To ease this process, we all moved forward, as Nick filled a bag, I removed it and loaded it into the skip, Jake hauled it up the slope, loaded the other skip to Tav, now on the haul and shuttle. This was a bit unfortunate for Tav who had decided that he wouldn't require any knee-pads as he was on surface duties.

When all the bags had been filled, Jake came down to look at the progress and to peer into the space beyond.

There was now a pile of bags and rock in the entrance ready to be cleared out and emptied. That done, the cave was secured and tidy, ready for the next session in the new year. Hopefully, I can get something sorted for a midweek foray.

A crystal filled geode recovered from this weeks spoil.







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27th December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, December 28, 2016 06:51:14

With Roz

After a rather leisurely morning sorting out the necessities we arrived a bit later than anticipated at the farm. We quickly changed ad headed across the fields to the cave entrance.

At the end of Merlin's I didn't spend much time with the hammer and chisel but got on with drilling the holes.

A total of 6no. holes with quite a wide spread to exploit some cracks that were visible. The task was completed relatively quickly and we made it to the Hunter's with plenty of time to spare.




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24th December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, December 26, 2016 07:07:49

With Tav, Nick and Alex.

Tav down at the bottom of the rift [pot] clearing the rock debris and loading the skips to Nick who, was hauling the skips up the slope and transferring the load to the next skip. I was on the haul and shuttle, pulling the skip from Nick, loading the bags and rocks into another skip and dragging that to the entrance where Alex was on the surface waiting to haul up the spoil.

It was two and a half hours of non-stop action, there was a lot of rock shifted, Alex lost count, but the estimate was at least 80 loads, Alex even managed to get some rocks added to the wall.

At the end, it's clear ready for the next application of rock engineering technology, hopefully, this will enable more of the sediment to be removed from the fissure and more forward progress can be achieved. It is so tantalising.






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22nd December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, December 23, 2016 07:09:16

With Roz.

And behold, there was rock!

The first task of the evening was to shift the rock debris out of the way. I went ahead to drag the rock back, breaking the larger pieces with the lump hammer, and passing the rocks bac to Roz who stacked it all at the base of the rift [pot], ready to be cleared out on Saturday.

Then the next task for the evening.

While I started to drill the holes, Roz bagged some of the smaller sized gravel to add to the stack of rocks. 6no. holes plus another for the trimmings, all well stemmed, retired to a safe distance, everything sounded good.

Locked the cave and departed. There will plenty of work for the weekend.




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20th December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, December 21, 2016 05:47:01

Solo. Roz was going to join me but more pressing matters put an end to that.

At the end drilled 6no. holes plus a shorter one for the trimmings. The aim is to give some more height and width concentrated on the left-hand side of the fissure. I couldn't resist a little peek along the fissure using a beamed light rather than a diffuse one, it does look very enticing. Just a bit more work to get there is required.

Laid out the wire and everything sounded good, ready for a return on Thursday evening to move the debris and continue with the expansion works.





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17th December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 18, 2016 08:08:53

With Jake, Tav, Nick and Alex.

My turn to do the digging, which was a tad awkward this session, edging forward along a barely body sized fissure, loosening the spoil, then dragging it back to where there was enough space to bag it up for Jake to clear away.

Jake was filling some bags too, cleaning off the ledges on the slope. Tav was at the top, hauling the skip up the slope, then transferring the load to another skip down to Nick on the haul and shuttle. Nick had remained on the surface for a short time to carry out some wall building. Alex had gone off to do his own thing for a while before coming over to Hallowe'en Rift to help clear out the bags and rocks to the surface, 50 loads in total (46 bags and 4 skip loads of rocks).

The rocks had come from a large flake that I had removed with the hammer and chisel after Jake had pointed out a fracture, it's removal made digging a lot easier.

The way ahead is looking very interesting indeed. The fissure gradually widens, and looks just about body sized, well, after the sediment is removed of course. It appears to widen more about 4-metres further on and looks to turn to the right (north), the air movement is good and fresh. The fissure gains some height and about 500mm above the sediment the remnants of a former false floor can be seen.

There is still a need for some rock removal to ease forward progress and to improve the removal of spoil. Hopefully, I'll be able to get that done in the coming week.

Another very satisfying session.





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10th December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 11, 2016 08:42:55

With Jake, Nick and Alex.

On the way down the Old Bristol Road we dropped Alex off at Ivy Cottage as he wanted to walk along the hillside to Hallowe'en Rift, the rest of us continued to the farm where we changed and made our way up to the cave.

At the end of Merlin's Nick was digging, I was clearing away the filled bags and rocks placing them into the skip for Jake to haul them up the slope. When we had amassed a good pile of bags and rocks I went up the slope while Jake went back to the haul and shuttle, Nick continued digging. Alex had turned up at the entrance and was busying himself adding to the drystone wall. The filled bags were emptied, then Jake and I went back to clear the next pile Nick had created. Repeated the procedure.

When that stack had been cleared away Jake remained on the haul and shuttle. Nick loaded the skip at the bottom while I hauled it up the slope and loaded the bags and rocks into the next skip for Jake to haul and shuttle to the entrance. Eventually the pace slowed and I took the opportunity to take a good look at the end.

There is clear layering in the sediments. Above the dolomitic conglomerate there is a layer (A) comprising very compact red silty clay that has a base load of gravel in small pockets, some of the gravel is rounded with an oxidised coating perhaps suggestive of stream flow. At the top of (A) is a layer of degraded, fragmented flowstone (B), possibly this once sealed (A). Above this (C) compact, sometimes loosely compacted, silty sand that appears yellow-brown in underground lighting. It is red-brown on the surface but has been mixed with (A).

Ahead c.2.5m the open fissure gains height and appears a bit wider, and there is good air movement. The fissure is, currently, heading in a westerly direction. The prospects seem to be encouraging.

We thought it might have been a bit slower digging today but still managed to shift 58 bags and several skip loads of rock out to the surface. The entrance is clear of bags, the benefit of an extra pair of hands at the surface, so no reason for a midweek trip. We'll probably go into Wookey Hole instead and continue the wall building there.

To the pub in some fine Mendip 'sunshine'.









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6th December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, December 07, 2016 06:34:19

With Nick, Tav and Jake.

I was dispatched to the end to fill more bags while the others cleared the bags left from Saturday - I sense a theme going on here!

At the end, I cleared away the last large deposit of sediment from the base of the rift before working to the west and forward. It wasn't too long before Jake arrived to start clearing the backlog of bags and, there were some rocks. The way forward looks tantalising but some rock engineering will need to be applied beforehand, still plenty of sediment to dig though.

Whilst bags were being filled Nick decided to drop down the pot and go along Toil and Trouble to the T Junction and beyond to see if we could establish an audible connection, we couldn't so we were satisfied with that outcome.

It was all to soon time to clear out the filled bags and rocks to the surface. It had been a productive evening; earlier 84 skip loads of bags and rock had been hauled out followed by tonight's effort of a further 26 skip loads, a total of 110 loads out to the surface.

At the Hunter's a token gesture towards the festive season was a few rounds of spoof to fill the Christmas draw sheet.

The rock! Well, that turned out to be limestone with an oxidised coating.







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3rd December 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 04, 2016 07:43:51

With Jake, Tav and Nick.

Three ventured to the end of Merlin's; Jake digging, Nick hauling up the slope and Tav loading the skip. 'Billy No Mates' was left behind on the haul and shuttle where the feint sound of friendly banter coming from the end was just about audible, too distant for 'Billy' to take part.

'Billy' had to make his own entertainment and set about constructing a 'Tower of Power' leading up towards the light. There is an impressive stack of bags and rock in the entrance that reaches the ledge just below the gate. Getting the last few bags to the top required some effort.

Eventually, the three returned from the end bringing with them the 'holy' rock, and the four were reunited. The 'tower' was to be left until Tuesday evening when it will be de-constructed and the bags spread upon the heap of spoil. More bags will probably be filled too.

The four then left the cave to gaze in awe at the 'holy' rock in a place of reverence high on the enchanted hill. The rock type is still a matter of discussion to be concluded later when it will be cut in half to reveal its inner secrets.






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29th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 30, 2016 05:59:00

With Nick, Tav and Jake.

A cold evening with an easterly wind, but the sky was clear and we had a fantastic view of the stars.

Underground it was quite a bit warmer. As I drilled the holes to continue the passage expansion at the bottom of the rift at the current end of Merlin's the rest of the team filled more bags. Nick digging, Tav hauling up the slope and loading the skip to Jake, who was on the haul and shuttle. When I had finished the holes Nick, Tav and Jake went to the entrance to clear the spoil that was stacked there - 75 skip loads of bags and rock out to the surface.

Meanwhile I had completed my task and it was time to lock up and make our way off the hill. It wasn't too long before we were warming up in the Hunter's Lodge Inn.



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26th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 27, 2016 11:08:38

With Jake, Nick and Matt.

Vince doing the digging bit, Matt hauling up the rift, Jake started on the shuttle but came up to load the skips, Nick did the haul and shuttle.

The bang had a reasonable effect and there was plenty of fractured rock to move, would have been better but one of the holes blew out, but I might have loosened it when I slipped while climbing out of the rift, would have been spot on had it gone.

Once the rock was cleared the sediment comprises silty sand and some fine gravel, there is the occasional piece of fragmented ancient flowstone within the sediment. Most of the time I was sat down and shovelling spoil into the bags. Now the way ahead has been cleared of some sediment it appears we are starting to follow a phreatic partially sediment filled tube, that is about 1.25m wide at the base and about 0.6m in height. There is a solid rock floor. The hardest part is loading the bags and rock into the skip, the step up is a couple of metres. I was rather warm in my plastic suit.

The bags and rocks shifted today and stacked in the entrance will be cleared out on Tuesday evening when I will be drilling some more holes. We will probably fill a few more bags of sediment too.

I got the video camera working but need to sort out the footage, it stopped when the battery died after about 1.75hrs and on a 10 minute cyclic record there's a lot of editing to be done.





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24th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, November 25, 2016 06:24:12

Solo

It was very windy walking up across the field, cold too coming from the east.

Along to the current end of Merlin's to drill some holes, heading west following a narrow, partially sediment filled fissure from the lowest point in the rift. 7 holes were drilled, 6 for the ready prepared charges and an extra for the bunched trimmings. Retired to a safe distance and all sounded good!



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22nd November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 23, 2016 06:23:38

With Jake and Tav.

It's been a tad damp over the past few days; I got a report of Chamber's 3 and 20 in Wookey Hole flooding, the wettest seen in 20 years and as I drove past Gough's Cave in Cheddar this morning that too, was spewing torrents of water. How this has affected Hallowe'en Rift we shall found out soon.

But first, there's the pile of bags and rock in the entrance to clear. Tav and I on the surface sharing the hauling with Jake loading the skips. 61 skip loads out to the surface and while Tav volunteered to empty the bags Jake and I headed off to the end to dig some more.

There were a couple of small puddles along the approach, just damp enough to ease the passage of the skip, at the dig it was dry. Jake set about filling bags and I hauled them up the slope, stockpiled a few loads before Tav arrived at the haul and shuttle.

Another 25 skip loads were removed to the surface, bags hung up on the line and we were done.





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19th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 20, 2016 07:00:55

With Jake, Tav and Pete Bolt.

I tried out a new plastic oversuit I had purchased online for £25. It was okay but the wearing of two long sleeved thermal T's was an error, I was very warm.

Anyway, at the sharp end, while I drilled and 'capped' the obstructing rock in the floor of the dig, Tav fettled the skip run, Pete was clearing away and loading the skip to Jake, who was on the haul and shuttle.

Interestingly I found that dolomitic conglomerate boulder split better using double black cartridges whereas comparable sized boulders of limestone can be split using just a single black cartridge. The split boulder of 'dol cong' required some chisel and bar work to extricate it from the sediment but the task was completed. I swapped places with Tav and he started to fill bags with sediment while I set about using more rock splitting technique to remove a couple of stubborn obstructions along the skip run.

That done, we cleared the stack of bags that Tav had steadily accumulated. Tav carried on digging for a little longer and it was quite late, by our usual standards, when we decided to finish the session. There is a very neat stack of bags and rock in the entrance ready for clearing mid-week.

The helmet mounted video camera (SJ4000) that I had thought to try out was not a complete success - I guess I should have turned it on properly as I discovered during a quiet moment between hauling skips.





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15th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 16, 2016 06:43:06

With Jake, Tav and Nick.

It was a foggy night, we mooched up the hill but didn't quite locate the stile and had to search for it - just for a few moments!

On arrival at Hallowe'en Rift; Jake, Tav and myself set about clearing the spoil left at the weekend from the entrance while Nick headed up to the dig to wrestle the fractured rock free from the sediment.

There were 60 skip loads of spoil removed from the entrance and one frog, but I'm not sure that the frog didn't return as I saw one just like it disappearing into a small gap between some rocks.

While Tav emptied the bags out on the surface Jake and I headed up to the end of Merlin's to free Nick from a surplus of rock debris and bags. Jake clearing and loading the skips while I was on the haul and shuttle. Another 15 skip loads out to the surface and we decided to call it a day. The fractured rock, however remains, somewhat depleted but still there, a job for Saturday with the drill and caps!

As we walked down to the farm it was raining steadily.







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12th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 13, 2016 09:12:33

With Nick and Tav.

Me digging, Tav hauling and loading skips, Nick doing the haul and shuttle.

A bit of a slow start while I tried to dig around and pry out the fractured rock in the floor. Tav started to make some adjustments to the haul slope which meant that I had a constant shower of debris which was okay as long as I didn't look up.

When I eventually coaxed one piece of the fractured rock free the rest came a little more easily and Nick had something to do. It was warm work digging.

Working at loosening the shattered rock and flowstone to the north side of the dig I got the long bar behind a lump and prised it free to reveal a small space beyond. A large lump of rock in the floor needed a reduction in size so got the drill out and capped it. Then after some sledge work and leverage with the long bar it was out, cleared away the remaining debris and opened up the space some more.

I got my head into a narrow opening and could see about 2 or 3 metres to the west and about a metre to the east, there is some air movement, the narrow fissure or rift is partially filled with sediment, the usual reddish brown silty sand. The team came down to take a look.

We cleared some of the loose rock, but there is still more rock to dig out of the floor and it then seems to be sediment to excavate. At the entrance is a pile of rocks and bags that will remain until Tuesday evening, another excuse to go the pub and it was fast approaching that time now.

We made our way down the hill to the farm, then up to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.



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8th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 09, 2016 06:10:25

With Jake and Tav.

A rainy evening trip to clear the spoil left stacked in the entrance on Saturday.

Tav loading the skips, Jake and Vince on the surface hauling and emptying the skip. 51 bags up to the surface and emptied, 27skip loads of rock and 1 heavyweight rock in the net. All cleared ready for Saturday's session.

It didn't take too long and we were soon sat in the pub, a little bit too early really.



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5th November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 06, 2016 07:34:58

With Tav and Jake.

Jake digging, Vince hauling and loading the skip, Tav doing the haul and shuttle. As expected, after the initial clearance of rock debris, there was a lot more fine sediment to excavate to get to the remaining fractured rock. Progress was at a good steady pace and it was warm work.

Towards the end of the session Jake and Vince swapped places. A few more bags were filled before attention was paid to some fractured rock overhead and, after a little persuasion this was brought crashing down. Another heavyweight rock was man-handled up the slope and while Jake rolled the rock down to Tav, Vince reduced the other pieces to skip size with some swinging of the sledge hammer - there is that much space at the end.

About 45 bags were filled and plenty of rock was shifted, all stacked neatly in the entrance by Tav, who had to climb up to the ledge to place the last few skip loads, here the spoil will remain until Tuesday evening. At the dig there is still more fractured rock to remove but this needs digging out, so no rock engineering will be necessary in the coming week.

Satisfied with the effort, the gate was locked and we made our way down to the farm to change. Then up to the Hunter's for some well-earned refreshment and discussion of plans for the week ahead.



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1st November 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 02, 2016 06:15:11

Solo.

6no. holes drilled into the rock flakes in the floor. Much of the rock is already fractured so the drilling took some thinking about. It will likely require some exerted effort to get at all the broken rock [and sediment too]. As usual retired to a safe distance and all sounded good, leaves fluttered down into the entrance.



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29th October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 30, 2016 07:19:11

With Jake, Tav, Nick, Matt and from the Grampian - Colin, Frazer and Ian. We were joined later by Tangent.

Tav digging ably assisted by Nick and Ian; Matt doing the hauling; Jake shuttling and loading the skips to the surface; Vince above ground with Colin and Frazer, who was a little worse for wear following a rather heavy day yesterday.

The first task of the day was to remove the spoil left from last weekend, this done Jake started to clear the pile that Matt was accruing coming from the digging end.

Then Jake sent the sledge up to the end when it had been requested, this was soon followed by some enormous boulders being rolled out of the cave. These easily weighed between 30kg to 50kg and the net was needed along with a joint effort to get them up to the surface.

When most of the work had been done Tangent turned up, taking a detour from pedalling up the hill to the Hunter's to say hello to the Grampian contingent. I then went along to the end with Colin, don't know what happened to Frazer.

There's a rather large space at the end now which should not be a surprise after the quantity of spoil shifted today. There is a good solid wall on the west side but the rock flake in the floor will need some attention so another mid-week trip is necessary.

Another fine digging session with our digging chums from north of the border. Time to go to the pub.




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27th October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 28, 2016 06:30:52

With Tav. Unfortunately, Jake and the Grampian team were delayed too long in Reservoir hole and couldn't make it.

We went straight up to the current end of Merlin's to get the rock engineering done. 6no. holes this time; 2no. in fractured rock overhead, 1no. in the rift going north, and 3no. in flake of rock in the floor. It didn't take too long and we soon back at the entrance. Before setting the charge off we decided to shift a couple of dozen loads of spoil up to the surface, mostly bags but a few rocks too.

Job done we headed down to the farm where we spent some time chatting to Mark, the farmer. At a local, well known hostelry we met up with Jake and co. and a jolly time was had by all!



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22nd October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 23, 2016 11:39:04

With Tav and Nick.

My turn to dig, Tav clearing back, and Nick on the haul and shuttle. Monday's blast had the desired effect and there was a good pile of rock, gravel and finer sediment to be removed. The new skip was put into immediate use as there is quite a distance between the dig face and up the slope to the skip loading position, Tav has renamed this 'haul and shuttle 2', there are no easier positions now.

There is an interesting deposit of calcified sediment filling a narrow fissure. The sediment filled the fissure and carbonate rich water seeped through the sediment becoming calcified. Looking closely it is possible to see that the sediment was slowly oozing down the fissure before solidifying.

Filled about 30 bags of gravel and finer sediment, shifted a lot of rock and eventually cleared the dig ready for another midweek trip to create more rubble. There is some fractured rock that will need some encouragement to bring it down too. At the end of the clearance session both Tav and Nick came to inspect the way ahead. There is a narrow rift going down perhaps 0.7m depth from where the draught is emanating, the gap seems to widen below a block of conglomerate. This opening appears to align north/south.

Unfortunately, we had spent so much time clearing the end there wasn't time to clear the entrance. Perhaps we can get this out during the week when I am applying rock engineering techniques at the end of Merlin's.

Another interesting bit of rock. The calcite bands at lower end of this sample are beginning to degrade while the upper bands are still competent, the mid section is a mixture of degrading and competent bands. the bands are very thin and many of the layers upper surface stained red probably from sediment flow.



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17th October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, October 18, 2016 06:08:54

Solo.

At the current end of Merlin's drilled 7no. holes - 3no. on either side and 1no. in large flake of flowstone in the floor, all prep done, retired to a safe distance, made some loud noise, the cave shook! There will be rubble for the weekend.



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15th October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, October 15, 2016 16:16:27

With Nick, Tav and Jake.

As we walked up to the cave I joked "Nick have you walked all the way up here without your hat"...only to realise that I had done exactly that! Jake saved my embarrassment by lending me his hat as he was on surface duties this weekend.

At the end there was plenty of rubble to shift. Nick was digging, I was clearing back loading the skips, Tav on the haul and shuttle, Jake on the surface in the warm October sunshine building walls. It was warm work and the progress is quite impressive, the rift is c.4.0-4.5m deep, c.4m length and heading north as well as downwards, there is air movement. At the end of the session there is a small gap under the left (west) wall that appears to continue north. Some more rock engineering is required.

72no. skip loads to the surface comprising bags and rock, including some rather large boulders that wouldn't succumb to the sledge, about 15kg per load - well work it out for yourselves!

Pub time.







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11th October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 12, 2016 07:00:10

With Tav and Jake, later joined by Nick who had been delayed by a late train.

While I planned to apply some rock engineering to the end the rest of the team were to set about clearing the remaining spoil from Sunday's session. Tav gave me a hand to carry the kit up to Merlin's before returning to the entrance.

7no. holes drilled - 3no. either side if the rift and 1no. in a large rock flake in the floor. Tav returned just as I was charging the last hole so I packed away the drill and he took that out for me. That left me to tidy up the loose end and connect the wires then I made my way out laying the wire as I went. All was brought to a satisfactory conclusion, the entrance clear of spoil we made our way down the hill to the farm, followed by the usual debrief at the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

There will be more rubble to shift at the weekend.





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9th October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 10, 2016 07:05:54

With Jake and Nick.

Jake doing the digging, Nick clearing back and loading the skip, my turn on the haul and shuttle, it was relentless and very warm and sweaty work. By the end of the digging session I had to climb nearly out of the entrance to add more spoil to the stockpile that was awaiting removal to the surface. I didn't have any time to break up the larger boulders and these are lined up at the bottom of the pile. It would appear that Tuesdays effort had been a success.

After the rush I went along to the end to see what further rock engineering was required. It's getting steadily deeper and longer at the current end of Merlin's. We could still excavate loose sediment from the base of the dig but more widening is necessary and there is a large flake of rock impeding downward progress.

21 bags were removed and emptied on the surface, but time was moving on and it's early closing on a Sunday at the Hunter's. As a consequence much of the spoil remains stacked in the entrance and will be removed, probably on Tuesday evening when Jake and Tav, possibly Nick intend to accompany me and clear out while I drill.

Another excellent session!



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4th October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 05, 2016 06:20:21

With Roz Simmonds.

At the current end of Merlin's I managed to get 6 and a bit holes drilled after some excitement when a drill bit snapped leaving a stub jammed in the chuck. Eventually, following a god deal of cussing and grumbling the stub was extricated and drilling progressed. Roz took some photo's, some were ok.

All things done and dusted we made our way out. There will, again be rubble to shift at the weekend.





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1st October 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 02, 2016 16:56:29

With Nick, Tav and Jake.

Tav at the sharp end digging, Jake clearing back and loading the skip, Nick on the haul and shuttle, Vince on surface duties. 30+ bags and quite a lot of rocks were hauled out.

When time was available on the surface the retaining wall was heightened, the brambles trampled down to make for more spoil dumping space and bags were packed ready for re-use underground.

Towards the end of the session went with Nick to have a look at the end, all the small open space seen last week had been accessed and more enlargement is now required, I will arrange another visit on Tuesday with the supplier.

Still looking encouraging!



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27th September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 28, 2016 06:34:02

Solo.

Another peaceful evening spent drilling holes at the current end of Merlin's, can even stand up to do it. 7no. holes in total, all charged and well stemmed, all brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

There will be rubble to shift on the weekend!



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24th September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 25, 2016 07:42:27

With Jake, Tav and Alex.

Tav had bought along his survey kit so we quickly did a couple of legs from the top of the pot to the present dig, total length c.14m and trending N-NW into the hill, just what we want!


Tav re-adjusting his attire after surveying.

Vince digging, clearing away the blast debris, Tav loading the skip with bags and rocks, Jake drew the shortest of straws and was on the haul and shuttle with Alex on the surface.

At the end there was plenty of gravel -20 bags of it- and numerous rocks, barred away fractured rock from the left hand wall and in the floor, it was warm work.

As things started to slow down, the blast debris being mostly cleared, I began to pull some cobbles and small boulders away from the end of the rift to reveal an open space below. There is a drop c.1-1.5m and a continuation of the rift c.2-2.5m and c.0.5-0.7m width. There are a number of loose rocks, most of these appear to be of detached, degraded flowstone and a good draught.

While manoeuvering a boulder out of the way my headlight became detached and fell through the narrow opening down into the rift, I had to retrieve it. After quite a lot of hammering I eventually managed to squeeze into the rift and reached my light but I couldn't really do or see anything else. Will have to arrange another mid-week visit to widen access into the rift and enable the removal of rocks and sediment.

The prospects ahead good, very good indeed!

Digging over, it was time to make our way down to the farm, get changed and up to the debrief in the Hunter,s, satisfied with the mornings effort.




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20th September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 21, 2016 06:18:01

Solo.

Drilled some more holes at the current end of Merlin's in the draughting rift to continue the widening, starting to trend downwards now. All went with a resounding boom. There should be rubble to shift on the weekend!



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17th September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 18, 2016 09:22:25

With Jake and Tav.

Jake at the business end, Vince clearing back and loading the skip, Tav on the haul and shuttle probably the busiest task of today.

Tuesday's blast had done the trick and there was plenty of rubble to shift. It was a little frantic for the first hour or so as rocks and bags of gravel were moved quickly back. Then as digging was required it settled down a bit. A message from Tav that the stack of spoil at the entrance was approaching the ledge just below the gate.

By the end of the digging session the way ahead (well it's down really) looks good indeed, small stones can be heard to rattle down a short distance and there is a good draught. There is some more widening required so I will have to arrange another mid-week trip.

Back at the entrance, Tav had created an impressive stockpile of spoil and it must have been an effort to get the last few bags and rocks up to the top. On the surface Tav and Jake rotated the hauling - 20 bags, then swap around. 70 skip loads were removed to the surface including a couple of boulders in the rock net that needed a joint effort to get them out.

Thirsty work and the refreshments at the Hunter's Lodge Inn were welcome indeed.

A fine digging session!





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13th September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 14, 2016 06:13:31

Solo.

Mark, the farmer, walked up to the woods with me before going on his way to continue walking the dogs.

At the end drilled some holes in the large detached flake of conglomerate, a few more to widen the way lower down, and another in an obstructive rock in the floor. Six were charged, well stemmed and the task was completed from a safe distance in the usual satisfactory manner.

There should be another large pile of rubble to shift on Saturday.





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10th September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 11, 2016 07:41:55

With Jake, Tav and Nick.

Vince digging, Nick clearing and loading the skip, Jake hauling and shuttling to the entrance, Tav on the surface, in the rain apparently. It was lovely and dry at the end.

Tuesday evening's blast had worked a treat and there was plenty of rubble, comprised of lumps of rock and gravel, to shift. There is a large flake of rock, probably half a ton in weight, on the left side that is just about loose but, realistically is too big to do anything with. This will require further attention at a later date.

Towards the end of the session I pulled out a large piece of old detached flowstone from the narrow rift at the end to reveal what appears to be a clear way forward. A small, draughting gap that looks to widen lower down. There's plenty of work to be done before we can access it though. I will have to arrange some supplies and a midweek trip to apply some rock engineering techniques.

60 skip loads out to the surface, plus a joint effort to extricate the last lump of conglomerate.

At the Hunter's caught up with John and Ally Beauchamp who are visiting from Australia, haven't seen them for about 20 years I reckon.



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6th September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 07, 2016 06:14:06

Solo.

A gentle evening trip to drill some holes and apply some rock engineering techniques to widen the rift at the present end of Merlin's.

6no. holes drilled, charged and well tamped and task completed in the usual satisfactory manner. Should be a good pile of rubble to clear on Saturday.



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3rd September 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 04, 2016 12:06:56

Jake, Tav, Nick and Matt.

Tav and Jake took turns at the dig face, Tav taking the first stint; I did the hauling; Nick on the shuttle with Matt on the surface.

Nick hauling back a skip loaded with rocks and a bag [click on image to watch video].

I don't think Matt realised just how much work there would be after Wednesday evening's blast. Rock and gravel was coming from the dig face at a good rate of knots for over an hour, every skip I hauled back was two or more skip loads out to the surface. Some of the larger rocks almost overfilled the skip and Nick reduced these in size with some mighty swings of the sledge hammer.

Jake works at loosening another boulder.

At the end some good forward progress had been achieved and the end still looks interesting. Another blast will be required in the week which will increase the working space and allow a better look ahead.

Matt looked a little shell shocked at the end of the session but happy. Refreshments at the hostelry were well earned today.









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31st August 2106

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, September 01, 2016 06:57:14

Solo.

I was in Wookey Hole with others on Saturday so didn't make it to Hallowe'en. The rest of the team, however, did and had cleared the sediment that was surrounding some large rock obstructions.

My task this evening was to start the process of removing these inconveniences using some chemical persuasion. It was very pleasant working away drilling the holes, six in total five of which were 400mm depth, charged, stemmed and all brought to a satisfying conclusion. Should be some debris to shift on Saturday although I will bring along the capping gear just in case it's required.

Up to the Hunter's to bid farewell to Snablet, Annette and family who are leaving tomorrow after an all too brief visit from New Zealand.





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20th August 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 21, 2016 07:21:08

With Jake and Alex.

Me digging, Jake clearing and Alex doing the haul and shuttle to the entrance. We started off by clearing the loose rock debris from last weeks 'capping'.

Jake's hands are a blur as he shifts back the loose rock debris!

Then I got the bar to work levering out the fractured rock that was still in situ. Eventually managed to drop two large lumps that required further reduction so asked for the capping gear to be sent up. While waiting for the bag to arrive I set into one of the boulders with the lump hammer and managed to split the rock. I was surprised to see that it comprised entirely of flowstone, the various banding clear evidence for a succession of formation episodes.

Those rocks cleared I moved forward to clear some loose rock from a narrow rift that had been exposed and then detected cool air movement with more open space beyond, not massive space but compelling. Much of the blockage in the narrow rift had been caused by detached, degrading calcite flowstone. After some effort a better view was gained and the space c.2 metres length is looking interesting indeed with a good draught. Jake came forward to have a look and confirmed my initial findings.

Vince reaches forward in the narrow rift to clear out some more of the blockage.

The rift appears to widen to the right hand side lower down and it seems like the best way to proceed would be to lower the floor half a metre or so. To the right there appears to be some large boulders that can be reduced in size and subsequent removal will create working room.

The way ahead!

Time was moving on so tidied up the loose spoil and made our way out to clear what was a considerable pile of rock stacked in the entrance. We didn't count the number of skip loads but Jake's back indicated it was c.40-50 and probably the best part of a ton, there were 10 bags of spoil too.

A sign of the times is when the conversation goes along the lines of [quote from AG] "I've had some f*****g good tomatoes this year", gone are those day's when it might have been "I had a f*****g good time last night 18 pints and..."

The cave cleared, bags empty, it was time to head back down to the farm, then the rain decided to fall. We got changed and headed up to the Hunter's Lodge Inn satisfied with our mornings effort.







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13th August 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 14, 2016 08:04:58

With Jake and Tav.

Jake digging, Tav clearing away, me on the haul and shuttle. Digging was fairly steady so had a little time to mess around with the new camera.

The Tissue (Triphosa dubitata). This species is often seen in caves and is a regular sighting in Hallowe'en Rift.

After about 20 loads of rocks and bags were shifted back and stacked in the entrance a message came back that there were a couple of largish rocks that required some reduction. Jake and Tav came back to clear the spoil out to the surface while I headed up to the end with the capping gear.

Bags and rock are stacked in the entrance shaft ready to be cleared to the surface.

At the end drilled a total of 5 holes, after each hole was drilled it was then 'capped' and the resulting debris cleared to one side ready for the next hole to be drilled. The rocks suitably reduced/fractured it was time to pack up and join the others on the surface and to make our way, eventually, back up the hill to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.







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6th August 2016

digging 2016Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, August 06, 2016 14:47:36

With Alex Gee.

It was really good to see Alex up at Hallowe'en again.

The first job of the morning was to pack all the dry bags into 10's ready to be taken underground and refilled on later digging sessions. Then, as I opened up the cave we were joined by a fledgling robin that showed no fear of human presence and sat next to us, within less than 0.5 metre, this is probably not a good indicator for a long term survival strategy, but a pleasant experience all the same.

While I slipped underground to take some photo's Alex went to look at a feature he wanted to check out on the hillside.

In particular, I wanted to try and take an image of the current working area, and here it is below, the lump hammer for scale.

On the way to the dig face there are some decent formations, not all that big but worth preserving and taking a look. The bluish tinge is a consequence of lighting by LED I assume.

Back on the surface I had just started moving some of the rocks when Alex returned from his foray and we started work to build the retaining wall a little higher.

There was a good supply of rocks, these were put into position and sediment will be packed behind the rocks at the next digging session to consolidate the wall. When the rock supply was exhausted it was then that we decided to make our way to the Hunter's satisfied with the morning's effort, a little earlier than anticipated but thirsty all the same, and the flies were becoming very irritating!
















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