23rd March 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 24, 2019 07:07:01

With Jake, Jon, Nick, Duncan, Brockers, Tav and Mike (Moxon)

After digging last weekend, Jon was on the surface with Jake, who managed to add some more stone to the wall, but spoil is required to back it up. I was at the bottom of the entrance, Nick took up position at the junction.

Blog image

Nick at the junction, viewed from the bottom of the entrance.

Tav headed down to the “soft” south with an array of new implements he had purchased from ‘Proper Job’, a good source for cheap digging tools. Mike, on light duties following some eye surgery, was in the small the small “chamber” just beyond the former pinch-point. That left Brockers and Dunc “up-front”, surprisingly, after a dry week, the pump was required, this took some time to assemble and drain the water away. A miscalculation in the drainage route resulted in the south passage, downslope from the north, suddenly becoming much wetter. Some hasty readjustment of the pipe allowed the water to drain elsewhere.

Soon, the “lake” was “dry”, digging was underway. Earlier in the session there had been some time for quiet contemplation, this was soon to end as the bags and rocks began to be shifted through and out of the cave. Jake and Jon rotated the hauling and emptying roles, 115 loads of bags and rocks were brought out to the surface, and there are still rocks left at the bottom of the entrance, including a rather large one. Its “twin” had been removed with some effort earlier.

On their return from the north, Brockers and Dunc were cold and a little grumpy, which was of some amusement to the rest of us. It was obvious from their attire that the north had been just a little bit squalid. Still, nothing that some refreshments at a certain local hostelry wouldn’t sort out.

Blog image Looking up out of the entrance.

16th March 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 17, 2019 06:48:32

With Tav, Jon, Dunc, Nick, Jake and Brockers

Jon’s turn in the “pond”, Dunc chose to be next in-line again and took up position in the small “chamber” just beyond the former “pinch-point”. It took some time to assemble the pump and drain away the considerable quantity of water. A task made more onerous as the pump had been left, in a safe position, on the far side of the “lake”, the “pond” now re-designated.

Meanwhile, in the nice dry and comfortable south passage/chamber, I was happily digging away, filling bags, finding the occasional lump of rock, just an ideal digging spot.

Eventually though, the “lake” was drained, the water that had been spilt lubricating the haul route, Jon was able to start digging. Tav, at the junction, was soon very busy. Nick, at the bottom of the entrance, had been “tidying”, the step that had accumulated over many sessions was now gone, the rocks there had joined the pile on the surface waiting to be incorporated into the ever-growing wall.

Brockers, after digging last session, was on the surface with Jake, hauling out the spoil from the cave. Jake continued the wall building until a steady flow of bags started to arrive at the surface to be emptied.

It was another productive session; 108 loads out to the surface, 81 bags and 27 loads of rock for the wall.

Happy days!

10th March 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 17:14:48


Just a brief visit underground to collect my camera that I managed to leave behind yesterday. Took a few snaps of the magnificent spoil-heap.

9th March 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 10, 2019 07:03:19

With Jake, Tav, Nick, Brockers and Duncan

Blog imageTav and Nick discuss prospects to the south.

After some heavy rain during the week, it was obvious to us that Tav’s pump was going to be required. The pump was set-up and proved to be very effective, the water soon was drained away.

Blog imageDuncan gives Brockers a helping hand to set-up the pump.

The water gone, Brockers was able to dig away to his heart’s content. Merrily filling bags, some of them with very sloppy sediment, and loading rocks into the skip. Duncan was next in line, lying in the small chamber, aiding the skip along its route to me at the junction. Once again, I had made a small error and suggested Nick might go south and dig there. He was in his element. It was a busy session for me, Tav at the bottom of the entrance and, especially, for Jake who hauled up ~85 skip-loads to the surface; ~70 filled bags and ~15 loads of rock, including one rather weighty boulder that required the use of the strops. Good wall building material though.

With, probably, the two most enthusiastic ‘fillers of bags’ digging in tandem, it was necessary, at times, for me to decant some of the bags to more suitable weights for hauling out of the cave, and so easing some of the pressure on Jake’s back. At the close of the session, Nick found some large boulders that he happily reduced in size to more manageable proportions. These were then rolled to the bottom of the entrance where they await extraction.

It had been another productive and convivial digging session, rounded off with a stop at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for the customary refreshments.

NOTE: the digging effort, at present, is concentrated on the enlargement of the north-west leading passage, to the south-west side of the entrance (towards Trevor Hughes old dig). Also, there has been some activity in the opposite direction on the south-side.

2nd March 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 03, 2019 07:27:45

With Tav, Brockers, Jon, Nick and Jake

The induced rapid speleogenesis applied last Sunday morning had the desired effect and we were presented by a considerable pile of fractured rock and gravel. This took quite some time and effort to remove. I went ahead, scraping back the gravel and fractured rock to Tav, who was bagging up the gravel and loading the skip with rock. Brockers and Jon then dispatched the spoil to the surface where it was being dealt with by Nick and Jake.

Eventually, there was enough space to get past the debris and get to work with a small bar to remove the loose and fractured rock, clearing it back to Tav. When that task was completed, Tav moved forward, passing me to reach ‘Nick’s pond’, which wasn’t too wet today. Brockers was able to take up occupation of the position I had held for the last few weeks. He set about enlarging the passage towards Tav. I moved back, clearing away the last remnants of gravel and fractured rock before heading out to the surface to assist Jake. Jon was at the junction, Nick had moved down to the bottom of the entrance, trying to entice Jon into some surreptitious removal of an imaginary obstruction. How does the saying go, “idle hands make mischief”?

That aside, it had been another enjoyable and productive session; ~100 loads out to the surface, >60 bags and over 30 skip-loads of rock, more material for the wall.

The banter and joviality continued at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, where we partook of the usual refreshments after a mornings hard digging.

24th February 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 21:11:18


Another glorious day weather-wise and it was a warm walk up the hill to the cave with kit. Lowered the bags down the entrance, then pushed them through to the north-west passage. There, the bags were clipped together to form a train and I dragged them through to the other side of the pinch-point. It took a bit of organisation to arrange the kit neatly in the somewhat confined space. The drilling was a tad awkward, so I sank some pilot-holes in the required spots. I managed to snap a drill-bit but luckily, I had another one. I took a lot more care finishing the 4no. holes with a 550mm drill-bit. All the holes primed and tamped, kit packed away and the bags, carefully, pushed through the pinch-point, I pulled the hauling line out of the way too. All wired up the mornings task was bought to a satisfactory conclusion on the surface. Disturbed a couple of pheasants. Hopefully, there will be some more rock for the wall to clear out next weekend.

That’s phase one of dismantling the ‘backstop’ to allow the free movement of people and materials to pass unhindered between the north and south completed.

23rd February 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 24, 2019 06:52:51

With Nick, Tav, Brockers, Jonathon, Jake and Alex

A strong team today, seven of us. Note that I’ve resisted the temptation to add the prefix “magnificent”!

For the fourth week in a row, Nick was dispatched to his pond, although this was almost dry after a week of fine weather. Once again, I passed through the pinch-point to take up position in the snug, low chamber I had cleared out during the last few sessions. Tav was “up the junction”, a decision he was later to rue. I had suggested to Brockers that he might find some suitable wall-building material in the southern passage, where Trevor Hughes et. al. had dumped most of the digging spoil in the 1980s. This is also, an area that Willie Stanton had suggested there may be some potential for palaeontological remains. He also thought it was a resurgence but that in now believed to be unlikely. Tav was to be very busy, when Brockers and Nick got underway, occasionally I was able to add a few loads too. Brockers found some very decent large boulders, ideal for wall-building, but a challenge to get out to the surface.

Jon, at the bottom of the entrance, was responsible for dispatch, Alex on hauling duties today. Sixty-six filled bags and more than three-dozen skip-loads of rock, well over 100 loads out today. Alex mentioned that his arms and shoulders were a little sore, he’ll get over it.

Anyway, it was a nice morning on the surface in the warm ‘spring-like’ sunshine.

Tomorrow, the pinch-point will be dealt with and others can delight in the joy of Nick’s pond, that is, currently a ‘dust bowl’ (Nick’s words!)

16th February 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 17, 2019 08:10:20

With Nick, Jonathon, Alex and Jake

The plan was to continue to enlarge the north-west passage. Unfortunately, Tav didn’t make it today so, neither did the pump. Nick was, sort of, volunteered to bail-out the pond of his own making. When he got there, Nick was relieved to find the water level was quite low and it didn’t take long to bail the water out. It was noticeable that, after a dry week, the drips were not so pronounced. I was back in the same position as last weekend and managed to get some bags filled and slabs shifted, not many though as Nick was sending back a steady supply of bags and rocks. Jon was at the junction, where we had removed the ‘boardwalk’, and was now clearing away the accumulated detritus that had been around and under it. Alex was at the bottom of the entrance, hauling away the spoil and loading the skip to the surface to be pulled up by Jake. Jake had constructed a wooden platform that straddled the entrance, making it easier underfoot and more stable for his knee.

Although the conditions are not ideal at the moment, it was an enjoyable session with a constant flow of banter and not too much character assassination this morning. By the end of the session 55 loads had been hauled out to the surface: 35 bags and 20 skip-loads of rock ready to be added to the wall, when there is time.

9th February 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 10, 2019 08:36:32

With Nick, Jonathon, Tav and a massive welcome back to Jake

A jovial group of diggers ventured up the hill from the farm to the cave entrance. The loose bags, left-out to dry at the end of the last digging session, were packed-up and dispatched to below ground. I descended the entrance and headed to the north-west passage followed by Jon. Nick and Tav followed on too. Jake, still recovering from knee surgery, remained on the surface to begin constructing another spoil retaining wall.

Underground, Jon got to the pinch-point but not quite through it. After turning around to have a look, and a discussion I could now see what needed to be removed to make it passable for all. I will have to arrange with the supplier, a Sunday morning collection soon. At present, work commitments rule out a mid-week evening trip.

It was then decided that Nick go to the end and dig because he would be happier there. And he needed to confirm his thoughts last session that he was digging a pond. This, indeed, turned out to be the case. There was a lot of water and some hasty improvisation of equipment was required to remove it. The removal of the water ensured that the passage was now well lubricated, some might have suggested, squalid. Eventually, it was almost dry enough to dig and spoil removal could commence. To supplement Nick’s endeavours, I filled some bags with loose sediment from the position I was lying in, made a little more space for myself too. Strangely, lying in the squalor of liquid slurry, I find the passage to be rather aesthetically pleasing, lights reflecting off the glimmering slurry and constantly dripping water. It was cold though now that I was completely soaked, glad that I had decided to wear a fleece undersuit today. There were some grumbles from the entrance, where Tav was stacking the filled bags, regarding the weight of some bags, unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears and Nick carried on regardless.

Soon it was time to move back and deal with the products of today’s effort. Some bags were easier to empty than others. Thirty-nine bags and three skip-loads of rock were disposed off on the surface. During our time underground, Jake had constructed a fine wall and had used most of the available rock. We will have to create some more very soon.

2nd February 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, February 05, 2019 21:29:06

Due to some adverse weather conditions, quite a lot of snow, digging activities for today were cancelled. Jonathon made a gallant effort to make the Hunter’s but was thwarted when he came across a damsel in distress on the Old Bristol Road. I think she had managed to park in the hedge and needed some assistance to free her vehicle.

Uranium-series datesnotes

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 27, 2019 12:00:10

Thanks to Gina Moseley we have some more dates on speleothems sampled from Hallowe'en Rift.

Blog image230TH Age (yr BP) Corrected

HR1-T 215,221 +/- 2476
HR1-B 219,378 +/- 2429 correlates with MIS7
HR2-T 125,341 +/- 1532
HR2-B 126,834 +/- 2197 correlates with MIS5e

BP stands for "Before Present" where the "Present" is defined as the year AD 1950.

26th January 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 27, 2019 06:58:10

With Brockers, Jonathon, Nick and Tav

After the lurgy and a week at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Lab, it was good to get back into Hallowe’en Rift for my first digging session of 2019.

The plan this session was to continue the enlargement of the passage along to Trevor’s Old Dig, trending circa north-west. There had been some mention of a ‘pinch-point’ so this is where some of the effort was directed. Nick set-off to the end so that he could free an old bang wire that was impeding the skip hauling. Meanwhile, I started to remove some of the loose material that had been stashed to the sides of the passage just beyond the pinch-point to make more room. Nick returned and asked that I pull the old wire through, that done, Nick started to enlarge the passage about 6m beyond me, his plan was to see if could remove layers of calcite from the floor and so. Enlarge the passage. He did wonder whether, or not, he was digging a pond, I guess we’ll find out next session. Filled bags and rocks were being removed at a steady rate to Tav, positioned at the junction, who re-directed the skip to Brockers, at the bottom of the entrance. To keep himself occupied in between loads, Brockers had decided to do some ‘tidying’, keeping Jon, on the surface, busy. There was an occasional grumble from above ground, ‘Nick bag’, too heavy, too claggy, very difficult to empty, below ground, the comments passed by.

Today’s count: 76 loads, 54 filled and emptied bags and 22 skip-loads of rock. It had been another productive session and I, for one, enjoyed it!

5th January 2019digging 2019

Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, January 08, 2019 07:33:56

I had succumbed, like so many others, to the lurgy and so, was out of action. Jonathon sent the following summary of the morning’s activity at Hallowe’en Rift, the first session of the year:

“We were down to two diggers - Jon and Paul.

Thinking that there was little to do with just two, we took a quick look to the East. There were a few pools of water, but not as bad as expected. Specifically, we went to have another look at the cross rift just after Thou Shall Not Dig Here. We removed a few rocks until we could get a better view and then decided it was not worth trashing the place any further. I cannot see any reason to dig there now.

We returned to Trevor 's old dig and removed what we could. We then cleared the rocks from the entrance. The count: 8 bags and 23 loads of stone.”

29th December 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 30, 2018 09:06:46

With Jon and Brockers

Finally managed to hand-over goodwill bag to Mark, who was in the yard when we arrived at the farm.

Up the hill at Hallowe’en Rift, the loose bags were packed up and the packs stored underground. We decided to start the quest along the north-west passage, the enlargement began. Jon digging, assisted by Brockers, my task was to stack the filled bags in the entrance for removal later. Some very large slabs were removed and required a considerable effort to drag them back to the entrance where I could reduce them to more manageable pieces. Sediment removal wasn’t easy.

As usual the last act of the morning was to haul-out the filled bags, 21 of them and a couple of rocks, the rest of the rocks were left at the bottom of the entrance. The bags were not easy to empty, the sediment was claggy and placed into wet bags, then compressed while stashed in the entrance. Still, it was an enjoyable morning’s digging session and I had remembered the WD40 to give the lock some care and attention.

22nd December 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 23, 2018 08:42:40

With Jon, Brockers and Nick.

Nick turned-up with a large, heavy bar to try and deal with an obstruction underground. At Hallowe’en Rift, Nick went ahead to attempt to remove the obstructing slab of rock, although he required some assistance to get the bar down the entrance. Jon, Brockers and me had decided to clear-out the accumulation of rocks at the bottom of the entrance. The smaller ones were loaded into the skip, the large ones placed into a strop we had devised, specifically for rock removal, the rock-net had long ago been purloined by persons unknown. The strop was effective, and thirty-six loads of rock were hauled-out to the surface. Brockers argued that some of the larger boulders were worth four skips but this was discounted. When the rocks were cleared we made our way underground to assist Nick. The large bar didn’t have the desired effect and the obstruction remains, so we worked around it. Spoil removal proceeded at a rather sedate pace today, the digging is a bit constricted and awkward.

Discussions took place, in my opinion we should put digging along the south-west passage on the back-burner and switch the effort to follow the passage trending north-west (Trevor Hughes’ old dig), at least that is going in the desired direction.

At the end of the session twenty-five filled bags were hauled-out and emptied and a further eight skip-loads of rock. There are plenty of stones on the surface for wall building now.

15th December 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 16, 2018 07:47:36

With Jon, Duncan, Nick and Brockers

It was a wet and miserable morning with a cold south-easterly wind, not a good day to spend too long on the surface, everyone underground. Brockers digging with assistance from Duncan, Nick was at the mid-way haul position, I was sat at the junction, Jon stacking the spoil in the entrance.

In between bags, Nick, of course, began some surreptitious excavation, “clearing around a large stal boss” he said. I, too, bagged up some loose stones that were lying on the floor of the south-east passage. We were mindful not to use too many of the dry bags that had been stored below ground or someone (Jon) would have to retrieve some wet bags from the surface. Jon reported that the trickle down the entrance had become a small stream as the rain got heavier, I could hear the wind blowing from where I was.

Eventually though it was time to bite the bullet and some of us return to the surface to haul-out and empty the bags, 45 of them, the rocks were left to accumulate at the bottom of the entrance again. Nick and I did have a brief discussion regarding another wall extension being necessary, but that’s a job for another [drier] day. We were all rather damp as we made out way back down to the farm.

At the Hunter’s we met Ivan Sandford who had been clearing out his containers and he donated some long ropes to the cause, very useful.

8th December 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 09, 2018 13:51:11

With Jon, Brockers and Nick

Jon digging, Brockers assisting, I went to the mid-way hauling position because Nick had gone on a quest to explore the ‘north-west passage’. Bags and the occasional rock were temporarily stashed at the mid-way point until Nick returned from his exploration. Actually, he had gone up to look at Trever Hughes old dig back in the 80s. On his return the back-log was soon cleared and we settled down to an evenly paced session. In between skips Nick fettled the ‘boardwalk’ and started to tidy-up the south-east chamber where TH had dumped most of the spoil from his dig. Willie Stanton, back in the 80s, suggested this might have been an area where bones could be found.

Eventually it was time to move back clear-out the filled bags (36 of them) to the surface where they could be emptied. The rocks were left for another day, the stone supply for wall building is growing steadily.

1st December 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 02, 2018 09:12:05

With Nick, Brockers, Jonathon, Duncan and Alex

Alex, Brockers, Jonathon and Duncan disappeared underground to get the digging underway and started to fill bags and shift rocks. Nick remained on the surface for a short time to build some wall, I passed some rocks to Nick and generally tidied up.

Soon it was just me on the surface and I was thankful that the rain earlier this morning had passed over. The bags and rocks started to arrive at a steady rate and there wasn’t any spare time to add to the wall. The bags were all emptied, the sediment compacted into the space behind the wall that Nick had created earlier. It was warm work and I was kept busy.

At the very end of the digging session, Nick returned to the surface to help haul out the last few bags and rocks. A total of 82 loads out of the cave, 62 filled bags and 20 skip-loads of rocks. A large pile of rocks remains at the bottom of the entrance ready for shifting out next session, all good stuff for wall building.

I was thirsty and the refreshments at the Hunter’s were very welcome. Another productive session.

Frost and Ice at Hallowe'ennotes

Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, November 29, 2018 14:37:13

Published in December's issue of Descent, 2018.

27th November 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 28, 2018 20:49:05


A gentler, more considered solo digging trip to retrieve some small mammal bones that Alex had noticed and pointed out on Saturday. The remains are relatively recent. The animal bones were recorded (photographed) in-situ before carefully lifting and placing in a sample bag. They will be washed and dried tomorrow before identification and recording.
Blog image
Whilst digging noticed this ichneumon wasp, I think it’s Diphyus pallatorius, managed to get a few photos. Note the yellow banding on the antenna.
Blog imageNot a long trip and didn’t bother to stop at the Hunter’s this evening.

24th November 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, November 26, 2018 07:08:04

With Alex, Jonathon, Duncan, Brockers and Nick

We continued the quest to the south-west. My turn to be up-front digging, Alex was next in line and did some extra widening of the passage, Jonathon, also moonlighting, in between skips, Duncan and Brockers sorted out the distribution of filled bags to the surface where Nick was on the end of the hauling rope – 85 loads up the entrance and emptied.

By the end of the session, the pinch point was just about big enough to wriggle through and get to where we had been digging in the early 90s. I could see the obstruction ahead that had frustrated us back in the day, I also retrieved some digging tools that had not seen any action for nearly 28 years, the chisel will be ok but the wooden handle of the lump-hammer was rotten.

Saturday evening was the Digging Thingy at the Hunter’s. I put up the Frost and Ice poster produced for the recent BCRA Cave Science Symposium in Bristol and gave a presentation on Hallowe’en Rift (pdf below). The cave came second, I didn’t enter HR, someone else must have.

17th November 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 18, 2018 07:50:59

With Brockers, Jonathon, Nick and Alex

While the empty bags were being removed from the drying line, I took the opportunity to go underground and have a quick look at progress so far. The enlargement of the south-west passage to hands and knees crawling rather than a flat-out wriggle is an improvement and means that removable of obstructions is easier. Haven’t reached the limit attained in the early 90s yet and looking at the size of passage immediately ahead, squeezes we easily passed back then, we must have been keen!

Nick joined me, and we swapped places. Nick started digging and filling bags, I hauled the skip back and transferred the load to another skip, Alex hauled that away, then Jon took over hauling the skip to the bottom of the entrance. The filled bags were hauled up to the surface by Brockers who then proceeded to empty the bags, 57 of them and a skip load of rocks. The empty bags re-bundled, ready to go back underground at the end of the session.

In between hauling the skip, Alex became distracted by an obstruction that wobbled the skip and occasionally caused it to tip over, spending a long time cursing it and hitting it with a lump hammer and chisel. Eventually, some progress was made, and Alex returned to hauling the skip, he seemed pleased with his achievement.

At the end of the session, I returned to the end to discuss with Nick the best way to remove an annoying obstruction, a calcited slab of conglomerate. The outcome of the discussion was to dig to the left-hand side of the calcited slab, possibly exposing more of it, enabling removal, or by-passing it all together. A metre or so ahead the passage is much roomier, progress will be easier.

Back at the shed, we shared the bubbly, my 501st trip.

13th November 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 14, 2018 06:26:25

With Roz
Blog image
My 500th trip into Hallowe’en Rift.

The purpose of this trip was to try and capture some images of the low stuff approaching An Unexpected Development, to show it how it really is. The cave is still very dry. Got some good photos too.
Blog imageOn exiting the cave, Roz presented me with a bottle of bubbly, which was unexpected. At the Hunter’s I was surprised to see Alex there, then Jonathon turned up, apparently summoned by Roz. Then, Roger bought out a fruit cake that Roz had baked earlier to celebrate the 500th trip. Bloody marvellous!
Blog image

10th November 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 11, 2018 08:08:31

With Brockers, Nick, Alex and Jonathon

Brockers experienced the “loneliness of a long-distance digger” far away from Nick, who was hauling the skip with filled bags, and digging a hole in the middle of the skip-run, why, something about trying to remove an obstructing lump of conglomerate and calcite. Maybe, a Gaia effect was anticipated whereby, a hole dug somewhere will result in the offending bulge disappearing, who knows. Alex was at the junction, also helping to haul the skip on its journey to be emptied at the entrance where, initially, Jonathon was positioned. I had headed east, along Merlin’s to the top of the slope where I retrieved the last of the tat left there, a 20-litre container and some tools. On the way back, I dismantled the remainder of the bridge over the pot, the iron ladder and boards would be useful in the current dig.

When I got back the entrance, Jonathon went up to the surface after swapping the worn-out skip for an undamaged one. I took over the hauling. The accrued back-log of bags at the entrance were hauled out to the surface and we settled down to a steady rate. In between hauling bags, Alex and I fettled the skip-run by positioning the ladder and boards retrieved earlier, making a wider, more effective skip-run over the drainage channel.

Jon’s initial enthusiasm for being on the surface in the sunshine was all too brief and was soon dampened as the rain came down.

It was another productive session, although I have no idea of the progress made, I suppose I will get a look soon.

3rd November 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, November 05, 2018 05:41:54

I was away digging on the Gower this weekend but the work at Hallowe’en Rift continued.

Jonathon, Nick and Alex

Report from our Toad Hall correspondent:

“Dear team,

I’m sad to report that the Badger let us all down by disappearing to Nottingham! The team members remaining: Mole digging, Ratty and Mr Toad hauling managed to fill 47 bags and transfer them to the surface.



27th October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 28, 2018 07:04:52

With Alex, Jonathon, Brockers and Nick

While Alex went ahead to start digging, Jon and I rearranged the ‘boardwalk’ so that it bridged the ‘drainage channel’ and, therefore, making an improved skip haul route. Brockers, meanwhile, decided that he would ‘tidy-up’ at the bottom of the entrance shaft, there was an accumulation of fallen leaves and twigs and other detritus. Nick was on the surface, wall-building and hauling bags and rocks when required, bags were emptied too.

Alex was busy enlarging the passage south-west, but obviously not quick enough for Jon who decided to do some moonlighting and started to clear-out an alcove that had been stuffed with digging spoil in the past. I took a lump-hammer and started to batter a lump of calcited conglomerate that impeded the skip. There are a couple of corners that require some attention but, they will wait for another day.

As an aside, some ‘caving’ songs were being composed, mostly to the tune ‘So What’ by the Anti-Nowhere League, while the lyrics were funny (to us, anyway) they are probably, not printable.

As usual, time passed quickly, 99 loads were hauled-up to the surface and dealt with, refreshment was required. The cave secured, we made our way down to the farm, got changed, then up the road to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

23rd October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 24, 2018 06:33:53

With Roz and Alex

This evenings plan was to attempt the climb up to the small space through jammed boulders observed from the bottom of the rift in An Unexpected Development. I packed some clean shoes so that mud wouldn’t be transferred onto the calcite flowstone when climbing over it. Arrived at the rift, rigged the climb down with ladders and descended. At the bottom removed oversuit and boots, clean shoes on, climbed across the base of the rift and upwards. Took care to avoid some jammed boulder-size lumps of calcite and any cracked calcite. There are plenty of sound hand/foot-holds. Got to the slot, a bit more restricted than it appears, probably just about passable but for the precariously wedged boulder-sized lumps of shattered speleothem that need to be squeezed through, there are plenty of them. Discretion being the better part of valour, I retreated. Unfortunately, from the position I reached I couldn’t see the full extent of that section of the rift. Alex, then had a go but was unable to see any more than I could.

Next move will be to look at traversing across the rift from the jammed boulder halfway down. We changed back into caving kit, climbed the rift, de-rigged and exited the cave.

20th October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 21, 2018 07:42:36

With Jonathon, Brockers, Nick, Tav and Alex

Continued the digging effort to the south-west side of the entrance (downstream), enlarging Quiet John’s dig. Jake, Nick and I, with others, had dug there in the early 90s. It is rather snug in places. Jonathon, Nick and Brockers were all digging, filling bags and moving rocks. Tav was dragging the loaded skip back, not always with ease, to transfer the load into the skip to the surface, where Alex was hauling the skip out of the cave.
Blog imageI was on the surface too, wall-building and emptying the bags. It was a glorious autumnal morning in the warm sunshine and soon had to remove the oversuit.

Alex rued the mention of a slow start to the morning’s session as the flow of bags and rocks accelerated. A sterling effort by Alex, 107 loads to the surface; 82 bags were emptied and re-bundled to be returned underground at the end of the session, and 25 skip-loads of rock, most of which was incorporated into the wall.
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16th October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 17, 2018 05:29:14


A steady trip into An Unexpected Development to de-rig the rift following up from Sunday’s trip. Pulled-up the ladders and handline too, it could do with cleaning. All the kit bagged up and ready to go, I decided to spend a short time cleaning some of the foot marks from the calcite. Then, a slower trip out with two weighty bags.

An early start for me tomorrow, so missed out a visit to the Hunter’s.

14th October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, October 16, 2018 06:36:33

With Dr Gina Moseley, Dr Marc Luetscher and Roz, we were later joined by Ray Deasy.

Gina and Marc are Palaeo-climatologists, with a specific focus on cave sites, and had accepted an invitation to visit Hallowe’en Rift and comment on the processes that might have caused the damage to the speleothems and to look to see if there are any deposits of cryogenic calcite. Some time was spent in the rift in An Unexpected Development discussing the processes that might lead to a cave becoming filled with ice during periods of fluctuating temperatures, other thoughts were also expressed. Unfortunately, despite a thorough search no cryogenic calcite was found, Gina suggested that perhaps any CCC’s had been buried under later sediments. It was an enjoyable and informative trip.
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Ray was late arriving at the Hunter’s this morning and had missed a ride down to the farm. Not to miss out on a caving trip he continued his bike ride from the MNRC down the hill to catch us up. We had already walked up to HR and were underground, Ray met us at the rift. After the trip he insisted on pedalling back up the hill to the Hunter’s, in his wet-suit, to meet up with Tangent and go digging in Stockhill Mine Cave.

13th October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 15, 2018 06:23:46

On Saturday I gave a poster presentation at the BCRA Cave Science Symposium, University of Bristol.

Evidence for frost and ice damage of speleothems in Hallowe’en Rift, Mendip, some initial observations.


Recent discoveries in Hallowe’en Rift, Mendip Hills, Somerset, UK during 2018 have revealed some interesting morphological features and an abundance of shattered speleothems. It had been suggested that this damage was caused by earth movements. However, after a close examination of the speleothems, it is apparent that the cause of the fracturing and damage has been through the actions of frost and/or ice during the Pleistocene.

Tav, Nick, Jonathon and a big welcome back to Brockers, went to Hallowe’en Rift and continued the downstream dig (west-side of the entrance). Tav sent the following account of the activities:

Brockers was pushed up front to enlarge the way ahead, Nick was deepening the trench, while Tav hauled and smashed up the odd rock too big to fit in the skip. Jon earned the clear distinction of ‘digger of the day’ for hauling a gargantuan 102 non-stop skips out to the surface (65 rocks, 37 bags). Then off to the Hunters’ for well-earned refreshments where we were joined by Jake and Matt and showed a bit of old bone to a couple of good-looking young women on their way to G.B.

Rock of the day had to be the ‘old bone’, which subject to a clean-up we decided could be rock, bone stal or metal!

Unfortunately, when the ‘bone’ was scrubbed clean of the attached sediment it was found to be a speleothem masquerading as a bone. Fooled me too!

9th October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 10, 2018 19:39:29

Solo (not really digging though!)

Dragged some kit including water and a brush to An Unexpected Development. Going to have another cleaning speleothems session next week sometime. Took the camera along too, just for something else to carry. Actually, I wasn't satisfied with the images last time I tried the big LED array so thought I would try again, remembered my glasses this time. The results were better and good half decent shots were achieved.

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I could spend hours in this part of the cave, the more you look, the more you see, especially with the illumination the LED gives. Some fascinating formations and phenomena to observe and ponder, bloody marvellous!

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Early start again tomorrow so didn't stop in the Hunter's on the way home. Got back and stuck the oversuit into soak, will wash off in the morning, a dry day forecast for tomorrow.
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6th October 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 07, 2018 07:28:29

With Jonathon

A much-depleted team due to work commitments, injuries and malaise. To cap it all, it was raining and rather chilly.

We discussed our options while getting changed in the shed and, as Jon hadn’t really had the opportunity to look at the passages west (downstream) of the entrance we decided to continue the enlargement in that direction. The ladders were left in the shed, although I filled the water container and carried that up to the cave. I have a day off on Monday and plan to continue the ‘stal’ cleaning later that day.

At the downstream dig, Jon was upfront doing the brunt of the work, I was hauling the skip and stacking the spoil in the entrance. Some large boulder-size slabs were dragged back to the entrance where there is more space to swing a hammer and reduce them to skip-size pieces. By the end of the mornings digging, the passage is much roomier. A channel has been dug in the floor to allow water to drain, a length of pipe can be inserted, and a board placed over it will allow the skip to be dragged freely. The last task of the day was to haul-out and empty the bags on the surface – 29 were counted, the rocks were left for another day. A good morning's digging.

29th September 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 30, 2018 12:17:41

With Jonathon, Alex, Tav and Ray Deasy.

Another antipodean visitor to the cave, Ray, back for an update, his last visit was earlier this year in April.

Jonathon and Alex set-off with the ladders to rig the climb down the rift and continue digging while I took Ray on a tour around the latest extensions. Tav stayed near the entrance to carry on the enlargement of the passage to the west-side of the entrance and access route to the old digs (80s and 90s).

Ray and I eventually, arrived at the bottom of the rift where Ray joined in with the digging effort, it’s currently hard going, very compact gravel and shattered calcite. I climbed back up the rift to put the pressure spray together, it was at this point that I wished that I had remembered to bring my glasses. Still, managed to cobble the spray together and started to wash the muddy footprints off the speleothems. Used all the available clean water and will require more to finish the job, probably bring in a soft brush. I called down to the others that I was going to make my way out taking the empty water container and spare ladders. They were going to dig for a little longer before making their way out and would de-rig the rift. I stopped, briefly to visit Broken Stal Aven to look for cryogenic calcite crystals, there were some possible, then continued out of the cave.

At the entrance, Tav had stacked some bags and rocks there ready to be hauled up to the surface. So up I went and sorted the skip and rope then pulled up the spoil. All clear, the others arrived, all out of the cave, gate secured and a walk down the hill to the farm in the warm sunshine.

22nd September 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, September 24, 2018 06:28:18

With Pete “Snablet” McNab, Pete Bolt, Jonathon, Duncan, Nick and Alex

Snablet’s on a week-long visit from New Zealand, couldn’t let him miss the opportunity for a digging trip.

At the cave, Jonathon, Nick, Duncan and Alex set-off to the rift in An Unexpected Development to get on with digging. I led the two Pete’s for a look around the more recent discoveries before joining-up with the digging team. Snablet got very involved with the digging so we left him there, Nick had decided to return to the entrance and continue the enlargement of the passage leading to the west series. Pete Bolt and myself headed towards Trick or Treat, the duck is still dry, we returned along Toil and Trouble to join up with Nick and start clearing the backlog of spoil at the entrance, Pete loading the skip, I went to the surface to haul out. It was raining. By the end of the session, there is plenty of material for wall building.

After a brief stop at the Hunter’s for some refreshment, several of us, Snablet, Pete Bolt and myself, we also persuaded Tangent to join us, headed down to Churchill to attend the BCRA Hidden Earth conference. A really, pleasant social afternoon/evening chatting to old chums.

Below surveys drawn by Duncan.
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8th September 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 09, 2018 08:35:33

With Jonathon and Alex

A small team again, mostly due to injuries and work commitments, but still an effective group.

At the top of the rift, I decided to try out the new cows-tails and shunt on the descent (and, later ascent) but, concluded that some tweaking is required.

At the bottom, I was digging, Alex and Jon hauling away the filled skips with occasional rocks and dispersed the contents. The slope has been terraced to give some stability and space for spoil dispersal. The spoil comprises sandy, fine to coarse gravel of calcite and some conglomerate with cobbles and boulders of the same. There is some finer silty sediment at the farthest extent of the dig. A large obstinate boulder was getting in the way and required Alex’s assistance to remove it. When it had succumbed, it was man-handled, with some considerable effort, to a position where, with some mighty blows with the sledge, Alex could reduce it to more manageable pieces. Once it was out of the way, a better view of the way forward was possible. There are some small holes from which air movement was detected, roof pendants were also noted at the end. There does appear to be a way around a large stal boss but the floor needs lowering and, at least, one large boulder removing.

It was, by now, time to make our way out of the cave. I collected an old skip from the top of the slope, filled it with tools and took it to the entrance where, there is quite an accumulation of digging paraphernalia awaiting removal from the cave.

1st September 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 02, 2018 07:40:55

With Jonathon and Tav

A small, but sufficient, team today. On the way to An Unexpected Development, I climbed down into the Tuck Shop to free a hauling rope jammed under a rock and tidy away another of the old skips ready for removal later. When I arrived at the rift, Tav was busy clearing some loose debris from around the jammed boulder. A lengthy discussion ensued regarding the stability of the boulder ensued, the outcome was it is fine, but we could do something to make it even safer sometime in the, not too distant, future. At the bottom of the rift, Jon got on with digging, me and Tav hauled and emptied the skip, a large rock was hauled out too. We finished digging a bit early as Tav wanted to remove an obstruction in the low passage leading to the old digs to the south-west of the entrance. After a joint effort, hammering, chiselling and barring, the obstruction was removed. The will allow water to drain more freely along the passage when it gets wet again. There is a plan for a mid-week dig here when the dig in Wookey 20 becomes flooded or too wet.

It was noted that there are a lot of Tissue moths in the cave, near the entrance, didn’t notice any Heralds though.

25th August 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 26, 2018 10:47:56

With Nick, Jonathon, Duncan and Tav

On recent trips into Hallowe’en Rift it has been observed that along the hands and knees crawl from the entrance to Stal Bend, there is a significant scatter of moth wings, Tissue moths (Triphosa dubitata) are common visitors to the cave. I assumed they are being predated by spiders, Meta sp., the soft body parts consumed, and the wings discarded.

Duncan and Tav continued the G5 survey. The rest of us went to the bottom of the rift in An Unexpected Development and continued with the dig. I was digging, filling the skip, Nick was hauling it away and emptying the contents, Jon continued the construction of the retaining walls. Initially, the effort concentrated at the very bottom until it was decided a well developed stal boss was blocking the way. Moved back a little bit and started to clear away the debris against the left-hand wall, towards the end of the session air movement was detected.

Took some more photographs before climbing the ladder, exiting the cave to join the team at the entrance.

Blog imageFrost shattered calcite forms the sloping floor of the rift, An Unexpected Development.
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21st August 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, August 23, 2018 07:47:09


A trip to take more photographs and have time to get a good look around and make some observations of my own. It was a chilled and peaceful time spent in the cave.

There is a change in the sediments that partially filled the low bedding sections on the approach to the breakthrough into An Unexpected Development. Initially, the sediments are mostly sandy silt with occasional cobble and boulder-size fragments of fractured calcite flowstone. The fractured calcite flowstone becomes more frequent and after the drop down through the draughting rift becomes the dominant component of the sediment fill. It was suggested that the damage was caused by earth movements but, after close examination of the sediments and some documentary research, this is unlikely, and the cause of the fracturing is through frost and/or ice.

Most of the passage in Hallowe’en Rift is shallow below the surface and root growth has been noted in several areas, there are snail shells in the extension to An Unexpected Development and some rare bat droppings.
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During the Pleistocene, interglacial and warmer interstadial periods produced calcite flowstone deposition in the cave. Glacial or stadial periods caused periglacial activity in the cave, during which the calcite layers were fractured by frost heave and some redistribution by solifluction occurred.

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Hallowe’en Rift was shallow enough for ice to form in the cave during glacial periods. During the build-up of ice and it’s subsequent thawing, ice can flow and slide, thereby stalactites and curtains can be sheared off the roof and stalagmites can be tipped over or sheared off their bases and displaced. Lumps of calcite enclosed in ice can be deposited on inclined surfaces or be left in precarious positions, i.e. at positions which would not be stable if deposited by falling.

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Ice related damage covers a wide range of phenomena:

· Missing ceiling formations of older generations;

· Sheared-off stalactites and curtains, deposited on top of floor speleothems;

· Broken and deposited stalagmites;

· Sheared-off stalagmites which have shifted from their base but still stand upright;

· Cracked conical stalagmites;

· Tilted and leaning stalagmites;

· Moraine-like piles of floor flowstone;

· Precariously placed ceiling deposits.

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In addition to speleothem damage, freezing and cave ice can leave other traces:

· Cryoturbation in cave sediments;

· Solifluction deposits;

· Transport of gravel without evidence of flowing water;

· High collagen content of fossil bones’

· Loss of uranium due to ‘leaching’;

· Scratch marks on cave walls.

Further observations and comments

“The polished nature of the dolomitic conglomerates was noted throughout most of the cave with hard limestone/dolomitic pebbles and crystalline red marl matrix having been eroded equally. This erosion pattern is in marked contrast to the dolomitic conglomerates in Home Close where the softer matrix is eroded preferentially compared to the limestone pebbles that stick out as knobbly lumps. The polished erosion pattern is consistent with a base of a streamway or a passage full of water as opposed to slow dripping of water. As similar polished conglomerates are clearly seen down the new pitch, as well as in the roofs of the horizontal passages which are phreatic in shape and have well developed scalloping, the logical conclusion is that water that initially formed the pitch was upward flowing. Undoubtedly there has been a limited amount of inflow from above later in the history of this cave’s development but it is relatively insignificant in terms of passage dimensions although highly significant for the development of the formations.

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Scalloping in the roof, An Unexpected Development. Direction of flow is left to right.

The only other passage development of notable magnitude has been by a group of nutters using explosives.” (Hawkes, 2018)

“From a speleogenesis point of view, possibly excluding the aven below the Tuck Shop and a few minor modern runnels, the cave is phreatic in origin. The few scallops that could be found all pointed outward, and this, coupled with the lack of any inflow passages into the pitch strongly suggested that the cave had been formed by water rising-up the pitch under a head of hydrostatic pressure before flowing outwards along the bedding planes. We considered that the original outlet was along the choked bedding-plane connection between the platform at the head of the pitch which emerges in the crawl just before the breakthrough point and then flows out along the upper series bedding planes. Later, presumably as the water level dropped, the water flowed out via An Unexpected Development and the various passages comprising the Lower Series.

Where all this water ultimately derives from and where it's going remain a mystery, which is of course exactly how it should be.” (Price and Taviner)

The enigma of the where the water comes from has several possible answers; including from fluctuating sea levels and/or from rising thermal waters.


Nick Hawkes, Duncan Price, Robin Taviner (pers comms)

Joyce Lundberg and Donald A. McFarlane. 2007. Pleistocene depositional history in a periglacial terrane: A 500 k.y. record from Kent’s Cavern, Devon, United Kingdom. Geosphere, August 2007, pp 199-219

Stephan Kempe. 2004. Natural Speleothem Damage in Postojnska Jama (Slovenia), Caused by Glacial Cave Ice? A First Assessment. Acta Carsologica 33/1, 18. p265-289
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18th August 2018digging 2018

Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, August 21, 2018 07:07:19

I was away this weekend assisting with a cave exploration on the Gower Peninsula. However, other team members kept up the good work. The following summaries by Tav and Nick, respectively:

“Nick, Jon, Mike, Dunc, Tav

Dunc & Tav continued the survey, completing the section below the Tuck Shop, Another Emotional Journey and the links to the Lower Series and everything upstream as far as the breakthrough into An Unexpected Development. The only section left to do is the upstream part of An Unexpected Development, the pitch and the side Annexe Chamber, which we visited but did not survey.

Meanwhile Nick, Jon and Mike continued with the dig and walling.

A chilled and productive session.”

“Three retaining walls started, one at the base and two further up slope to attempt to stem the tide of scree that is trying to roll down, also to provide stacking space for spoil. All would probably be improved with a bit of cementing.

Only a few skip loads came out of the dig itself which would benefit from a proper skip and short rope system. Struggling to feel a draft at the end which is a tad worrisome, but this may be due to increasing mud content between the rocks.”

Some observations regarding speleogenesis were made and have been noted.