digging 2019Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, January 08, 2019 07:33:56
I had succumbed,
like so many others, to the lurgy and so, was out of action. Jonathon sent the
following summary of the morning’s activity at Hallowe’en Rift, the first session
of the year:
“We were down to
two diggers - Jon and Paul.
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.”
digging 2018Posted 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.
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.
digging 2018Posted 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
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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 02, 2018 09:12:05
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.
notesPosted by Vince Simmonds Thu, November 29, 2018 14:37:13
Published in December's issue of Descent, 2018.
digging 2018Posted 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.
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.
Not a long trip and didn’t bother to stop at the Hunter’s this evening.
digging 2018Posted 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
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.
digging 2018Posted 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
Back at the shed, we shared the bubbly, my 501st trip.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 14, 2018 06:26:25
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.
On 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!
digging 2018Posted 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
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.
digging 2018Posted 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:
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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 21, 2018 07:42:36
Brockers, Nick, Tav and Alex
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.
I 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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
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.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 15, 2018 06:23:46
Saturday I gave a poster presentation at the BCRA Cave Science Symposium,
University of Bristol.
for frost and ice damage of speleothems in Hallowe’en Rift, Mendip, some
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
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
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!
when the ‘bone’ was scrubbed clean of the attached sediment it was found to be
a speleothem masquerading as a bone. Fooled me too!
digging 2018Posted 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.
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!
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.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 07, 2018 07:28:29
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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
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.
digging 2018Posted 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
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.
digging 2018Posted 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
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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
digging 2018Posted 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.
Frost shattered calcite forms the sloping floor of the rift, An Unexpected Development.
digging 2018Posted 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
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.
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.
Ice related damage covers a wide range of phenomena:
· Missing ceiling formations of older
· 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.
In addition to speleothem damage, freezing
and cave ice can leave other traces:
Cryoturbation in cave sediments;
Transport of gravel without evidence of
High collagen content of fossil bones’
Loss of uranium due to ‘leaching’;
Scratch marks on cave walls.
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.
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
digging 2018Posted 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.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 15, 2018 06:47:35
With Roz, Duncan, Tav, Nick, Brockers and
I went with Roz to the new extension of An
Unexpected Development to take some photo’s, Duncan, Tav and Jon went to Trick
or Treat area to continue with the survey, Brockers and Nick went down the rift
to start building a wall and do a bit of digging.
Photo’s done, ended up at the top of the rift
where we met Jon emerging from the annex chamber. Nick and Brockers ascended
the pitch and before leaving the cave, a loose boulder was removed from a
precarious situation and some more loose gravel and cobbles cleared from the
head of the pitch.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 12, 2018 11:09:40
With Brockers, Nick, Jonathon, Duncan, Tav
A bit of a consolidation session was planned
for this morning. Brockers and Nick set off into An Unexpected Development
descending the rift to start digging at the bottom, Brockers re-rigged the
ladder and line on the way. Jon and I helped carry tools to the rift before
marking-out a pathway to avoid the formations along the approach passage to the
rift. Duncan and Tav were surveying, while Alex went to some less well visited
areas in the cave to collect the tat that has left behind, a cave de-clutter is
going to be done.
To the right-hand side of the breakthrough
point into An Unexpected Development, another small gap had been noticed. While
surveying on Wednesday evening, Duncan and Tav had recorded a length
of 6m with the Disto X, an upper continuation of the passage beyond some
calcite formations. Me and Jon decided to enlarge the gap and see what lay
beyond. After clearing away the loose gravel and cobbles we encountered a
rather obstinate boulder that, at first, I thought was solid floor, but after
scratching around it for a while, I managed to jam the small pick under an edge
and it moved. Eventually, we managed to remove the boulder and with a bit more
digging I was able to wriggle through into the passage beyond. I went forward a
few metres to look around a left corner and returned, “better get the others” I
said to Jon, who was busy enlarging the squeeze. Jon went to the rift and
called down to Brockers and Nick. When they reached us, Brockers went on to find
Duncan, Tav and Alex. Jon and I continued to enlarge the squeeze and wait for
the team to arrive.
We were sat at the corner, when voices could
be heard from a small hole above us, there is a connection to the small rift
chamber before the low crawl to An Unexpected Development. All assembled,
Brockers led the way followed by Alex and the rest of the team. A sizeable well
decorated chamber was entered. There were some big formations, again with
evidence of fracture and re-growth. Around a right-hand corner the passage
closed-down, although continuations beyond some calcite formations and a low
sediment filled bedding were noticed it was thought these probably led to known
sections of the cave. Later, the survey confirmed this. Not worth pursuing. While
Duncan and Tav surveyed the new section, I went to join Brockers and Nick
digging at the bottom of the rift, Jon and Alex continued with the
It was soon time to exit the cave. On the
surface, a brief discussion as the cave was secured, 30m is the surveyed
length of the new extension, 80m in a week. Another very satisfying session!
Below, the latest line survey carried out by Duncan and Tav, later, drawn by Tav.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 10, 2018 06:57:46
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, August 09, 2018 07:05:54
With Roz, Nick, Mike, Tav, Jon, Brockers,
Duncan and Alex.
Photographs by Roz.
A big group assembled tonight but, plenty of
room in the cave. Between us we dragged enough kit to rig several pitches. Nick
leading the way followed by Mike and Roz, the rest of us were in the cave on
Saturday when the breakthrough was made. They were impressed.
At the rift, Nick and Mike descended to the
jammed boulder, while Brockers and I put in a bolt and tied-off another
hand-line (later, a ladder was put in place). We then descended to the jammed
boulder, bolted and rigged a ladder and line for the descent to the bottom of
the rift. Nick descended first. From the bottom of the ladder, a steeply sloping
floor goes down northwards. The floor is comprised of very loose, very
shattered calcite flowstone and other formations, probably the result of earth
movements (or frost shatter). The way on is choked, more digging will be
required yet. We spent some time removing several boulders, cobbles and gravel,
a gap can be seen and there is good air movement. We can remain optimistic.
Meanwhile, Duncan and Tav were surveying the
latest discovery, c.50m of passage, this brings recent progress to c.90m, good
When the team had had their fill, photo’s
taken, it was time to exit. It’s a proper caving trip now. To the Hunter’s for
refreshments, of course.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 05, 2018 08:29:32
An unexpected development!
With Jonathon, Duncan, Tav, Brockers and
The first task of the day was to set-up a
drag tray to make the digging in the low bedding a bit easier. That done, I
went into the bedding and filled the skip, Jon then hauled the full skip back
to the rift chamber and bagged the contents, the bags then sent on their way to
be stashed in the entrance. The spoil mostly comprised variable sized lumps and
slabs of degraded and fractured calcite flowstone, occasionally some finer
sediment. Progress along the low bedding was quite rapid and it wasn’t too long
before I was able to gain access to the roomier chamber on the south-side
(wrong direction). A quick scan of the chamber, some gardening to make it more
comfortable, then, at the base of a marl-filled fissure a small gap was
noticed, beyond which a mud-covered floor could be seen. “There has been an
unexpected development” I called back to Jon, who followed me through into the
chamber, later Duncan joined us. I pulled some rocks from the small gap and
soon it was just big enough to wriggle through on my back kicking finer
sediment ahead of me. I was gobsmacked by what I saw, a roomy chamber with some
very fine formations, at the end, an opening to a continuation, the air was
cool. Jon and Duncan followed me through, it was decided that we should get the
others and Duncan went back to get them. While we were waiting the access-point
The team was soon assembled in the chamber,
there was excitement, Jon led on through the window into the space beyond,
taking care to avoid a rather fine, but vulnerable, stalactite. I followed Jon
and was surprised to see him standing-up, “got a ladder” he said. He was
standing on the edge of a rift c.15-20m deep. Everyone came through and it was
an exhilarating experience after all these years. Tav tentatively descended the
slope with Alex but they decided a handline was required and came back-up,
Brockers went back to the sit-up chamber to get a rope. Meanwhile, I partly
descended to the slope and dug my way into an annex chamber, a continuation of
the main rift. I returned to find the handline was in place and climbed down to
a jammed rock part way down the rift, from the boulder a clear drop to the
floor below. It was decided that we should return with bolts and ladders so
that a safe descent to the bottom could be made. A traverse across the rift and
scan with a torch revealed what looks to be a continuation, but that will be confirmed
later in the week. We exited the cave to clear the bags from the entrance,
perhaps for the last time.
After the survey had been carried-out a
couple of weeks ago, Tav had mentioned that we really needed to go north or go
down – well the cave has done both of those. Just goes to show persistence pays
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 29, 2018 09:13:56
With Alex, Jonathon, Jake and Brockers.
Alex digging, lowering the floor of the rift
to be able to get into the passage beyond. Meanwhile, there was a backlog of
spoil to shift from Thursday’s activities. I loaded the skip to Jonathon who
hauled it along to the sit-up chamber, there he transferred the load to another
skip hauled by Jake to the slope. Jake then man-handled the load up the slope,
into another skip down to Paul on the haul and shuttle. Pouring a little water
down the passage makes the skip hauling much easier. The spoil was stacked at
the bottom of the entrance to be removed later.
Eventually, Alex made enough room to gain
access to the low passage and make some forward progress. Filling a couple of
bags then dragging them back, sometimes with a few stones too, and passed them
up to me in the rift where the spoil was dispatched on its journey to the
At the end of the session, I swapped places
with Alex to have a look at the dig. Wriggled forward over some lumpy sediment,
brushed loose stuff aside and gained another couple of metres in the low, but
wide, passage. Can’t really see the full extent to the left and ahead, a lot
more clearance required, but to the right it does appear roomier, in-line with
the east/west rift. There is a big stal boss on the floor and I think some
cryogenic crystals on the roof – need my specs to see properly, next session,
bring the camera too.
It was time to make our way out of the cave
and to clear the pile of bags and rocks from the entrance. Thirty-nine bags
were hauled out and emptied, Jon had used a couple to fill holes along the haul
route to ease the passage of the skip. There were lots of rocks too, but no-one
was counting, at least thirty probably. Plenty of wall building material now
available. It had been another good session, but not the passage gained as hoped,
still plenty to do.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, July 27, 2018 06:50:13
Due to meetings, work commitments and some
other reasons the Wookey Hole digging team was rather depleted only Jake and
Jonathon were available. Not much the two of them could achieve in the sand dig
in 20 so they went to Hallowe’en Rift.
At the draughting dig, the floor was lowered,
the filled bags and rock stacked in any space available, and the large slab of
degraded flowstone removed and reduced to more manageable pieces. The way ahead
is still obstructed but the digging is easier, mostly smaller slabs and finer
The team were enthused when we met-up later
after the progress meeting with Wookey Hole Caves.
The survey drawn by Tav, latest section in red 40m, overall cave length 220m.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 25, 2018 06:45:46
With Jake and Tav
I wanted to look at the current dig to see
whether an application of IRS might be required and to photograph the fractured
stal in the north/south rift at the [current] furthest point of the passage,
perhaps evidence for earth movements. Jake is off to Scotland for a month, also
wanted to get a good look at the current dig. Tav thought it a good time to get
some surveying done. We did all those things. About 40m of passage surveyed. A
good evening and the prospects ahead look very encouraging.
The way forward is obstructed by some slabs
of degrading flowstone, they are loose but there’s not quite enough space to
shift them. The floor can be dug-out to give more room for progress to be made.
About 4m ahead there appears to be more space and there is cool air movement.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 23, 2018 15:41:19
I had spent the early part of the week (16th-19th)
at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Labs attending an intensive but
informative course “The History of the British Fauna: wild and domesticate
vertebrates”. The course was delivered through lectures and practical sessions.
Following the three-day course, a visit to
Creswell Crags, including a tour of the museum and caves to see the faunal
remains and some of Britain’s oldest ‘cave-art’
Unfortunately, the latter part of the week
was marred by some negative correspondences, which meant I wasn’t really in the
mood to go digging in Hallowe’en Rift. Others did, and their report follows:
“John, Jake, Paul, Alex
Paul and Jake went to the new chamber, where
Paul started digging in the floor’
Whilst Jake loaded the spoil in to skips that
passed to Alex at the stal boss and thence to John who stacked them on the
slope. After 26 bags and 13 skip-loads of rock had been removed, the
whole team then moved back and cleared the days efforts out of the entrance.
It was noticed that whilst Paul was removing spoil from the pot, the
draught increased considerably, making things very chilly indeed; Moving Jake
to complain of having white finger.
The prospects ahead look very good, with 3-4
metres of passage being visible, with airspace of 5-6 inches over a bed of rock
slabs and stal, overlying gravel.”
Tav, obviously with too much time on his
hands, came up with the following statistics:
“Based on your blog here's a list of the
number of trips (i.e. time and effort) expended by the current team since 1991.
Vince - 478 trips; Tav – 217; Jake – 214; Alex
– 173; Nick – 166; Jon – 86; Brockers – 64; Matt – 39; Roz – 26; Dunc – 17; Mike
M – 10.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 15, 2018 08:28:20
As previously mentioned, the title “Up the
Garden Path” has been used elsewhere, in line with some recent correspondences,
Jake has suggested the name “The EGO has landed!”.
Duncan and Naomi’s wedding today. Only
Jonathon and Alex were available to keep up the good work in Hallowe’en Rift. Alex
penned the following summary (edited):
“A diminished but strong team today. It was
initially quite warm underground with little sign of the draught. This was to
Jon and Alex went to the new chamber “The EGO
has landed!” and discussed what best to do. The advice of the sage elders was
ignored, the feckless youths deciding to follow their senses, the draught, and
the moon milk instead! Therefore, Jon started to dig out the floor of the pot,
whilst Alex broke up the boulders from the previous session. Once the boulders
were removed, Jon continued to dig downwards in the pot, and Alex retreated to
the original rift chamber to haul and stack the spoil Jon was removing; Whilst
in between loads, battering the calcite boulder that impinges on the new skip
run. As Jon removed spoil from the pot, the draught returned, and the air
became distinctly chilly again.
After digging ceased, Alex returned to the
chamber to find that at the bottom of the pot, Jon had uncovered a strongly
draughting bedding plane appearing to head due north. 2-3 inches of airspace is
extant in the bedding and it appears to be filled with small rocks, formerly
bedded stal and gravel. This is probably the best prospect for now?
20bags and five skip loads of rocks were
removed to the surface.”
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 11, 2018 06:44:54
With Nick, Jonathon, Jake, Alex, Brockers,
Duncan and Tav.
Nick was digging, Alex on the haul and
shuttle, Tav and I were on the surface, the rest of the team positioned
themselves wherever they needed to be to move spoil out of the cave.
Initially, Tav was hauling and I was emptying
bags and adding rocks to the wall. Then, Alex moved up to the slope and I went
below ground to do the haul and shuttle. Later, Alex returned to do the haul
and I continued with the shuttling, a back-log to clear. As the session was
nearly over, I decided to go up to the end to have a look at progress. We must
have gained c.20m during the last few sessions, in fits and starts maybe but
good progress. From the rift chamber entered 30/06/18, the way forward leads north-east
to east, low c. 0.4m but there is width c.2m, although it does pinch in on either
side, the low passage continues c.10m then further progress is stopped at a
speleothem blocked north to south aligned fissure. Here are some fine fractured
stalactites 100mm to 150mm dia. lying on the floor (?). Although air movement
can be detected at this point, it seems much diminished. A clear direction forward
is not obvious, yet. The current approach through the low passage is minimalist
and requires some further attention, the best way to proceed might then be
better assessed. The glimpse of something to the north is still a possible option,
as is keeping east and following the line of the west to east aligned fissure. Still,
all good stuff and the skip route is much improved.
It was time to leave. 55 skip-loads of spoil –
bags and rocks – were hauled out to the surface, a fine effort for a Tuesday
evening, and another successful outcome, more metres gained.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 09, 2018 06:36:43
I was away on Gower this weekend but Tav
penned an account of Saturday’s activity in Hallowe’en (it has been slightly edited).
“Tav, Nick, Jonathan, Jake, Duncan, Brockers
A strong team assembled for what promised to
be a particularly busy session. Three main tasks were planned. First was to
clear the bang debris created the previous Tuesday. Second was to complete
excavation of the crawl to the new chamber discovered last week and install a
new return skip, and third was to begin work on opened the continuation of the
bedding beyond the new rift chamber. This had provisionally been named Up the
Garden Path but as there already is one in Withybrook Slocker it will have to
While Tav set about installing the new skip
and examining the bedding-plane, the rest of the team began removing the bang
debris. Nick was behind Tav, with Jonathan and Jake between him and Duncan, who
was situated at the top of the slippery slope. Brockers drew the short straw
and spent a non-stop session on the haul and shuttle, passing them on to Alex
to haul them out to the surface. Nick then moved up to enlarge the entrance end
of the new skip run, while Tav enlarged the other. This was quickly sorted, and
attention shifted to pushing the pointy end. Using an obvious access point
located to one side of a fake ‘T’old Man’s Wall’, situated immediately above
the pot in the floor, Tav quickly gained 3m of wide and continuing bedding
plane. The possible black space to the north proved to be a mirage – the only
way on being the main route to the east which continued in fine style. Numerous
slabs were quickly removed and sent out of the cave before proceedings were
slowed slightly by a very large flowstone boss, which obstructed access to what
appeared to be more open passage beyond. A combination of Tav, Nick and
especially Jake, eventually persuaded the very large slab to exit the bedding
plane, where it was deposited on the floor above the pot. This allowed Jake to
quickly push forward for a further 2m until the lateness of the hour, coupled
with a call for help to remove a backlog of rocks accumulating further back in
the cave, brought the days digging proceedings to a close. It is estimated that
only a further 15-20 minutes work will be required to enter an open section of
bedding a couple of metres ahead. This looks to be about 3m long with a
possible extension down to the right and the bedding-plane can be seen to
continue beyond – albeit partially choked. A strong draught continues to blow
out, and immediate prospects look very encouraging.
Due to several team members being unavailable
for next weekend it has been suggested that we return on Tuesday night to try
and gain access to the visible space. Alex lost count but estimated that 100
skip loads were removed, two-thirds of which was rock. A solid and positive
session, fully deserving of the usual, if slightly later than normal