Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

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

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

2nd December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 03, 2017 09:12:03
With Jake, Jonathon and Brockers.

A smaller team today, after some discussion and shifting about; Jake digging, I was assisting, Brockers was on the slippery slope and Jonathon at the top of the slope where the bags and rock were stashed.

Initially, Jake dug in the alcove, leading north, where the sediment was drier. The work continued until a rather large boulder (?) was exposed, far too big to move, impeding any further progress in this location, at least for the present. So, attention turned to continue working along the fissure, some fractured rock was removed, then bags of claggy sediment and gravel. The sticky mud makes movement somewhat laborious. Meanwhile, I set about battering a large boulder with a lump-hammer. The boulder is in the way of another potential dig, that could lead over the top of the fissure and false calcite floor. The boulder is starting to succumb, but requires some more attention.

Eventually, the available stacking space was filled, we moved back to clear the bags out of the cave. 45 bags and a couple of stones were hauled out of the cave, the rocks were left at the top of the slope until the next session. Still, a good effort with a small team.

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30th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, December 01, 2017 06:18:19
With Jake, Tav, Brockers, Jonathon and Mike.

Jake had opted for surface duties this evening; Brockers doing the haul and shuttle; Jonathon on top of the slope; I was on the slippery slope that leads to Another Emotional Journey, where, Tav was digging with Mike assisting.

The IRS had the desired effect, the fissure is now wider and, initially, there was some rock debris to shift, some sediment had also been loosened. The drier, cooler weather recently has resulted in a reduction of the drips, it's remains a little squalid in places, but there wasn't a constant drip, drip down the back of the neck.

At the end of another productive session, 38 loads were hauled out to the surface, 21 bags and 17 skip-loads of rock, including Nicks pit-prop, it was a bit on the fousty side.

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28th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 29, 2017 06:11:52
With Roz.

Some more induced rapid speleogenesis. 4no. holes, left-hand side of the fissure, to make it wider and easier to work. It's still wet and rather claggy, difficult to get boots free from the mud after drilling holes. Still, all good, there should be some rock to shift next digging session.

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25th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 26, 2017 15:12:54
With Jake, Jonathon, Tav, Brockers and Nick.

Brockers, sporting a pair of dapper orange dungarees, in a 'Southern Comfort' style, was on surface duties; Jonathon on the haul and shuttle; I was on top of the slope. Jake was on the slippery slope leading to Another Emotional Journey, where Nick, assisted by Tav, was digging.

Bags and rocks were coming through at a steady rate when, there came a lull in proceedings as Nick moved a large slab of rock that became wedged tight in the fissure, effectively preventing any more forward progress. Then followed the sound of the rock being battered with the sledge hammer, the rock finally succumbed, and was moved to one-side with some difficulty, and there it remains. Bags and rocks started to be moved-out again. The dig face has become a little squalid, Nick started to show signs of despondency, this is not permitted and Tav told him to get on with digging.

At the end of the session, 80 loads shifted out to the surface, 64 bags and 16 skip-loads of rock.

Above image is 'rock of the day', it has some interesting striations, presumably these were formed during sediment transport in a high energy environment.

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23rd November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, November 24, 2017 06:21:19
With Jake, Jonathon, Nick, Brockers, Duncan and Mike.

First task was to check the results of the IRS and to retrieve the wire, it could do with a little TLC. The bulge has been removed, and some large flakes of rock taken-off either side of the fissure, making it wider. Satisfied, I went back to join Duncan on the haul and shuttle, I did the hauling, no knee-pads. After the digging stint on the weekend, Jonathon was on the surface. Brockers forged ahead on the digging front, Nick and Mike assisting, Jake was on top of the slope.

After recent rain, the drips are bigger and there are more of them, the spoil is becoming even claggier. The large rocks took their toll on the skip and, towards the end of the session, it died. Jake replaced it and took pleasure in the ease of movement a new skip affords.

A total of 58 loads were hauled out to the surface, 33 bags and 25 skip-loads of rock (although the rock-net was employed for a couple of rocks). A fine evening session.

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21st November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 22, 2017 06:00:21

It was, a bit of a struggle this evening with the kit in the wet, mucky conditions. This was not helped by all the loose crap at the top of the slope and, down it too, probably the result of some pointless digging activity last weekend. At Another Emotional Journey, it was claggy and took some doing to place the kit out of the drips there.

Two holes drilled into the bulge of rock, to ease the passage of the skip and two holes, either side of the fissure to widen it making digging a bit more comfortable. It was a slow trip out with the kit and wire, but all sounded well at the end of it.

All that's left to do now is to clean all the kit!

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18th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 19, 2017 09:14:38
With Jake, Jonathon, Nick, Tav, Brockers and Matt.

Jon's turn to dig, Tav was to clear-away, but quickly completed the survey too, Brockers was on the slippery slope, with Nick on top of the slope, Matt and Jake sharing the haul and shuttle. My turn up-top, on the surface.

Initially it was quiet, so Jake returned to the surface to do walling. I, too, was adding to the wall. After a while, Matt called-out to say there was a backlog of bags, Jake returned underground. Then followed about 40 loads, one after the other, the backlog was transferred from below ground to above it. After that the bags kept coming at a steady rate, this meant there was not enough time to empty many of the bags. The haul rope, by now, was impregnated with mud and was wet making it difficult to grip. Eventually, thins settled down a little and Jake returned to the surface to help empty the bags, some of the bags were reluctant to disgorge their contents, the sediment is now, claggy.

Nick moved back to help Matt on the haul and shuttle, this resulted in another quick-fire session of hauling. In total, 83 loads out to surface, 78 bags and 5 loads of rock. It was pub-time!

Got down to the farm and was changed, when I realised that I had left my caving helmet up at Hallowe'en Rift, so I trudged back up the hill to fetch it. My, once waterproof, shoes have holes in them.

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16th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, November 17, 2017 06:25:59
With Jake, Tav, Nick, Jonathon, Duncan and Mike. Our 'sympathies' are with poor, delicate Brockers who was tucked-up in bed with 'man-flu'.

Me digging, Jon loading the spoil into the skip behind me, Duncan's turn on the slippery slope, hauling the skip, transferring it to Tav, on top of the slope. Nick was doing the haul and shuttle, with Jake on the surface. Mike, who was a little behind time, joined us a bit later and, I assume, helped-out on the surface or on the haul/shuttle.

Digging, usual thing, loosen sediment with a mattock, fill a bag, pass-back to Jon, repeat. Working along a fissure/rift, where c.3m ahead there appears to be a wall and a possible left-turn (north), but can't be certain until we get there. Happily digging away, a hole appeared in the floor, open space, a draught. Jon had a look, Tav came to have a look, interesting. Unfortunately, we had re-connected to a dig at the bottom of the 'lower' series that contains Nick's pit prop, another leg to the 'round trip'. This outcome was not unexpected. That said, the dig was never finished and, the fissure/rift still need to be followed. As ever, there is plenty of stuff to keep us occupied for a long time yet!

On the surface, the team were obviously in a rush to get to the pub and had left, I locked up and followed. I didn't give a it thought until later, how many skip-loads were brought out to the surface?

Jake later confirmed the skip count, 30 bags and 6 loads of rock.

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11th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, November 11, 2017 09:02:31
With Jake, Jonathon, Brockers and Tav.

More heavy rain, another section of spoil-heap wall has collapsed. We'll have a wall-sorting session when it dries-up a bit.

In the cave, there are plenty of drips forming several puddles, at least the passage of skips will be well lubricated.

Jake started on Another Emotional Journey, loosening the spoil with a mattock, then shovelling it into bags. I was on the slippery slope, hauling the filled bags and occasional rock from Jake, up to Jon, on top of the slippery slope. Brockers was hauling and shuttling the spoil to Tav, on the surface.

Seventy-four loads were hauled out to the surface, 65 filled bags and 9 skip-loads of rock. Some of the bags were not so easy to empty, now that the sediment has become claggy. Still, another good session and still plenty more to come.

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9th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, November 10, 2017 06:28:37
Another fine team assembled on a Thursday evening. With Jake, Jonathon, Nick, Tav, Brockers, Duncan and Mike.

The initial plan was to clear-out the bags and rocks left underground last Saturday, and to start sorting the slumped wall, but there was collusion.

Jake started on the re-construction works, I headed-off underground, to clear the spoil left on top of the slope, and to look at a 'bulge' of rock that could be removed. Brockers and Nick followed me below, to do the haul and shuttling, the rest of the team were clearing the entrance and sorting the bags, or so it was assumed.

I heard whispering, "...entrance is nearly cleared...they don't need any more people on the surface...you go up and dig, Nick". So, Nick and Brockers came-up to dig.

At the end of the session, upon exiting the cave, there was a surprise on the surface, the bags weren't emptied. Jonathon had been abandoned, left to haul 120 loads up to the surface alone, 105 bags and 15 skip-loads of rock - a stoic effort. Then, a melee, as the bags were duly emptied and counted, ready for the weekend. Much banter ensued.

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4th November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, November 05, 2017 10:59:55
With Jonathon, Nick and Jake.

Unfortunately, after some heavy rain through the night and early morning, a section of the spoil heap wall has slumped down. This was thought likely to have been caused by the burial of two old skips, possibly filling with water. Anyway, it will be sorted when it has dried out a bit.

Underground, Jonathon forged ahead to take on the digging duties, hot on his heels was Nick, to offer some assistance, Jake took up position at the top of the slope, I was on haul and shuttle, the spoil stacked in the entrance for removal another day.

So much for a "quieter" digging session expanding into Another Emotional Journey, I was in non-stop action, haul, shuttle, stack, haul, shuttle, stack... The result of the mornings effort, 60-70 skip loads stashed in the entrance and another 20 or so still on top of the slope. There must be plenty of space in the dig now.

The refreshments at the Hunter's, were particularly enjoyable today.

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2nd November 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, November 03, 2017 05:57:55
A strong team assembled this evening with Jake, Brockers, Nick, Tav, Jonathon, Duncan, and a guest digger, Mike Moxon.

As one journey ends, then, 'Another Emotional Journey' begins.

I went straight to the end to check the effects of the IRS, all good, so headed back-out to the surface. Tav did the rock clearing and digging, assisted by Mike and Jonathon; Nick was at the top of the slope on spoil distribution; Duncan at Stal Bend, hauling, Brockers shuttling the spoil to the entrance. I had joined Jake on the surface and hauled-out the loaded skips, while Jake took care of materials dispersal. The steady flow of bags and rocks meant that there wasn't much time for wall building, a job, much better carried-out in the daylight anyway.

A total of 67 loads came-up to the surface, 39 bags and 28 loads of rock. A good evening's work.

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31st October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, November 01, 2017 05:52:07
With Roz.

Into Hallowe'en Rift on Hallowe'en to apply the induced rapid speleogenesis. 8no. holes, in two groups of 4no., to enlarge the transition zone from Merlin's to the dig site and to ease the passage of spoil from one to the other. There should be rock to remove on the next digging session.

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28th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 30, 2017 07:10:46
With Tav, Brockers and Jonathon.

My turn to dig, Tav clearing away, Jon on top of the slope, Brockers doing the haul and shuttle, bags and rock were stashed in the entrance.

Eventually, Tav sorted the dragline on the skip to make spoil removal from the dig-face easier. Digging was a bit slow to start, space was limited and just a bit awkward, as the space increased, excavation improved, and the little spade came into use. The saw was located and Tav shortened the handle on the mattock, this action made it easier to use. How able to sit-up in the dig and get to work properly with the spade, unfortunately, time had passed quickly, and the session was drawn to its conclusion.

Brockers and Jon had, earlier, moved back to clear the spoil from the entrance out to the surface, 34no. bags and 1no. rock. There were another 8no. filled bags left on the top of the slope.

I have arranged a return on Tuesday for more induced rapid speleogenesis, to make some more space and aid forward progress.

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26th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 27, 2017 05:59:36
With Brockers, Tav, Duncan and Jake.

There was rock debris. Brockers upfront, digging; I was clearing away; Duncan was at the top of the slope, after he had been on a brief tour around this part of the cave. Tav was doing the haul and shuttle, Jake was carrying-out surface duties. Along the approach passage a few puddles were beginning to form, at least the skip would slide easier.

When the clearing had been done, entry into the open-space was possible. There's a fissure, c.3 to 4m length trending c.NE, approximately 0.5m high x 0.3m width, it has a silt floor and there is a cool air movement. The up-shot is, as ever, more digging is required, this might, open-up other leads on the north-side.

A total of 33 loads were hauled up to the surface, an almost equal split between rocks and bags.

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24th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 25, 2017 05:58:35
With Roz and Hazel.

Almost a family outing. At the dig, 6no. holes, c.300mm x 12mm, in the floor, to break-up slabs of dolomitic conglomerate (with calcite flowstone cap) to aid forward progress into open-space beyond. Roz and Hazel had a bit of a tour around before returning to offer some assistance. All set-up, retired to a safe distance, the evening's task was drawn to a satisfactory conclusion. There will be rocks and debris to shift next session, probably on Thursday evening. Left the cave.

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21st October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 22, 2017 09:36:41
With Matt, Nick, Tav, Jake and Brockers.

Matt, Nick and Tav set about clearing the bags and rocks stacked in the entrance. Jake went ahead to start digging, Paul went to the top of the slope to load the skip with the bags and rocks left there on Thursday evening, I was hauling the skip down and shuttling the spoil back to the entrance, ready to be hauled to surface.

Thursday's spoil cleared we moved-up to clear today's spoil. Progress was slower today the way forward being obstructed by some rather large slabs of rock and calcite. Although loose, these slabs were determined not to succumb to Jakes attentions utilising a variety of bars, hammering and chiselling. These slabs will require the use of some induced rapid speleo-genesis on Tuesday evening. It was just very frustrating the way ahead looks so enticing.

Ninety loads out to the surface, plus one large rock that Nick had managed to prise out from somewhere, 'idle hands make mischief' is probably an apt saying in this instance.

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19th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 20, 2017 05:54:05
With Jonathon, Jake, Nick and Brockers.

Nick digging, Jake clearing, Brockers on top of the slope and Jonathon was on the haul, shuttle and stack. I was in Tuck Shop, capping rocks and bagging-up the gravel and finer sediments. Two digging, it was busy again.

Above me, I could hear Nick rattling slabs, Jake swinging the sledge, then, 'oohs and aahs', Jake reported back, "it looks good". Unfortunately, time passed all too quickly and soon the session was over. Tuck shop was now looking much tidier, so I packed away the capping kit and climbed-up to see what Nick had uncovered. There was a gaping hole, albeit just too narrow to pass...back in the day...into open-space, it looks easily body-sized, but can't quite see all of it. The way ahead, does indeed, look good.

The digging on Saturday should reveal more delights, but there are a lot of bags and rocks to shift as well!

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14th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 15, 2017 09:13:01
With Tav, Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Brockers.

Jonathon digging, assisted by Nick, Tav went into the 'Lower' Series to dig through the connection from that side, Jake was at the top of the slope, sending down loaded skips to me, on the haul and shuttle. Brockers was on the surface in charge of spoil dispersal.

Someone had said "that the digging might be a bit slower today", with three digging, how wrong that statement was. The loaded skips kept coming as fast as they could be shifted. Towards the end of the session, Tav had dug through the connection and this allowed a shift in position to clear the backlog. Jake and Nick took over the haul and shuttle, I went up to the surface to help-out Brockers. Today's count: 66 bags and 17 loads of rock, 83 skip-loads in total. Brockers had even managed to get some wall building done, good effort. Another fine session and thirsty work, ready for the pub.

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12th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 13, 2017 06:00:27
With Jake, Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Tav.

Brockers at the forefront doing the excavation, Nick clearing away the filled bags and shifting the rocks from Tuck Shop, Tav on the slope unloading the skip and transferring the load to Jake on the haul. Jake was later joined by Jonathon, who was running late, on the shuttle, I was on the surface.

The loaded skips were coming to the surface, at a rate, almost one-a-minute, it was warm and sweaty work, thankfully not plagued by midges. There wasn't time to add to the wall, but the store of rock now starting to accumulate, means there is a good supply for when the opportunity arises. 71 loads to the surface, 39 bags and 31 loads of rock, I was relieved when it was over, by now, I was thirsty and the back was, just beginning to twinge.

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10th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 11, 2017 06:20:33

Down to Tuck Shop to break-up some of the boulders there, using a combination of capping and tapping [with the sledge hammer]. One drill-bit succumbed to the task and was discarded. Created a decent pile of rock to be removed sometime. There are still plenty of rocks awaiting size reduction, that's a job for another day. Exited the cave.

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7th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 09, 2017 06:06:55
With Jake, Jonathon, Nick, Brockers and 'Duncy Sumpy' Price.

While Jake, Nick and Duncy set about clearing Thursday's backlog of bags and rock from the entrance, Jonathon, Brockers and me headed-off to the dig.

I was digging, somehow drawn to making the connection, something that was inevitable anyway, Jonathon was clearing away from behind me, and in between times, set-about breaking the rocks left in Tuck Shop with the sledge. Brockers was at the top of the slope hauling the loaded skip and transferring the load to Duncy, who had, by now, positioned himself on the haul, while Nick did the shuttle, Jake remained on the surface, plagued by midges.

At the dig-face, it wasn't long before the ice-axe was retrieved from the 'Lower' Series, the passage beyond clearly visible. By the end of the session, I could get my feet and legs through the connection, turned around, my head and shoulders in, but the chest would not fit through - curse my old, inflexible body - back in the day, when setting-out on this long emotional journey... On one attempt to push through, I had to call for Jonathon's assistance to give me a pull so that I could extract myself from the squeeze. Had to face it, the connection needs enlargement, so gave it up for another day.

Jonathon was clearly, 'digger of the day' for his effort in clearing a large part of the rocks left in Tuck Shop.

Over 140 skip-loads had been hauled out to the surface, including about 50 loads from Thursday. A sterling effort by Jake. Refreshments beckoned, we made our way down the hill to the farm, and from there, to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

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5th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 06, 2017 05:48:00
With Jake, Jonathon and Nick.

Jake was digging, I was behind, clearing the bag and rock to Jonathon, on the slope, also managed to clear a few loads of rock from the Tuck Shop. Nick was on the haul and shuttle, stacking the spoil at the bottom of the entrance.

Digging, comprises a mixture of fine sandy silt, rocks and lumps of detached calcite flowstone, some of these quite large. Jake pulled-out one slab, to reveal open space beyond, interestingly, to the north/northeast, about 3m, in all. The end of an ice-axe, that had been placed in the furthest reaches, at the end of the 'Lower' Series, could be seen clearly, the connection is not too far away. There are gaps all over the place, hours of digging fun for the future. A good session.

The walk down to the farm was illuminated by a fantastic big, bright harvest Moon.

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30th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 01, 2017 08:34:38
With Nick, Jake, Matt and Jonathon.

Nick and Jake went along to the dig, reeling in the wire as they went, I climbed down the pot, along Toil and Trouble, left-side of T Junction to carry-out another voice test. Not only did we achieve a positive voice connection but, a visual one too, I could see Nick's light and then a gloved hand.

A successful test done, I returned to help Matt on the haul and shuttle, Jonathon was on the surface, hauling-out and adding to the wall and spoil heap. A constant flow of rocks and bags kept us busy. 30 skip-loads of rock and 59 bags were hauled up the surface.

Towards the end of the session, a call came back from the dig, it was looking interesting, intrigued, I couldn't resist going up to have a look.

To the left of the connection, there was open space behind a jumble of rocks and slabs of flowstone. Although Nick and I tried to move a large slab to get a better look, time was moving on, we decided to leave it to the next session, some more digging is required. The loose sediment was tidied up and the last couple of bags and a few rocks were dragged-out to the surface.

Satisfied with the mornings progress, it was time to make our way to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

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28th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, September 29, 2017 05:56:27
With Roz.

Drilled just the two holes, 550mm x 12mm, into a slab of rock that's obstructing access to the potential connection into the 'Lower Series'. It didn't take very long, so went down into the Tuck Shop to swing the sledge at a couple of rocks, quickly decided that capping was a better option and returned to the primary task. All connected, retired to a safe distance, the job brought to a satisfactory conclusion. More rock could be heard falling into the Tuck Shop.

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26th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 27, 2017 05:55:00
With Jake.

Although we had talked about it on the weekend, less of a turn-out than anticipated, so didn't achieve as much as hoped for.

Started capping some of the boulders piled in the Tuck Shop, while Jake busied himself digging at the potential 'connection'. We thought that an obstructing slab of rock might succumb to capping, but that didn't happen, the rock proved too thick and solid. I did, manage to get the capping rod well and truly stuck and it required some effort to free it. Decided then, that the rock would require the application of a more persuasive technique and I will return on Thursday evening with the necessary materials.

The bags Jake had filled were hauled to the entrance to be removed on the weekend.

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23rd September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 24, 2017 09:13:23
With Jake, Nick and Jonathon.

Initially, I went along to the dig-face, reeling in the wire as I progressed, to check the results of Tuesday's endeavour. The slab of rock was shattered, much of it now down in the Tuck Shop. Duly satisfied, I returned to the surface to haul-out the rocks and bags. Jonathon cleared the dig, Nick on top of the slope transferring the spoil to Jake on the haul and shuttle.

It was non-stop action on the surface as a steady stream of rocks and bags were removed from the cave. It was very warm work but, thankfully I wasn't pestered by flies and midges. There was a brief respite, when the skip was worn-out and required a replacement, luckily there was one available. 40 bags were hauled out and emptied, some of these had come to the end of use and were incorporated into the spoil heap. It was too busy to count the number of skip-loads of rock, but they must have equalled, if not exceeded the number of bags. About 6m length of wall was heightened and the spoil dumped behind it.

At the end of the morning's session, a brief discussion, it was decided that many of the rocks in the Tuck Shop would need capping, a job for Tuesday evening. We can do another voice test and re-assess the next stage to make the connection. I can try arranging a Thursday trip if required.

It had been thirsty work this morning and we were now ready for refreshment, to the Hunter's Lodge Inn!

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19th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 20, 2017 06:40:33

On arrival at the dig-face, after some consideration, a slight change to my original thoughts. I decided to remove a large chunk of rock that currently forms the 'floor', we should then be at the same level as the potential connection. There are a couple of rocks at ceiling height that we'll need to keep a watchful eye.

Drilled 7no. hole, relatively evenly spread, c.350mm-550mm depth due to variable thickness of rock and the height to ceiling. It took a bit longer than usual mainly because I needed to keep changing the drill bit, and pay attention to the drop down into the Tuck Shop.

The evening's task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion from Stal Bend, where a rumble of falling rock could be heard. Plenty to shift on the weekend.

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16th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 17, 2017 14:41:35
With Jake, Tav, Nick, Matt, Brockers and Jonathon.

A good team today, me and Tav went to the dig-face, Brockers on top of the slope, Jonathon and Nick on the haul and shuttle, Jake and Matt on the surface, hauling-out and wall building.

As expected, there was plenty of debris. I cleared the rocks, gravel and fine sediment from the connection area, passing bags etc. back to Tav. When that was cleared, Tav went down into Tuck Shop to clear debris and break-up some of the rocks there with the sledge. Meanwhile, I set to work with hammer and bar to clean-out the potential way forward. That done, I decided to head down the pot and along Toil and Trouble to try out another voice test to pinpoint the next move, it's close, I thought I caught the merest glimpse of Tav's light, but this could not be confirmed. I returned to the dig-face to discuss with Tav where the aural connection was best heard and to formulate a plan for mid-week.

At the end of the session, 85 loads to the surface, just about an equal split between bags and rock. Some more fine dry-stone wall was also created.

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12th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 13, 2017 06:35:23

Another 7no. holes to continue with the connection into the 'lower series'. The holes were drilled a little shorter than usual, c.350-400mm, only used-up two batteries. Peering down into the Tuck Shop, there are a lot of rocks that require capping at some time in the future. Lots of 'mossies' and midges in the cave.

All sounded good from Stal Bend, there was a satisfying tumble of rocks.

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9th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 13, 2017 06:29:00
I was on a digging trip to the Gower this weekend, but a team did go to HR and Tav supplied the following report:

"HR – 09.09.2017 Tav, Jon, Matt, Jake

Jake texted that he would meet us at the dig so t’other three made their way up to the Tuck Shop, which was a scene of devastation. There was big pile of rocks on the floor with a couple of alarming lumps hanging out of the roof. With just three diggers we 'ummed and ahhed' a bit about the wisdom of carrying on and had just about decided to knock the session on the head when Jake arrived, which swung the pendulum back in favour of digging. We set about removing the spoil – Jake loading, Jon on the slope, Tav on haul and shuttle and Matt on the surface. 45 loads of rock and gravel were duly removed – a mere fraction of the stuff that remains in the Tuck Shop. Loads still to clear but the face (according to Jake) is ready for another bang. Raining on the surface so we applied the 'old' adage ...

When rain clouds form round Pen Hill mast,

It’s quick lads, to the Hunters’ fast"

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8th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, September 09, 2017 07:02:02

A technical problem meant I was unable to collect the necessary supplies on Tuesday, so a Friday evening trip to loosen some rock.

The cows in the field were a bit excitable this evening!

At the top of the slope, in the north-east corner, drilled 6no. holes to start opening-up the connection to the 'lower' series. The evening was bought to a conclusion with a satisfying tumbling of rock. Should be plenty of stuff to clear tomorrow, but not for me, I'm going to the Gower.

It was still quite early so gave the Hunter's a miss.

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2nd September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 03, 2017 08:21:46
With Jake, Jonathon and Tav.

Jake in the Tuck Shop, I was on top of the slope, Jonathon on the haul and shuttle, Tav opted for surface duty. Last week's bags were cleared from the entrance, followed by the rocks left in the Tuck Shop.

When the debris was cleared, a discussion ensued regarding the best spot to engineer a connection to the 'Lower Series'. The recent survey made this clearer and a likely spot was chosen. Jake set-about digging away some loose sediment and rocks, then re-located a small 'stal boss' in a new position. Meanwhile, I went down into the 'Lower Series', beyond T-Junction, to try another voice connection. It was clear and a conversation could take place, there isn't a light connection possible, at present. I spent a short time scratching away at the potential way forward, where there is a small air-space over the top of the sediment, generally in the direction we want to go.

No-one else ventured along Toil and Trouble, I had a quick jaunt towards Trick or Treat, but decided against the muddy, wet puddle, no spare, dry 'shreddies' being my feeble excuse. I joined the team on the surface and we had a quick discourse regarding the plan. I will order the necessary supplies and attend to matters during the coming week.

An earlier visit to the Hunter's Lodge Inn than anticipated.

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26th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 27, 2017 09:09:20
With Brockers, Matt and Tav.

Brockers and Matt did the digging, stashing bags and rock in the Tuck Shop, Tav and me went surveying. Carried-out a line survey from the top of the pot through Merlin's, and then went into the lower series to survey the passage to the north-west of T-Junction. It has been a little while since I last went along Toil and Trouble, a passage well-named. At the end, we could hear Brockers and Matt in the Tuck Shop, but couldn't make contact, they were far too busy.

The abandoned dig beyond Nick's pit prop ends in a sediment filled passage, there doesn't appear to be any solid walls or ceiling, within the sediment are more detached lumps of calcite flowstone. The wooden prop has now carbonised.

When the surveying was finished, we returned to the others to start hauling some of the spoil out. We shifted the bags, leaving the rock in the Tuck Shop, the bags were left stacked in the entrance.

Tav, later drew-up the line survey and distributed by email. To the east of the entrance there is 110m (361 feet) of passage.

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19th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 20, 2017 08:31:26
With Brockers, Tav, Nick and Jonathon.

Carried-up the replacement skips and hauling rope that I had sorted during the week. I headed-up to the end to start clearing the debris, while Tav headed-off into the lower series for sound testing. Nick and Jonathon sorted-out the skip replacement, Brockers was on surface duty.

The aural connection was inconclusive, not as clear as last-time, perhaps the loose spoil was muffling the sound. Jonathon could hear Tav from the top of the slope, and Tav said he heard me when I shouted-out in the passage leafing west. Jonathon's 'crack' might warrant further investigation. Tav returned from below and joined Nick on the haul and shuttle.

Cleared the backlog of bags and rock from Tuck Shop, in between bagging the loose gravel and cobbles and loading the skip with boulder-size rock. After the initial rush, it got slower as digging commenced. The fissure [south] is filled with fine sandy silt and large cobbles and boulders of mostly detached calcite flowstone, some is well-packed. The fill in the floor is relatively easy to work with the pick, there are some obstructing boulders that will require prying-out. Another digging session before IRS needed again.

Over 60 loads out to the surface.

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15th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 16, 2017 06:21:20
With Roz.

Arrived at the Tuck Shop to find there was still bags and rocks there, this was probably a consequence of the issues with the skip slowing things down. The scarred rock floor n the way-up from Stal Bend might be testament to the struggle.

Continued to widen/deepen the fissure [south] off Tuck Shop. 6no. holes, not all to the full depth, silly me! didn't bring all the batteries and had forgotten that one was part-used. Still got the job done and brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Really needs a sound test on Saturday to check on direction and progress.

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12th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, August 14, 2017 17:15:19

I was away this weekend, digging in a cave on Gower. The following report was penned by Nick:

"Four fine healthy able bodies in peak performance spent another couple of fun filled hours hauling dirt underground for no logical or apparent reason.

Friar Tuck set up position on the surface oscillating between that and the underground shuttle while Jonathon was in the strongly favoured haul and occasional shuttle position. Nick was on the sloping haul and transition zone and Dr. Brockers led the surgical extraction duties.

The way on, looks enticing as ever!. Still some mud on the floor left to clear so no consensus reached as to whether a bang is needed. Its recommended nevertheless that Vince and Ros go for their midweek banging session anyway, they can always try the extreme end where Jonathon left the vast gaping lead a few weeks ago, just to ensure there is enough spoil to be retrieved next weekend.

On a technical note, the designer skip was put into use on the long haul. Unfortunately, while the shear-beauty of the item cannot be faulted, the practicality was somewhat lacking. The inflexibility of the titanium steel washing machine base causes excessive friction so that only one bag could be dragged at a time and it also induces fervent cursing. Back to the drawing board for that one!. 57.6 bags to surface +/- 11.2. (OK, there was a counting error)"

Site personnel were Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Matt.

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8th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 09, 2017 06:04:47

Continued work to widen the fissure off Tuck Shop. 6no. holes, using the drill-bit donated by Brockers, circa 500-550mm depth x 12mm dia., spread along the left-side. There should be rock debris to move, plus the sediment at floor level, and the bags leftover from last session, plenty to do for the weekend!

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5th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 06, 2017 12:35:28
With Jonathon, Brockers and Ray Deasy.

I went along to the Tuck Shop with Ray, while I started to fill bags with gravel and fine sediment. Ray went along to the end of Merlin's to have a look-around there. Meanwhile, Brockers sorted-out a replacement skip, had to use the skip from the end of Merlin's as we had forgotten to bring the 'designer' skip [by Jake] from the shed.

Ray went to the top of the slope, Brockers on the haul and shuttle with Jonathon on the surface. Bags and rock then were removed from the Tuck Shop out to the surface, 35 loads in total. There are still about a dozen bags and a few rocks in the Tuck Shop, but Ray wanted to cycle over to Shepton Mallet to get to Thrupe Lane, so we made our way-out of the cave.

I had made sure the left wall was cleared ready for some further attention on Tuesday evening. At floor level, there's plenty of fine sediment with the occasional rock or lump of detached flowstone to be dug-out too. When this is cleared it might be an idea to carry-out another aural test.

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1st August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 02, 2017 06:05:19

Went to the Tuck Shop, 6no. holes, spread along the east-side of the fissure going south. The aim is to widen the narrow gap and make the link to the aural connection with the passage left of the T-Junction. There is also the possibility there might be another lead to follow.

The first use of the new drill, batteries didn't have much charge, good job I had brought some spares.

It sounded much louder from Stal Bend.

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