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, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price and Mike Moxon. There has been occasional help from others including Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, with regular guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

28th April 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 29, 2018 07:20:24

With Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Alex.

After missing a digging session last weekend, due to a variety of reasons, the team re-assembled to return to the fray.

Jake upfront digging aided by Nick, Jonathon was on the slope clearing away the filled bags and rocks, loading them into the skip at the top of the slope to Alex, on the haul and shuttle. After doing the digging last session, it was my turn on the surface.

I had mistakenly thought that the cooler weather recently would result in an absence of midges, I was wrong, in the shelter of the woods, the entrance to HR seems to have its own micro-climate, it was still and warm, and there were midges, lots of them. That aside, I did manage to get some rocks added to the wall before the flow of bags and rocks from below ground became a bit too regular. The task of hauling the spoil up the entrance wasn’t made any easier by the claggy, slippery rope.

Today’s total count was 73 loads out to the surface; 64 bags were emptied and 9 loads of rocks, most of which had been added to the wall, some interesting pieces were put to one side for examination later.

Another productive digging session.

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14th April 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 15, 2018 07:36:52
With Jake, Jonathon and Ray Deasy.

An, otherwise, small team assembled bolstered by the unexpected, but welcome, arrival of the antipodean contingent - Ray.

At the end of the current focus of attention, I was digging, filling bags and removing rocks, passing the spoil back to Ray, who was clearing and loading the skip to Jake, on the slope. Jonathon was at the top of the slope, where the bags and rocks were stored, ready for removal later.

Initially, I opened-up a small connection back towards the slope, this will allow for an easier passage of the skip. There is a lump of rock causing an obstruction that will require some attention, another trip in with the capping kit will sort this out. That done, attention was concentrated on making some forward progress. Although awkward in the constricted space, it is enjoyable digging. There is some clear space over the top of the sediment, but it is small, we are, at present, following a fine, phreatic arched ceiling. Every now and then, some fractured stalactites are found within the sediments, along with sections of detached, broken calcite floor.

Digging isn't speedy in the rather snug passage, there is some air movement, Ray wearing cotton overalls was getting a bit chilled as the session progressed. It was soon time to move back and clear the spoil from the cave. I was amazed at the tidiness of Jon's bag stacking and the temporary drystone wall created from the rocks removed. Today's total, out to the surface was 30 bags and 10 skip-loads of rocks.

Another fine well-being session for the OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Diggers!

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7th April 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, April 10, 2018 06:32:51
With Jonathon, Alex, Jake, Tav and Nick.

Tav digging, Nick clearing, I was on the slippery slope, Jake at the top, Alex on the haul and shuttle, leaving Jon on the surface.

On arrival at the end, we discovered, there had been a bit of a slump on the slippery slope, a large flake of rock had become detached and was now lying on the slope. It was an obstruction, that took a combined effort from me and Jake to ease down into Tuck Shop, along with another smaller rock that had also fallen. That done, we settled down to some steady spoil removal. Occasionally, the odd bag was topped-up with some of the loose sediment that the rockfall had brought down. At the end of the session, 52 bags and 10 skip-loads of rock had been hauled-out to the surface. Another good effort, the digging at the end is, somewhat, constricted.

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31st March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 01, 2018 08:19:00
With Alex, Jake, Nick, Tav, Jonathon and Brockers.

The Magnificent Seven. Jonathon digging, Tav clearing, Brockers and Nick on the slippery slope, I was hauling, Alex doing the shuttle, leaving Jake on the surface, in the rain, and feeling hungover after a night of over-indulgence.

The has been a lot of rain recently, throughout the cave there are plenty of very active drips, and it was squalid...very squalid. Each skip arriving accompanied by a wave of slurry. I got quite chilly sat in a puddle of thick muddy water.

The skip, of course, needed to be replaced, not an easy task to free-up the muddy knots, but it was done. A grand total of 51 bags and 22 skip-loads of rock out to the surface. Most of the rock removed comprised 25mm to 75mm thick calcite, the remnants of a false floor situated between sediment comprising silty fine sand.

By the time we had all exited the cave the rain had ceased, we made our way down to the farm, then to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

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24th March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 25, 2018 09:42:36

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

A good team turn-out today. Jake went ahead to start digging, with Tav assisting. They were followed by Jonathon, Nick and Brockers, Alex and I remained on the surface. While Alex hauled the spoil from the cave, I went dry-stone walling, continuing the reconstruction of the spoil-heap wall.

The bags started to come from the cave at a good rate, the reason being, Nick had started digging somewhere along the approach passage. Alex didn’t have much time to empty the bags, so I stopped wall building and went to help-out.

About 70 bags and a dozen or so skip-loads of rock were hauled-out of the cave, about 40 of the bags were from the ‘official’ dig-site.

The focus of attention has switched to a route that leads over the top of Another Emotional Journey (AEJ), an area we paid some attention to in 2014 (I checked the log-book), before getting side-tracked by a hole in the floor and followed that downwards, eventually emptying out quite a large chamber, that is now connected to AEJ. It is, however, much easier to get to now, and spoil removal will be far more efficient.

At the end of the session, Jake was suitably impressed, and enthusiastic, by progress and the prospects ahead. The dig, a partially choked phreatic arch with some fine scalloping in the roof, the sediment fill is a mixture of sandy silt and thin calcite ‘false’ floor, there is a gap over the top, c.100-150mm height, the direction is trending east. Sounds very interesting.

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17th March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, March 19, 2018 07:17:02
I was attending a BCRA Cave Science workshop on cave climate at Pooles Cavern, Buxton, Derbyshire so unavailable for digging. However, other team members were in attendance, this witty ditty was penned by Tav:

The Ballad of Hallowe’en Rift

by Bard Senseless

For the log of Hallowe’en
On this day, March Seventeen
Four hardy souls did brave the beast
Descending earthwards from the east

Through horizontal rain and sleet
They battled on with frozen feet
To reach the safety of the mound
From whence they vanished underground

Jon was on the slippery slope
Brockers up front diggin’
Jake in darkness in between
Tav on haul and sleddin’

For two hours they did all they could
Until the final tally stood
At 22 bags and 4 of rocks
Lord bless their little cotton socks

Then up to empty out the spoil
The product of their worthy toil
A-shivering’ in the icy blast
They spoke of hopes for caverns vast
Does it go then? Does it bugger
Then quick lads to the Hunters’ fast
Then home to watch the rugger

Which was shit by the way.

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10th March 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 11, 2018 09:13:47
With Nick, Brockers, Jake, Jonathon and Matt.

Digging resumed after a brief postponement due to last week's snowy weather.

Scratched around for a while at the end of Another Emotional Journey (AEJ). Here, the fissure has become choked with calcite and the lower bedding appears to pinch-out. The rest of today's session was spent excavating another narrow fissure on the north-side of AEJ. The silt fill become silty sand at the base, and is also calcified here. There is some space at the top, but this doesn't appear to develop further, at this stage. Filled c.40 bags. At the end of the digging session, Jake and myself had a discussion, we thought that it would be an idea to try digging along the bedding, over the top of AEJ.

On the surface, Jonathon relayed the count for the day, c.50 bags and c.10 skip-loads of rock, Nick had been busy elsewhere, 'tidying' along the approach passage.

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24th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, February 27, 2018 06:20:57
I was away this weekend attending a workshop 'Integrated Microscopy Approaches in Archaeobotany' at the University of Reading. And, very good it was too.

However, there was an attendance at Hallowe'en Rift. Nick penned the following summary:

" A four-man team, Brockers, Jake, Matt and Nick, assembled.

After the usual pre-session discussions on the inappropriate actions of all those not present digging commenced. It was Nick at the face, Jake, then Brockers and Matt in the newly designated ‘Spastic Spot’ at the top of the slippery slope. There were 10 loads of rocks hauled out and 30 bags of mud and gravel. When the production rate slowed, Nick continued digging while the others moved outwards to clear the cave. The way on, well, it’s sort of lacking an air space, and isn’t the most compelling lead, but we have seen worse! 4 full bags were left in the cave. A retreat towards the Hunters was made in a timely manner, i.e. early."

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20th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 21, 2018 06:06:57
With Brockers.

Straight-up to the current focus of attention to continue the expansion of the fissure; 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, were drilled and filled. While I was doing that, Brockers replaced another of the skips and fettled the wire. All preparation and other tasks completed, the evenings work was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

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17th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 18, 2018 11:28:57
With Jake, Jon and Tav.

A small team for a Saturday again, no bother, still plenty to keep us occupied.

On arrival at the farm, it appears that the 'Bambi-Man' is not pleased with us and had left us a little note:
Some people are so tetchy about their 'sheds on wheels'!

At the end of Another Emotional Journey, I went ahead to check Tuesday's effort before Jon started digging, all was good. Tav was second in-line, on the long-drag back to load the skip to me, on the slippery slope, where I man-handled the bags and rocks up-slope and loaded the skip to Jake, on the haul and shuttle. As usual, the spoil was stashed at the bottom of the entrance rift, to be removed later.

The 'mud-crete' had set, making a smoother drag-run for the skip, although the skip eventually succumbed, and a replacement was required, the skip had been in a poor state before today's effort began.

It was another good steady session and a total of 58 loads were cleared-out to the surface; 41 bags and 17 skips of rocks.

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13th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 14, 2018 07:11:24
With Jake.

Always good to have some company and a helping hand with the kit.

At the current end of Another Emotional Journey, another 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, were drilled and filled, continuing the expansion of the narrow fissure.

While I was doing the drilling and things, Jake practiced his alchemist arts, combining sloppy sediment and cement to create 'mud-crete', this was then used to fill the deeper divots, near to the bridge over the pot, along the haul route. This will ease the passage, and prolong the life, of the skips. There were some tricky moves required on the way out with the wire to avoid the repairs.

The evenings work was brought to a satisfactory conclusion, this resulted in disturbing the peaceful slumbers of the roosting pheasants in the trees near to the cave entrance.

It was a cold, frosty evening, the stars were good though.

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10th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 11, 2018 08:53:53
With Jake, Jonathon and Tav.

A smaller team assembled at the Hunter's on another wet Saturday morning, ready to go digging.

At Hallowe'en Rift, while I opened the gate, the others packed bags prior to going underground. Jake, then went ahead to start bailing before digging, there were a few bags at the end left-over from Thursday evening. Jonathon was next in-line, clearing the filled bags and occasionally rocks, along Another Emotional Journey, loading the skip to Tav.
The haul through from Another Emotional Journey. Photographed by Mike Moxon.

With the smaller team size, Tav had the double-handling task of hauling the spoil from Jon, then up the slippery slope to transfer the spoil to the skip down to me, on the haul and shuttle.
Brockers at the top of the slope. Photographed by Mike Moxon.

The bags were then, stacked neatly in the entrance rift ready to be hauled out later, the few stones were put to one-side. A steady pace was maintained through the session, some of the bags seemed like they were going to be a joy to empty. Then, it was time to all move back and clear the spoil from the cave, up-top it was still raining but not too heavily. We took it in turns to haul the loaded skip up the rift, the rope wet and very muddy, making it slippery and difficult to grip. Once on the surface, the bags weren't too much of a problem to empty. The count for the session was 49 bags (or 50, if you prefer rounded-up numbers) and a few skip-loads of stones.
Jon in Another Emotional Journey. Photographed by Mike Moxon.

As it did on Thursday, as soon as we were back at the shed, it rained heavily. Time for the pub, then rugby (6 Nations).

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8th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, February 09, 2018 06:41:37
With Jonathon, Mike M, Brockers, Duncan and Tav.

At the end of Another Emotional Journey, I cleared the debris that resulted from Tuesday evenings effort, Jon shifting the rocks and bags filled with gravel along the rift to load the skip to Mike, on the slippery slope. Brockers, at the top of the slope, transferred the debris into the skip down to Duncan, on the haul and shuttle. Tav was on the surface. As usual, this wet winter, bailing was required before the digging activities commenced.

A total of 41 loads were moved-out to the surface, 14 skip-loads of rocks and 27 bags of gravel and finer sediment were emptied.

We arrived back at the shed just in time, the skies opened, and it bucketed down, again!

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6th February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 07, 2018 06:09:18
With Roz.

Drove over the hill in quite a flurry of snow.

Underground, at the end of Another Emotional Journey, continued with the expansion of the rift, 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, all nicely charged and tamped, rolled out the wire and the evening, brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

The snow, by now, had turned to sleet and come to, not much.

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3rd February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 04, 2018 07:48:10
With Nick, Jake and Jonathon.

For one reason or another, a smaller team today.

Nick's turn to dig, after bailing of course, Jake clearing away, it's getting a long way now, the rift is c.10m in length and progressing. I was on the slope, man-handling the bags and occasional rocks to the top where, due to the size of the team, I loaded the skip to Jon, on the haul and shuttle, the bags and stones being stacked in the entrance rift.

Jake had cut-up a piece of quarry conveyor belt to fit inside the skip and provide some cushioning, this seems to have prolonged the life of the skip and it didn't need replacing this session.

At the end of the digging, I went to the end to assess whether some induced rapid speleogenesis would be required in the mid-week. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a small space had been revealed, Nick commented that air movement could be detected, it's always encouraging to have space to follow. As for IRS, it will be done, keeps the working space more comfortable and spoil removal better managed.

As usual, the last task of the session was to haul-out the bags and empty them, the stones were cleared-out too. Today's tally: forty-two bags and half a dozen skip-loads of stones.

Today's refreshments had been earned!

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1st February 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, February 02, 2018 06:28:20
With Jonathon, Jake, Brockers, Nick and Duncan.

Initially, I went to the end, reeling in the wire as I progressed, to check the results of Tuesday evenings effort. It had done just what it was supposed to do. Satisfied, I turned back and took up position on the haul and shuttle. Brockers, after bailing out the pond, was upfront, aided by Nick, who was clearing back to Jake on the slope, Duncan was up top loading the skip to me. That left Jonathon on the surface, hauling and emptying.

After not very long, I had to replace the skip, we are wearing them out at an alarming rate, the plastic used to form the drums is not very resilient, probably something to do with biodegradability. Later, at the end of the session Jake mentioned the replacement skip was already worn-out. Changing the skip caused a backlog of spoil and it wasn't too long before the team decided to move back and get the cave cleared out, I went up to the surface to join Jonathon.

The total count for this evening, 49 loads out to the surface, 25 skip-loads of rock and 24 bags.

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30th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, January 31, 2018 06:16:33
With Roz.

After a decent dry day...it's still wet and muddy underground!

Continuing the expansion works at the current end of Another Emotional Journey. Drilled 4no. 550mm x 12mm holes on the left-side of the rift. It's so much better with some assistance, keeps the kit that bit cleaner. The evening was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

We stopped in at the Hunter's on the way home, well, churlish not to!

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27th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 28, 2018 08:49:25
With Brockers, Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Tav.

Jon digging, Tav, back into action after a few weeks off, was clearing back to Nick, on the slope, Jake, up-top, loading the skip to Brockers on the haul and shuttle. Surface duties for me.

While waiting for the first bags to arrive, cleared-out a broken branch and re-located the pterodactyl to a new branch. Then the bags started to arrive, I can't say they were a joy to empty, but it was okay. The rain, which didn't let-up all morning, kept the haul rope usable, it didn't become caked in mud, which usually means it is difficult to grip. Odd thing, at 40, 50 and 60 loads out, an especially heavy bag or two, the old back was not a fan of these. On one occasion, I heard some grumbling from below, the skip that had been replaced on Tuesday evening had already failed and needed another skip to take its place. Getting the frayed ends of the haul rope through the holes is never easy when everything has a liberal coating of mud.

The final count 74 loads out to the surface, 67 filled bags, all emptied, and 7 skip loads of stones, waiting to be used in the wall. Another fine session.

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25th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, January 26, 2018 06:45:42
With Jake, Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Mike M.

After reeling in the wire, I was upfront clearing the rock and gravel back to Jon. Mike, back on the slippery slope was then transferring the spoil up to Brockers. Jake was on the haul and shuttle, Nick on the surface.

The IRS had the desired effect and the end of the rift is now suitably widened. After shifting the loose debris, spent a little time with a hammer, bar and chisel to check for fractured rock still adhered, all good for digging on the weekend.

Nick had it good on the surface, busy, but not very many bags of slop to contend with, just bags of gravel and, the occasional cobble-size stone. The count was thirty bags and quite a lot of rocks, plenty of supplies for wall building.

Satisfied with the evenings work, it was time for the Hunter's.

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23rd January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, January 24, 2018 06:13:55
With Matt, Brockers and Duncan.

It was as wet and mucky as expected.

As I drilled the required holes, 4no. 550mm x 12mm, and sorted stuff out, with Matt's assistance, Brockers replaced the skip on the long haul and then, finally got the better of the last boulder in Tuck Shop. Meanwhile, Duncan took the opportunity to explore the rest of the East Series and completed the round trip before returning to help haul my kit out and the fragmented rock from Tuck Shop.

Everything done, the evening was brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The rock was left at the base of the entrance for another day.

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20th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 21, 2018 08:36:22
With Brockers, Jake, Nick and Matt.

Five go Digging!

Nick filling the bags, I was clearing the bags away to Jake, on the slope, passing the spoil up to Matt, who was loading the skip to Brockers on the haul and shuttle. The spoil was stacked at the bottom of the entrance climb.

Prior to the dig commencing, some bailing was required, the drip was strong today. The sediment, when first loosened is quite dry but, many of the bags are damp, causing the spoil to adhere to the inside, especially when the bags have been compressed. In between moving bags, I removed the old skip that had been wedged into a crack to form a platform, and replaced it with stones, makes the step up to load the skip a bit easier. The rift, at present, is about 7m long, with a vertical range c. 1.5 to 2.5m. The dig is becoming narrow, not quite shoulder width, so some alteration might...will be required soon. Keeping the drill and batteries dry and clean will be difficult though, still that's an issue for another day.

When four packs of bags (40) had been filled and stacked in the entrance, we decided it was time to go and move them out to the surface and empty them. Along with the bags, the rocks that had been left in the entrance for a while now, were also removed.

It was raining too!

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Rock of the day

notesPosted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 14, 2018 12:54:35
Found last weekend during digging activities by Jonathon, another cobble of lias, with striations etched out along laminations and cleavage (?).

This weekend, Brockers recovered this fragmented stalagmite from within the sediment as digging progressed. The cave must have been open a long time for this to form. The image above was taken with LED illumination, the one below using subdued flash.

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13th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 14, 2018 08:55:39
With Brockers, Jonathon and Nick.

On the surface, prior to venturing underground, the drier bags were collected, shaken to remove any loose sediment, packed-up and dispatched into the cave, ready to be re-filled.

A rather subdued Brockers, suffering the consequences of a self-indulged malady, was doing the digging. Nick was clearing away the spoil, loading the skip to me, on the slope, from here I man-handled the bags to Jonathon. Jon, on top of the slope, stacked the filled bags and stones into the available space there.

When four packs of bags had been filled and stored, a brief discussion, shall we fill another pack, or should we empty those already filled? It was decided to head out and clear the cave. Jonathon went up to the surface, I was on the shuttle, Nick hauling the skip, Brockers at the top of the slope loading the skip. The bags and stone were quickly moved, the bags were hauled out to the surface, the stones left at the bottom of the entrance. The final task of the day was to empty the bags, 39 of them. Some were easy to empty, some were not and some of the bags had reached the end of their usefulness.

Satisfied with the mornings effort, we left for the farm and refreshments at the Hunter's, where we were met by one of those that had fallen by the wayside.

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11th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, January 12, 2018 06:19:18
With Jonathon, Brockers, Nick and Mike M.

Jonathon up-front digging, Brockers clearing away the filled bags to Nick, on the slippery slope, Mike was on top of the slope, loading the skip to me, on the haul and shuttle.

It's still wet and muddy. After replacing the skip, they are wearing through at an alarming rate, around 40 bags plus some stone were hauled from the end and stacked in the entrance. At the end od the digging session, the bags were hauled out of the cave and emptied. There was plenty of jovial banter as the bags were being relieved of their contents.

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6th January 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, January 08, 2018 06:35:57
With Jonathon, Jake, Nick and Brockers.

Festivities over, things return to normality.

My turn up front, digging; Jonathon, after three days on his sick-bed had wrested himself away to attend, stood in the 'drippiest' spot and cleared away the filled bags to Brockers, back on the slippery slope. Brockers, in between bags, ventured down into Tuck Shop to break-up some of the rocks still there. Jake was on top of the slope and Nick on the haul and shuttle, the spoil stashed in the entrance. Nick, also, dug a channel to drain away the puddles along the passage from the entrance.

Some bailing of water was required before the digging effort could commence, this didn't take too long. Continued to follow the choked rift, as forward progress was made, the sediment remaining overhead became self-digging, largely induced by a strong seepage of water. A bar was utilised to alleviate this occurrence, revealing a narrowing of the rift above, lower down the rift continues, there is a small gap over the top where air movement can be detected, and it's wide enough to work.

The usual 50 bags took a bit longer to fill than anticipated and the call came that the team were leaving to start emptying the bags, Jonathon and I filled the last couple of bags and joined them. All of us were suitably coated in mud after today's effort.

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30th December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 31, 2017 07:55:30
With Jake, Jonathon, Nick, Tav and Brockers, who had collected a new digger for the team, Mike Willett.

Mike, as guest of honour for this session, was given the dubious pleasure of digging; I was in the drippiest place again but, to be honest, it wasn't so drippy today. Jonathon was on the slippery slope once again, with Tav on top. Brockers and Nick were sharing the haul and shuttle, leaving Jake on the surface to haul-out and empty bags and wall-building, should the opportunity arise.

At the dig, a large puddle of water had formed, fed by the seepage of water from the sediment noticed last session. Initial attempts to get rid of the water failed so, Mike concentrated the digging effort to clearing-out a small alcove on the north-side, where a narrow space could be seen, the immediate potential here appears to be limited. As ever, it wasn't too long before the team had sourced some bailing kit and we were able to drain the puddle sufficiently to enable digging to resume following the main lead. Sixty or so bags filled, some forward progress achieved, was a good enough effort for the session and we were ready for the pub. Each of the team left the cave with a substantial coating of sediment adhering to oversuits.

The last session of 2017.

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28th December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, December 29, 2017 08:02:45
With Jonathon, Nick, Jake and, eventually Brockers, who turned-up later.

A morning start, as we were all off work during the winter festivities. Plenty of ice and some snow on the hill, so Jake met us at the farm, not good weather for motorcycles.

Jake digging, I was clearing the bags and stones in, probably, the drippiest part of the cave, Jonathan on the slope. Nick, after replacing the skip on the haul and shuttle, was on the top of the slope.

Initially, the bags were stacked on top of the slope until Brockers turned-up, the spoil was then transferred to the bottom of the entrance rift. Each bag when filled, soon turned into slop, it was not going to be fun extricating the sediment from the bags after they had been compressed. Fifty bags (5 packs) filled, it was time to go and clear-out the spoil. Jake, however, remained for a while to mix some cement with sediment and fill an annoying hole that impedes the skip. Hopefully, the stabilised sediment will have hardened sufficiently by Saturday.

In the meantime, the entrance was cleared, the bags were emptied, everyone out, the cave secured, it was time to go. Another squalid session over, good progress being made.

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23rd December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 24, 2017 08:48:56
With Jonathon, Nick, Jake and Brockers.

Nick digging, always good for him to be kept busy and out of mischief, Jake, after replacing the defunct skip, cleared the filled bags and stones away from the digger. It was my turn on the slippery slope, hauling the skip, then man-handling the bags and rocks up to Jon, at the top of the slope. Brockers, all by himself, on the haul and shuttle and stacking the spoil in the entrance, with no-one to talk to, the voices in his head kept him company.

About fifty bags were filled with sediment, most of it slop, these were going to be a 'joy' to empty, some more rocks were also added to the spoil stack. We decided then, it was time to go and clear-out the entrance. After being stacked and compressed the bags were, indeed, not easy to empty, but there was plenty of banter to keep us entertained as the task was completed. Also, gave the lock a bit of a clean and sprayed with WD40, before locking the cave and walking down the hillside to the farm. The field was left with red-brown streaks after rolling in the wet grass to remove the excess mud from oversuits. We changed and headed up to the Hunter's Lodge Inn for our usual de-briefing. It was good to see Alex there too.

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21st December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, December 22, 2017 06:30:45
With Jake, Brockers, Nick, Tav, Jonathon and Mike.

After a 'shopping' trip last weekend, Brockers didn't miss out on his turn up front and was ably assisted by Nick, Jake on the slope and I was at the top. Tav, on haul and shuttle, occasionally assisted by Mike, Jonathon was on the surface, also assisted by Mike, who was on a dual role this evening.

As expected, it was rather squalid at the dig and the bags, when filled, felt quite liquid, they were going to be a 'joy' to empty. It must be said, the bags when empty are almost as weighty as they are when filled. I cleared a few bags of slump material from the top of the slope to add to the bag count. Although some rocks were cleared out, as many, if not more were left in the alcove at the top of the slope.

We returned to the surface, to find it had been raining, and helped to empty the last few bags. The count, 43 bags and, possibly, a dozen loads of rocks, there is a discrepancy here due to a malfunction of the tally system.

It was quiet in the Hunter's...until we arrived.

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16th December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 17, 2017 09:22:50
With Jake, Nick and Tav.

It was Brockers turn to dig but, he had gone to Bristol, we suspect Christmas shopping to purchase some squealish delights! This left us in a bit of a quandary, without our lead in Another Emotional Journey, what were our options?

When it was suggested, it was a fine morning, we were only a small team, it will be squalid underground, and, we had said, why don't we sort-out the spoil heap wall? There wasn't too much resistance, so that's what we did.

I had to venture underground to look at a [potentially] loose slab of rock. At the top of the slope there had been a slump of sediment - about a wheelbarrow full. Another Emotional Journey was, indeed, wet, a puddle of water on the floor was drained away before the slab of rock was tapped and poked, it seems okay to me, the crack appears to be a bedding joint and was always there, no requirement for immediate action.

Back at the entrance, I called to Nick and we removed the dozen or so loads of rock from the bottom of the entrance. I was asked to go and get a mattock and spade from the top of the pot to aid the surface works.

On the surface, wall building was being carried-out in earnest with two sections receiving some attention. The largest section is to be terraced due to the height required, the second section increases space by encroaching into the bramble patch. The slumped spoil was levelled-off, and the walls built consolidated. Eventually we ran out off suitable rocks for building and decided to go to the pub. I'm sure more rock will become available soon.

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14th December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, December 15, 2017 06:24:32
With Brockers, Jonathon, Tav and Duncan.

Jonathon at the forefront, assisted by Brockers, it was Duncan's turn on the slippery slope, with Tav on top of the slope, I was 'Billy No-mates', on the haul and shuttle.

The drip was strong tonight, each loaded skip arriving on a little bow-wave, attempts to drain the puddles proved futile. The bags of sloppy sediment were stacked in the entrance, this compresses them, it doesn't improve the task of emptying the bags later. The rocks were stashed to one-side.

Time passes quickly on an evening and soon, we were moving back to clear the entrance of bags. Brockers had, rather cunningly it was suggested, swapped places with Jonathon. This resulted in Brockers getting the easier option of loading the skips to the surface, while Jon got the privilege of emptying the bags he had previously filled.

The final count for the evening, 36 bags to the surface and emptied, the rocks were left underground for another session.

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9th December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, December 10, 2017 11:59:55
With Jonathon, Brockers, Nick, and Jake.

At Another Emotional Journey, I took up position in the primary dig, Jonathon assisting and paying some attention to the secondary dig site, Brockers on the slippery slope once more, Nick at the top of the slope and [unofficial] tertiary digger, Jake on the haul and shuttle, spoil was stacked in the entrance.

Initially, I concentrated on removing the spoil from higher-up in the fissure, there has been some undermining and stuff is beginning to fall onto anyone digging below. While I was loosening the spoil, Jonathon was clearing sediment from the potential lead over the top of the fissure. The idea was to keep Nick busy, it didn't quite work, Nick spent his spare moments clearing the passage along Merlin's back to rock.

Working along the fissure, I exposed a small hole that appears to continue, there is a draught of air, possible circulation. In the fissure, is a degraded calcite vein, this also, seems to have some tiny gaps beyond. Looking up to the top of the c.3m high fissure, there is the underside of a false floor containing some shattered stalactites within calcite flowstone. Just as I had cleared away the last of the loose material and we were preparing to head-off to clear the entrance, I asked Jonathon to pass the hammer and chisel, I had noticed a fracture in the left-hand rock wall. A couple of blows and some leverage with a bar, the fractured rock gave way, resulting in a pile of rock and sediment on the floor. More interestingly, the fractured rock seemed to have formed a corner, and now it had been removed, there appears to be a widening of the fissure, negating the requirement for IRS, for the time being, there is plenty of scope for further progress, and potentially in a north to north-east direction.

The pile of debris was left, to be cleared out mid-week and we set-off to clear the entrance. Today's count, 59 bags and a few loads of stones. There remains a pile of rocks at the bottom of the entrance, the priority was to get the bags emptied. It had been another satisfying session.

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7th December 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, December 08, 2017 06:19:02
With Brockers, Jonathon, Tav, Nick, Duncan and Mike.

Duncan at the end of Another Emotional Journey, digging in the sloppy, sticky bit; I was clearing the bags and continuing the assault on the slab of rock, it did succumb; Jonathon was, once again on the slippery slope; Mike at the top of the slope and, I assume, Brockers and Nick sharing the haul and shuttle; leaving Tav, alone, on the surface.

After rain, it was wet and rather squalid in places.

Twenty-nine bags and sixteen skip-loads of rock were shifted out to surface, forty-five loads in total, to keep Tav busy and warm.

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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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