field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, November 09, 2018 06:27:28
8th November 2018: with Alex, Mike, Jonathon
It’s been raining
recently and all the way up through Chamber 20 the results of this were clear;
the drips were stronger, pools were filling-up and water was flowing down the
calcite cascade. However, on arrival at the sand dig, we were pleasantly
surprised to find it bone dry and no signs of water having flowed into it, this
despite the small tube being full and overflowing.
Alex climbed down into
the pit and began digging in the alcove, I was moving the filled buckets and
passing them up to Mike, who then placed the filled buckets into the skip,
hauled by Jonathon, Roz was in control of spoil dispersal. The empty buckets
were returned, the process repeated, many times.
reaches for the mattock
In between moving buckets,
I spent a little bit of time tidying-up a section of the sediment bank where
evidence of flooding and subsequent draining events is clear. It really needs
more time spent on it and a full section cleaned and recorded.
of sediment sequence c.100mm
All too soon it was
time to move the tools to higher ground, just in case, and depart the cave.
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 26, 2018 07:40:14
25th October 2018
With Alex, Nick,
Jonathon, Mike, Duncan and David Walker (curator at the Wells & Mendip
Museum and MCRA)
At the sand dig we were
relieved to see it had dried-up and quite quickly after the fill event by the
look of it. I started to dig in the [dry] alcove, because I got there first,
Alex reduced a limestone boulder in size and removed the slop from the lowest
point of the dig. The spoil management team were not impressed with the slop
and were experiencing some difficulty in extricating it from the bucket. The
solution, they decided, was to put a couple of handfuls of drier sediment into
the bucket first, the diggers, of course, complied with this instruction.
Nick was on the steps
passing the filled buckets to David, loading the skip to the spoil management
team comprising Jon, Mike and Duncan.
When Alex had removed the
slop, he turned his attention to clearing the loose sediment that I was
creating in the alcove. The buckets started to move freely at a good constant
rate. There are some very interesting layers of deposition to look at in the
sediment bank, these can become, somewhat, of a distraction. Flood events and
subsequent drying periods can be clearly distinguished.
All too soon it was time
to stop digging, clear the loose, stash the tools at a safe height and make our
way out of the cave. Changed in the car park and up to the Hunter’s for well-earned
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 19, 2018 06:06:10
18th October 2018
With (l to r) Mike, Duncan, Nick and Tav
After persistent rain
last weekend, it was not a surprise to find that the trip through Chamber 20
was wetter, the calcite cascade had water flowing down it. As suspected the sand
dig was had about a metre of water at the bottom and there was still a trickle
of water flowing into it, as such, it was undiggable. There were a few rocks in
a vulnerable position, if a slump-in occurred they might end up at the bottom
of the dig. So, these were moved and the spoil retaining wall was extended.
We were in the Hunter’s a
bit earlier than usual. At least the forecast is for dry weather for the next
few days, so the dig might drain. Unfortunately, it will not take much rain to
refill it though.
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 12, 2018 05:44:50
11th October 2018
With Nick, Mike,
Jonathon, Tav, Alex and Duncan
Nick, Mike and Jonathon
at the sharp end, digging and filling buckets, then moving the filled buckets
and occasional rocks to Tav who then facilitated dispatch. Alex hauling the
loaded skip and passing buckets and rocks to Duncan. The buckets were emptied
onto the spoil heap where I was on spoil management duties. It was a pleasant
evening with the usual banter and a lot of sediment was shifted. The dig goes
We were joined, for a
while by a large [queen] wasp. It was noted too, that the cave was slowly
becoming wetter, previously dry pools now have water in them.
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 05, 2018 05:27:22
With Roz, Jonathon, Duncan
A mellow evening. Jon and
Mike rotated the digging, Roz transferred the filled buckets to the skip,
Duncan hauled the skip up the slope and I emptied the filled buckets. The procedure
was repeated at a regular rate. A large rock was reduced in size, the pieces
were added to the wall retaining the spoil.
The evening was concluded
at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn in time honoured fashion.
27th September 2018
Duncan, Mike, Jonathon and Alex kept up the effort. Buckets were filled and emptied, rocks were removed.
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, September 29, 2018 07:07:20
Friday evening having just got home
from Exeter, my phone rang, it was an excited John Cooper (JC), another
unexpected development this time in Harry Thomas’s Cave on Gower “drop
everything and come over, you’ll be able to get in”. So, to Gower for the
Saturday: Another early start, 05:00 alarm.
After walking the dog, got back and started to get my act together. An
assortment of kit, just in case, rope, ladders, hangers, SRT kit, cows-tails and
shunt, etc. Got the kit loaded into the hire van I’m currently using for work
purposes (squared with the boss beforehand), breakfast and was on my way at
08:00. Arrived Overton at 10:30, met JC and we made our way along the path to Harry Thomas’s Cave. At the cave
entrance, we got ready to go underground. Just before we ventured below, some
filled bags were moved along the path.
At the bottom of the cave, JC’s
open space did, indeed look enticing and rocks could be heard to rumble on. A
narrowing of the main fissure, c.200mm width, appeared to widen considerably,
c.2m lower down. A boulder strewn floor/slope could just about be seen. It was
a tad awkward head first in the narrow fissure, even more so when trying to
extricate myself. Poked and prodded some jammed rocks, filled some bags, but
most of the spoil was kicked down into the space beyond. JC passed a heavy
wrecking bar, some blows from that on a couple of key-stones did the trick, and
the boulder floor I was sat on, disappeared. Luckily, I was firmly positioned
in the fissure. Soon there was enough space for me to wriggle through into the
enticing space ahead. I slid down a loose scree slope, mostly cobbles and
boulders of limestone, into a roomy, quite well decorated chamber-like
continuation of the fissure, c.4m length, c.5m high and c.2.5m width, dominated
by a large calcite flowstone boss. There were lots more animal bones,
surprisingly most of them appear to be fox, I counted 6no. skulls. I took some
photographs before making my way back out of the extension to re-join JC.
calcite flowstone boss in the extension
We shifted some of the filled bags
from where they were stuffed in various places throughout the cave toward the
surface, some went along to the end of the path. About 15:00 we called it a day
and exited the cave. After securing the cave gate we went in search of Rick
Schulting who was, apparently, starting an archaeological excavation in a cave
nearby. We found and looked at several interesting things, but we didn’t find
Rick. Got back to the vehicles about 17:15.
Fish and chip supper in Port Eynon
for me, then got some supplies from the garage in Knelston and up onto Cefn
Bryn to park up for the night. After watching La Vuelta highlights (on Samsung
tablet with Bluetooth connection to phone), Simon Yates won the Tour, I got my
head down. I then discovered the hire van has an alarm to the back, which was
slightly surprising and a frantic search for the keys to turn it off.
Sunday: It had been a very windy night,
awoke to a grey overcast and, still windy morning. I had arranged to meet JC
and David Hughes (DH) in Overton at 09:30. I hadn’t bought anything for
breakfast, planning instead to get something in Port Eynon, unfortunately
nothing was open. I went, instead to the shop in Scurlage where I purchased a
hot sausage baguette.
Met up with JC and DH, a wet walk
along the path to Harry Thomas’s Cave.
After getting changed we moved more filled bags from the entrance, along the
path. I went underground and climbed up to swap the ropes around so that the
safety line would be more effective. Then, down into the extension, some more
photographs, before trying to enlarge the access slot. It was like a game of
‘Ker-Plunk’, pull one rock out and a whole lot more came tumbling down, making
the climb back out steeper and even more awkward. JC couldn’t accept that he
just wasn’t going to get through at this stage, even more importantly he would
not be able to get out. Eventually, we came to the sensible decision this was
getting us nowhere and spoil should be removed from the top down. I jammed in
some pieces of timber to try and stabilise the scree but was not convinced they
were very effective. JC insisted on bringing down another ladder down to the
bottom, adding to the clutter and not helpful. DH wanted to get away at
lunchtime, so we packed up, secured the cave, and had a damp walk back to the
Left Overton at 14:05, a slow
journey home, Swansea 10k, arrived at Rugmoor about 17:00. I needed a beer and
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, September 27, 2018 05:36:50
25th September 2018: with Snablet, Roz and Tav
An impromptu trip after
Snablet’s enquiry “are we doing anything tonight?” following up some beer
fuelled conversation we’d had on Saturday evening at the Hidden Earth
conference in Churchill.
We sort-of expected the
sand dig to be under water or, at least, wet following the heavy rain that fell
over the last weekend, it was neither, so we set to work. Snablet and Tav
rotated the digging and filling buckets, as one overheated the other took over,
Roz was taking the filled buckets and loading the skip, I was hauling the skip
up the slope and emptying the contents. It was a pleasant, evenly paced session
with plenty of banter.
After the digging session
the evening was rounded off with a trip to the Hunter’s. Snablet is returning
to New Zealand on Thursday. A fine time was had by all.
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 24, 2018 08:31:53
August 2018: With Duncan, Mike,
Jonathon, Nick and Tav
Duncan and Mike down in
the sand-pit digging, Jonathon and myself shifting the filled buckets up to
Nick and Tav who were hauling and emptying the buckets. Plenty of talk about
speleogenesis and looking at scalloping to determine flow direction, seems
recent events in Hallowe’en Rift have got us thinking and talking. Just don’t
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, August 21, 2018 08:38:10
Saturday: Walked the dog, got back coffee
and breakfast, packed kit, loaded van and set-off for the Gower at 08:00, arrived
Overton 10:25. JC wasn’t there but arrived soon after. We walked from Overton
to Harry Thomas’s Cave in mizzle. First
job of the day was to clear bags from various stages in the cave and stack them
in the entrance. Then, we were ready to dig and fill some more bags. While looking
at the progress so far, I noticed what appeared to be animal scratch marks in
the softer calcite and later, took some photographs.
I removed a small bank of wet
claggy scree first, in amongst the sediments several animal bones were
recovered, these were bagged to be identified later. Soon, more bones were
uncovered, including two fox skulls, mandibles with dentition, vertebrae, ribs
etc. There were enough bones to fill a large sample bag, mostly fox, but a few
bones of other species including Rodentia.
Time for a lunch break and we
returned to the surface. After lunch we moved some of the bags stacked in the
entrance along to the end of the path, these can be emptied later. We returned
I continued to dig down in the
fissure and couldn’t believe it when I uncovered a third fox skull, moved a few
more stones and there was the rest of the skeletal remains. At this point, we
decided to stop digging, tidied up and left the cave.
After JC and I parted company I drove
down to Port Eynon where I had intended to go for a swim but the inclement
weather – strong wind, grey and damp – put off that idea and I had a paddle
instead and walked along the beach. I decided while I was here I would get a
fish and chip supper before driving up to Cefn Bryn for the night. It was windy
and low cloud shrouded the hills, no views tonight. Settled down in the van and
wrote up today’s proceedings in my journal.
Was rocked to sleep, not so gently,
by the strong winds and squalls.
Sunday: When I awoke, the weather was much
the same so decided to drive down off Cefn Bryn to find a more sheltered spot
near Stout Hall. Washed, then breakfast, before a toilet stop in Port Eynon.
Met JC and David Hughes in Overton
at 09:00. A wet walk with blustery winds, mizzle and occasional squalls to Harry Thomas’s Cave. In the cave, David
went to the bottom, I was on the mid-point platform, JC at the entrance. We cleared
yesterday’s filled bags and any others that were there. I hauled the bags up
from David in a bucket, then climbed the ladder with bag in hand to dump them on
the entrance platform for JC to clear to the outside.
When David had cleared the filled
bags, he started to dig and fill more, I hauled them up, climbed the ladder and
dumped the bags on the entrance platform, then returned to repeat the procedure
many times. We also cleared a pile of loose large cobbles and boulders of
When JC had a backlog of spoil, I went
to the surface to move the bags along the path. Lunchtime came.
After lunch, David moved bags on
the surface, I returned underground with my Disto X310 to take some
measurements, JC came down to take some photographs. It was then decided to
call it a day, the remains of the third fox unexcavated, secured the cave and
made our way back to the vehicles parked in Overton.
I left for home c.15:00, brief stop
in Knelston for some supplies, arriving back at Rugmoor c.17:45. An interesting
and productive weekend.
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, August 21, 2018 06:40:41
16th August 2018: With Roz, Jonathon, Duncan,
Tav, Nick and Mike.
Nick, Tav and Mike down
in the sand-pit; Duncan, Jon and Roz were on hauling duties; after taking a few
photographs, I was emptying the buckets. The sediment removed varied from sand
to boulders and there was plenty of it, plenty more to come too!
It was a pleasant evening
with lots of friendly banter.
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 10, 2018 06:16:519th August 2018:
with Brockers, Tav, Nick, Jon, Duncan and Alex.
Jon, Nick and Tav playing in the sand-pit with their buckets and spades, Duncan took away their buckets, while the rest of us hauled-away and emptied the buckets and then, sent the buckets back. Some rocks were broken-up too, until Jon broke the hammer. A good time was had by all!
field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 03, 2018 06:30:49
2nd August 2018: I haven’t managed to dig
in Wookey Hole for a while due to one thing or another, in the meantime, the
rest of the team have continued with the task. Good to get back and see the progress
With Mike, Alex,
Jonathon, Duncan, Claire, Tav took some Wessex members for a tour around
Chamber 20, etc., he joined us later.
Mike and me digging, the
others clearing the spoil away. The digging was not speedy, some big boulders
impeding progress, scratched around them and managed to shift a couple of them.
The way forward is not entirely clear, so keep digging and see what happens. It
was warm, as ever.