rambling on

is all about excursions in the countryside including caving and digging trips, walks and thoughts.

Simmonds, V. 2014. An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst. Mendip Cave Register & Archive (MCRA). (currently being revised, 2016)

I've compiled 'An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst' that is freely available online at www.mendipgeoarch.net and in the archaeology section of the Mendip Cave Register & Archive at www.mcra.org.uk

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, November 09, 2018 06:27:28

8th November 2018: with Alex, Mike, Jonathon and Roz

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.
Alex 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.
Height 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.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

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 refreshments.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

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.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

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 on!

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.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 05, 2018 05:27:22

4th October 2018

With Roz, Jonathon, Duncan and Mike

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.

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Gower Peninsula, Wales

field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, September 29, 2018 07:07:20

15th-16th September 2018

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 weekend.

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.

The calcite flowstone boss in the extension

Bones, mostly fox

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 vehicles.

Left Overton at 14:05, a slow journey home, Swansea 10k, arrived at Rugmoor about 17:00. I needed a beer and to chill-out.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

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.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 24, 2018 08:31:53

23rd 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 mention paragenesis!

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Gower Peninsula, Wales

field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, August 21, 2018 08:38:10

18th-19th August 2018

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 underground.

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 limestone.

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.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

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.

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 10, 2018 06:16:51
9th 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!

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Wookey Hole, Mendip

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 made.

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.

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