Blog Image


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 dig to the 'east' side of the entrance, leading to An Unexpected Development in August 2018, 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 also includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price, Mike Moxon and Matt Tuck. There has been occasional help from others including Caroline Allen, Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, and several appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasey.

There have been visits from some notable experts in their various fields including: Charlie Self, Andy Farrant, Christopher Smith, Derek Ford, Joyce Lundberg, Don MacFarlane, Marc Luetscher and Gina Moseley. All have added to a better understanding of Hallowe'en Rift.

12th June

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, June 13, 2021 11:06:57

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Nick, and Tav.

A glorious morning, plenty of warm sunshine.

Morning session: I was digging, aided by Tav who cleared away the filled bags and occasionally loosened sediment and also filled some bags. Jake and Nick were hauling skips, transferring spoil to the surface, and some “tidying” was inevitably being carried out. Brockers hauled the bags out of the cave, the bags were stashed aside to be emptied later. Around 60-70 skip loads up to the surface and about midday, the underground team decided it was time to return to the surface and empty the bags. I stayed underground a bit longer to take some photos. Lunch was taken.

Tav adds another bag of spoil to the heap. Photographed 12th June 2021.

Afternoon session: My turn on the surface, Tav was at the bottom of the entrance, Jake, and Nick further along the passage clearing away from Brockers, who was digging. Another 60-70 skips-loads out to the surface and bags set aside to be emptied later at the end of the session. It was pleasant on the surface and the flies were not too irritating yet. The pulley system makes hauling so much easier. It was another productive digging session!

The Soft South. Photographed 12th June 2021.

5th June

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, June 13, 2021 10:50:10

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers, Duncan, Nick, and Tav.

A full-strength team today and the weather was good.

Morning session: Jake and Jon digging, Brockers and Duncan clearing away, me, Nick and Tav on the surface. An extra pair of hands on the surface meant that some spoil heap re-distribution was possible. Work was concentrated on levelling the lower part of the heap to enable another terrace wall to be constructed. The filled bags from the morning session were rolled down the slope and emptied behind the existing retainer wall to further consolidate it.

After enjoying our lunch, we moved a quantity of rocks and rolled them down the slope so that the terrace wall could be started.

Afternoon session: Brockers and Duncan digging, Nick and Tav clearing away, on the surface, Jon was hauling, I was shuttling bags to the spoil heap, Jake was building the terrace wall and emptying bags.

Today’s total was somewhere around 150 bags and several rocks, no-one seemed to be counting really. The spoil heap does look much tidier now.

The spoil heap. Photographed 12th June 2021.

29th May

digging 2021 Posted on Tue, June 01, 2021 05:54:06

Vince, Jake, Nick, Tav, Brockers and Duncan.

Some decent weather at last and surface duties were a popular option today.

Morning session: me and Jake were on the surface; Brockers and Duncan were digging with Nick and Tav clearing away. Now it had dried out a bit, some spoil heap re-distribution could be carried out. As the filled bags (and rocks) started to appear at a regular rate then emptying the bags took priority. Jake hauled up 50 bags or so, then we swapped places. Hauling is so much easier with the pulley system in place and functioning, easier on the back! About 100 filled bags rocks out to the surface and added to the spoil heap, it was time for lunch.

Afternoon session: Brockers and Duncan took over on the surface, Nick and Tav were digging, leaving me and Jake to clear away the bags and rocks. One of the drag trays died and needed replacing, making the haul a little easier. 50 bags were filled and quite a few rocks including a large, heavy boulder (probably 100kg) that was to test the branch on the way up. Thankfully, the branch was up to the job and the boulder made it to the surface.

The bag count for today: circa 150 plus an uncounted number of rocks for wall building some time in the future. Another productive session, there is a sizeable chamber in the Soft South!

22nd May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 23, 2021 11:45:32

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers, Nick, and Duncan.

Morning session: me and Jake digging, I concentrated my effort in the lower southwest section while Jake dug along the mid-level bench. Nick and Duncan clearing away (Nick, also carrying out some skip-run maintenance/improvements), Brockers and Jon were on surface duties. The spoil removal progressed at a steady rate until we decided to stop for lunch around 12:30. It was rather pleasant in the sunshine, a nice change following the persistent rain during the last couple of days.

After lunch there was some debate about who was doing what then, a plan was hatched to fix up a pulley system over the entrance, Nick had supplied a shiny new pulley. A suitable branch seemed to be in the right position, although some doubts were expressed by a few people. All we needed was someone to climb the branch and secure the tape sling, carabiner, and pulley in place, that person was me. It was soon sorted and all we needed to do now was try it out, so off we went back underground.

Photograph by Brockers!

Afternoon session: bags were filled, cleared, and loaded into the skip and up they went, the pulley system worked better than expected. There was, of course, the usual issue of the rope being difficult to grip as it became muddier but still it worked. The argument for not setting-up a pulley system earlier, well, we had to wait for the branch to attain a suitable size.

Anyway, back to the digging, the bags to be filled were restricted to 50 for this session due to them being especially difficult to empty now they were claggy, and there were plenty of rocks on the surface to be moved to the location for another wall to be built. As the bag supply dwindled at the dig face the number of rocks being removed started to increase, this was unfortunate as the section of sediment I had spent the morning squaring up had now been destroyed, which was disappointing as I did not get to record it. Will have to start again.

The ‘Soft South’

15th May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 16, 2021 10:14:42

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, Nick, and Duncan.

Unsettled weather was forecast, a mixture of sunshine and showers. It had been raining earlier but was dry as we walked to the cave.

Morning session, Jake digging in the southwest lower section, Duncan clearing away the bags and digging along the mid-level bench extension, I was hauling and transferring the spoil from skip to skip at the junction/corner, Jon was at the bottom of the entrance. On the surface, Brockers was joined by a latecomer, Nick. We all settled into a good consistent rate of spoil removal and movement. By 12:30, about 100 skip loads (bags and rocks) had made the journey out onto the spoil heap and we decided it was time for lunch. Unfortunately, our picnic was disrupted by a shower of rain and, after some debate, we decided to return to the task in hand.

Afternoon session, me and Jake opted to take over the surface duties, Duncan at the bottom of the entrance. However, this left Jon digging in the lower south/southwest section, Brockers at the mid-level bench and Nick at the junction/corner where he was ‘side-tracked’ somewhat by his own ‘flood alleviation project’ (I have to admit to having carried out some clandestine work here myself during the morning session!). The result of this was three people were now filling bags and shifting rocks. The hauling out of the cave was relentless and the task was not made any easier as the rope became claggy as frequent showers passed over. And the midges were increasingly irritating in the humidity. Jake and I swapped around at regular intervals as the midges seemed particularly attracted to the area around the cave entrance. We started to dump the spoil in another overspill area as the regular tip needed some attention, there were some signs that a slump might occur, especially if affected by more persistent rain.

The session came to an end when all the bags had been filled and emptied then hung-up. If they do not ‘dry out’ at least they will get a good rinsing! Last job of the day was to haul out the small stockpile of rocks, useful wall building material. I did not return underground to take photographs today, next weekend.

8th May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 09, 2021 10:01:50

Vince, Nick, Jake, Duncan, Jon and Tav.

A grey, overcast morning but it seemed that the heavy rain had passed over and would not spoil the lunchtime picnic.

Morning session, me and Nick digging, Jon and Tav clearing away, Jake and Duncan on the surface. We decided to start removing the lower bench to widen the “chamber” at current floor level, this requires that the mid-level bench be re-cut (a task to keep Nick occupied). With the so much spoil being removed and quickly too the expansion of the “chamber” in the Soft South is clearly visible, almost as you dig! There was an interesting moment as a large slump of material occurred, resulting in plenty of stuff to bag-up. Will need to be more careful when undercutting the dig-face. About 100 bags filled plus rocks, a natural pause, it was time for a break. To the surface for lunch.

Down in the ‘Soft South’, the dig on the western side, photographed 8th May 2021.

Afternoon session, Jon and Tav took over the digging, Jake and Duncan clearing away, leaving me and Nick on the surface. The hauling and bag emptying tasks on the surface were split, 50 bags then swap around, made it a bit easier on the back. The bags were hung-up on the lines to ‘dry’ out, some were getting quite claggy. It was another productive day and 200+ bags were filled plus a quantity of rocks to be added to the wall sometime.

Photographs were taken at the end of the session, the cave secured, and we left for our respective homes.

1st May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 02, 2021 08:50:30

Vince, Jake, Nick, Tav, Jon, Brockers and Duncan.

Following my 2nd covid vaccination jab on Tuesday I have been suffering with an ‘iffy’ shoulder, hauling stuff out to the surface and digging is off the agenda for me. I settled down at the bottom of the entrance and transferred the spoil from skip to skip, out to the surface. The surface duties were attended to by Nick and Brockers (pre-lunch) followed by Tav and Jon (post-lunch). The main diggers were Tav and Jon (early session), Jake and Duncan (later session) there was, of course, some alternative digging mostly by Nick and Brockers. At the end of the day, a lot of spoil was shifted; about 250 bags and several loads of rock, some requiring the use of the ‘rock-net’.

During the lunch break a start was made on another extension to the spoil heap; brambles were slashed and walling re-located. A task to be continued at a later date.

At the end of the session, photos were taken.

Dig trending to west – southwest. Photo taken 01/05/2021.

During the post-lunch session, a visit to site by Caroline and Rebecca. Caroline stayed on to have a look at the current dig in the Soft South.

Tools lined up ready for the next session! Photo taken 01/05/2021

24th April

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, April 25, 2021 11:22:01

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Nick, Tav, and later, Caroline.

A lovely sunny day perfect for digging, and long may it continue. Tav turned up laden with digging skips and a rope net expertly constructed by Dave Brook and kindly donated to the cause by Alison Moody. These were to be put into use as soon as digging was underway.

I was digging, Jake on the surface and the rest of the team dealt with clearance of the filled backs and sporadic rocks. About 50 skip loads out of the cave, stopped digging and up to the surface to empty the bags. All change, I stated on the surface, Brockers took over digging, the rest of the team clearing away. It was pleasant on the surface in the spring sunshine sheltered from the breeze and not too many flies about yet. Just after midday Caroline turned up with [warm] sausage rolls for our lunch, and then proceeded to empty the bags that were on the surface, top effort!

The underground team returned to the surface and we had a welcome and well-deserved break.

Back to the fray, Nick digging, Brockers on the surface, and the rest of us clearing away. Another 50 or so bags were filled and hauled out of the cave before we decided to stop digging and empty the bags. That was the end of underground activities so went to have a look at the end and take some photos.

There are some interesting developments at the business end and the progress being made with the longer sessions is noticeable. Today’s total, about 160 bags and several rocks.

Circa south-west facing section, scale = 2m.

17th April

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, April 18, 2021 12:04:42

Vince, Jake, Brockers and Tav.

A depleted team today, some have gone diving and another has vehicular and mobility problems. No matter just means we will have to stack stuff in the entrance and work in shifts.

All underground, Jake digging, Tav and Brockers clearing away the filled bags and I stacked the spoil in the entrance. After about 20 bags Brockers decided to go to the surface and haul out the bags then returned to his position on the corner to resume his original task. We kept at it until mid-day when we all exited the cave to clear-out the entrance stash. The bags were emptied onto the spoil heap. The now compressed sediment was less easy to coax from the bags. Some spoil heap management was required, and any loose stones were added to the wall.

Time for refreshment. It was very pleasant in the warm spring sunshine (no flies yet!).

Brockers contemplates where to dig next! Photo taken 17/04/2021.

Back underground, Brockers digging, me and Tav clearing away and Jake stacking the spoil in the entrance. We are not spoiled for choice with where to dig, there is just a lot of stuff to shift. About 40 or 50 bags filled we decided it was time to clear the entrance again. The total for the day, 110 bags plus several loads of rocks. Good effort from the smaller team.

As ever the more sediment that is removed then more features are revealed, more discussions, more head-scratching, it is all very interesting. Photos were taken but it was quite steamy in the digging ‘chamber’ following the day’s efforts. The first bluebottle of the year was seen!

The southwest dig-face. Photo taken 17/04/2021.

10th April

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, April 11, 2021 06:48:16

Vince, Jake, Brockers, Nick, Tav, Jon, Duncan, and Mike.

A ‘full’ complement of participants today, we split into two groups; one group on the surface consisting of me, Jake and Brockers, the second group underground. The extra pair of hands on the surface enabled spoil heap management to be undertaken and the slope was redistributed. The use of a digging hoe was effective in moving the spoil to pack the space alongside the retaining wall. During sediment movement any stones recovered were added to wall where required.

It was a full-on effort during the morning session with Jake and Brockers rotating the hauling and emptying of bags. About 120 bags and a few skip-loads of rocks were removed from the Soft South out to the spoil heap.

Lunchtime, it was pleasant in the sheltered sunshine.

After break, Mike, Jon and Tav took on the surface duties, me and Brockers were digging, Jake, Nick and Duncan moved the filled bags and sporadic rocks along the passage to the bottom of the entrance, where the spoil was pulled out to the surface. There had been a baulk section between the two areas of digging, this was now mostly removed to allow ease of movement. This had taken-up most of the morning session and part of the afternoon too. The rest of the second session concentrated on expansion. The small fissure in the roof (south-west face) was partially cleared adding a bit more height to the expanding ‘chamber’, lower down, a ‘spread’ of boulders and fragmented calcite is being exposed. Between the boulders appear to be tiny ‘voids’ and the floor seems to be dipping downwards.

Another 120 or so bags and some large rocks were moved up to the surface, the total of loads removed today, about 270, a very productive session. No photos today.

5th April

digging 2021 Posted on Fri, April 09, 2021 05:42:23

With Jake, Jon, Nick, Tav, Duncan and Brockers.

Jake had commented on Saturday “we need to make up for lost time”, Nick had earlier postulated “200 bags!”, so we gathered again for a ‘super’ session. The predicted wintry weather had not materialised, in fact, according to the surface crews, it was pleasantly sunny.

During the morning session, Jake and Tav took on the surface duties, the rest of were underground. Brockers joined us a bit later in the morning. The underground duties were rotated, and 124 bags were filled, dragged, and pulled up the entrance to be emptied onto the spoil heap.

At lunchtime, all gathered around the entrance for refreshments in the sunshine.

The afternoon session followed, this time Jon and Nick were on the surface, Brockers, Jake and Tav took it in turns to dig, Duncan and I hauled the bags and loaded the skip up to the surface. Another 120 or so bags went out of the cave plus a few skip-loads of stones, a total of 250 for the very productive ‘super’ session.

A large, displaced stalagmite, now cemented, has been partially exposed. Further evidence for frost/ice damage ? Photo taken 05/04/2021

3rd April

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, April 03, 2021 14:45:24

At last breaking free from lockdown and the digging team assembled for the first time in 2021. After a quick chat underground, I returned to the surface with Brockers to haul-out and empty bags, etc. The rest of the team mixed it up underground and shared the duties. The filled bags emerged from the cave at a steady rate, 115 of them and a few rocks too, all pulled out by Brockers! It was very pleasant on the surface in the early spring sunshine and sheltered from the breeze.

Brockers welcomes Duncan back to the surface!

The team enjoyed themselves so much that we have decided on another session on Monday.

A happy team after a good digging session.
More of the calcite flowstone exposed and a possible floor level is emerging.

27th March

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, March 28, 2021 07:56:17

Vince, Roz and Brockers. Later in the morning, Caroline helped out with emptying the bags.

At the cave the work was concentrated on the uppermost level and cleaning a section there, this involved some reduced level excavation. Started the session digging on my side, by the end I was kneeling. 40 bags were filled, dragged away, and hauled out of the cave (the hauling done by Brockers). Caroline turned up to lend a hand as we started to empty the bags.

The uppermost level, cleaning the section underway. 6″ trowel for scale because I forgot to bring the proper scale.

20th March

digging 2021 Posted on Mon, March 22, 2021 18:56:56

Vince, Roz and Brockers.

Carried on where we left off last weekend. Extended the upper section up to a small fissure in the roof, cleared some loose stuff away but could not see much. The exposed deposition layering continues to be intriguing and of particular interest was some layers formed over fallen boulders.

Sediment deposition over fallen rocks.

The extra pair of helping hands resulted in more stuff out to the surface, 36 bags emptied onto the spoil heap this weekend. There is still more to be done and looking forward to the team reuniting when the lockdown is over.

Calcite flowstone (?) partially exposed at base of scale.

13th March

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, March 14, 2021 07:28:08

Vince and Roz.

6th March

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, March 14, 2021 07:23:34

Vince and Roz

28th February

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, February 28, 2021 14:10:36
Packs of empty bags and buckets stashed underground ready and waiting for digging activities to be recommenced. It has been far too long!!!

9th January

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, January 10, 2021 06:37:36
The cave entrance

Just me today. Some spoil management required, the morning spent trying to extricate my boots from especially glutinous mud!

The spoil heap

2nd January

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, January 03, 2021 08:18:45

A low turnout for the first digging session of 2021 but, not wholly unexpected. The UK government has imposed more corona-virus pandemic restrictions, that includes an ever-fluctuating and rather confusing “Tier” system. And, the weather is not great, temperatures are just about at freezing point or below and the roads are icy.

As a follow up to a suggestion that buckets might be much easier to empty, I had made a cradle/skip to pull buckets/containers up and out of the entrance rift and today was an opportunity to try the system out. I had a couple of buckets at home and also, had converted a couple of 20 litre drums into ‘suitable’ containers for spoil. As we were underground anyway, we decided to fill some bags as well. Brockers was upfront filling the bags, I cleared them away and filled the containers, the bags and containers then were shuttled along to the junction. To make it easier to get up and down the ever-deepening pit at the current end of the Soft South a ladder was put in place. It was revealed that the “solid floor” partially exposed last session, is probably a large boulder.

We filled about 30 bags (plus the other receptacles) then decided it was time to move the spoil up to the surface and add it to the spoil-heap. I can categorically state that the 4no. containers were far easier to empty than any of the bags. However, for the alternative to be a success we need a lot more containers when it is considered that we have 100+ bags available to be filled with sediment.

It was also noted that the spoil heap requires some attention, and a redistribution of sediment is necessary.

As I drove back across the border to a “Tier 3 Area” it was snowing quite heavily!

26th December 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, December 27, 2020 07:19:27

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Nick. and Duncan.

Boxing Day digging session, Nick and Duncan were up front, although I expect Nick did the vast majority of the digging. Jake was at the junction, I was at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers did the hauling on the surface. I did offer to rotate places with Brockers if he wanted but the offer was declined, the rate of bags today was not quite as relentless as of late. It was too much to expect Brockers to empty the bags as well, not an easy task at the best of times, and we finished filling and the hauling bags to return to the surface and empty out the bags. After quite a lot of rain recently the spoil heap shows some signs of slumping and the big old beech tree has finally fallen down.

Nick suggested there is a possibility that a solid floor is slowly being revealed, or it might be a rock ledge, time will tell.

It was still grey, wet, and windy (Storm Bella is forecast to arrive tonight) not a pleasant day.

19th December

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, December 20, 2020 07:22:16

Vince, Brockers, Duncan, Nick, Jake, Jon and Tav.

A fine body of men filled with vigour and ready for the usual Saturday digging session in Hallowe’en Rift, socially distanced, of course. The expansion work in the, still dry, Soft South continues.

Brockers at the forefront, I was backing up, doing some digging and loading the filled bags into the skip. Duncan was hauling from the junction corner; Nick was at the bottom of the entrance transferring the load into the next skip to be hauled out to the surface. Jake, Jon and Tav were rotating the surface duties, Jake had begun the session underground but difficulties with emptying the filled bags required a reallocation of personnel and so up he went to the surface.

Brockers filling bags

Although it is non-stop the digging is probably the easiest task of the day (at present) and another 100+ bags were filled, dragged, hauled up the shaft and, with some difficulty, emptied onto the burgeoning spoil heap. We ran out of bags to fill around 13:00 signalling the end of the digging session. By this time the hauling rope is caked with mud and it is hard to maintain a good safe grip.

December, post-‘lockdown 2’

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, December 13, 2020 08:56:37

Following another period of disruption caused by UK Government imposed ‘lockdown’ , the digging continues!

A mellow morning spent digging in the Soft South. Sitting back and observing the roof and thinking back to an exercise a few years ago when Alex and I tried to establish the depth of the entrance – we dug down c.2.5m below existing floor level but never did find solid rock. In the Soft South, at the end of the session we did not count the bags that had been hauled out to the surface and emptied onto the spoil heap, but it must have been well over 50. Good session.

Anther week, another session, and back to the Soft South, which was surprisingly dry. There had been quite a lot of rain on the north side of the hill last night/early this morning.
Once we had agreed our strategy and method it was all go, everyone seemed to be doing something; I was digging, Jake was digging, Nick was doing his own thing and Brockers, in between stacking bags in the entrance, was breaking up rocks with the sledge hammer, the rocks had been supplied to him by Nick. It was all very industrious! Sitting back for a moment, looking around and pondering, this is a big section of passage and we have decided to find out just how big. It is also easy digging, ridiculously easy. And there is the added bonus that it is completely “twat-free”. Many years ago, Willie Stanton predicted that this area might be a suitable spot for ‘archaeological/paleontological’ deposits or artefacts, it will be interesting to test this prediction. By the end of the session, all the available space in the entrance had been completely filled with bags and there was a boulder ruckle. No-one really counted but approximately 100 bags and 20 skip-loads of rock were hauled out to the surface and added to the spoil heap. Below ground, the difference was noticeable. A superb session and it is so good to get back to proper digging with your mates!

And so it goes on, the full quota of six today. Continued the Soft South excavation which, again, was still dry after recent rain, just like last weekend. Jake and Nick digging and filling bags, I was at the junction/corner after a quick foray to the Sunny South-West to retrieve some tools that were left there. Duncan was at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers and Tav worked in tandem on the surface, well aware that the supply of filled bags from the cave would be relentless with two digging. And the digging is really easy. About 110 filled bags were hauled out and emptied onto the spoil heap. It is looking quite interesting down in the Soft South, not only is it a big sediment “passage” but it appears that it might go deep too. A vertical face is being revealed with fluted calcite flowstone, the next few sessions will reveal more.

Into the Soft South
Digging underway!
Sediment deposition layering

We are leaving some sediment in-situ to see if the layering within the sediments will inform about flows and fill processes. From the small section(s) already exposed it is clear that many events have occurred in the past. At this stage we are following the downwards trend of the sediment layering. It is clear that more research is required, and this is ongoing.

The next instalment. It is still nice and dry in the Soft South and the expansion works continued. Tav and Jon were upfront, both were digging and filling bags. Brockers was at the junction, in between bags he was scraping the slop from the skip route and filling bags. I was at the bottom of the entrance hauling away the filled bags and transferring the bags into the skip to the surface where Jake were hauling out and emptying the bags onto the spoil heap. There were just over 110 bags hauled up the entrance and emptied. The quantity of sediment removed each session from the Soft South means that there is a noticeable difference to the dig at the end of each session. The impression that there is a deep, sediment filled pot has not changed yet. It was another jovial “twat-free” session with lots of nonsensical banter and laughter. This is proper digging!  

31st October 2020, and it’s Hallowe’en!

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, November 01, 2020 06:25:18

Vince, Nick, Jake, Jon, and Brockers.

Before we ventured underground, we gathered around the cave entrance for a discussion regarding the different digging opportunities open to us. There was scope for two diggers to go to the Cold Gnarly North, others might continue in the Sunny South-West, and there was always the Soft South to fall back on, we could carry out one or decide on a variety of permutations. Eventually, to aid the decision-making process, we went underground to check conditions, there has been quite a bit of rain recently.

Brockers made a beeline to the Soft South and quickly made the decision to remove the accumulation of ‘slop’ there, after bailing the puddle of water. After a secondary sub-discussion, Nick was on his way to the Sunny South-West and I decided to join him, Jake and Jon opted to assist Brockers. No-one ventured to the Cold Gnarly North.

In the south-west, me and Nick reviewed the options and previous digging efforts and came up with a plan and an alternative random dig site, Nick was happy there was somewhere he could dig. I left him to it and returned to the junction to haul the loaded skips from both the ‘sloppy’ south and the more ‘random’ south-west’, it was going to be a busy morning. Jake shifted position to stack the bags in the entrance, those bags of wet slop at the bottom were going to be a ‘joy’ to empty later!

All was calm and mellow, the diggers were happy in their respective endeavours, after the recent spate of breakthroughs and explorations, it was something of a relief to return to ‘proper’ digging, lying around in wet, claggy mud and filling bags with slop and sediment, ultimately to empty them again later in the morning, albeit in a different location.

It was a good session, in excess of 80 bags were hauled out of the entrance, the contents of the bags then coaxed, with varying difficulty, out onto the spoil heap. And the sun was shining for us, all was good!

The morning was finished off with refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. Unbeknown to us then, probably the last Saturday pub visit for several weeks to come!

24th October 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, October 25, 2020 05:42:40

Vince, Nick, Jake, Jon and Brockers.

After some discussion at the entrance me and Nick went along to the “Cold Gnarly North” while Jake, Jon and Brockers returned to the “Sunny South West”.

We had decided to revisit the “Cold Gnarly North” to retrieve the empty packs of bags, tools and other sundry items including my ‘bang’ wire. While we were there, we had a chat regarding digging options and decided that we should leave some tools and bags there so that digging might be continued although it would be a bit on the slow side. The rest of the stuff was dragged back to the junction, after rearranging some of the skips to do so, where it could be utilised further.

The others had amassed quite a pile of bags and rocks, so Nick went out to the surface, and I took a position at the bottom of the entrance, and the backlog was cleared. It was reported back that while the initial digging had been productive it then petered out as calcite/conglomerate obstructions were encountered. This restricted the options and digging became difficult, a rethink is needed.

We returned to the surface to empty bags. That done, the cave secured, back to the farm to change. Refreshment was taken at the Hunter’s, thankfully the rain keeping the grockles away and there was plenty of seating available.

17th October 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, October 18, 2020 07:53:03

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

The winter migration to the ‘Sunny South West’ continued. We had a plan, well, more of a cobbled together idea really that came to fruition. Brockers sourced a generator, Jake brought along his 110v Hilti breaker, there were cables a plenty and everything was carried up the hill to the cave.

Jake went ahead to the ‘Sunny South West’ with his breaker and dragging one end of a cable with him, Jon ventured forward to lend assistance. The rest of us milled around on the surface until the generator was fired up and running. Nick went underground, soon followed by Brockers; I was left on the surface to baby-sit the “genny”. I occupied some of my time with spoil slope management and adding more stones to the wall. Underground, Jake was breaking-out rock, Nick had started an alternative route, Brockers and Jon assisting wherever they could. Eventually, there were bags to haul up to the surface and empty onto the spoil heap. When all the team were reassembled on the surface a discussion ensued, it was apparent that the breaker had not been a great success, but Nick’s dig has some promise. The upshot is that we have a viable dig to pursue, we were happy with that. All that was left to do was secure the entrance and lug all the paraphernalia back down to the farm.

10th October 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, October 11, 2020 17:36:32

Vince, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

A mellow morning digging session back in the “Sunny South-West” passage. We had spent quite some time enlarging this passage only to put it on the ‘back-burner’ in favour of the “Cold Gnarly North”. Nick was poked into the rather constricted end and left to his own devices in an effort to make it a little bit larger. Digging was awkward so bag removal was steady rather than rapid, but progress was made. There were, of course, the usual discussions about the best way to proceed.

3rd October 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, October 04, 2020 08:36:32

Vince, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

Back to the east-side of the entrance to have another, more concentrated look at the potential leads we noted last weekend. We split into two pairs with each tackling a lead. Jon and I looked at a location just beyond the climb down, “Thalt shall not dig there”, that leads into the bedding, while Jake and Nick explored to the left-side of the breakthrough point into “An Unexpected Development (AUD)”.

Jon and I cleared a narrow path through the fractured flowstone following a roof ‘trough’ for a few metres to reach a calcited blockage and no real prospect of progressing further. A tiny airspace can be seen to follow a phreatic arched passage, but it is probably not worth the effort. Jake and Nick had a bit more success in extending the low bedding that had been entered last session and added about a body length to it. This is heading towards the AUD extension to the right of the breakthrough, not much to be gained pursuing this any further. In the aven area, calcite is the problem, the gaps are small, and the flowstone is thick and fills them all. Can’t ‘bang’ it and can’t budge it with a bar either. So, all in all, inconclusive. It will require some thought. We called it a day.

26th September 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, September 27, 2020 06:47:48

Vince, Jake, Brockers, Jon and Nick.

Following a brief discussion during the mid-week, we had made the decision to cross to the other side and revisit “An Unexpected Development” for a change of scenery and while it is still dry in the cave. I had packed a bag with ladder, rope, slings, and carabiners necessary for descending the rift.

So off we went. It was interesting along the way to find that a thin layer of calcite had been precipitated onto the floor and walls of the passage indicating that the water has a high level of carbonate in solution. Also noted were lots of moth and large fly wings scattered on the floor.

In “An Unexpected Development” the rift was rigged, and we all descended to the bottom. The tools that had been left there were collected together and the skips, these were hauled up the rift to be taken out ready for use elsewhere. A climb at the bottom of the rift up through jammed boulders of fractured calcite was completed, this led nowhere. The rift tidy we made our way back up and out.

On the way we stopped to look at some potential leads that had been overlooked when we had broken through in the extensions. At least two of them warrant closer attention and we plan to return to follow them up. A change is as good as a rest and so we will leave the Cold Gnarly North and do something different, for a while. Our prodding added about 10m to the length of this area. It had been a pleasant foray to the east-side.

12th September 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, September 13, 2020 07:50:44

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

Missed last weekend (5th-6th September) as I was excavating at Bagpit with Professor Danielle Schreve and Ali Moody to extract some Pleistocene animal bones, mainly aurochsen and horse. This meant that there was nothing to clear this weekend.

A bit of a re-assessment at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North. The potential route through the small phreatic “eye-hole” appears to be closing down, it is only few centimetres wide. Last week’s clearing session had removed some of the sediment in the floor, so a decision was made to widen the passage in a downwards direction.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team decided to have a good tidy up, digs seem to accumulate lots of bits of tat and, of course “dead” skips. A bit of digging was also carried out in one of the alternative dig spots.

Refreshments were partaken in the garden of the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. It was a pleasant sunny afternoon.

5th September 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Mon, September 07, 2020 06:42:49

I was occupied with another excavation project this weekend, but activities in Hallowe’en Rift carried on regardless.

Jon’s report on Saturday’s dig:

“A reduced team of four diggers (Paul, Nick, Jake and Jon) attended this session, all complying the request to be prompt. In the absence of the most sage of the Elders, Paul was appointed Leader for the day.

It was a fine September morning; not hot but with warmth in the sunshine. This promoted a slight feeling of apathy within the team.

Some discussion was held about whether or not to take a drill underground to prepare some holes for a subsequent bang. With the main intention being to haul out the previous bang debris, and a limited team size, it was decided to concentrate on just clearing out.

Some discussion was then held about whether or not to take a hammer drill underground to chisel out rock loosened by the previous bang. Unfortunately, despite a very thorough search of Nick’s car, involving the entire team, an appropriate chisel was not found.

At the entrance, our Leader indicated that Nick should go to the dig face, supported by Jon. Jake was at the Aven, leaving our Leader to stack bags (and dig?) at the bottom of the slope.

The bang debris was duly removed, amounting to 21 bags and 4 loads of rocks. The team then retired to a local beer garden for light refreshment.”

29th August 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, August 30, 2020 07:31:29

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Duncan and, another late show by Nick (it is becoming a habit!).

The usual thing, up to the end, check all was good and start clearing the debris. All the loose material loaded directly into the skip to be bagged elsewhere. Some hammer and chisel work removed fractured rock from the walls.

At present, the way forward looks a bit disappointing having closed down considerably and has become choked with fine gravel. There is still air movement coming from the slot. It would seem that following the narrow slot in a northerly direction remains the best option but probably need to start going downwards too. That is the plan.

Refreshments were partaken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

22nd August 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, August 23, 2020 06:43:58

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, and a later appearance by Nick.

At the end of Cold Gnarly North, all was as it should have been. To save time I got on with the clearing of debris, hammer and chiselling the fractured rock from the walls as well. The “eye-hole” has been opened enough to get a glimpse of what lies beyond, frustratingly, it is not as open as hoped for. A slot continues in an approximately northerly direction, but it is narrow, that said, there is air movement emanating from it, that, at least is encouraging. There was some loose debris in the slot that was not possible to remove, it might widen lower down. The expansion work continues.

Refreshments were enjoyed in the garden at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

Log entry, 16th August 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, August 16, 2020 07:54:17

It’s been a bit hectic lately and haven’t had the time to update the blog until now.

15th August 2020

Vince, Jon, Jake, Duncan, Brockers and Nick.

Might be under some time pressure today as the Hunter’s has re-opened at last. As expected, the main topic of conversation at the farm was – the pub’s open!

Got to the dig after reeling in the wire, all was good, Jon declined the offer to swap places, so I got on with clearing the debris. All clear, the expansion works continued.

By the time I surfaced the team had gone, I secured the cave and returned to the farm, as expected there was no-one there, all had left. I found them at the Hunter’s, sat in the garden, in the rain but their little faces were beaming with happiness. Ah! The simple pleasures of a digging trip.

8th August 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jon and Duncan.

All good at the current end of Cold Gnarly North, Brockers cleared the loose debris and fractured rock, loading it directly into the skip. Back in the small chamber near the aven, I hauled the loaded skip back and emptied the contents into bags, transferred the filled bags to another skip which was hauled away by Duncan and on to Jon who temporarily stashed the filled bags in a convenient location awaiting removal later in the session. When all hade been cleared from the far end the team moved back and the bags were hauled out to the surface and emptied onto the spoil heap. Meanwhile, the expansion process continues.

I emerged from the cave into very warm sunshine. Refreshments at the farm, a chinwag and then home to clean and sort the kit. Off to Gower later this afternoon.

1st August 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, August 02, 2020 07:41:37

Vince, Brockers, Jon, Tav and a late appearance by Nick.

At the current end of Cold Gnarly North, checked to make sure all was good before the morning’s activities got underway, quite a lot of gravel had had been ejected along the approach and needed tidying. Tav followed me up for a gander but declined the offer to swap places and clear so I got on with it. Loose debris was placed into the skip and bagged-up by Tav in the small chamber near the aven. The filled bags then hauled along to a temporary stash in the “spa pool”, now just a muddy puddle. The filled bags were moved to the surface and emptied later in the morning.

All cleared, a total of eight holes were then drilled, two clusters of 4no. holes, dimensions c.450mm x 12mm, placed on the right-side (roughly east) of the passage. One group to widen the rift a bit more at the end(?) near to the small phreatic tube and the second group placed to start enlarging the “eye-hole”. The conglomerate is variable with frequent calcited vughs and mud-filled joints. Tav returned from hauling bags to help with dragging out the kit. Holes were drilled, filled and fire from a safe distance, and I too, made my way out of the cave. On the surface the team had gone down to the farm, I secured the cave and went to join them

25th July 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Mon, July 27, 2020 06:22:53

Vince, Jake, Nick, Jon, Brockers and Duncan.

Yep! Another bang to clear. At the dig I went along to check al was as it should be, all good I returned to the small chamber near the aven. Nick went up to clear the debris, I hauled the skip back and bagged the loose debris comprising gravel and cobbles of conglomerate. The filled bags placed into the next skip to be hauled away by Jon. The bag started its journey out to the surface, temporarily stored in the ‘lake’ now more a muddy puddle. About three dozen bags and an assortment of rocks made it out to the surface and not all of them came from the end.

When Nick had cleared the debris from the end, I went along to continue the expansion work. Today, 8no. holes, c.450mm x 12mm, 3no. to remove a bulge of rock on the left-side, 5no. on the right to open up access to the phreatic ‘eye-hole’. This is an interesting feature that needs further investigation. Holes drilled, Nick came back from assisting in hauling the spoil out to retrieve the drill bag and bit tube and take them out of the cave. The holes were then filled, wired. and fired (from a comfortable position) and I made my way out of the cave to join Nick on the surface. I was surprised to find a torrent of water flowing down the entrance and into the Soft South. Apparently there had a ‘monsoon’ Nick informed, the other team members had high tailed it back to the farm. The cave was secured, and we left too.

18th July 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, July 19, 2020 07:14:39

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

Yesterday I had spent some time fettling a dozen skips for use in HR from six 25 litre containers supplied by Hugh Tucker, these were loaded into the van along with the rest of the kit, all prepped and packed, ready to go.

At the farm, the team congregated, the van unloaded, got changed and made our way up the hill, laden with various bits of kit and bags. Some of the skips were left in the shed to be used when required.

At the end of the Cold Gnarly North, last weekend’s application of IRS had done a good job and more space had been created, but first there was a pile of gravel and cobble size debris waiting to be cleared. We soon had a skip installed and with a few tweaks to get the correct length of hauling line, away it went filled with loose spoil. Jake was bagging up the skip contents down in the chamber near the aven before sending the bags on their way out of the cave. The skip worked a treat and it was a much more efficient method for spoil removal. Once the loose debris was cleared some work with hammer and chisel to remove some fractured flakes, it was time to have a good look at the end. The sloping floor of the passage leads downwards to another constriction, it appears to be blocked by sediment. However, interestingly on the right (east) side a small phreatic tube leads, after a metre or so, to what appears to be another ‘parallel’ rift. Fresh air seems to emanate from this direction, it is intriguing.

Anyway, to the job in hand. It was comfortable drilling today, plenty of room to sit and move around. A total of seven holes, 3no. on the left-side (450mm x 12mm) and 4no. on the right-side (3x 450mm x 12mm, 1x 600mm x 12mm), these were placed to widen the constriction and start to expand the small phreatic ‘eye-hole’. Brockers came back, after helping the team to remove the spoil from the cave (30 bags and 10 skip loads of rock), to help out with dragging my kit out. While he was waiting, he got to work with lump hammer and chisel to remove an irksome lump of rock that had impeded smooth passage of the skip.  

All drilled, filled and fired from a safe distance, the cave was vacated.

We’re back, and we have been busy!!!

digging 2020 Posted on Mon, July 13, 2020 08:12:48

4th July 2020

Vince, Jon, Jake, Brockers and Duncan.

It was pleasing to see a bigger pile of debris on arrival at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, the bang had been effective. There was still a lot of gravel but more cobble and small boulder-size lumps too. The crystalline calcite band was gone, and more competent conglomerate was exposed, should make drilling holes easier. Unfortunately, the way ahead is not as open as hoped for, there is a large pendulous flake of rock barring further access or a good look at what lies beyond. What can be seen is the passage slopes down at about 40o leading about 2m to a small opening, the passage is about 0.75m wide (or will be when the flake is gone) and draughting still.

Once the loose debris was cleared, got to work with a hammer and chisel bringing down some more fractured rock, leaving a cleaner face for the next set of holes. A couple of holes were drilled into the pendulous flake and a group of holes placed to try and open access further. The holes, 4no. 600mm x 12mm and 2no. 450mm x 12mm, were filled and wired and ready to go. Jon came back, after helping to clear the spoil to the surface, to assist with the bags. The charge was fired successfully.

Exited the cave a bit later than usual, the team were waiting, the cave secured, we made our way down to the farm and refreshments. The Hunter’s Lodge Inn is not reopening yet.

11th July 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, Duncan and Nick.

On arrival at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North once again it was pleasing to find a good pile of debris had been created. The pendulous flake of rock was almost gone, frustratingly, the way ahead is still constricted, and more chemical persuasion will be required. Clearing the spoil is not an easy task in the narrow passage, head first down a calcited slope, throwing the cobbles/boulders back and scraping the gravel backwards underneath your body. It is then bagged up in the constricted space and the filled bags dragged back along the rift to the next in line. We should sort out another skip but space to use it properly at the moment is lacking.

When the spoil had been cleared, we had gained a couple of metres or so, there is a gap to follow just too tight. The draught was not so strong today, but surface conditions were probably the cause of that, temperature about 15o and a high-pressure front moving across the southwest. The team set about removing the spoil from the cave while I set about drilling and filling another set of holes, 6no. 450mm x 12mm. the aim to remove more of the flake and expand the space at the end to create somewhere a skip can be loaded.

After helping to shift the spoil beyond the lake, Jake cemented another ramp to ease the movement of the skip, then came back to help drag out my kit bags. The morning was brought to a loud, satisfactory conclusion from the corner by the lake and I left the cave.

17th March 2020

notes Posted on Tue, March 17, 2020 18:38:09

Due to the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic and the latest UK Government advice all digging activities are suspended for the foreseeable future. Good luck and hopefully, good health people!

14th March 2020

notes Posted on Sun, March 15, 2020 14:36:56

The global pandemic, Covid-19 (corona virus), that is spreading at an alarming rate requiring various Governments around the world to take draconian measures to protect us all, well that’s what they want us to believe, has in a roundabout sort of way, affected our activities in Hallowe’en Rift this week too.

Earlier in the week, following Government advice, the materials supplier was confined in self-isolation, therefore no collections were possible and resulted in no IRS taking place in HR; no bang, no spoil and nothing to clear on the weekend! Add to that, yours truly hasn’t been on top of his game either, it has been a rather unsatisfactory week and weekend – digging wise anyway!

Unfortunately, this is probably just the beginning of a very disrupted time ahead and some of the consequences are, almost certainly, going to very disappointing, devastating for some too.

7th March

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, March 07, 2020 15:40:57

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers and Alex.

Prior to setting off up the hill to meet the team and go digging – another bang to clear, I spent some time charging drill batteries, cleaning the drill and ignition device and generally sorting out kit and sundry items.

Met at the Hunter’s as usual and drove down to the farm where we got changed and walked up the cave entrance. Once underground we were soon in our respective positions in the Cold Gnarly North ready for another good session.

At the end of the narrow rift there was the expected pile of debris, once again the rock had disintegrated into mostly gravel with some medium cobble-sized pieces of rock. I scraped the debris from the constricted rift back to Brockers who was bagging it up and passing the filled bags down the line to Jake, Jon and finally, Alex who stacked the spoil in the low, muddy corner ready to be shifted later in the morning. The gravel and rocks cleared there remained a pool of red muddy water, this I bailed into the passage ahead. The water drained away immediately without backing up, although I couldn’t hear it draining. Looking forward about 1m, the narrow rift appears to be blocked by calcite flowstone, however, there seems to be something going off to the left, difficult to know for sure until we get there. It’s still draughting, been working hard and haven’t overheated nor has the air quality diminished. The expansion will continue. Jake and Brockers both went to the end for a look and came back with the same conclusion.

It was time to move back and clear out the spoil, this was achieved in a couple of stages. On the surface about 25 bags were emptied onto the spoil heap, for some of the bags this had been their final journey, they had succumbed to the rigours of the trip in and out of the cave.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s as usual.

Next »