13th April

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

A full team assembled for today’s digging activities. It was going to be productive.

An earlier start by me and Brockers. The dodgy pulley and sling were replaced at the entrance before venturing underground. There was a small accumulation of boulders on the ledge that needed dealing with, so I got to work with plugs and feathers, Brockers cleared away the reduced lumps of rock and also filled a few bags in Can of Worms (leaving a pile of debris for Jake to clear way later). Jake was the next to arrive and took over from Brockers digging Can of Worms. Rock reduction completed I went up to the surface, collecting some a small bar, as requested by Nick, on the way out. The rest of the team had arrived. Nick was repairing the stile in the woods before heading underground to dig at the NE end beyond Trick or Treat. The subsurface support team comprised Brockers, Mike, and Tav, Jon joined me on the surface. With the two os above ground, the bags were hauled out, emptied, and the dumped spoil levelled, the rocks were added to the wall to create more space for spoil dumping. It was a very pleasant morning on the surface.

Below ground digging progressed a good rate. About 140 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied, plus quite a few rocks hauled out and placed on the spoil heap wall. Refreshments were well-earned at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn today.

6th April

Report by Jon

“Only three reliable members of the Team arrived on site at the appointed hour. Between them, Jon, Nick and Jake remembered the key. It was a blustery morning, but dry, as the Team walked up to the dig. The stile just before the dig is in need of attention. A previous attempt to shore up one of the posts has highlighted the fact that the post needs replacing.

The dig was unlocked using the multi-person, rock-and-key method.

Jake repaired the skip on the entrance haul. Cable ties are now available at the bottom of the entrance. After an absence of more than a week, Nick was clearly desperate to dig. The Team opted to focus on the Can of Worms. While Nick filled his first pack of bags, Jon and Jake moved some building stone. Jon worked on the ledge; Jake hauled. After Nick had filled several bags, Jake moved up to the bottom of the entrance. Jon carried bags of spoil from Nick back to the ledge. Nick also dug out a quantity of rocks. Three larger rocks remain on the ledge and will need further persuasion to be removed. Jake hauled.

As is now normal, the hauling pair then moved up again and took the spoil bags to the surface. Jon loaded at the bottom of the entrance. Jake hauled.

Jake’s new oiling system for the pulley above the entrance came too late. The pulley needs to be replaced with some urgency. It survived the morning but is audibly distressed. Some 60 bags of spoil were removed along with 18 loads of stone.

The tree eventually advised Jake that it was time to retire to a local hostelry for light refreshment. The good news was that the tree had put its clock forward the previous week. The key was dutifully returned to the correct place. This act was duly witnessed.”

30th March

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers, and Mike

Mike digging at the NE extent, continued along on right side to work towards the ‘open’ spaces, reducing the hump of sediment. There is a thin crust of calcite between the ‘space’ and the sediment. Interesting. Meanwhile, in the SW, Brockers was expanding the broad dig-face in a Can of Worms. There is no obvious way ahead as yet, just a wide. Inclined bedding filled to the roof with sediment. Plenty of stuff for us to dig, probably all the way to Badger Hole! The support team – Jake, Jon, and me – worked to keep the filled bags moving freely through the cave to the surface where they were emptied into the extension area. Jake was principal bag remover, Jon did most of the hauling out to the surface and emptying bags, I was flitting about somewhere in between wherever required. All went smoothly and time passed quickly.

 Today’s bag total = 106 filled, hauled, and emptied (42 from the NE, 64 from the SW), plus a few rocks were pulled out to be added to the wall building pile ready for use (probably tomorrow).

23rd March

Vince, Jake, Brockers, Tav, and Mike

My turn to take up the ‘lonely’ spot beavering away beyond Trick or Treat, Mike was up on the landing opening a Can of Worms. The support team comprising Jake, Brockers, and Tav, not only kept the digs clear of bags but also hauled out a pile of rocks for wall building.

 As the morning progressed at the NE extent the dig ahead looked increasingly interesting. There are more spaces being revealed over the top of the sediment, sometimes with a thin crust of calcite flowstone and a feint hint of air movement. We appear to be approaching a bit of a ‘hump’, another metre or so of digging might reveal something more – all very tantalising, good stuff.

  At the close of the session, about 80 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied and an estimated 30 skip loads of rock for wall construction.

  Another excellent session rounded off with a visit to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for some refreshments.

16th March

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Mike

Jake digging in the ‘lonely’ spot at the NE extent while I was opening a ‘Can of Worms’ to the SW. the support team; Brockers, Jon, and Mike were kept fully occupied clearing away filled bags and rocks.

Opening a ‘Can of Worms’, it soon becomes ‘steamy’

I had packed a drill and plugs/feathers with a plan to reduce a couple of boulders to a more manageable size. Rocks are required for the next phase of wall-building in the extension area. That done, I then got on with loosening sediment and filling bags. A productive session with a steady supply of filled bags and rocks being removed from the two dig sites. The spoil (or at least some of it) was removed to the surface and bags were emptied too.

 Jake had lugged up from the shed a bag of ready-mixed mortar to carry out remedial work to the upper skip haul route. This was done when all spoil had gone beyond that stage and was mostly on the surface. The excess mortar was used to consolidate a rickety stile post on the path to the cave/farm.

 About 90 bags filled, hauled, and emptied plus quite a lot of rock added to the wall-building pile. Empty bags were repacked and back underground ready for the next session.

 The session was concluded with refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.

Vince in a ‘Can of Worms’. Image taken by Brockers with Vince’s camera, 16th March 2024

9th March

Vince, Nick, Jake, Jon, and Tav

The digging continued to be pursued on the two fronts; Nick (on a self-imposed time constraint for this morning) was promptly dispatched to the NE extent, clutching a pack of fresh digging bags (supplied by Brockers), to work alone, Jake was digging at the SW extent in Can of Worms. The support team, comprised Jon, Tav, and me, worked continuously to keep both digs clear of filled bags (and making sure empty bags were available to be filled).

 Jake concentrated his effort on widening Can of Worms to see if the bedding reduced in height on the south side. Meanwhile, Nick working away in the ‘lonely’ spot had opened a small space at roof level that looks interesting, although more work is required to open the space fully to see how it might develop. As Nick was on a time limit, digging ceased in the NE about 11:30 and Nick returned to the surface, staying long enough to haul up some bags before leaving.

 At the bottom of the entrance there was a considerable accumulation of filled bags and the support team decided it was time to get the filled bags out of the cave, Jake was left to continue digging in Can of Worms. Eventually, all hands were engaged in spoil clearance. Once on the surface the bags were then emptied over the wall into the new extension area. I will level off the spoil dump later in the week. Today’s final count was about 120 filled bags emptied, and a token rock added to the wall. The woven bags supplied by Brockers are a lot easier to grip and carry than the plastic bags.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.

2nd March

Vince, Jon, Jake, Brockers, and Nick

As is the current trend, work continues at either end of a NE/SW alignment. Jon was dispatched to the ‘lonely’ spot at the NE extent, dragging a pack of wet and heavy ‘empty’ bags with him. Brockers was in the more sociable SW extent now known as a Can of Worms, support for the diggers was provided by Jake and Nick, I was at the bottom of the entrance. Digging was slightly delayed at the SW extent as the digger needed to adjust his attire. Eventually though work progressed.

 When about 20 bags had amassed at the entrance, I went up to the surface, with Nick loading the bucket, the filled bags were hauled out of the cave, then returned underground to clear away the backlog of bags from the diggers, and the next lot of bags were hauled up to the surface, some of them were emptied too. The rain continued intermittently mixed with hail/sleet. Back underground.

 About midday digging activities were wound down and the process of clearing the cave and emptying the bags took priority. About 100 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied plus one rock. Light rain continued to fall. Job done, back to the farm, changed, and up to the Hunter’s for refreshments.

29th February

Solo. At the cave about 2 hours

A small alcove at roof level revealed by Tav last Saturday (24/02/24) appears to be part of the ‘rift’ alignment we are currently pursuing. I think we need to stay to the right of this line (and straight ahead), to the left will lead to An Unexpected Development.

Undergroundwent along to the NE extent (Trick or Treat/An Unexpected Development area) to have a quick look at progress (see above) and to take some sediment pH/temperature readings [mean pH 5.2; soil temp. 10 degs C]. Back to Can of Worms for more sediment pH/temp. readings [mean pH5.1; soil temp. 10 degs C], then returned to the surface

Above ground – moved the pile of rocks to where I needed them, down to the spoil heap extension, and then added them to the wall. When all available rocks were used up, that was it for today. Last task was to take some surface soil pH/temp. readings [pH 5.6; soil temp. 8 degs C].

Recording pH/temperature in Can of Worms. Image taken 29th February 2024

25th February

Solo. At the cave about 1½ hours

Weather forecast (Met. Office) is for heavy rain spreading in this afternoon, dry in the morning. So decided to head over to HR and level yesterday’s spoil dump before the rain came and turned it to slop. While I was there added just a few rocks to the extension wall because I couldn’t resist doing so.

 As I headed back over Mendip (south>north) the sky had darkened and it was just beginning to rain!

Ferromanganese spherules in small fragments of crust (sample 006/COW). Now need to consider which formed first; the spherules or the crust?

24th February

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

Working on two fronts, Tav was dispatched to the ‘lonely spot’ at the far NE extent, beyond the Soft South, the support team would relieve him of his accumulation of filled bags later in the session. Meanwhile, Jon was forging ahead in the ‘Can of Worms’ in closer contact with the support team, Jake and Brockers. Nick was hauling back a steady supply of filled bags and rocks as the underground rockpile was being deployed to the surface for wall-building later in the coming week.  I was on the surface hauling the spoil to the surface. Nick occasionally resurfaced to help empty bags.

An unusual occurrence when the tranquillity of the setting was shattered by squawking children playing in the fields to the north of the woods. Not a particularly welcome noise.

 No-one paid too much attention to the bag count today it was probably somewhere between 100 and 120 filled, hauled, and emptied plus a lot of rocks including quite a few large ones, ideal for wall-building.

16th February

Vince, Tav, Nick, Jon, Jake, Brockers

Following the recent trend digging was continued on two fronts each end of a NE/SW line. I was on the solo effort at the far NE extent while Tav was at the SW extent opening a ‘Can of Worms’ accompanied by the newly acquired ‘Wormslayer’ replacing the measly pick that I broke last weekend. The support team  (underground section) comprised Jake, Brockers, and Jon, with Nick on surface duties this weekend.

 At the NE extent, digging was slow but steady in the slightly constricted space. It is rather squalid as there is a strong drip of water, especially where you need to lie and dig, by the end of the session I was thoroughly soaked through. Looking ahead at the dig face there is a tantalising gap over the top of the sediment and the roof has plenty of ‘scalloping’ evidence of strong water flow through the passage. Also detected a feint air movement.

 At the SW extent, progress was more productive as the digging area is more spacious.

About 100 bags (NE c.30, SW c.70) were filled, hauled, and emptied over the wall to the extension area below (to be levelled off during the coming week) and about 30 skip loads of rock were brought to the surface for wall-building.

11th February

Updated and annotated survey 11th February 2024
Sample 006/COW location in Can of Worms in the Soft South

An interesting looking sediment deposit had previously caught my eye located off the ledge at the top of the pot in the Soft South, Hallowe’en Rift, Mendip. It was a change of circumstances that prompted a review of our digging strategy and the development of Nick’s ‘alternative’ dig, now renamed ‘Can of Worms’ that prompted a bulk sample (about 1kg weight) to be taken on 03/02/2024. Subsequently, a sub-sample (c.200g) from the bulk was washed over a 63-micron test sieve to remove the silt/clay fraction leaving the sand- and gravel-size particles to be graded (see image below). Clearly evident is the abundance of iron/manganese spherules in the sample. These are thought to have accumulated in turbulent eddies during flood events during the Pleistocene period, the finer silt and clay particles having been winnowed away. The origin of the iron/manganese is the object of further ongoing research. The presence of iron/manganese spherules has been noted in previous sediment samples taken in Hallowe’en Rift but not in the same concentrations.

Sample 006/COW after washing over a 63-micron test sieve to remove silt/clay fraction. clearly evident is the abundance of sand- and fine gravel-size iron/manganese spherules.

10th February

Vince, Nick, Jon, Jake, Tav, and Mike

Just one down in numbers today. Continued to dig on two fronts at each end of a NE/SW line. Nick on a solo effort at the NE extent on the far side of Trick or Treat (now approaching An Unexpected Development), every now and again the support team going along to clear the accumulated pile of filled bags. At the SW extent, in the “Can of Worms” it was my turn to dig. This dig is still in its infancy at this early stage and will need some time to develop, we might then begin to conjecture about what is happening, or not. It is, however, a very comfortable digging spot.

 The spoil was being taken all the way out to the surface where Jake was busy hauling, the bags were also being emptied. The spoil was being tipped over the wall into the new extension where it will be levelled later in the week. The new extension means it is quite a bit easier/quicker to dispose of spoil. A good, steady session with about 140 bags filled, hauled, and emptied from the two digs.

It was noted, by at least one of the support team, that the heady aroma of “peppermint” had not quite dissipated, requiring an occasional trip to the surface to help empty bags and get a breath of fresh air!

 Up to the Hunter’s for the usual refreshments.

3rd February

Vince, Jake, Jon, and Nick

A smaller team assembled at the farm for today’s activities. The prepared skips/drag-trays were taken from the shed and carried up to the cave ready for use when required. One was put to use immediately on the haul from the top of the ledge to the bottom of the entrance. The taking and storing of all the ‘skips’ underground might not have been the greatest of ideas as the cave was permeated by the pervasive aroma of the plastic drums former content – a heady “peppermint-like” essence, which according to the, just noticed, labels was not good for fishes or trees, there was some uncertainty expressed of where ‘diggers’ might fit into this categorisation. Well at least it provided a talking point throughout the session.

 Two digging again – Jon, went to the far northeast reaches of Trick or Treat to continue work there. This was a [temporarily] solo effort, storing bags in situ until assistance arrived later to move the spoil accumulated. After a quick sampling of sediments (see image below), Jake opened Nick’s “Can of Worms” with Nick in close attendance removing the filled bags (and sporadic rocks), I was at the entrance hauling the spoil away and storing it in the available spaces ready for removal later in the morning/early afternoon. Later, Jake and Nick swapped places. Every now and then, the support staff went along the NE passage to clear away Jon’s pile of spoil.

It is surprising how quickly the time goes when everyone was busy, and we reached the point where digging activities were curtailed and clearance of the accumulated spoil commenced. A total of 105 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied plus a few skip-loads of rock added to the wall building pile. An extension wall to the west side of the spoil heap has been started and some of the sediment was disposed ready for use there. A very good session. Hunter’s for some refreshments before 6 Nations rugby kicks off.

27th January

Vince, Brockers, Nick, Mike, Tav, and Jon

Nick found a rather excellent and perhaps apt sign at a recent car-boot that now takes pride of place in the entrance to Hallowe’en Rift!

Digging proceeded on two fronts again this weekend; Mike and Jon headed off to Trick or Treat to continue the effort there, bags were stored temporarily, while digging also continued off the top of the ledge (Soft South) in Nick’s “Can of Worms.” Brockers took control of the situation here, Nick shuttled the filled bags and rocks along the ledge to load the skip which was hauled away by me at the bottom of the entrance, Tav was on the surface. With the spoil coming from two fronts, it proved to be a full-on session hauling spoil out of the cave. Later in the session I briefly returned to the surface to haul a few bags and helped to empty some before going back underground.

The short video above shows Brockers busily developing Nick’s “Can of Worms” on the ledge above the pot in the Soft South, as Nick approaches from the entrance to keep an eye on proceedings!

Later, Mike reported that the main dig in Trick or Treat appeared to be opening up a bit, hopefully, we are close to getting past the constricted point. The dig off the top of the ledge in the Soft South is still in its infancy and has to be developed more before a better understanding is reached. There are, of course, several theories already discussed – time will tell if any of them were right!

 A total of 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied plus several skip loads of rocks added to the wall-building pile. As ever, refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

20th January

Vince, Tav, Mike, Jon, and Nick

A bit down on numbers today – no matter still plenty to make some progress. Arrived at the cave, packed the “freeze-dried” bags that were left hanging up ready to be refilled later, then all underground. Tav led the way to the dig on the northern side of Trick or Treat with Mike to assist, Jon was at the ‘hump,’ Nick transporting the spoil along the NE passage to the pot, and I was up on the ledge.

 There was a bit of a delay in bags arriving, so I was tempted to take a poke at Nick’s ‘dig’ off to one side of the ledge, an action that immediately aroused interest in from Nick. Jon came along with a message from Tav that “progress would be slow, and bags could be temporarily stockpiled.” That was it really, Nick’s “Can of Worms” was opened and was developed further through the course of the morning. With the three of us spoil could be moved all the way to the bottom of the entrance. Every now and again we (me, Nick, Jon) reverted back to clearing the stockpiled bags from Tav and Mike. When about 50 or 60 bags (and rocks) had accumulated at the bottom of the entrance we then thought we had better get the spoil out to the surface, which we did. Jon remaining on the surface to empty the bags while Nick and I headed back along towards Trick or Treat to clear the bags from there.

 Digging activities thereafter came to an end and the last few bags were hauled out to the surface and emptied. All the session’s bags were hung up on the lines to dry or more likely rinsed off if the latest weather forecast is correct for the week ahead – Storm Isha arrives tomorrow apparently! Hopefully, they won’t all blow away.

 Todays’ total, c. 80 bags filled, hauled, and emptied, plus a couple of skip loads of rock added the wall-building stockpile. To the Hunter’s for refreshments.

13th January

Tav peers through from the ‘chamber’ to the dig, 13th January 2024

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

A full team turnout today – the spoil will go all the way out to the surface!

 At the dig on the northernmost part of Trick or Treat it was my turn to loosen the sediment and fill bags. Tav was clearing the spoil away across the ‘chamber’ to Brockers on the other side of the ‘hump’. Mike hauled the spoil back and transported along the NE passage to the pot. Nick on the ledge caught the bucket, emptied it, transferring the bags to the next skip  which was then hauled away by Jake to the bottom of the entrance. After digging last week, Jon was on the surface and hauled up, and emptied, the filled bags – 120 of them. Only c.80 bags were filled at the far dig, Nick filled some from another dig somewhere near the top of the ledge. Also, Brockers filled a ‘couple’ of bags, and so did Mike – tidying!

 A productive session and refreshments at the Hunter’s later were well-earned.

A sequence of deposition of sediment and calcite precipitation is clearly evident. The lower stalagmite consists of several growth phases before being buried by fine sediments during an unknown period of time. These phases are then sealed by further calcite deposition. Scale = 20cm (0.2m)

6th January

Vince, Jon, Tav, Brockers, and Jake

The first digging trip in HR of the new year. The bags that had been left hanging on the ‘drying’ lines were well-rinsed on the exterior but not so ‘dry’ on the inside. When rolled into packs of ten they were not exactly lightweight!

 All the team set off into the deep Soft South to take up various allocated positions. Jon was at the helm, digging on the northernmost end of Trick or Treat, I was clearing back the filled bags, across the ‘chamber’ to the ‘hump’. Tav was on the other side of the ‘hump’ hauling away the loaded drag-tray and transferring the load to the next skip to be hauled away by Brockers. The spoil was then lugged along the NE passage to the pot and pulled up to the ledge where the bucket was unloaded by Jake, the filled bags then stacked neatly at the top of the pot.

 Trick or Treat is now a sizeable ‘chamber’, it is about 10m from the dig across to the ‘hump’ and up to about 5m wide, it is mostly stooping height, although there are places where it is about 3 to 4m high. There are some interesting calcite deposits, including small helictites, botryoidal, flowstone, stalactites, and stalagmites, with varying colouration from white to red.

 Digging ceased at midday when the priority became clearing of the accumulated spoil from the cave. By the close of play about 70 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s as usual. A mellow session.

30th December

Vince, Jake, Jon, and Tav

A small team assembled for the last digging trip of 2023. Spoil would be temporarily stacked at the bottom of the pot and removed to the surface later in the morning.

  Jake digging, Jon clearing away the filled bags across the chamber to the ‘hump’. A short drag-tray was installed over the ‘hump’ which proved to be quite efficient although a couple of bags of spoil were requisitioned to be used for hauling route improvements. A hole needed filling. I was on the other side of the ‘hump’ hauling the spoil and loading the next skip to be hauled away by Tav. Tav then lugged the bags along the NE passage to the pot. It was rather squalid although the dripping water in the cave was not as prominent as expected following the recent rain.

  There came a time when digging activity was curtailed and attention focused on clearing the accumulated bags from the pot to the surface where they were, eventually, emptied onto the spoil heap. Today’s count settled on a figure of about 80 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. It was noted that there were not many rocks within the fine sediment removed from the cave.

  All done, down the hill, changed, and to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshment.

23rd December

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

Tav digging aided by Nick, Jake on the other side of the ‘hump’, Brockers moved the filled bags along the NE passage to the pot and hauled them up to Jon on the ledge. The bags transferred to the next drag-tray and hauled away by me to be unloaded and the sediment-filled bags stored, temporarily, at the bottom of the entrance. Later in the morning, I went up to the surface, Jon at the bottom of the entrance, between us the filled bags were hauled out of the cave ready to be emptied. Hauling the first twenty or so bags was okay, but as we progressed the hauling became increasingly difficult as the rope was impregnated with mud. The solution, a quick soak and wash in a bucket of water. The rope was easier to grip – the downside, was splashback of the now very wet rope, good job I was wearing glasses.

  About 120 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied. At the dig, Tav was loosening the sediment and Nick was filling the bags. The small space opened last session is now ‘hand’s and knee’s’ size apparently.

  Time to depart and make our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for the usual refreshments.

16th December

Vince, Tav, Nick, Jake, Jon, and Mike

Down in the deep Soft South and along the NE passage to continue the effort to get under and beyond Trick or Treat. I was digging under the stal boss obstruction with Tav clearing the bags away. Nick was on the other side of the ‘hump’ on “easy” duties as he is still in recovery following a malfunction a couple of weeks ago – it did not stop him “tidying-up” a bit. A combination of Mike, Jake, and Jon moved the filled bags back along the NE passage, up the pot to the bottom of the entrance. As the morning progressed some of the bags found their way to the surface.  

  At the dig-face, eventually, managed to work underneath the stal boss but the space created needs developing (a job for the next session). Once we get beyond this section it will be interesting to find out what happens further on.

  Soon though it was time to get the rest of the spoil out of the cave and digging activity was ceased. We all moved back to get the job done. 70-bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap this session.

  Back to the farm, change, and up to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshment and discussion.

9th December

Vince, Jon, Tav, Jake, and Brockers

Following the recent rains our expectations of finding a ‘dry and dusty’ dig were not high. At least the bags left hanging up on the surface were well and truly rinsed.

Heading down to the deep Soft South, then from the bottom of the pot following the ‘northeast’ passage, under and [almost] beyond Trick or Treat, Jon took his turn upfront digging. Sediment loosened with the mattock was placed into bags and thrown behind along with infrequent rocks to be cleared away by me. The spoil was carried across the chamber, a newly formed ‘lake’ required wading through, and the bags tossed over the ‘hump’, through a ‘monsoon-scale’ dripping of water’ to Tav. The spoil loaded into a drag-tray to be hauled along by Brockers. Between them Jake and Brockers moved the spoil along the NE passage, up the pot to the bottom of the entrance. And so, the digging progressed until that moment when we decided it was time to clear out the cave and we repositioned ourselves so that objective could be fulfilled. By the session end, about 90 bags of spoil were emptied onto the spoil heap. And then, to the Hunter’s for refreshments.

Todays attempt at imagery were not great!

Through the murk! Jon loosens sediment and fills bags. The drip was strong and it was wet and steamy at the dig face. photograph taken 7th December 2021

2nd December

Vince, Brockers, Jon, Nick, and Tav

Little bit of a problem to start the session, the sub-zero temperatures of the last couple of days had resulted in a frozen lock. I spent quite a while fiddling with it to no avail, then Jon “dragon-breath” Riley had a go – almost immediately the lock was freed and the cave open and accessible.

Down at the dig, Brockers grasped the reins, forging ahead and filling bags aided by Jon. I was on the ‘other side’ of the hump, loading the skip to be hauled away by Nick, until he had a malfunction and Tav took over. Some of the filled bags made it to the bottom of the entrance, the rest were temporarily stored in the pot. Just before midday digging activities were curtailed and the filled bags were shifted out of the cave.

Eighty-three filled bags were hauled out and emptied onto the spoil heap. A productive session. It was still cold, and a low mist had settled into the valley. Time for the warmth of the pub to debrief and get some refreshments.

Back at home, kit to wash!

25th November

Vince, Nick, Jake, Brockers, Tav, and Mike

A good bright and frosty day, so much better than rain!

The Great Wall in the woods. 25th November 2023

Down in the deep Soft South, Tav was beavering away filling bags aided by Brockers, on the other side of the hump, Jake was dispatching the filled bags along to Mike, who then transported them to the pot and hauled them up to Nick perched above on the ledge. The spoil was transferred to the next skip to be hauled away by me and stashed around the bottom of the entrance ready to be cleared later. When about 20 bags had accumulated at the entrance, Nick and I hauled them out to the surface then returned underground to clear the backlog of bags (about 30). These were then hauled out. Although it was dry on the surface today it was still wet underground, and the hauling rope soon became claggy and difficult to grip. Another backlog cleared, the time had passed midday, and it was not too long for the last filled bags to arrive. Everything up to the surface, about 80 bags emptied and hung up to dry, time to walk back down to the farm. All changed and up to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.

18th November

Vince, Tav, Jon, Brockers, and Jake

Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat chamber I was digging, Tav clearing away the filled bags and sporadic rocks away, over the hump to Jon. The spoil loaded into the drag tray to be hauled away by Brockers/Jake, the spoil carried along the passage to be stored, temporarily, at the pot. Later in the session Brockers and Jake moved the spoil up to the bottom of the entrance ready to be cleared to the surface later.

The expansion of the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat chamber continues, worked away on the ‘east’ side, mostly removing the now exposed calcited layer of fractured, sometimes degraded speleothems and lumps of conglomerate that overlies the bedrock. Slower going today, about 70 bags (and rocks) were shifted through the cave. The filled bags were hauled out of the cave and emptied onto the spoil heap. Job done!

To the Hunter’s for refreshments.

11th November

With Nick, Tav, Jon, Brockers, Jake, and Mike

A full complement of fit, able, and willing participants this weekend and all were ready to shift some spoil! From the farm we headed-up to the cave with some new hauling buckets I had made this morning and full of the usual enthusiasm.

Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat area, Nick busily swung the mattock, loosening sediment, and filling bags, I was clearing away the filled bags and sporadic rocks and moving the spoil up and over to Tav. The spoil then loaded onto a drag tray to be hauled away by Jon where it was transported along the passage to be hauled up to the ledge by Brockers. Mike unloaded the bucked from the ledge transferring the spoil to the next skip to be hauled away by Jake where it was temporarily deposited at the base of the entrance. As the morning progressed  and the available space near the entrance began to fill, some of the team moved positions and the spoil hauled out to the surface ready to be redeposited onto the spoil heap.

The current dig-face looking NE, over the calcite is the original point of entry to Trick or Treat

At the dig-face, Nick continued to fill bags, about 140 for today’s count plus numerous rocks and lumps of degraded calcite/flowstone. Currently, we are working underneath a false floor, removing fine (layered) sediment that overlies another calcited floor comprising flowstone, stalagmites (some detached), and calcited rock (cobble- and boulder-size) and finer sediments. This in turn, overlying solid rock (conglomerate). The prospects of what might (or might not) lie ahead was a constant topic of conversation throughout the session. Much consideration regarding deposition processes and speleogenesis was undertaken. There are many things to ponder as we dig.

4th November

Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick, and Tav

A bit of a smaller team after last weekend’s big turnout. No matter. After a brief discussion we decided that all go to the deep Soft South and down below the pot where the spoil would be temporarily stored. As expected, it was wet underground and there was evidence that a significant flow had run down the entrance. It would quickly become rather squalid.

Jake was upfront, busy with the mattock, loosening the sediment, and filling bags, aided by Nick. I was on the other side of the ‘stal’ obstruction taking the filled bags (and sporadic rocks) from Nick and loading into a skip to be hauled away by Tav, at the next stage along the NE passage. The skip unloaded and the spoil carried along to the pot by Jon. The filled bags and rocks moved along through the cave at a good, steady rate (there was not much time in between the bags/rocks). By the time digging came to an end there was a substantial pile in the pot. All moved back and re-positioned to move the spoil out to the surface. I was in the pot hauling the bags to Tav perched above on the ledge, the bags then transferred to the next skip and hauled away by Nick at the bottom of the entrance. Jake and Jon were on the surface hauling out and emptying the bags. There were some grumblings regarding skip failure from the surface duo, that might have been catastrophic for Nick (but weren’t!). at the end of the session all the bags made it out to the surface, although it took longer than planned and we finished a little later than usual. About 120 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied. The rocks remained underground.

We still made it to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for our customary refreshments and debrief.

28th October

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

A strong team assembled at the farm, changed, and loaded up with a variety of new skips (thanks to John Cooper, Wessex CC) we made our way up to the cave. On arriving at the entrance, the drying (?) bags that were hanging up were packed away ready to be refilled, all headed off underground, except for Tav who had forgotten his caving hat and light, so he opted to be on the surface and hauling bags.

Jon set-off for the deep Soft South with Jake and Nick. Mike, initially, was hauling and shuttling along the passage to the pot. I was up on the ledge, Brockers at the bottom of the entrance. Replacement skips were installed where required and soon bags were moving through the cave at a relentless rate. When a sufficient number of bags (c.50-bags) had been hauled out of the cave, Brockers decided to go up and start emptying them, I moved back to the bottom of the entrance, Mike up on the ledge, Nick on the haul and shuttle. Jon kept on filling bags and Jake continued to clear the filled bags away. As the bags were being emptied digging was able to continue a bit longer (ceased about 12:30pm).

Final tally for the day = 130 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. All done, cave secured, back to the farm to change, then to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments. Another fine session.   

The archaeological earthworks around Hallowe’en Rift and Wookey Hole, mostly lynchets (purple) and ridge and furrow (pale blue). © Crown Copyright and database right 2023. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900. Historic England Aerial Investigation Mapping Data Open Access, https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/news-events/he-aerial-mapping-oa/

21st October

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

On arrival at the cave, packed away the ‘not-so-dry’ bags that were on the line ready for refilling, and headed underground to our various positions. Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat area Brockers was digging, filling bags to be cleared away by Jon, Tav was on the haul and shuttle to the pot, Jake on the ledge, and I was at the bottom of the entrance stashing the filled bags into any  and all available spaces. Nick, having arrived a little later, went to the deep Soft South to help Tav on the haul and shuttle before returning to the surface to start hauling out the spoil.

We seem to have reached a point where the digging is just a bit further on and requires that extra bit of effort to clear the spoil back. This prompted some more job sharing as Tav moved along to help Jon clear away the bags from the ‘dig-chamber’, where there is an ‘up-and-over’ obstacle to clear. There was a brief discussion regarding the removal of rocks but as the skips are a little ‘worse for wear’ it was decided to leave the rocks where they were, at least until we have a supply of drums so new skips can be made.

After the recent rain it was wet throughout the cave, the skip-runs well-lubricated, and standing water was abundant. It was impossible to stay clean and dry.

Total bag count for today, 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap!

14th October

Vince, Brockers, Nick, Jon, Jake, and Mike

A better turnout this weekend, and a welcome return of Mike after his summer [working] break.

Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat area it was my turn to dig, Brockers clearing away the filled bags and rocks to Nick and Mike on the haul and shuttle to the pot. Jon and Jake were occupying the ledge/entrance positions although I do not know who was where.

As a result of the torrential rain yesterday the dripping of water was noticeable throughout the cave and there was standing water along the cave passages, at least the skip runs would be well lubricated. A pool of water in the dig chamber was channelled away by Brockers.

The digging bit is relatively easy at present, standing up, mattock in hand, and loosening the sediment before putting into bags. The harder effort comes in relocating the spoil all the way to the surface. About 100 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied along with several skip loads of rocks. A jovial session with plenty of banter as usual. Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments before going home to wash kit ready for the next digging session.

7th October

Vince and Jake

A much-depleted workforce for this session. No matter a chance to get some maintenance and tidying up done. Down in the deep Soft South I finished off the roof slab stabilisation work (another 20kg of mortar used).

Slab retaining wall, 7th October

While I was doing the building work, Jake was moving the pile of rocks stashed at the hauling spot (in the NE passage) back to the pot. Some rocks required size reduction; others were put aside for attention at a later date [when I have drill/plugs & feathers to hand]. Back on the surface, all the dry bags were bundled-up (in packs of 10) and deposited down the entrance to be filled next digging session (or most of them anyway).

To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for some refreshments. It’s a pleasantly warm afternoon.  

30th September

Vince, Jon, Brockers, Nick, and Jake

Upfront digging was Jon, I was clearing the filled bag and occasional rocks away. Brockers on the haul and shuttle to the pot, Nick up on the ledge. Jake stacked the spoil at the bottom of the entrance.

It was, as ever, a productive session, 100+ bags were filled, hauled, and emptied; photos were taken; Nick found time to fill a few bags from elsewhere. In the deep Soft South, there was a surprisingly strong drip of water. We were all happy with our endeavours.

The Hunter’s Lodge Inn was visited for the usual rounds of refreshment. A good morning.

23rd September

Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick, and Tav

After some discussion it was decided likely that, due to the recently imposed 20 MPH speed limit in Wales, Brockers was still driving back from north Wales!

Down at the far reaches of the deep Soft South, Jake was digging today (he hasn’t been to the end for quite a while due to a niggling knee problem). He was suitably enthused by the comfort and ease of digging. Jon was clearing back the filled bags and the occasional rock; it was my turn on the haul and shuttle, I was aided by Nick who came down from the ledge to carry bags along to the pot. Nick then returned to the ledge to empty the bucket and transfer the load to the next drag tray. Tav was at the bottom of the entrance hauling the spoil and temporarily stashing the filled bags all around in the available space, to be removed later.

Trick or Treat is now easily reached from the Soft South – it is almost a “walk-in”. the point is that due to logistical problems with spoil removal we never did a great deal of digging in this region, now is our opportunity.

As usual the digging ceased at about midday and the cave was cleared, bags emptied onto the spoil heap. All done, back to the farm, change, and up to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for some refreshment and discussion.

16th September

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick

A dash over to Portishead, where Hidden Earth 2023 was being held, to drop-off my entry to the Art Salon then back for digging. By the time I arrived at HR the rest of the team were already at it.

Quickly underground I settled down at the bottom of the entrance and started to haul back the supply of filled bags and stashed them all around me for removal later in the session. Brockers was busy on the ledge, Jake was going flat-out on the shuttle as Nick was in a digging frenzy, Jon working hard to clear the filled bags back to Jake.

As ever, digging activity was curtailed at midday to clear the accumulation of filled bags from the cave. After the recent rain the going up to the spoil disposal area was less than ideal. Today’s total was 95-bags hauled out and emptied.

To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments before returning to Hidden Earth (and Nick too).  

9th September

Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick, and Brockers

Down in the deep Soft South, Brockers was upfront digging and filling bags, aided and abetted by Nick, Jon was on the haul and shuttle, back and forth to the pot. I was perched on the ledge catching and emptying the bucket then transferring the filled bags to the skip hauled away by Jake where the bags were temporarily stored at the bottom of the entrance. When there was a sufficient accumulation of filled bags I moved back to the entrance and Jake climbed up to the surface and the accumulated bags were cleared away (to be emptied later). Then we returned to our original positions for the next lot…and so on.

About midday as usual the digging wound down, loose material had been cleared away, ant the remaining backlog of bags were cleared out of the cave to the surface and emptied onto the spoil heap. 95-bags filled, hauled, and emptied today.

There’s a late summer heatwave at present and it was getting warm on the surface, refreshments taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn quenched our thirsts.

I would have taken some photographs but, earlier in the morning, when i opened the peli’ box to get my camera, the box was empty, my camera at home still on my desk!

2nd September

With Tav, Jake, Nick, and Jon

Grinder packed ready for action.

In the deep Soft South, initially Tav filled a few bags while I trimmed the ‘studding’. That done I took over filling bags and Tav cleared the spoil away to Jake who shuttled it along to the pot. I think Nick was on the ledge and Jon at the bottom of the entrance, temporarily stacking the filled bags.

The slab retaining wall under construction, 02/09/2023

In the sizeable chamber digging sediment and filling bags is straightforward, moving the spoil through the cave requires considerable effort. At midday digging ceased, the cave needed clearing, and we moved back to get it done. Some of the bags were already on the surface but all required emptying. About 90 bags and a couple of large boulders that didn’t come from the end dig in the deep Soft South.

Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.

31st August

Solo

17:00, after loading kit and stuff into the van, drove over to the farm, changed, and lugged all the stuff up to the HR (c. 40kg). Opened the cave and dragged the kit and stuff along to the deep Soft South, had to do it in stages. Once I was at the end, set about building a [roof] slab-retaining wall. Drilled holes into rocks and narrow rock-ledge, inserted ‘studding’ and cemented into place. Kept going until I ran out of cement. Packed everything away, bags were much lighter now, and made my way back to the farm. It was getting dark, 20:30.