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dighalloween

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

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.

14th November 2019

digging 2018 Posted on Fri, November 15, 2019 06:31:28

Report by Vince.

Vince, Nick, Mike and Jon.

Due to recent adverse weather conditions (heavy rain and some snow) there were some thoughts and discussion about how our time would be best spent. It was thought that Wookey Hole might be too wet and there were bags and bang to clear from Hallowe’en Rift.

The lake wasn’t any wetter than it was on Tuesday. Vince went ahead, reeling in the wire and started to clear back some of the debris. There was a good amount of gravel but most of the time was spent wrestling back some large lumps of fractured rock, one lump proved to be too large and will require some further attention. When clear there will be ample space created. Nick was next in line, filling bags and reducing the larger rocks to skip-size. Mike was hauling the skip away while Jon was stacking the spoil, very neatly, into any available space on the north side of the lake.

Time passes very quickly when you are enjoying yourself, there was no time left to clear anything out to the surface. So, there’s plenty to do on the weekend!



12th November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, November 13, 2019 06:31:07

Report by Vince.

Vince, Alex G

Alex had decided he would like to re-visit the cave after a long break and I appreciated someone to help with the bags and other stuff.

Another phase of expansion required at the [current] end of the Cold Gnarly North. 5no. holes drilled and filled, c.500mm length x 12mm diameter; pilot holes were drilled first in each location, c.300mm (L) x 14mm (dia.) 4no. holes were into conglomerate (okay) 1no. into degraded calcite (hard going). All went off successfully. Hopefully, progress towards the echoing/draughting cross-rift will be improved. Should be plenty to clear out next digging session.



9th November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, November 10, 2019 07:20:28

Report by Jon.

I attended the UBSS Centenary Symposium held at the University of Bristol. Jon supplied the following account of Saturday’s activity in Hallowe’en Rift:

“Five diggers (Jon, Jake, Tav, Paul and Nick), all of whom knew each other, assembled at the appointed place.  In a week when fireworks, metaphorical or otherwise, were a regular topic of conversation, the early arrivals were a little subdued, possible as a result of the cold and wet conditions.  Then Paul arrived, buoyed up by New Van Syndrome, and spirits were raised.

At the dig, Paul took the lead position, supported by Nick.  Jon and Jake hauled skips.  Tav again volunteered for the position in the lake.  The water was somewhat higher that during previous sessions, but over the course of the session was largely removed with the spoil.

Initially, rocks that had been stacked near the dig face during a previous session were removed to the lake.  In due course, spoil from the rift was bagged and hauled out.  Some bags were notably heavier than others.  The team, as always, were quick to blame Nick, but just as quick to forgive him.  It is just in his DNA.

Come the afternoon, the hauling team moved back and removed the spoil from the lake back to the junction.  Paul and Nick continued to dig for a while longer, making sure to leave the spoil well away from the step in the floor which now needs removing.  As lunch time approached, the team moved to the entrance where a decision was needed on whether, or not, to haul the bags out.  Paul remarked on how well the bags had been stacked; the team then departed. 

In the changing hut, the conversation returned to the topic of fireworks.  Some reminisced about their childhood experiences.  Sparklers were a common factor in many a childhood; Paul had been forced to watch the welder.

The team retired to a local hostelry for light refreshments and proceeded to put the world to rights.  Nick then went to buy a firework.”



7th November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, November 08, 2019 06:27:54

Report by Vince.

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

Far too big a team for the current requirements in the Wookey Hole dig but perfect for clearing the bags from the [current] end of Hallowe’en, the rocks could be left for another day.

I went to the end with Nick, so he could have a quick look before we started shifting bags. Mike was just beyond the lake, Tav opted to be in the water, Duncan seemed very content at his corner station, Jake at the Junction and Jon stacking the filled bags in the entrance. Everyone was happy!

When enough bags had been cleared back from the end, I moved along the line to relieve Jon, who went to the surface and hauled the spoil out of the cave. 60+ bags and a couple of skip loads of rock to the surface. The bags were emptied at the end of the evening, re-bundled and returned below ground ready for the weekend.

A productive and enjoyable session!



5th November. I’m not interested in fireworks!!!

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, November 06, 2019 06:35:47

Report by Vince.

I had packed my UV torches (365nm and 395nm) but got distracted along the cross-rift. In hindsight, perhaps I should have packed the compass too. I had gone there to assess the next phase of IRS but started poking at some calcited cobbles comprised of fractured speleothems. I got far enough along the rift to see that it is too narrow to pass higher up, but the interesting thing is that it appears to continue lower down, maybe dropping. There is good air movement and a resounding echo. Frustrating. I’ve got a plan regarding the IRS and will try and sort it out for next week.



2nd November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Mon, November 04, 2019 06:28:50

Report by Jon.

I was away digging Harry Thomas Cave on Gower this weekend; Jon supplied the following summary of events:

“Only three of the team (Jon, Jake and Duncan) were available to dig on this wet and blustery morning.  A prompt start was made.  Duncan took the lead position at the end of the Gnarly North, supported by Jake.  Jon stacked bags at the bottom of the slope.

 After the previous session, visions of simply removing the loose rocks from the floor and rapidly moving to the constriction were perhaps to be expected.  However, the digging was hard work.  The apparently loose rocks are somewhat calcited.  Progress was slow.

The floor leading up to the rift was further lowered, but a hard edge proved difficult to dig out and may need to be removed by other means.

All three of the team took a turn at digging before nature called and a departure was made.  No spoil was removed today.  A good hauling team will be required shortly.”



31st October 2019. It’s Hallowe’en!

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, November 01, 2019 08:56:49

Report by Vince.

With Jon.

No-one else was tempted by the joys of an evening in the Cold Gnarly North. No matter the two of us could get something done. The idea was that digging might be slower so we would loosen some material and fill a few bags so the weekend team would have a head-start; and the body in the lake would be occupied and too busy to think about being cold.

Jon went ahead and started digging, I cleared the filled bags and sporadic cobbles and stacked them neatly. There’s plenty of space available for temporary storage. We filled a couple of dozen or so bags then decided to have a peek at the prospects going forward.

Jon managed to wriggle on his back, into the cross-rift, to the right (~south) the rift pinches in, to the left (~north) the rift continues but a slab of calcite-coated rock obscured the view. We swapped places. I followed Jon’s lead and wriggled in on my back and with some effort was able to remove the slab and drag it back to Jon. The slab is aesthetically pleasing and can be relocated elsewhere. Then back for a better look. The cross-rift intersects the bedding and to the left (~north) continues, c.0.25m at its widest, and c.1.5m high, to a pinch-point low down. Here the rift appears to turn slightly and beyond the pinch-point widen considerably, there is an ‘echo’ and cool air movement (even Jon could detect it!). Immediately above the low pinch-point it looks passable. The prospects going forward look very enticing and we could be on the cusp of another significant development. There’s about 2 or 3m of hard digging required to gain access to whatever lies beyond. Some of you will see for yourselves on the weekend, you will be impressed, you too will be excited!



26th October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, October 27, 2019 06:49:42

Report by Vince.

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon and Duncan.

Some of the team came prepared for the wet conditions and getting beyond the lake, sporting a variety of neo-fleece or old surfing wetsuits. Some weren’t quite as prepared.

While I went ahead and carried on with the digging, there was a pile of filled bags and rubble leftover from last weekends endeavours. The accumulation of debris was hauled away by Jon, Duncan and Brockers to Jake in the lake where it was stored awaiting removal later. I also wanted to check if there was any requirement for the further application of chemical enhancement during the coming week. It was soon apparent that this would not be necessary. Ahead the digging comprises an accumulated layer of fractured calcite flowstone and fine sediment overlying thin bands of more competent calcite. These layers can be levered off with a bar. Below these more calcite but slightly degraded and mixed with finer sediment, although some areas are calcited and need a more sustained effort to break it up. The loose material needs to be dragged back to a position where it is easier to bag it up.

Eventually, the call came from the lake that there was a considerable pile of spoil to be hauled out to the surface. The team moved back to start the clear-out.  I stayed where I was for a short while to prise out some calcited cobbles to gain a tantalizing glimpse into whatever lay beyond. It appears that we are about to intersect a cross-rift with a bit of an echo and some air movement, interesting. To the north (?) I could see some open space, albeit rather constricted, perhaps 2 to 3m, I couldn’t quite see what was in the other direction. We’re not going to get a better look without a lot more digging yet. I moved back to take over from Brockers in the lake. A total of 62 skip loads went out to the surface; 48 filled bags and 14 loads of rock to be added to the wall at some point in the future.

Those that had not been so well prepared grumbled about being cold. No-one was too sympathetic, and we made our way back to the farm.

The prospects in the cave look interesting, that’s a good way to finish a session!



19th October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Mon, October 21, 2019 06:27:08

Vince was attending the BCRA 30th Cave Science Symposium being at the British Geological Survey, Keyworth followed on the 20th October by a field trip to Creswell Crags. This account of the activities at Hallowe’en Rift on Saturday was provided by Jon:

“The sagest of the elders took a leave of absence and a small turnout was expected. Jon, Duncan, Jake and Nick were preparing to depart when a storm arrived in the form of the hut warden, Paul, back from his sabbatical. At the farm, Mike was a late arrival, turning up after his preferred digging session was cancelled.

The team divided in two, based on the members’ dress sense.  Jake was dressed in his pub clothes and Mike was dressed for a dig elsewhere. Nick brought a wetsuit in preparation for his expected position within his lake. The others were suitably dressed for underground activities. I won’t comment on frocks.

Initially, Paul and Nick went to the dig face and between them managed to stack bags and rocks back at the corner. The remainder of the team cleared the spoil from the previous digging session, which had been stacked at the junction. Mike and Jake then moved on to surface wall-building activities, while the others re-organised themselves underground.

Paul now took the lead, supported by Jon, and Duncan cleared the spoil at the corner. As the tide was high, wet-suited Nick gallantly stacked in the lake. Paul concentrated his digging efforts on the left-hand side, up towards the calcite feature. At close of play, this was clearly visible. Loose rocks and gravel were removed. The floor now needs to be lowered. A small entrenching tool or spade may be useful next time, but nothing more technical is needed at present.

Pub time approached and the team moved out to clear the lake of spoil. The water remains! At the dig face there are now a dozen or so bags stacked and ready for removal, along with half as much of rock.

57 bags and 25 loads of rock were removed to the surface before the team retired to a local hostelry for light refreshments.”



17th October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, October 18, 2019 07:29:37

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

A big turn-out this evening, all eager to enjoy the benefits of a good digging session…

The last application of IRS has the desired effect and there was plenty of rock and gravel to be removed. Tav was digging, filling bags and rolling rocks behind him, where I was immediately behind loading and guiding the skip around the bend. Jon was at the next bend hauling and guiding the skip along it’s way to Mike at the corner north of the lake. The load was transferred to the next skip. Duncan has prepared for his session in the lake and had donned a wetsuit and was adamant that the water did not require bailing. The effects of the sloshing water were apparent later when the wooden ramps at either end of the lake began to float. Nick was out of harms way at the intermediate corner where he was surrounded by solid rock and had no tools. There was a steady flow of bags and rocks to keep him occupied too. Jake was at the Junction, this evening’s final destination for the spoil. All the spoil remained underground awaiting removal to the surface on the next session, Saturday.

Back at the dig, when most of the loose stuff had been cleared away along with some large slabs of fractured rock and calcite a better view of the prospects ahead was possible. It looks interesting and there are tantalising glimpses, but this is Hallowe’en and more digging is required yet. There are options to the left- and the right-sides and air movement can be detected. Another application of IRS is not immediately needed as there is plenty of loose stuff and fractured/shattered rock to be prised free. We have gained a couple of metres or so extra length to the cave this session and it won’t be too long before we’ll have to think about the next staging position, either north of the lake or in it. The problem with stacking in the lake is the water will deepen and we might not be able to find all the spoil.

Wasps nest in the beech tree near to the cave entrance. The wasps have hanging around outside for a couple of weeks now.


15th October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, October 16, 2019 06:35:35

With Roz.

A return to the Cold Gnarly North, beyond the lake to continue the quest for the northerly passage, yet to be discovered. There are high hopes. A total of five holes (3no. 550mm length, 2no. 400mm length, all 12mm diameter) drilled and filled, well tamped and fired from the middle of the lake.

A restricted glimpse into whatever lies beyond.

It was a challenge to keep the kit out of the water, especially the drill and lithium ion batteries. Should be stuff to clear on Thursday evening (Wookey Hole dig is flooded at present and I’m at the BCRA Cave Science Symposium at BGS, Keyworth on Saturday).

A quick stop at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for some refreshments and then home.



12th October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, October 13, 2019 06:34:55

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

After the recent heavy rain, it wasn’t too surprising the ‘lake’ was no longer dry, it had filled with water to a substantial depth. Jon had drawn the short straw, it was his turn in the ‘lake chamber’ and much of his time was to be occupied with pumping/bailing the water, in between emptying and loading skips. Jake, on the other hand, was most comfortable in the dry, dusty dig. Unfortunately, Jake had worn his pub clothes underneath his caving oversuit and had to cross the lake to get to the dig. Caving kit next session! Tav was next in-line, wallowing in a recurring puddle of my creation as I emptied skip loads of water into an inclined dip in the bedding, where Tav had chosen to lie. Duncan hadn’t needed to venture beyond the lake and was comfortable (his words!) at the intermediate corner. Nick had been left to his own devices at the Junction, which turned out to result in a rather disappointing outcome. On our return from beyond the lake thoroughly soaked through we had then to wallow in the complete mess that Nick had created! And there is a large boulder right in the way of operations.

At the dig, Jake had cleared the debris, frustratingly still can’t quite see ahead, but the area is clear enough for the next application of IRS. There’s a block of conglomerate exposed so something solid to drill into, the quantity of calcite here is problematic. It will be a challenge to get the drill and equipment bags across the lake and keep them dry.

55 loads were removed from the cave to the surface, a few of those were completely un-necessary.



8th October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, October 09, 2019 07:01:45

Vince and Roz.

Back again! Another look into the space beyond, it becomes more enticing every time I look at it.

Striving for the space beyond!

6no. holes (5no. to 400mm and 1no. 550mm length, 12mm diameter) were drilled and filled, spaced to shake-up the calcited rocks and blocks of conglomerate. Fired from the ‘lake’ chamber, no wetter than it was yesterday evening. All sounded good, flying rock was heard. Should be stuff to clear on the weekend.



7th October 2019

notes Posted on Tue, October 08, 2019 06:27:26

Vince, Estelle Sandford and James Begley.

A trip to An Unexpected Development (AUD) followed by a tour around the rest of the cave. There were a few puddles of water along the way to AUD including a pond at the ‘dig’ in the lowest point in the rift. That was a surprise. Looking up the rift, thought to myself “really ought to finish that climb!”.

I had brought along my 100 LED 395nm UV torch to try out in parts of AUD. However, that turned out to be disappointing as the torch had turned ‘on’ inside my bag so the batteries were depleted – will have to try harder next time!

UV illumination.

There was a pool of water in the low crawl into Trick or Treat so that became well lubricated. Toil and Trouble somehow appeared shorter but that must be in the mind only. In the Cold Gnarly North there is a bit more water in the ‘lake’ than there was on Saturday. The dig is still dry and there was a good detectable movement of air noted.

I think the guests enjoyed the trip.

Back again tomorrow. Might find some clean [and dry] kit for that trip!



5th October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, October 06, 2019 07:40:30

Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick, Tav and Pete Bolt.

The main task of the morning was to clear up after another application of IRS. With a team of six we could get the spoil back to the Junction. I went ahead to reel in the wire and to check that all had gone according to plan. It had and there was plenty of debris. I moved back to the dry ‘lake’ and Nick set about filling bags and shifting fractured rocks. The initial line-up was; Nick clearing, Jake and Tav moving the spoil away and transferring the spoil into the skip hauled by me in the lake chamber, the load dumped into the next skip, hauled away by Pete at the intermediate corner and then, to Jon at the Junction where the spoil was temporarily stashed.

Things were progressing smoothly, then I needed a comfort break and returned to the surface, Pete and Jon moved one position forward. I returned, relieved, and took up position at the Junction for a short while. Then Jake passed by needing a comfort break, so we all moved forward one position. Meanwhile, the spoil was still being cleared away despite the positional changes.

A rumour had been spread from the ‘north’ that things had gone from “looking good” to looking “very good”. Hammering could be heard in the distance and spoil removal had stalled. Some of the team headed back to start clearing the stash of filled bags and rocks out to the surface. I wanted to get a look at the end to plan for another mid-week application of some chemical persuasion and Pete also wanted to see the current end, so we moved forward to join Nick.

Nick was trying to coax a couple of obstinate boulders out of their position where they were impeding the view of the space ahead. They were loose but there was not quite enough gap for their removal. Eventually, with a combined effort the offending rocks were removed and a good look at the prospects ahead was possible. It looked good, straight ahead was open space, about 2m length x c.2m width x c.0.2m height, there appears to be a continuation to the left (?north) but this cannot be confirmed yet. There is air movement. The initial progress forward is constricted by calcited boulders that will require some loosening; the mid-week task is clear. If all goes to plan, we’ll get an even better look at it next weekend.

Satisfied with the prospects we headed out to help clear the cave of spoil, 54 loads in total – 34 bags and 20 skip-loads of rock. Pub time.

Both digs (Wookey Hole and Hallowe’en Rift) have positive outcomes this week. How good is that!



1st October 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, October 01, 2019 22:10:00

Vince and Roz.

We got caught in a heavy rain shower as we walked up across the field into the wood. Underground it was relatively dry including the “lake”.

At the aven, the effort was concentrated around the ‘wobbly’ rock to the right-side of the aven. There seems to be some air movement emanating from the currently restricted space beyond. It looks interesting enough, let’s see how it develops. 5no. holes, 550mm length x 12mm diameter, drilled and filled. The evenings task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion from the “lake” chamber. All good!

Drilling holes with the new Bosch hammer drill.

Back on the surface, the heavy rain had ceased, just drizzly rain. Should be plenty to shift on Saturday.



28th September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Mon, September 30, 2019 06:24:37

The following report was written by Jon: 

“With some members away at conference, some away on courses and others convalescing overseas, the Saturday meeting was barely quorate.  Tav, Nick, Jake and Jon attended; just enough to clear spoil back to the Lake.

The team made a prompt start, arriving early at the hut and finding it in a remarkably clean and tidy state.  Knowing that the Hut Warden was overseas, the team quickly concluded that Ladies Day had been a huge success.  A motion was proposed and passed uncontested; henceforth, women will be allowed to enter the changing hut.

In an extraordinary departure from previous practice, the team immediately identified the correct key and took it with them to the entrance rift.

The aim of the day was to remove the bang debris from Vince’s midweek visit.  Jon took the lead position and was presented with a veritable scree-slope.  Once cleared, the access into the Aven was somewhat wider than previously.  On the right-hand side, below the Aven, small fractured pieces of rock were removed from around the calcited blocks, one of which is now loose but still in place.  It is now possible to see beyond the blocks.  The view is similar to rest of the cave, appearing to be a shallow bedding with airspace above. 

Given the recent rainfall, it was expected that the ‘lake’ would be full.  None of the team had brought a wetsuit, but Tav volunteered to take that position.  Surprisingly, the ‘lake’ was completely dry.  32 bags of spoil and 18 skips of rock were initially stacked there, and then removed to the surface.  The team then retired to a local hostelry for light refreshment.”



24th September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, September 25, 2019 06:16:30

Vince and Roz.

Continued the expansion of the passage into the aven in the Cold Gnarly North. It’s still nice and dry despite the recent heavy rain.

4no. holes to c.500mm length x 12mm diameter drilled and filled. Fired from the Junction, sounded okay. There should be some work for the Saturday team. Me, I’m off to Hidden Earth, the national caving conference being held this year at Glyndwr University, Wrexham where I’ve booked a stand for the BCRA Cave Archaeology Special Interest Group (SIG).



21st September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, September 22, 2019 06:24:50

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

A good strong team today meant that the spoil could be transported back to the bottom of the entrance rather than being temporarily stashed in the lake chamber.

I went ahead to reel in the wire and to check that all was good with the IRS, and it was.

There was plenty of gravel, cobbles and boulders of fractured rock to be shifted (I offered to swap places with Jon and Nick but they both declined). As the spoil was removed the then the passage became more spacious and was rather comfortable, digging was eventually possible from a hands and knees position and the skip run was fine. When the loose stuff had been cleared away there was some hammer and barring to be done to remove most of the fractured rock leaving a clean ‘face’ for the next application of IRS on Tuesday. It’s a bit easier to get into the aven but still on the snug side, that can be remedied. Jon came forward to have a look at the future digging prospects before going back to the cave entrance to assist in clearing the spoil out of the cave. A total of 71 loads were hauled out of the cave, 47 bags and 24 loads of rock. Another fine effort!



17th September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, September 18, 2019 06:04:26

Vince, Jake, Jon and Tav.

Jake, Jon and Tav cleared the rocks that were still in the cave and did some walling on the surface. The large rocks that had accumulated around the cave entrance were used too.

Me, I made my way to the Cold Gnarly North to drill holes, 5no. (split 2no. and 3no.) pilot holes, 250mm x 14mm, then extended to 400mm x 12mm (first battery ran-out on the 5th extension). The group of 3no. holes placed on the right side of the approach to the aven were extended further to 550mm x 12mm. these were a bit problematic, the bit kept jamming, not good rock, a lot of calcite vughs, slowed the process somewhat. Eventually though all the holes were filled, tamped and wired ready to go. Both bags packed, drill bits in the tube, these were pushed ahead while I reeled out the wire. The evening’s task brought to a satisfactory conclusion at the Junction. Hopefully, there will be plenty to clear on Saturday.

The cave entrance has another replacement lock to secure it.



14th September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, September 15, 2019 08:30:33

Vince, Tav, Duncan, Jon and Jake.

Met up with Tav and Duncan at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn at the usual time, 10:00. Jon cycled to the farm as he’s carless – something about pheasants and windscreens. Jake later joined us underground.

The bang did good! We were greeted by a considerable pile of fractured rock and gravel. The larger lumps of rock were reduced to more manageable pieces, the gravel was put into bags and the spoil made its way to be temporarily stashed in the ‘lake’ chamber. The loose material had been removed, some hammer and chisel work cleared the fractured material from the roof. It had taken quite a while to clear the debris so only the bags of gravel made it out to the surface, the rocks remain. We plan to return on Tuesday evening for a rock removal session, also another application of IRS. It’s all starting to come together. Happy days!



11th September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Thu, September 12, 2019 05:57:12

The pre-drilled holes have been filled, wires joined and button pressed. The application of IRS complete, there should be a pile of debris to shift on Saturday morning.



9th September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, September 10, 2019 06:48:08

Solo.

I have purchased a replacement drill, this time I’ve opted for a Bosch 36v heavy duty professional model. The drill has two 2ah batteries and I was unsure how many holes I would be able to drill so decided to go and find out before purchasing any supplies. I also wanted to photograph an interesting exposure of calcite flowstone before it gets covered in mud.

Underground, I took the photographs first. Seems like more evidence for the effects of Pleistocene frost/ice on speleothems in Hallowe’en Rift. An interesting point, recently I have read several archaeological excavation reports for site such as Paviland Cave and Pontnewydd Cave (both in Wales) that record fragments/clasts of speleothem within a matrix of other sediment, some of this has been dated. The dates have some correlation with glacial/interglacial cycles during the Quaternary.

Calcite flowstone exposure in the Cold Gnarly North

Onto the drilling, the first thing I noticed is that the Bosch drill is lighter and smaller, easier to use in constricted space. 1st battery: 4no. pilot holes 250mm x 14mm, these were then extended using 400mm x 12mm drill bit. The 1st battery just started to fade on the 4th extension, so hardly used the 2nd battery. Very pleased with the tool. Packed everything away and left the cave. I’ll be back tomorrow to finish the job!



7th September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, September 08, 2019 06:13:08

Vince, Tav, Jake and Jon.

Me first reeling in the wire, followed by Tav, Jake and then Jon who, nursing a tennis elbow, opted for the more spacious and now dry “lake” chamber.

There was a bang to clear and a very good job it had done too. Some of the loose gravel and cobble-sized fragments were bagged up before getting to work on the large slab of rock that had been detached from the roof. A few hefty blows with a lump hammer and then used a bar to prise apart the fractured slab the resultant lumps of rock were rolled back to Tav. A few of the lumps were further reduced before being dispatched by Jake to Jon in the “lake” chamber where the debris was temporarily being stored. Then we returned to removing the remaining gravel and cobble-sized fragments.

All the debris cleared, a brief visit to the aven with Tav and a short discussion about prospects and the next step – another application of IRS to ease access into the aven and improve the route for the removal of spoil in the future. There is a low, possibly phreatic, arch just to the right-side of the squeeze into the aven that might be an option for some further attention.

Then all back to clear out the “lake” chamber and get the spoil to the surface. Thirty bags were hauled out but, as time was getting on, about twenty skip loads of rock were left at the bottom of the entrance for another day. Good session!



3rd September 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, September 04, 2019 06:40:16

Vince and Roz.

Continuing the expansion of the passage north. 3no. holes in the floor and 1no. in the roof, hole dimensions: 550mm length x 12mm dia., 250mm x 14mm pilot holes were drilled first. It’s a bit awkward with the long bit in the low passage. Alas, it might have been the final journey for my drill, there was a lot of acrid smoke and I struggled to retrieve the 550mm drill bit from the last hole – I bet the warranty has ended too! Never mind. The evenings task was concluded at the junction, all sounded good.

We didn’t stop at the Hunter’s as it was later than expected and had an early’ish start in the morning.



31st August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, August 31, 2019 21:01:00

Vince, Jake, Nick and Jon.

A smaller team today, numbers depleted by a journey to the ‘real’ Cold Gnarly North, a wedding and the pull of a disco beat. Never mind, four was still an okay number.

Nick forged ahead followed by Jake, Jon next in line directing skip movements, I was in the relatively dry ‘lake’ chamber where the spoil, in the form of filled bags and loose rocks, was temporarily stored.

Digging continued at a steady pace until 12:15 when we decided that it was time to clear out the spoil from the cave, a task that was to require a couple of stages, the spoil temporarily re-located to the bottom of the entrance before its final destination was attained. A total of 33 bags and 6 very full skip loads of rocks out to the surface.

At the end of this morning’s session some discussion about the re-construction of the fallen wall included an ambitious expansion plan, we do have plenty of stones and there will be more.



24th August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, August 25, 2019 05:56:43

Vince, Nick, Jon, Brockers and Tav.

When we arrived at the cave entrance it was apparent that there had been an isolated collapse of the retaining wall. The most likely explanation is a slump of the material behind the wall as it became saturated in a recent deluge. However, anthropogenic interference cannot be ruled out either.

I was at the digging end of the Cold Gnarly North aided by Nick who was also, there was loose material remaining from the last session that needed bagging up. Jon was in the ‘lake chamber’, it didn’t appear to be any wetter than it was at the end of the last visit. Jon was digging too. The Lake Chamber Dewatering Project was underway, a low, small phreatic arch that Nick had noticed was exploited and there is a sandy silt layer that with a bit of work might allow the water to drain through. Brockers took up position at the intermediate corner and I suspect he found something to poke at in between loads. Tav was at the ‘junction’, at the end of the line, hauled the loaded skip and emptied the contents, the spoil was stacked in the entrance, so time was saved at the end of the session. Everyone was busy.

On arrival at the end of the Cold Gnarly North, Nick commented that there had been a change since his last trip up to the dig. The bedding has been expanded considerably and after this session is even roomier. The route up to the aven is relatively comfortable but there is scope for more improvement here. There is plenty of loose gravel and compacted fine sediment to be removed on the route to the aven. Access into the aven will need some attention but it appears ‘diggable’. Air movement is felt at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North but pinpointing its origins is not so easy. Nick and I discussed the origins of the fills and the potential ways forward, there are several options, all require the removal of a considerable quantity of sediments. There is a low arch to the east side of the aven that might be a possibility.

Time had passed quickly, and we left the Cold Gnarly North to move todays stack of filled bags and rocks out to the surface. 45 bags and 16 loads of rock were added to the spoil heap. A fine effort.



17th August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, August 25, 2019 05:54:59

I was away digging on Gower with Jon, others had their own commitments, consequently there was no activity at Hallowe’en Rift.



10th August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, August 11, 2019 07:07:10

With Tav, Jon, Nick and Brockers.

We continued the work to expand the passage in the Cold Gnarly North. Tav digging, his efforts concentrated on trying to remove one of the ‘calcited ribs’ in the floor that make progress forward a tiny bit awkward. Tav worked with hammer, chisel, bar and, due to the slightly constricted passage size, pushed the resultant debris behind him. I then bagged the gravel, the filled bags and larger rocks were loaded into the skip which I dragged back to the small rift, the load transferred into the next skip to be hauled by Nick to the ‘lake’ chamber, the next transfer station. Jon was lying in the intermediate corner, on the ‘bed’ I had prepared for him earlier hauled the next skip back before it continued it’s journey down to Brockers at the junction near the entrance. The skip arrived at its final destination and was unloaded and returned to from where whence it came. The filled bags and loose rocks were stored ready to be removed later.

Nick, in between skips, tried to dig a drainage hole in the ‘lake’, the water had been scooped into a temporary trough (supplied by Tav), so several bags of slurry were added to the spoil heap. Brockers probably did some ‘tidying’ too.

All too soon it was time to move back and clear the spoil from the cave. Todays tally: 59 bags and 12 skip loads of rock. Some of the rock was added to the wall.

Tuesday’s survey of the west-side of HR revealed some interesting results and there is renewed vigour to the cause. Basically, there are several options at the end that might be productive. Enough to keep us occupied for quite some time!



6th August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, August 07, 2019 09:07:30

With Duncan and Tav

There was a plan: Duncan and Tav were surveying the western passages, the recent foci of attention, while I wanted to take some more sediment samples.

My first sample location was at the top of Merlin’s, just before the Slippery Slope. The roots are getting longer. After taking the sample, I climbed down into Tuck Shop, just for a look around really, then back up the slope into Another Emotional Journey. Took the passage on the right towards the T-Junction and Trick or Treat beyond. The duck into Trick or Treat was dry and didn’t look like it had any water in it for some time. A thorough re-acquaintance with Trick or Treat before returning to T-Junction and crawling into Toil and Trouble.

Looking down through Toil and Trouble

The next sample was taken from the end of the passage leading off ‘T and T’ where I had recovered the Bison bone. The roots are really long here. Then back down ‘T and T’, up Witches Cauldron and to the western passages to rejoin the others. I had forgotten just how much passage there is in the ‘lower’ series of the cave.

I still had enough time to visit the south-western passage before the surveyors returned from the Cold Gnarly North, their mission completed. Air movement had been noted at the end of both passages, especially the north.



3rd August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, August 03, 2019 17:57:59

With Brockers, Duncan, Tav and Jon.

No IRS to clear this weekend but there’s plenty of scope for digging, Brockers at the vanguard. Duncan was next in line, clearing back from the dig and loading the skip to Tav in the ‘lake chamber’. Tav spent a short time re-constructing the ramp to ease the passage of the skip. A dozen or so bags were emptied here to consolidate the running boards. When Tav was satisfied with the ramp the were then hauled along the passage to the junction near the entrance. I was in the intermediate spot, Jon at the junction where the loaded skips were decanted, and the spoil stacked awaiting removal to the surface later in the session.

Things settled to a good steady pace as a succession of skips were filled, hauled and emptied. It didn’t seem long until it was time to think about clearing out the spoil stacked at the junction. Digging ceased and we moved back to haul out the backlog of bags and rocks. About 50 loads were removed to the surface and distributed on the spoil heap. Satisfied with the morning’s effort, the cave was secured, and we made our way down to the farm. Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.



Apologies!

notes Posted on Wed, July 31, 2019 05:57:58

My apologies to all on the appearance of some of the posts. This blog and others have all been migrated to WordPress, in the process the layout has been lost. All wholly unsatisfactory! I haven’t had the time to edit it all yet.



27th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, July 27, 2019 16:41:14

With Jake, Jon, Brockers, Duncan and Mike Moxon.

Good to see Mike turn-up to help-out, extra hands always welcome. Got last weeks IRS to clear in the Cold Gnarly North today, no lounging about in the comfort of the Soft South. I went ahead to reel in the wire followed by Brockers with a new skip and hauling ropes. Jon was in the, still wet, ‘lake’ chamber, Duncan settled into the corner, Mike and Jake were at the junction/bend and the bottom of the entrance where the spoil was stashed ready to be removed later at the end of the session.

Last weeks application of IRS had the desired effect and there was a considerable pile of fragmented rock and gravel waiting to be cleared. While Brockers sorted the skip, I started to bag up some of the gravel and move some of the rock. Some of the larger slabs of rock were shifted back to Brockers who reduced them to skip size. By the end of the session the passage was wider and higher, access to the further reaches is considerably improved, although a bit more digging will make it even better, of course. Another bedding development with arched roof to the left and right sides is visible and air movement is noticeable. A bit more digging is needed to see if this is significant, or not. The debris cleared, time to move back and haul out the bags and rocks from the entrance. Meeting Jon in the ‘lake’ chamber it was pointed out that the new skip is worn-out already and needs replacing. There was also, a brief discussion about the “left-handedness” of the skips, causing them to snag, the decision to make some “right-handed” skips was agreed on, Duncan said he will follow this up in time for next week’s session.

A final count of 51 loads were removed from the cave to the surface comprised of 33 bags of gravel and 18 skip loads of fragmented rock. The rock was added to the evermore impressive wall and the gravel used to consolidate behind the rock.

Good session. Pub!



23rd July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, July 24, 2019 06:25:30

With Jake

Due to circumstances, some beyond his control, Jake hasn’t been to An Unexpected Development, 28th July 2018 was the date of his last digging trip along the approach passage. Then went on holiday, injured knee, surgery followed, almost a year to get back into it.

Managed to pack the requisite kit into one bag – hand/lifeline, ladder, tapes and steel karabiners. It was a very warm and humid walk up to the cave entrance. Once in the cave it was much cooler and we had a very pleasant evening spent appreciating a fine bit of cave passage and talking a few things over.



20th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, July 21, 2019 06:55:32

With Jake, Jon, Brockers and Tav

We assembled at the usual time, 10:00, in the Hunter’s car park. Waited around a while for Nick, although Nick did say on Thursday evening, he might not be available, so headed down towards Wookey Hole, to the farm. Got changed and walked across the fields to the cave entrance in the woods. Then, another key moment, when I came to unlock the gate the key that had been in my caving helmet was no longer there. So, I had to retrace my steps to search for the missing key, Jon came along to help. Luckily the key wasn’t too far down the path and we returned to Hallowe’en Rift and the gate unlocked.

Brockers led the way to the Cold Gnarly North, he’s been absent for a couple of weeks and keen to get back into the swing of things. There were plenty of bags and loose rocks to be cleared from the “lake” chamber, there’s still standing water here. I went ahead to continue the expansion work beyond, Brockers helped with the bags, keeping them out of the water.

In the small rift chamber, I unpacked the kit and set about drilling the required holes. There was a rather disconcerting moment when a large, quite heavy flake of rock detached from the roof and landed, painfully, on my left knee. 4no. holes, 550mm (length) x 12mm (dia.) were drilled, some short, 260mm, 14mm (dia.) pilot holes were drilled first, makes things a bit easier in the restricted space. Then the holes were filled, I turned around, “Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Tamp”, six balls of silt/clay, all in a row thoughtfully prepared by the team last week. Good tamp too. All done, I wired up and made my way south to join the others, shoving my bags and drill tube ahead while unravelling the wire.

After clearing last week’s debris, the rest of the team had returned to the Soft South to continue digging. There was a stack of bags in the entrance to be hauled out to the surface before my morning’s task was brought to a satisfying conclusion with a resounding boom.

All out, the cave secured, we made our way back down across the fields to the farm. Another productive morning, 73 bags and 12 loads of loose rock, Jake had managed some walling too!



13th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Mon, July 15, 2019 20:52:41

I was away this weekend, digging on Gower, the following report was submitted by Jon:

“Only three of the digging team (Jon, Tav and Duncan) were available for duty. All arrived in good time and made a prompt start at the farm. Ignoring recent tradition, the team picked up the key before walking up the hill.

The task for the day was the removal of bang debris from the Gnarly North. There were too few diggers to haul around the corner at the top of the slope in one go, so the team were forced to stack rocks and bags of gravel along the side of the lake.

Duncan took the lead position and Tav volunteered for the deeper lake, leaving Jon to stack along the side of the shallow lake. All the bang debris was removed to this point. Then the team retired for some liquid refreshment.

Only one bag was successfully removed to the surface. It contained the bang
wire. This is now to be found in the shed.”



6th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, July 06, 2019 16:22:00

With Jon, Nick and Tav.

The Cold Gnarly North was my destination today, the others decided to dig in the Soft South, which is the easier, more comfortable option.

Drag line attached, bags attached, drill tube and wire reel in hand I set off along the passage north. I was a bit surprised to find that there were two puddles of standing water, 50mm – 75mm depth, in the ‘lake’ but it wasn’t an issue. My plan was to widen the next constriction just beyond the small
rift to improve access and make digging and spoil removal easier. Drilled 4no. holes, 550mm, length x 12mm, diameter and charged. I looked around for “Trevor’s ball of tamp” that I had put to one side for safe keeping, but it had gone, added to the spoil heap I assume. Unfortunately, this is probably the only part of the cave where there is not any mud suitable for tamp. I had to make do with arisings and the little bit of mud that I could scrape up.

All done, I made my way south, dragging/shoving by bags and kit along the passage while reeling out the wire. At the junction, the ‘Soft Southerners’ were about finished digging, just the hauling out and emptying of bags to be
done, so I gave them a helping hand. About 70 bags were hauled to the surface and emptied. When the bags were all empty, I returned underground to bring my morning’s task to a satisfactory conclusion.

Then down the hill to the farm in the warm sunshine, changed and up the hill to the Hunter’s for refreshments.



29th June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, July 06, 2019 16:21:25

I was at a BCRA Field Meeting – Hypogenic Caves of the North Pennines, UNESCO Global Geopark at Nenthead. The rest of the team had other commitments, no digging took place.



22nd June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, June 22, 2019 15:37:04

With Jon and Brockers

A small team assembled for today’s activities and it was soon
decided that the best and most effective use of manpower was to dig in the Soft
South.

While Jon packed bags, Brockers went ahead to start digging and I headed
up to the Cold Gnarly North. I wanted to look and make an assessment for the
next phase of IRS and expand the low grovel that is the continuation north. On the
way back to join the others I scraped up the loose material lying in the low
section.

Back in the “comfort” of the Soft South I took my position
stacking bags in the entrance ready to be removed later. Jon was at the
junction/bend and Brockers was busily digging away.

It was a pleasant way to spend the morning, chattering away to Jon,
stopping occasionally to stack another bag in the entrance. It’s surprising how
big the pile gets as the session progresses.

Then the time came to clear-out the spoil, Jon and I went up to
the surface and took it in turns to haul up the skip. Brockers remained below
ground to load the skip. When all the bags were out of the cave, they were then
emptied onto the spoil heap and the bags hung-up to dry. Today’s tally; 49
filled and emptied bags, and a stone that didn’t qualify as a load or even half
a load really.



15th June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, June 21, 2019 07:26:55

Another flint knapping
workshop at Butser Ancient Farm for me. I didn’t dig but the rest of the team
did. The following report was written by Jon:

“Shambles
/ˈʃamb(ə)lz/

noun

1. A state of confusion, bad organization, or untidiness, or something
that is in this state.

2. A butcher’s slaughterhouse
(archaic except in place names).

3. Five diggers at Halloween
Rift on Saturday 15th June 2019.

The usual call to action is via a text-based messaging system
(e-mail). This week, attempts were made to circumvent this and use
instead a text-based messaging system (SMS). Four members of the team
(Tav, Nick, Duncan and Jon) assembled at the appointed hour. A fifth
member (Paul) sent a message to indicate he was running late.

The team patiently waited and, after further reference to the
messaging system, waited some more. Finally giving up on the latecomer,
the team moved on to the farm, to be met by the latecomer. For his sins,
he was appointed hut warden.

With echoes of past failures, the team set out without a
key. A Sage Elder saved the day; a runner was despatched to get
one. Fortunately, a second team member also went back and got the correct
key.

Effort was directed at the Cold Gnarly North, with Paul in the
lead. Nick took the wet spot, in his lake. Tav hauled at the
corner, a position gaining a reputation for being cold and miserable.
Duncan and Jon hauled and stacked at the entrance. 44 bags of spoil and
11 loads of rock were removed. Paul reports that this was largely loose
spoil that had previously been stacked along the sides of the passage.

The team learnt from their earlier mistakes and made sure that
they finished on time. They then retired to a local hostelry for liquid
refreshment…

…or rather, three team members did. Those who had manned the
wetter, colder positions went straight home.”



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