Blog Image


Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

Excursions [and other notes] involved in the exploration of Hallowe'en Rift; a cave, so far, formed within Triassic Dolomitic Conglomerate.

The exploration of Hallowe'en Rift was started in 1982 by Trevor Hughes with other members of the Bristol Exploration Club, their interest waned by the late 80s. 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 with Graham Johnson in December 1991. This led to the discovery of An Unexpected Development in August 2018. 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, in 2023, the core team comprises: Vince Simmonds, Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Jonathon Riley, and Paul 'Brockers' Brock. There is/has been help from others including Mike Moxon, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price, Phil Coles, Caroline Allen, Mike Willett, Matt Tuck, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, and several appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasey.

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

27th May

2023 Posted on Sat, May 27, 2023 15:12:21

With Tav, Jon, Jake, and Brockers

Tav upfront digging at the current end of the Soft South (going under Trick or Treat), Jon was clearing the filled bags (and rocks) and, when the opportunity arose, also filled a few bags. Jake was transporting the spoil along the NE passage to the pot then hauling it up to Brockers on the ledge. Brockers then moved the spoil along the bottom of the entrance. Initially, I was positioned at the bottom of the entrance until a small stockpile of bags had accumulated before moving up to the surface to haul out and empty the bags. Another productive session, 112 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. It was very pleasant in the sunshine, followed by a trip to the Hunter’s for refreshments.

20th May 2023

No digging took place this weekend due to a number of reasons.

13th May

2023 Posted on Sat, May 13, 2023 15:44:32

With Tav, Jon, Nick, and Jake

My turn to dig, Tav was clearing away the filled bags and rocks, Jon was transporting the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and hauling it up to Nick on the ledge. Initially, Jake was at the bottom of the entrance then moved up to the surface where with Nick’s help the bags were hauled out and emptied – top effort resulting in more time for digging at the end.

Digging was concentrated to the right hand [SE] side of the approximately 3.5m wide x 2m deep x 1m high chamber. When the opportunity arose Tav came forward to fill a few bags from the left side. The sediment in the dig face consists alternating layers of red-brown silty sand, grey silt, and light red clay. At the base, a rockier layer with conglomerate boulders and mineral bands. Within the fine sediments there is visible evidence for successions of flood events followed by periods of standing water and drier conditions. What is not clear is the time spans between these events.

Sediment layers exposed in the current dig-face. Top left – NW to bottom right – SE, dig-face c.3.5m wide x c.1m high.

Digging ceased at 12:30, I took some photos while the last few bags were moved out to the surface. All the bags empty, cave secured, it was time for the pub.

6th May

2023 Posted on Sat, May 06, 2023 15:21:56

With Jake, Tav, Brockers, and Nick

At the far north-eastern reaches of the deep Soft South, going under Trick or Treat, Jake was digging, I was clearing away filled bags and rocks. The spoil loaded into a drag tray hauled away by Tav who then carried the filled bags (the rocks stacked to one-side) along the passage to the pot where they were put into the bucket and hauled up to Brockers on the ledge. The spoil then moved along towards the entrance where Nick was storing it ready for removal to the surface later in the morning.

Jake loosened the compacted sediment from the bank ahead of him and loaded it into bags, several rocks were dug out and broken up too. When 8-packs (80-bags) had been filled, digging ceased, and we moved back to start clearing the cave. It was noted that somewhere along the way other bags had been filled.

On the surface, the recent rain made for sticky, slippery conditions, the mud adhering to boots and bags. Todays total was about 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap. The rocks were left underground. Another good productive session. It was noted how tenacious brambles are, shoots appearing through the spoil heap, at least they will aid stabilisation.

It was disappointing to find the Hunter’s Lodge Inn was closed. Never mind back home to watch the opening time trial stage of the Giro d’Italia. Put my oversuit into a bucket to soak!

29th April

2023 Posted on Sat, April 29, 2023 17:59:48

With Nick, Jake, and Tav

A reduced team for this session and a strict time restraint as one of the team, under instruction, had to go and collect some rescue chickens.

Down in the deep Soft South, Nick was upfront digging, filling bags and smashing rocks, Jake was clearing away the bags and debris, I was shuttling to and fro along the NE passage to the pot and hauling the spoil up to Tav on the ledge. Tav was last in line and with limited space dragged the spoil along towards the entrance or, at least, as far as he could. The pulley at the top of the pot was mired in mud making hauling much harder and the bucket, when emptied, did not return easily or freely (the pulley will need swapping next session so will bring spanner and clean pulley).

As instructed, digging was curtailed slightly earlier than usual, and the spoil removed from the cave. At the end of the session about 50-bags had been hauled away and emptied onto the spoil heap. The claggy contents were not always forthcoming which caused feint grumblings among the team.

To compensate the effort we sought refreshment at a local hostelry.

22nd April

2023 Posted on Sun, April 23, 2023 09:35:39

With Tav, Brockers, Nick, and Jake

Continuing to explore the potential of the large fossil passage going under Trick or Treat, trending c.NE. Tav was digging, Brockers clearing away the filled bags and rocks, Nick was shuttling the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and hauling it away to Jake on the ledge. The spoil transferred to the next skip to be hauled away by me, at the bottom of the entrance. Here, the filled bags were temporarily stored to be removed later in the session.

From my perspective, a largely uneventful morning there’s not much to look at except for the blue sky on the surface, there were a couple of skip overturns that needed attention, but mostly it was hauling and unloading the skip. There was the first annoying buzz of a bluebottle this year, and a bit of rearrangement of the grotto where odd remnants of stal recovered are placed.

At midday, digging was curtailed, and the filled bags were hauled out of the cave and the contents emptied onto the spoil heap. Tav counted 72 bags, of course there were other bags filled but these remained uncounted. It was as usual a satisfying morning.

Post-digging refreshments were at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as tradition dictates.

15th April

2023 Posted on Sun, April 16, 2023 08:30:51

With Jake, Jon, Nick, Brockers, and Tav

A full complement of diggers for this morning’s session. Following some discussion at the cave entrance regarding individual task and positioning it was decided to get the spoil out to the surface rather than stack the bags at the bottom of the entrance.

Jon was leading the advancement and winning the spoil aided by Tav who was clearing away the filled bags (and sporadic rocks). Brockers hauled the drag tray, shuttling the filled bags along the NE passage to the pot where he hauled the spoil to Nick, positioned up on the ledge. Nick loaded the next skip to be hauled away by Jake, at the bottom of the entrance the skip contents transferred to the next one and it was hauled out the surface by me.

It was pleasantly warm in the spring sunshine, and I soon had tor take off the oversuit. Birds were singing, butterflies (brimstones) flitting by, it was peaceful. The hauling out was virtually non-stop action, not much time to empty many of the bags. At the final count, c.140 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied – about 100 came from the far end, and 40 others were filled somewhere else (probably very close to the ledge, Nick’s spot).

A good and productive session followed by refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

8th April

2023 Posted on Sat, April 08, 2023 16:31:15

With Brockers, Jon, Jake, and Tav

It was reported that a large boulder required some attention. So, I got to HR early loaded with drill + plugs and feathers packed. Although it had been quite dry for the last few days it was still wet in the cave, and it wouldn’t take too long to become rather squalid once digging was underway.

Got to the dig at the current end of the NE passage beyond the pissing tree (off the pot in the deep Soft South) and there was a sizeable boulder ready for size reduction. Unpacked kit and got work. Soon after Brockers turned up to remove the reduced lumps of rock while finished off. Brockers went off to do something else and I loosened sediment and started filling bags. Then Jon appeared and cleared away the bags, I carried on digging. Jake and Tav were somewhere in the cave doing their bit to redistribute the bagged spoil. Not sure who was doing what.

Although there was plenty of fine sediment to loosen and put into bags at the current base level there were more rocks to be removed. One large boulder was eventually moved to one-side for further attention later in the session. Cleaned down to what appears to be a significantly rockier layer that may or may not be large boulders, bit too early to be certain. At midday, filling bags ceased and while the rest of the team moved back to clear out the cave, I remained to reduce the boulder put aside earlier to more manageable pieces. That done I packed kit away and exited the cave. On the surface the others were waiting. Cave secured we left. Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.

1st April

2023 Posted on Thu, April 06, 2023 13:24:42

I was away on a solo walk following Offa’s Dyke Path going south to north and I can confirm that the weather was atrocious at times.

The following report of continuing activities at Hallowe’en Rift was written by Jon:

“Paul and Jon met at the Hunter’s; no-one else had indicated that they would be available. The two man team discussed whether anything practical could be achieved. As the man in charge, Paul insisted that we should check at the farm before attending to other duties elsewhere. Unfortunately, we waited too long at the farm. Jake and Nick both arrived.

It had been the wettest March for 40 years. The walk to the dig was very wet underfoot, the dig was wet, but the rain held off…initially.

Paul dug, supported by Nick. Jon and Jake carried spoil to the pot and hauled much of it up to the ledge. About mid-morning the water dripping into the pot increased. The rain had started again. 60 bags of spoil were removed. One large boulder was moved back to the rock heap. There is now a larger boulder that needs attention. The suggestion from the dig face was that plug and feathers may be required. The skip on the haul from the ledge to the entrance was replaced.  The pulley over the pot was lightly oiled; it remained silent.  The pulley on the surface worked well in the wet conditions. The spoil heap was likened to The Somme. Emptying bags was not a joyful experience. However, the Team dutifully completed the task and then sought solace at a local hostelry.”

25th March

2023 Posted on Sat, March 25, 2023 15:53:29

With Brockers, Jake, Nick, Tav, and Jon

Bigger team this weekend meant spoil could be moved back to the entrance and temporarily stashed there.

At the current end of the NE trending passage beyond the pissing tree down in the deep Soft South, I was digging, Brockers clearing the filled bags, Jake and Nick were taking it in turns to haul the drag tray along and shuttle the spoil to the pot back along the NE passage. Tav was perched on the ledge with Jon at the bottom of the entrance stacking the filled bags ready to be removed later.

Digging wasn’t especially targeted in any one area this session, more a general tidying up on all fronts. Towards the end of the session cleared out the narrow rift opposite the access route to Trick or Treat (now about 2m above the current dig). The narrow rift wasn’t without interest and this area might develop with further attention in the future. Evidence for ice damage was noted in the roof.

About midday digging ceased and we all moved back to clear the filled bags from the cave and empty their contents onto the spoil heap, about 80-bags in total. Empty bags were hung on the line ready for packing up next session.

Hunter’s Lodge Inn for post-dig refreshments.

18th March

2023 Posted on Sat, March 18, 2023 14:59:51

With Jon and Brockers

Low on numbers today but no matter we had digging to do.

Jon digging, I was clearing the filled bags back to Brockers (via a drag tray) who then shuttled the spoil along the passage to the bottom of the pot (Soft South). The digging was concentrated on the left-hand side (NW) to reach a possible wall and turning NE under an arched roof. Six packs of bags was the quota for this session before the move back to shift the filled bags up to the bottom of the entrance. The final stage of the morning was to haul the bags up to the surface and empty them – 59 bags was the final tally for the day.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

11th March

2023 Posted on Sat, March 11, 2023 15:53:24

With Brockers, Jon, Jake, Tav, and Nick

Stronger team today, in numbers anyway!

Brockers and Jon took the prime spots today, upfront digging; Jake and Tav moving the spoil from the dig along the NE passage to the pot; Nick was on the slippery ledge, and I was at the bottom of the entrance where the filled bags were temporarily stored. Care taken to spread the bags out and avoided stacking them one on top of another, makes life a lot easier when it comes to emptying the bags of their contents.

About midday, digging ceased and the filled bags were hauled out to the surface. A total of 81-bags were filled, hauled, and emptied this session.

It was reported that at the end some rocks had been encountered (and removed). At present still working downwards and some expansion sideways before a more concerted effort in a forward direction can be followed.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, as usual.

4th March

2023 Posted on Sat, March 04, 2023 15:33:56

With Brockers, Jon, and Jake

Arrived at the farm a bit earlier this morning to meet up with Brockers. Our plan was to replace the pulley’s on the surface and on the pot (Soft South) before digging got underway. We also replaced the hauling rope on the pot for good measure. Just as we finished and were making our way to the end to start digging we were joined by Jon and Jake.

Brockers admires the new pulley and clean haul rope

I was digging at the end, Brockers was next in line, Jon and Jake were shuttling the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and up on to the ledge. Quite a few bags were dragged back to the bottom of the entrance too.

Sediment deposition at the current end of the dig. The older deposits are to the left of the scale bar (scale = 0.3m)

A large part of the digging effort this morning was focused on enlargement of the end “chamber” and cleaning off tumble material and levelling the approach passage beyond the stalagmites. We might decide to install a skip/drag tray some time in the future. By the end of the session there was enough for two people to dig at the end. Digging was stopped slightly earlier today to give plenty of time to clear out the cave and empty the bags. There was a bit of a glitch with the surface pulley, apparently, caused by hard-packed mud but the issue was soon rectified by Brockers. Today’s total was 70-bags, filled, hauled, and emptied. To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for well-earned refreshments!

25th February

2023 Posted on Sun, February 26, 2023 09:16:14

Vince, Jake, Tav, and Brockers

Jake upfront digging aided by Tav who cleared back the filled bags, I was hauling away the skip (loaded with bags) and passing the bags to Brockers, who was carrying them back to the pot where they were temporarily stored. A couple of times Brockers and I moved back to the pot to shift some bags up onto the ledge until the available space was filled. It is interesting to note that there is a lack of rock within the fine sediments which might suggest that we are at the upper part of a larger passage, the rocks being in the lower section.

At midday it was decided to stop digging and start to clear out the cave. The mud was especially sticky and soon clogged up the surface pulley (which is too small anyway) making the hauling out of bags even harder. Brockers stated that he would rather be emptying bags (a somewhat onerous task at times) than hauling. At the end of play, in excess of 80-bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap. Time for the Hunter’s and refreshments. Unfortunately, I had left my change of clothes (and wallet) at home and was just a bit damp (and increasingly cold) at our favoured hostelry so didn’t stay too long.

The early years, 1982 to 1991

Early years...1982 to 1991 Posted on Sat, February 18, 2023 17:03:32


This account represents a summary of the early history of the discovery in 1982 and, the subsequent exploration of Hallowe’en Rift up to 1991. The data has been collected from available online resources including the Mendip Cave Registry & Archive (MCRA) and Bristol Exploration Club (BEC) websites. It is not claimed to be a full and definitive account of the early years as there is more information contained in personal logs not accessed. However, it does cover the significant advances made during the early exploration of the cave.

Note: Several of the following accounts have been edited for grammatical and typographic errors.

18th February

2023 Posted on Sat, February 18, 2023 16:58:00

With Nick, Mike, Tav, Jake, and Brockers

Another coming together at the Hallowe’en Rift Correction Facility, a gathering of like-minded individuals discussing their personal journey’s to arrive at this point in their lives. This involved a good deal of jovial banter blended with irreverent and, largely, irrelevant comments, and some character assassination. Never mind this ‘bollocks’ – what about the digging!

Nick occupied the ‘official’ digging spot, aided by Mike, Jake and Tav were alternating the haul, carry, haul of spoil along the passage. It was dripping water throughout the cave, so care was needed when moving around. I was on the ledge, Brockerswas stashing the filled bags everywhere and anywhere close (enough) to the entrance. Bags flowed through the cave at a good steady rate.

Come midday, digging was ceased, although time was allowed to clear-up the loose material. A move to the surface and haul up the filled bags to empty the contents onto the recently levelled spoil heap. All the while, the jovial banter continued.

A further gathering was convened at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshment following the digging session.

13th February

2023 Posted on Mon, February 13, 2023 16:59:49



Spent a very pleasant two and a half hours in the sunshine (T-shirt weather!) at HR levelling the spoil heap. A very useful tool is an azada (digging hoe).


11th February

2023 Posted on Sun, February 12, 2023 09:58:35

With Brockers, Nick, Mike, Jon, and Jake

A grey, damp, and mucky start to the day, the ground sticky, not great when it comes to walk up and down the spoil heap to empty bags later.

At the far end of the deep Soft South (NE passage) Brockers and Nick were filling bags (Brockers at the ‘official’ dig). After a brief discussion it had been decided to try having two people transporting the spoil along the passage to the pot. Mike was hauling from the diggers, Jon carried the filled bags to the pot and hauled them up to Jake on the ledge. I was at the entrance where the bags were stored in the available space and trying not to stack them on top of each other, this will make then easier to empty later.

At about midday, in spite of plaintive calls for more bags, digging came to an end as it was time to move back and clear the bags from the cave. Brockers was a bit disappointed to be last to the entrance so had to load the skip from there, he had no-one to talk to as the rest of the team were on the surface, enjoying the usual banter. Nobody took any responsibility for counting the bags and we arrived at a best fit guesstimate of about 100, we were happy with that. Satisfied with the morning’s effort we secured the cave, returned to the farm, changed and made our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.

4th February

2023 Posted on Sat, February 04, 2023 13:44:14

With Jake

A much-depleted workforce available today due to a variety of reasons but not because of Brexit, war in Ukraine, or another tory party/government f**k-up! … or was it?

We decided to spend the morning carrying out some dig maintenance. While Jake set about replacing the surface pulley, I headed underground with drill/plugs and feathers to sort out the rock bulge. Later on, Jake, having completed the pulley swap, joined me at the dig and proceeded to level the skip hauling route and replace the worn-out drag tray. Also, placed a ladder against the slippery climb up to the dig. With a bit more time to spare the rock bulge was removed (there were probably fractures from the last session) and the floor levelled. It is much easier to move along the passage now. The resulting lumps of rock were moved along to the ever-expanding rockpile, loose gravel and sediment bagged to be hauled out of the cave to the surface and emptied on to the spoil heap.

A satisfying and productive morning. Finished a little bit earlier than usual and did not stop at the Hunter’s today – start of 6 Nations rugby this afternoon!

Rock bulge gone!
Peering up into Trick or Treat from the current dig-face

28th January

2023 Posted on Sat, January 28, 2023 15:34:24

With Brockers, Nick, Jon, Jake, and Duncan

As planned, I had arrived at the cave earlier to get to work with plugs and feathers to remove a bulge of rock that impeded easy spoil removal from the current dig face. Didn’t go as well as I had hoped, the rock was large and being rather stubborn, but I did manage to take off a large chunk of it before the team arrived. Brockers was first on the scene. Packed away my kit and sent it out of the cave. Digging commenced in earnest. My main effort was to make more room at the end, while Brockers decided to do some “tidying-up”. Nick was shuttling spoil back to the pot, Jon on the ledge, Jake at the entrance where, initially, the spoil was being stashed. Duncan then turned up and stuff went up to the surface

Plugs and feathers, view to south-west from current dig.

Back at the dig, eventually managed to remove a large flake of calcite and roll it back to Brockers who then reduced it in size with the sledgehammer. Towards the end of the digging phase I tidied the access through to ‘Trick or Treat’ removing some loose cobbles and boulders and some sticky sediment. It was soon time to stop filling bags and think about getting up to the surface and emptying them. I exited the cave by way of the newly created ‘round trip’ followed by Nick, Brockers decided on a ‘traditional’ exit route. I was glad that I had taken the time to dig a channel and empty the static pool of water on my last visit to ‘Trick or Treat’. Duncan had his Disto with him and went off to survey the connection while the rest of us emptied bags, about 85 of them. Empty bags were hung on the lines to dry out, hopefully! An interesting session prompting some discussion on future prospects – all good and positive.

To the Hunter’s for post-digging refreshments!

21st January

2023 Posted on Sat, January 21, 2023 17:55:10

With Jon, Mike, Nick, and Tav

The bags that had been left hanging-up had dried out nicely, just needed to be bundled up into packs of ten ready to be filled (not all today!). A total of 200 bags available. Not enough people to get the spoil out to surface in one go so it would need to be stockpiled in the entrance to be removed at the end of the session.

Jon digging, me clearing the filled bags and loading in to the skip, Mike hauling the skip away and shuttling the spoil along the NE passage then hauling up to Nick, perched on the ledge at the top of the pot. Tav hauled the skip away from the Soft South back to the entrance where the bags were stored for later removal. Tav stared longingly up to the bright blue sky above, one more person and Tav would have been up on the surface in the sunshine.

Jon digging at the current end of the Soft South

Jon’s initial effort was to enlarge the working space to make forward progress more comfortable. In between I scraped some of the mud away from the stalagmites filling a few more bags. Eventually, Jon had made sufficient space and started pressing forwards. A small hole revealed by Tav at the end of last weeks session was expanded, I heard a muffled clatter of rocks and Jon reported back that an interesting space was opening. He invited me to take a look and it was confirmed that the connection to Trick or Treat had been accomplished. It needs a bit of work to make it big enough for all and the round trip is on the cards for next weekend. Still convinced that the more interesting prospects are at a lower level and this can be pursued now that the distraction of Trick or Treat is over.

It was time to move the backlog of bags and clear the stockpiled spoil out to the surface (about 70-bags in total). All done, refreshments at the Hunter’s. Another satisfying digging session over.

14th January

2023 Posted on Sat, January 14, 2023 16:13:54

With Brockers, Jon, Tav, Mike, and Nick

Earlier start for me and Brockers (met at 09:00) to install a handline around the edge of the pot leading to the deep Soft South before the team arrived to dig. We had just finished when the gang turned up.

The space beyond the stalagmites continues to develop!

Tav digging assisted by Jon, I was shuttling the spoil along the NE passage, Mike was up on the ledge, Nick at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers on the surface. Thankfully the early heavy rain had stopped but it was very wet not only on the surface but underground too. There was plenty of standing water and active drips. It didn’t take long for conditions to become rather squalid. The bags of ‘slop’ were not easy to carry, and the buckets proved to be very useful for transporting the bags along the passage.

Digging continued beyond the stalagmites, small spaces were being revealed as digging progressed and by the end of the session it was looking more interesting. It might be worth another trip along to Trick or Treat to try a voice connection again. About 110 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied on the surface. Surface duties are not easy in the current conditions another fine effort, this week, by Brockers.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn were well-earned!

A closer look beyond the stalagmites

7th January – 1st digging session of 2023

2023 Posted on Sat, January 07, 2023 16:45:56

With Brockers, Tav, Jon, Jake, Nick

Picked up Tav, Jon, and Nick from the Hunter’s so there were less vehicles parked down the hill at the farm. Got changed at the farm then a soggy walk up to the cave. Another wet start to the day although the rain was forecast to pass us over, at least until early afternoon. As expected, it was soggy underground too. There is a benefit, in that, the loaded skips would be easier to haul along the passage.

Brockers was digging, Tav bagging up spoil including the pile left-over from last week’s session. Jon could be heard squelching along the NE passage carrying the filled bags to the pot, to be hauled up to the ledge. On the ledge I was safely attached and leaning over to catch and empty the bucket. The load transferred to the next skip and hauled away by Jake to the bottom of the entrance. Nick was on the surface hauling up the filled bags and, with considerable difficulty, emptying the bags – a sterling effort given the poor conditions. Wet spoil, wet bags = increased work, two negatives result in a bigger negative.

Upfront, the digging effort concentrated on developing the “roof-arch” that had been revealed last session. A total exceeding 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. Another good positive morning’s work.

Refreshment was taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. It was very sad to hear that a dear friend, John Beauchamp, had passed away recently. I had done a lot of caving with JB when we were MCG members and travelled around SE Asia with him. I was also best friend at his wedding in Australia. RIP Old Chum!

31st December

2022 Posted on Sun, January 01, 2023 11:04:14

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

The team reassembled following the Winter Solstice break and were keen to start working off overindulgences. It was another wet and mucky day as we gathered at the farm for the walk up to the cave. There was some debate at the entrance, while packing the loose empty bags ready for refilling, about who was doing what. Nick set-off for the deep Soft South and I followed. I wanted to have another look at the “roof” in the small ‘chamber’ created by digging activities. Last session, Mike had opened a small ‘hole’ opposite to the entry point, and we opted to enlarge that, not paying too much attention to the ”roof” above (best left alone at this stage). The strategy adopted was for Nick to work away at loosening the compacted sediment and kicking it behind him for me to fill bags and load the skip to be hauled away by Brockers. He then transported the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and hauled it up to Tav perched on the now, very slippery ledge (safety cord attached). Tav emptied the bucked and loaded the contents onto the next skip to be hauled away by Jake positioned at the bottom of the entrance. Jon and Mike were on the surface hauling out the spoil and emptying the bags onto the spoil heap. This involved turning the bags inside-out as the sediment was increasingly becoming claggy.

At the dig face, we made a conscious effort not to overfill the bags (at least the majority of them) because of the now moist and sticky sediment. As a consequence of the recent heavy and persistent rain there were a lot of active drips  and standing water throughout the cave passages. In the early stages of digging Nick was a little tentative, as the boulders overhead were slightly unnerving, but he soon got into a steady effort. Towards the end of the session the small ‘hole’ had been suitably enlarged to reveal what looks like another ‘roof’ potentially a continuation of the NE passage. The small ‘chamber’ probably a rift section (towards the surface ?). Remnants of flowstone on walls have been exposed and there are plenty of drips. The sediments removed today again contained fractured/transported speleothems and cobble-/boulder-size lumps of conglomerate. It is likely that the majority of the fine sediments originate from glacial soils (loess) that were deposited as Pleistocene ice sheets retreated and permafrost thawed. The layering noted within the sediment deposits indicate a long series of flood events punctuated by periods of less activity where a more organic dark grey sediment, measured in millimetre thickness rather than a centimetre scale, has been deposited. However, the uppermost layer(s) of the sediments are of post-glacial origins.

At the end of today’s session, 83 filled bags had been hauled out and added to the spoil heap, and quite a number of rocks added to the underground stockpile. A satisfying effort. We made our way back to the farm, got changed, before reconvening at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshment and de-brief.

24th December

2022 Posted on Mon, December 26, 2022 17:19:32

No digging today, Solstice break!

17th December

2022 Posted on Sun, December 18, 2022 09:43:29

Unfortunately, currently wounded in action. Thought it wise not to attend today as I was sure to do something to further impede the healing process. However, a team of stalwarts comprising; Brockers, Nick, Jon, Tav, and Mike kept up the good work.

Report by Jon:

“The team having been depleted due to a recent injury at the front line, five diggers (Mike, Tav, Jon, Nick and Paul) arrived at the appointed hour. Despite his protestations, Jon was again appointed the responsible key-holder for the day. At the dig, Mike worked at the sharp end, supported by Nick. Although suffering the after effects of brutal flu and Covid jabs, Paul carried bags of spoil back to the pot and hauled them up to Jon; Tav stacked in the entrance.

Ever considerate of the safety of his fellow diggers, Paul brought along a new digging tool, expertly crafted from a scaffold bar. In the shape of a multi-pointed stick, its stated use was to loosen mud and boulders from a safe distance. To others in the Team, it resembled a stand-off weapon.

The infill at the dig face can no longer be described as dry and dusty. Having been bagged, hauled, stacked and hauled again, it is now becoming somewhat sticky. The haul just behind the dig face is reportedly very difficult and bag emptying is no longer a trivial task. This caused much discussion concerning the size of some of the bags.

Digging effort focused on removing earth rather than loose overhead boulders. Paul’s weapon was put to good use as a makeshift scaffold bar to protect the digger. There were rumours of a rock or two being removed at the front, although nothing was seen by the supporting members of the Team.

Rumours of a draft were not confirmed. However, it appears that the solid calcited rocks near the dig face are not as solid as previously thought.

80 bags of spoil were removed and emptied, with a little difficulty. The team then retired to a local hostelry where light refreshment was taken and the day’s events were discussed with those on the injured list.”

10th December

2022 Posted on Sat, December 10, 2022 19:53:08

With Jon, Nick, Brockers, and Mike

The boulders bite back!

I was upfront digging under the pissing tree, well actually, somewhere close to Trick or Treat, at the current end of the NE passage in the deep Soft South. Jon was next in line filling bags and shifting away the rocks as I loosened the sediments in the small space beyond the stalagmites and shoving it back to him. Nick was transporting the spoil back to the pot to be hauled up to Brockers on the ledge, Mike was stacking bags and rocks in the entrance.

Digging was tentative, it’s not easy going upwards amongst loose cobbles and boulders within a matrix of fine sediments. Poke a bit, stuff clatters every now and then, gingerly easing out and trying to avoid the larger rocks. Progress was slow and steady; gaps were beginning to appear. Jammed a small bar in amongst a couple of boulders, attached a rope and gave it a good tug – a boulder came crashing down and blocked the small opening into the space. I reached forward to move it and that was my mistake as another large boulder came crashing squashing my finger between the boulders, instinctively I ripped my hand away – it was painful and there was blood! I felt rather queasy, broke into a sweat, and needed to sit down. Luckily there was a bottle of water and Jon had some tissue to fashion a dressing. It was past midday and while the team shifted the spoil out of the cave, I was able to gather my thoughts before making my way out of the cave. About 50 bags hauled out and emptied, plenty of rocks were moved, some to the surface, some as backfill in the narrow trench, and others put to one side for later. Refreshments were taken at our favourite hostelry. My finger was still throbbing.

Eventually back home it was time to clean the wound and dress it properly – it wasn’t a pretty sight, deep gashes (c.20-25mm long) to both sides of my finger and bruising, probably will lose the nail as well. Needed a second dressing to stem the bleeding later. Never mind these things happen! And, the space beyond the stalagmites is getting bigger.

It is a thought that digging up into Trick or Treat may well prove to be a distraction, the cave passage is better developed lower down, and this might be the direction we should follow to the southeast of An Unexpected Development.

3rd December

2022 Posted on Sat, December 03, 2022 18:17:09

With Brockers and Jake

A bit thin on the ground today but I am sure we will manage to get plenty done.

Brockers and Jake headed to the Soft South to start digging, I went in another direction making my way towards Trick or Treat. Decided against going through Toil and Trouble so off to the Tuck Shop and Another Emotional Journey before turning into the passage to my destination. There was the anticipated pool of water in the lower section ,and I hesitated thinking to myself “do you really want to do this?” I slipped into the pool becoming immersed in the cold water. On the other side I spent some time digging a channel to drain the water away. I could hear the muffled sound of hammering in the distance, all I had to do now was locate the most likely spot. Squeezed over the stal boss into the more open space beyond. The ‘sound of digging’ was not coming from the uppermost part of Trick or Treat but from the lowest point – a low roofed, partially sediment filled ‘chamber’ accessed by a snug wriggle. In the ‘chamber’ a garbled voice connection was possible, but the sound ‘muffled’ by an undetermined thickness of sediment. Satisfied with the result I made my way back to join Brockers and Jake digging in the Soft South.

The three of us continued digging for a while moving the filled bags along to the pot. The rocks had been used to backfill a narrow trench in the floor to make the movement of spoil less hazardous, now it is getting wet the passage is slippery. Soon it was time to clear the filled bags out of the cave and the contents emptied onto the spoil heap, this was not going to be such an easy task now the sediment has a higher moisture content. I must admit I was starting to feel quite chilled following my earlier soaking.

Me and Brockers made a brief visit to the Hunter’s for some refreshments before going our respective ways.

Annotated survey 3rd December 2022

There are a couple of notes of interest (to me, anyway):

  1. The drained water from the pool in Trick or Treat ran freely into a small opening at the end of the small rift, there was not any backing-up. The question posed, is there an open space beyond?
  2. The area around An Unexpected Development is mostly devoid of the fine sediment that covers/fills the rest of the cave to the southwest. Does this indicate there is potential for open passage(s) to the northeast? This is further into the hillside and possibly away from the source of sediment originating from the ground above.

1st December

2022 Posted on Thu, December 01, 2022 15:59:43


The plan was to break-up some large boulders left to one side underneath the pissing tree. The northside of the hill was blanketed in thick fog, however, gaining height onto the plateau the sun was shining and it was a pleasant drive over to the southside, still in sunshine. Got to the farm, changed, and wandered up to Hallowe’en Rift. At the cave got distracted by a pile of rocks and set about wall building and tidying stuff. Eventually, looked at the watch and thought it was time to get underground and put the initial plan into action.

Plugs and feathers

The dripping water throughout the cave was noticeable and there were plenty of puddles along the way. The NE passage (Soft South) was sticky and slippery. Up in the elevated section spent some time levelling the floor to enable better movement of the skip (filled the hole in the floor). Got the plugs and feathers out to remove a jutting ‘nose’ of rock and then started on the large boulder at the end. This boulder, comprised of conglomerate, thick calcite, and mineralized rock, proved to be obstinate and took longer to deal with than anticipated. It did finally succumb. The loose cobble- and small boulder-size lumps were stashed on one side and the smaller fragments bagged up ready for removal at the weekend. Job done!

The current end of the dig underneath the pissing tree

26th November

2022 Posted on Sat, November 26, 2022 14:51:17

With Brockers, Mike, Duncan, and Jake

Smaller team this weekend. Down at the current end of the NE passage in the deep Soft South, Brockers was busily digging underneath the pissing tree, Mike was clearing away the spoil back to the pot. I was on the slippery ledge (clipped in for safety), Duncan at the bottom of the entrance, Jake on the surface hauling up and emptying bags.

Brockers persevered with digging the space beyond the stalagmites opened last session under the ‘ceiling’ of jammed cobbles/boulders. Due to the conditions, digging was steady and, at times, tentative. The removal of spoil along the elevated section had not been improved by the step/hole created last weekend, some levelling-up was required to enable the skip to be used. Brockers eased out some large boulders from the dig, these will need reducing in size to ease handling and removal at a later date. At the end of the session the space beyond the stalagmites was looking intriguing but will require some thought while further progress is made. We really should get around to trying a voice connection with Trick or Treat, something that has been mentioned over the last couple of sessions but not yet done.

The stalagmites photographed 12/11/22 before digging progressed, the ‘space’ can be seen behind the larger right-hand stalagmite

A total of 42 bags were hauled out and emptied, a lot of rocks were put to one side in the NE passage awaiting removal at some time in the future! It was time for the Hunter’s and some refreshments.

19th November

2022 Posted on Sun, November 20, 2022 09:55:47

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

A good turn-out today this would mean that all spoil could be removed directly to the surface. More time for digging; more stuff removed!

Down in the deep Soft South, me and Nick were digging. I was working in the area of the calcited blockage at the current furthest point, while Nick was happily reducing the floor level along the [presently] elevated section. Jon was shuttling back and forth along the approach passage to the pot with the spoil (filled bags and rocks). Brockers was positioned on the ledge and, after that, not entirely sure who was where, except that Jake was on the surface. As the session progressed it was becoming apparent that there is ‘something’ continuing above and beyond the [now three] stalagmites. I had cleared a space and could look upwards to some jammed cobbles and boulders that will not be easy to remove without getting a faceful of fine sediment or a clatter of stones. It might be a connection with Trick or Treat, or it might prove to be nothing, only further digging will tell one way or t’other.

A total of 98 filled bags and about 10 skip-loads of rock were added to respective piles. It had been a fine, enjoyable session. Time for some refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

12th November

2022 Posted on Sun, November 13, 2022 11:15:45

With Brockers, Tav, and Nick

Down on numbers again but, no matter, there’s still work to be done!

The stalagmites underneath the pissing tree! It is clear that the obstruction is composed of fractured calcite formations and conglomerate cobbles/boulders that have been re-cemented. The stalagmites form part of a calcited flowstone capping. All later buried by successive layers of clay, silt and sand. Composite image 12/11/2022

Brockers came armed with a custom-made mattock (apparently to Jake’s design) and took to the forefront digging at the current dig-face underneath the pissing tree. Tav cleared away filled bags and rocks also, in the quieter moments, levelled the passage floor. I was transporting the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and hauling the loaded bucket up to Nick on the ledge. Nick dragged the filled bags to the entrance. The rocks had been stacked along the NE passage to be removed at some later date, when we have a bigger team.

The calcited blockage is proving to be more of a problem than anticipated. There does not appear to be a route over the top as hoped and neither does a way to the right-hand side seem to present an easy option. There is the possibility of going down in the hope the passage widens to the right-side. We will see.

Soon it was after midday, time to stop digging and clear out the cave. Seventy-two bags were hauled out and added to the spoil heap. Empty bags re-packed, dropped down the entrance, ready for refilling during the next session.

Hunter’s Lodge Inn for some refreshment and conversation.

5th November

2022 Posted on Sun, November 06, 2022 11:43:20

With Roz, Tav, and Jon

Down on numbers today due to a variety of reasons so Roz volunteered to come along and help out.

Once underground there was a brief discussion regarding todays digging strategy which resulted in three filling bags. I was at the current dig-face, Roz next in line lowering and levelling the floor, Jon was widening the approach to the dig on the NW side, leaving Tav shuttling back and forth to the pot with the spoil. The filled bags were piled up ready for removal later in the session.

At the end of the dig the effort was concentrated on widening the passage to the right-hand side, the aim being to get around an obstruction ahead and to the left. The obstruction comprises re-cemented lumps of fractured stal and cobbles/boulders of conglomerate with two prominent stalagmites being exposed following removal of a considerable quantity of sediment. There appear, at this stage, two ways to bypass the obstruction either over the top or, as mentioned previously, around to the right-side of it, neither represent an easy option. It would be good if the stalagmites could be preserved in-situ, still looks an interesting prospect ahead.

There was a pause to the digging activities at around 11:30 but then, after a brief discourse, continued until midday. There was a pile of 100+ filled bags in the pot awaiting removal and the removal process was to take a bit longer than anticipated. Eventually, all the bags were on the surface. The next task was to empty the bags onto the spoil heap, then pack the empties into ‘tens’ and return them to the cave ready for use next session. It had been a productive morning.

We were later to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as a consequence of a busy session and the refreshments were especially welcomed.

Vince emptying bags onto the spoil heap. Photograph by Roz 05/11/2022

29th October

2022 Posted on Fri, November 04, 2022 10:29:08

I attended a Geological Society Field Meeting at Aust Cliffs and surrounding environs. However, activities at HR continued, the following report penned by Jon with a contribution from Mike:

“I am reminded that I offered to write a report on last Saturday’s efforts at HR.

Halloween Rift 29th October 2022

Four diggers (Paul, Jon, Jake and Mike) arrived at the appointed hour. Jake was elected to be the responsible key holder for the day. Nick arrived shortly before the Team ventured underground to make up the five needed to haul to the surface.

Having been absent for a few weeks, Nick was sent to the front, supported by Mike. Jake initially worked the ledge, with Jon at the bottom of the entrance and Paul on the surface.

The progress was slow; digging is currently hard work. After 10 or so bags of spoil were sent to the surface, the Team reorganised. Mike moved forward and dug behind and to the left of Nick, supported by Jake. Paul worked the ledge and Jon stacked in the entrance. The pace increased but the turnover remained below the recent average.

The difficult issue was then determining when to bring the morning’s efforts to a close. There was no time-keeping device on site and the 20-bags-per-person rule seemed inappropriate at the current digging rate. The Team chose to rely on Jake’s beer alarm.

Eventually, the alarm sounded and the Team cleared the entrance. A total of 70 bags and a solitary rock were removed.

Back at the farm, the beer alarm was seen to be accurate to within half an hour. It could be argued that predicting the time to within half an hour in a 24 hour period is an error of around 2%. Jake could claim 98% accuracy in his beer alarm.

The team then retired to a local hostelry for light refreshment.”

Mike added: “Nick removed two almost torso sized rocks, that took both of us to move on the skip & a few smaller ones. I cleared the far end of the hollow in the floor to see that it appears to be headed towards where Nick was digging.”

22nd October

2022 Posted on Sat, October 22, 2022 18:09:44

With Tav, Jake, Jon, and Brockers

Tav digging, I was moving the spoil (mostly filled bags) along the NE passage to the pot and hauling up to Jake on the ledge. The spoil transferred to the next skip hauled away by Jon to the entrance, Brockers (slightly late on parade) hauled the bags up to the surface and added the contents to the spoil heap.

Tav contemplates the next move

The digging effort was concentrated on widening the passage to ease forward progress, a small amount of sediment was removed from the floor too. On the right-hand side of the passage some rock was exposed which might restrict the width. About 90 bags filled, hauled, and emptied, plus a few rocks made their way to the wall-building stockpile.

To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.

Looking back along the NE passage to the pot

15th October

2022 Posted on Sat, October 15, 2022 18:57:08

Vince, Brockers, Tav, Jake and Jon

Brockers underneath the pissing tree digging, filling bags, and loading the skip. The skip then hauled away by Tav, who then carried the spoil along the NE passage then hauling the bags and rocks up to the ledge. I was on the ledge unloading the bucket and transferring the spoil to the next skip to be hauled to the entrance by Jake. Every now and again the skip needed some guidance around the bend. The filled bags and/or rocks into the final skip to be hauled up to the surface by Jon, the spoil added to the spoil heap. A good steady session.

Looking into the deep Soft South!

At the digging end some sizeable stalagmites have been exposed and a calcited bank or “boss” (not quite clear yet). Probably we’ll need to dig around to the right-side to bypass these obstructions.

Some of us took refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

8th October

2022 Posted on Mon, October 10, 2022 09:06:16

I was away for the weekend attending the 33rd BCRA Cave Science Symposium and AGM at the University of Manchester followed, on Sunday, with a field meeting at Alderley Edge Mines, Cheshire. Digging at HH, however, continued. Jon penned the following account of activities on Saturday morning.

Report by Jon:

“Four diggers (Brockers, Jake, Tav and Jon) arrived at the farm at the appointed hour. Responsibility for the key was handed to a ‘responsible person’. There was much discussion as to who qualified.

A drag tray was taken up to rig the new skip run. Jon was sent to the front and supported by Brockers, at a distance. Tav worked the ledge and Jake stacked, very neatly, at the bottom of the entrance shaft. The new skip run works well, as expected.

The cavalry did not arrive.

At the dig face, there is evidence of a rock ledge on the left hand side, just below the top of the in-fill. This may narrow the passage by 12 inches or so; we may need to take a little more out on the right. The spoil remains dry and dusty despite being underneath The Pissing Tree.

With only one person digging, the number of bags was down on previous sessions. A time-based approach was taken. 74 bags were removed, along with some of the rock that had previously been stacked.

The Team then retired to a local hostelry for light refreshment.”

5th October

2022 Posted on Wed, October 05, 2022 16:54:27


Down in the deep South Soft, along the northeast passage and ‘underneath the pissing tree,’ I set to work with the plugs and feathers. The plan being to trim some of the rock and boulders that were jutting out from the passage sidewalls, so that a skip would run more freely along the route following some levelling up of the floor. Four bags were filled with loosened sediment and gravel-sized lumps of rock, these were transported back to the pot to be removed on the weekend.

The passage leading ‘underneath the pissing tree’
The way forward! For scale the bar (centre right) is c.500mm length

1st October

2022 Posted on Sun, October 02, 2022 09:27:57

With Mike, Jon, Jake

Mike was at the forefront digging “Underneath the Pissing Tree” (a term coined following an observation made by Jake last weekend regarding the above-ground location of the dig-face) at the current end of the north-east passage leading off the pot in the deep Soft South. Jon was behind Mike making the passage suitable for a future skip-run. I was shuttling the filled bags back along the passage to the pot and hauling them up onto the ledge, where Jake was unloading the bucket and dragging the filled bags along to the entrance approach.

Following comments made after last week’s session regarding the efficiency of the 20-bag/person quota, we had decided to adopt a time-based approach to the digging activities this weekend. Therefore, at noon digging was ceased and the clear-out of accumulated spoil commenced. At the end of the session, a total of 95-bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied. This might suggest that a time-based approach is more productive, however, further trials of this strategy are required. It should be noted this method, should it be adopted, requires that someone has a watch.

We retired to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments and further deliberation.

24th September

2022 Posted on Wed, September 28, 2022 08:26:21

I had an appointment at Bath Racecourse, where there is a vaccination centre, for another (4th) covid jab. Hence, I was unavailable for digging but the rest of the team kept up with the task:

Report by Jon:

“Three diggers (Jake, Tav and Jon) arrived at the farm at the appointed hour. Jake remembered the key.

With only a small team, the ‘20 bags per person’ rule was enforced. Those who had missed the previous session were promoted to the front line. The plan was then for Jon to shuttle the bags of spoil from the dig face and stack them in the pot. Hauling would then proceed in two stages.

The cavalry arrived in the form of Mike, who had performed the same role the previous week, stacking at the bottom of the entrance. Mike was promoted forward a position; Jon worked on the ledge and stacked at the junction. Hauling out was then accomplished in a single stage.

The ‘20 bags per person’ rule was retained. The small team worked quietly and efficiently. It was quiet; something was missing.

Eight packs of bags were used; none were over-filled. Given the dry and dusty nature of the spoil, the bags were readily hauled to the surface. Departing a little earlier than planned, the team discussed whether ‘20 bags per person’ might be refined. They then retired to a local hostelry for light refreshment.”

17th September

2022 Posted on Sat, September 17, 2022 15:00:46

With Brockers, Nick, Jon, and Mike

Started the session with a small team, no matter. Brockers and Nick upfront digging, Jon was moving the filled bags back to the pot. The bags were hauled up to the ledge where I unloaded the bucket and carried the filled bags along the passage back towards the entrance. About 20 bags had been dragged along the passage when Mike turned up, an extra pair of hands would make things much easier (for me, anyway).

The session continued until about 90 bags had been filled and the decision was made to clear-out the cave. While the rest of the team started to haul and empty the bags, I set off to Trick or Treat and Nick returned to the dig in the Soft South. The plan was to find out if we could establish a voice connection between the two passages – the outcome; we could not make any connection. We returned via our respective route to join the others and clear the cave.

Refreshments, for some of us, were taken at the Hunter’s.

Next »