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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, 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 the regular team also includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, and Duncan Price. There has been occasional help from others including Phil Coles, Caroline Allen, Mike Willett, Mike Moxon, 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.

14th May

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, May 15, 2022 06:46:23
The shed

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

The full team assembled today enabling three to go digging in the deep Soft South. Me, Duncan, and Nick took it in turns, on a 20-bag turnaround, to loosen sediment and fill bags, carry the filled bags along the NE passage, and haul the bags up to the ledge. Tav had taken a position on the higher ground to catch the bucket and transfer its load to the next skip to be hauled away by Jake, at the bottom of the entrance. The drying conditions underground meant that the skip did not slide along the passage freely and required a regular sprinkling of water, also, the skip needs replacing. Brockers and Jon were on the surface in the pleasantly warm sunshine, although probably being pestered by flies.

Today’s total, 120 bags filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn where some rather random conversations took place.



7th May

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, May 08, 2022 06:49:35

With Brockers, Jon, Jake, Tav and Duncan.

Brockers and Jon digging in the deep Soft South following the northeast trending passage. I was on the not so slippery ledge, it’s drying up nicely now, emptying one skip and loading another to be hauled away by Duncan, who was in position at the bottom of the entrance. Jake and Tav were on the surface.

A good, steady, and productive session, 145 bags filled, hauled and emptied onto the spoil heap.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn were welcomed. It was a warm pedal up the Old Bristol Road from the farm.



30th April

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, May 01, 2022 07:57:18

With Jon, Brockers, Phil, Jake and Tav.

Jake and Tav digging in the deep Soft South, Brockers on the ledge, Phil at the bottom of the entrance, leaving me and Jon on the surface. Jon and I alternated the tasks of hauling and emptying bags, adding any rocks to the various terrace walls, and generally enjoying the fine, sunny morning. It’s a lovely time of the year in the woods, fresh leaf growth, birds singing, butterflies but no flies…yet!

Over 100 bags filled and emptied, a few skip-loads of rocks. A good team effort.

Some of us went to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.



23rd April

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, April 24, 2022 09:55:28
Saint George’s Day

With Brockers, Jon, Jake, Tav and Duncan (briefly) he only came for the beer! Later joined by Samuel and Rosie Mills (Wookey Ale) for the Hallowe’en Rift beer launch.

Got to the farm a little early and spent some time chatting to Mark (the farmer) until the team started to arrive in dribs and drabs.

At HR we decided to get on with some digging until the beer launch, me and Jon tidied up the loose spoil left by last weekend’s diggers, about 20 bags were filled. Jake was on the ledge, Tav at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers on the surface with Duncan. When Samuel and Rosie turned up, we all made our way to the surface, an executive directive issued by Brockers. Very generously, they had arrived with bacon sarnies and beer!

Left to right: Rosie, Samuel, Jon, Brockers, Tav, Jake, Duncan, I’m behind the camera!

Refreshments over it was time to introduce Samuel to the deep Soft South! As Brockers was on the surface today he lent some kit to Sam. Once down at the bottom of the pot in the deep Soft South, a can of beer was placed on a suitable rock and ceremoniously opened with a single, mighty blow from the sledgehammer – the beer had been launched! Photos and videos taken, a brief explanation of the dig and geomorphological processes evident it was time to return to the surface. A farewell to Samuel and Rosie, then returned to digging.

Samuel holds a can of Hallowe’en Rift down in the deep Soft South!

A further 50 or so bags were filled, several trip hazards left over from the week before were broken up and hauled out to the surface too. All in all, it had been an okay morning.

Further refreshment, for some, was partaken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

Promotional video clip put together by Samuel Mills of Wookey Ale.



16th April

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, April 17, 2022 08:11:36

With Brockers, Jon, Phil, and Nick

Brockers and Phil digging down in the deep Soft South, Jon on the ledge (the skip from the pot has been rejuvenated), I was hauling from the bottom of the entrance and transferring the load to be pulled out of the cave by Nick. On the surface filled bags were emptied onto the spoil heap and other landscaping was carried out whenever there was a spare moment. Looking up from my seat I could see that the weather was pleasant. About 90 bags were added to the spoil heap and quite a lot of rocks too.

Refreshment was taken later at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.



9th April

digging 2022 Posted on Mon, April 11, 2022 11:51:04

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, Tav and Nick.

Tav and Jon digging in the deep Soft South, Brockers on the ledge keeping an eye on proceedings, me hauling the skip from the bottom of the entrance, the filled bags being hauled to the surface by Jake and Nick. Also, on the surface, wall construction and landscaping activities were occurring. The weather was good for it too!

No-one kept a tally of bags shifted but it must have been in excess of 100.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.



2nd April

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, April 03, 2022 06:47:54

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, Nick, Duncan, and Phil Coles

Brockers bought Phil along today, normally, guests would get digging duties, but Phil declined the honour. However, Nick eagerly snapped up the opportunity as he had missed out on a couple of digging sessions due to work commitments. Nick was joined by Jake in the deep Soft South. Duncan was on the ledge, Phil occupied the corner spot, Jon at the bottom of the entrance leaving me and Brockers on the surface. After an early frost the weather was superb, it’s a sheltered spot at HR and warm in the spring sunshine. Brockers did all the hauling while I built another terrace wall and emptied the bags behind it. No-one kept a tally of bags, but it must have been in excess of 100 plus quite a lot of rocks.

Brockers hauls another skip load out of the cave.


26th March

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, March 27, 2022 13:15:28

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, Duncan, and Mike turned up later in the morning.

Me and Brocker digging, alternating the loosening sediment/filling bags, and hauling the spoil up to the ledge. Jake was on the ledge, catching the bucket and transferring its contents to the skip to be hauled away by Duncan, at the bottom of the entrance, Jon was on the surface, joined later in the morning, by Mike.

About 100 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied along with several loads of rock being added to the wall building stockpile. The weather was glorious, but it was still surprisingly damp and soggy underground. The dimensions of the sediment choked passage being followed have not diminished.



25th March

digging 2022 Posted on Fri, March 25, 2022 09:49:59

Update on recent activities by Tav:

Hallowe’en Rift – 19.03.2022 

Tav and Jon digging, Duncan on the ledge, Brockers and later Nick on the haul and Jake and Brockers on the surface. 110+ bags plus rocks.  

Hallowe’en Rift – 12.03.2022 

Jake and Brockers digging, Nick on the ledge, Tav hauling and stacking at the entrance. 90 bags and a dozen rocks.” 



5th March

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, March 06, 2022 08:39:38

With Brockers, Jon, Jake, and Nick

The session started with Brockers fettling the hangers to which the pot pulley is attached, he then joined Jon to dig, fill bags and haul away the spoil. I was on the ledge, catching the bucket and transferring the load to the skip, Nick was at the entrance to haul the skip along. We had decided that with a smaller team to not have someone at the junction, with some care the skip could be pulled along, there were a few spills and the areas that required more attention noted. Jake was on the surface hauling the spoil away. 40 bags plus an assortment of rocks were moved out of the cave before activities were ceased and we all returned to the surface to meet our guests.

There’s a beer about to be marketed with the name “Halloween Rift” brewed by Wookey Ale. Trevor Hughes, who has shown no interest in HR for 35 years had the cheek to contact the brewers telling how he found the cave, etc. I also sent email to point out the current situation and who is actually active at the cave, adding a link to the blog. The upshot is the brewer’s came up to meet us at the cave, Trevor turned up too, with Kate (TH had been contacted by the brewer).

Socialising put a halt to the digging all that was left to do was empty the bags and secure the cave.

The new craft beer due to launch in April!


26th February

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, February 27, 2022 08:50:31

With Jon, Nick and Tav

A reduced team today due to whatever reasons, no matter.

The first task of the day was to replace the hauling rope on the pot pulley system in the deep Soft South. That done, me and Tav digging, rotating the filling of bags, and hauling up the bucket. Jon was on the ledge catching the bucket to un load the contents. Nick was at the junction and shuttling to and from the entrance where the spoil was temporarily stashed. In between loads Nick occupied himself breaking rocks with a hammer.

At the end of the session, 75 bags filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap plus about two dozen loads of rocks. A reasonably productive session.



19th February

digging 2022 Posted on Sat, February 19, 2022 18:08:26

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

Me and Tav on surface duties after digging last weekend, we alternated emptying bags, building a wall, and hauling. Duncan and Jake took up position at the bottom of the entrance and the junction, respectively. Brockers was in isolation on the ledge, leaving Jon and Nick to do the digging bit. This combination of digging team resulted in alternating batches of sensibly-filled bags and over enthusiastically-filled bags, the heavier bags were less welcomed at the hauling stage as the rope became increasingly claggy as the morning moved on. By the end of the session, 124 bags had been emptied onto the spoil heap, and about two dozen loads of rocks added to the terrace wall or the stockpile. The weather was more settled following Storm Eunice, although it was still breezy and there was the occasional squally shower.



12th February

digging 2022 Posted on Sat, February 12, 2022 16:07:45

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

The first task of the session was completed by the Technical Manager, Brockers installed a swivel on the pulley attached to the pot hauling system. Me and Tav were digging, alternating the filling of bags, and hauling the bucket up to Jon on the slippery ledge. Some adjustments were made to the hauling system to make operations a bit easier. Jake was at the junction (suffering from plantar fasciitis), Duncan at the bottom of the entrance (nursing a dodgy knee), Brockers and Nick were on the surface, they were later joined by Caroline. Between them the surface team hauled out 110 filled bags, redistributing the contents onto the spoil heap, rocks were added to another fine terrace wall on the upper level that was under construction.

Tav fills bags at the current end of the north-east passage


5th February

digging 2022 Posted on Sat, February 05, 2022 16:38:22

With Jon, Jake, Tav, Brockers, and Nick

Brockers and Nick down in the deep Soft South, Tav on the ledge, Jake at the junction, me at the base of the entrance leaving Jon on the surface. New bags had been supplied to add to the c.100 we already had, it was going to be a busy session, especially so for the solo effort put in by the man at the top!

With regard the data logger…it’s probably better to read and fully understand the operating instruction before installing. Never mind, try again next week. Although I got a reading for today, 10.5OC, 98.5% RH.



29th January

digging 2022 Posted on Sat, January 29, 2022 17:46:51

Me and Jon digging down in the deep Soft South following the NE “passage”. My first task was to position a data logger to record temperature and relative humidity, for no other reason than I am interested. At start of session: 11OC, 84.6% RH. Meanwhile, Jon was filling bags. We alternated filling bags and hauling for the rest of the session. Brockers was on the ledge, Nick at the junction, Duncan was at the base of the entrance resting his sore knee the consequence of dry slope skiing. Jake on the surface hauling up the spoil, a task not made easier by a damp and claggy rope.

Jon filling bags!

Just over 100 bags were filled and emptied onto the spoil heap along with several loads of rocks. At the end of the session: 11OC, 94.6% RH was recorded, it was noticeably ‘steamy’ when I tried to take some photos of the SW facing section of the dig-face.



22nd January

digging 2022 Posted on Sat, January 22, 2022 15:20:26

With Jake, Duncan, Jon, Brockers, and Nick

Jake and Duncan digging along the north-eastward trending tunnel at the bottom of the pot in the deep Soft South. Hauling the loaded skip was made easier with the liberal application of sand (from the layer at the base of the NW facing section). I was perched on the slippery ledge catching the loaded skip and transferring the load to Jon, sitting at the junction; Brockers was at the bottom of the entrance. Nick was on the surface hauling the spoil out of the cave, and he found time to empty the bags too. Top effort!

At the dig-face it was hard going, very compact and cemented fill requiring full use of the pickaxe to loosen the sediment. About 100 bags were filled (and emptied) plus quite a lot of rocks and fragmented calcite. A good, productive session. Refreshments taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

LiDAR image showing Wookey Hole (bottom left) and Hallowe’en Rift (circled).
Some nice medieval and post-medieval earthwork features too.


15th January

digging 2022 Posted on Sun, January 16, 2022 06:42:21

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

After digging last weekend, me and Jon were on the surface; Duncan was at the bottom of the entrance, resting his knee following a trip into Wookey 22 yesterday. Brockers and Nick were digging, this left Jake and Tav to occupy the ledge and the junction (I do not know who was where).

On the surface, Jon hauled up the steady procession of filled bags and, quite a lot of, rock. I emptied the bags and added the finishing touches to the final terrace wall on the south-side of the heap, generally tidying and levelling up the surface area. When I left at mid-day it was all looking neat and tidy.

An early finish for me to attend the BCRA Cave Science Symposium being held online (Zoom) this afternoon. These are the presentations that were due to be presented at Hulland Ward in Derbyshire last year (27th November 2021) but Storm Arwen put a stop to that event when it dumped a lot of snow resulting in power cuts and a lot of digging at the Orpheus CC hut! The presentations were varied, interesting and informative.



8th January

digging 2022 Posted on Sat, January 08, 2022 16:24:29
Survey updated by Duncan, annotated by Vince, 8th January 2022.

With Jon, Nick, Brockers, and Jake

Not the most inspiring of mornings, weatherwise that is, it was very wet. Thankfully, the worst of the rain had passed by!

Me and Jon were digging, at least we would be after clearing away a mound of spoil left from last weekend, apparently it must have been the result of a “collapse” or so someone (not that far away) tried to suggest. The left (north west) side of the passage has been cleaned back to expose rock, just need to do the same on the right (south east) side. The “dig-face” continues as a sediment filled tunnel, nearly 2m high x 1.5m wide. All very intriguing. The hauling rope has become impregnated with mud, and it was wet, very difficult to keep a grip and pill the loaded bucket up to the ledge. The bags were slightly reduced in weight to compensate.

Nick was catching the loaded bucket on the slippery ledge, Brockers was at the junction and Jake stashed the spoil at the entrance. When all the available bags were filled, we made our way out to the surface to empty the bags, there was one token stone. It was mucky on the surface and there were no votes for doing it all again.

Refreshments were well-earned and enjoyed at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. One benefit from the inclement weather is that it keeps the grockles away!

South-west facing section of the “dig-face” prior to commencement of digging activity 8th January 2022. Filled channels and displaced, fractured calcite clearly visible



1st January

digging 2022 Posted on Sat, January 01, 2022 15:08:59

Duncan, Nick, Jon, Jake, and Brockers

First trip of the new year, many more will follow. Met Duncan at the farm, 09:30, plan was for Duncan to update the survey of the ‘pot’ in the deep Soft South. Quickly measured in a base line, then some dimensions for the pot and last night’s section line. All done just before the digging team arrived.

Duncan surveying the ‘pot’ in the deep Soft South

A brief discussion on the surface before heading underground. Jake and Brockers took on the digging duties, Duncan catching the bucket from the very slippery ledge, Jon at the junction, me at the entrance, Nick on the surface hauling out the spoil. Being on the surface was going to be the most difficult task of the day given the recent wet conditions. The hauling rope soon became caked in mud and not easy to grip firmly, the bags too were very claggy, making the rope even muddier. Suffice to say with Jake and Brockers digging bags and rock were moving through the cave at a good steady rate, no time to empty the bags. When all available bags were filled, all out to get them emptied.

Last night’s recorded section no longer exists, there are a lot of calcite fragments on the surface, much of it quite degraded.

Back at home, a lot of kit to wash and clean ready for the next trip!



31st December

digging 2021 Posted on Fri, December 31, 2021 21:49:27

With Roz

Down in the ‘pot’ in the deep Soft South, at the current extent of the ‘passage’ heading in a north-easterly direction. Not digging as such but making a record of some interesting sediment deposits (photographs and scaled drawings, etc.) before they get dug away tomorrow. Also took some sand samples – want to see if they are wind- or water transported. It took quite a long time and could easily have spent longer at it.

Composite image of SE – SW facing sections drawn 1:20 31/12/2021
Sand, lower NW facing section sampled 31/12/2021
Sand, upper SW facing section sampled 31/12/2021



28th December

digging 2021 Posted on Tue, December 28, 2021 15:16:54

With Nick, Jake, Tav, Duncan, and Brockers

A break from tradition as last weekend was disrupted by annual winter festivities, at least that nonsense is out of the way.

Going east from the pot before this digging session began

Down in the deep Soft South, Nick and I were digging, although Nick hauled the spoil away leaving me to get on with digging, he, of course, managed to do some digging as well. Jake was on the slippery ledge catching the bucket, there were several occasions when he though he might join us in the pot, good job he was attached to the safety line. Tav at the junction and Duncan at the entrance were appreciative of their comfy seats. Brockers on the surface hauled up the filled bags and rocks, even found time to empty the bags, a sterling effort.

It never ceases to amaze just how much spoil has been removed over the past 12 months or so!



Some sound advice for ramblers!

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, December 26, 2021 10:57:01

Beware of falling down a hole … in the fog … in the middle of the night … with an OWL!!!



18th December

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, December 18, 2021 17:44:14

With Jake, Jon, Brockers, and Nick.

At the farm, Duncan stopped by briefly to drop of some fresh bags and to recount yesterday’s trip into Wookey Hole with Max. Sounded interesting.

Wasn’t too sure how many were going to turn up today as only Jon and Duncan replied to my earlier email. Eventually, a team of five assembled, changed, and walked up across the fields to the cave. A short discussion about ‘who was doing what’ ensued culminating in Jon and Brockers heading off to the deep Soft South to dig, Nick took up position on the ledge, I was at the junction and Jake, stacking stuff at the bottom of the entrance.

Jake gets sorted at the bottom of the entrance.

I went a short distance towards the Cold Gnarly North to retrieve a neoprene mat from ‘Duncan’s corner’ and collected a few more empty bags too. In was noted that there was plenty of water in the spa just ahead. The neoprene mat (now in two halves) was fashioned into comfy seats by upcycling old skips and bags foe me and Jake. All available bags, c.100, were filled, hauled, and stored in the entrance, the end of the digging activity signalled by the ceremonial filling of the ‘hessian’ bag. It was time to move up to the surface and clear out the cave, top up the spoil heap and add more stones to the terrace wall, thus creating more spoil space. It had been a very pleasant session.

Skip away!



11th December

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, December 11, 2021 15:46:43

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

Jake and Tav digging in the deep Soft South, Jon on the ledge, Brockers at the junction and Duncan at the bottom on the entrance, at least I think that was the order. Me and Nick were on the surface. We hauled bags and rocks up out of the cave, added more rocks to level up the terrace wall and create space for spoil, Nick dug some steps and, in general, it was a chilled-out session for us.

The terraced spoil heap.

93 filled bags were emptied onto the spoil heap and all rocks incorporated into the terrace walling. There was some question as to where the other pack of bags had gone as we were expecting 100+ to arrive on the surface. It turned out that someone had a comfy seat and was not prepared to offer it forward when the diggers had run out of empties!

An estimated value for the volume of the ‘pot’ in the Soft South.

Using the equation: V = πr2 h, and estimated values, 4 metres diameter (2m radius) and 5m height, an estimated volume = 62.83185m3  is calculated:

π = 3.14

3.14 x (2×2) x 5 = 62.83185

Assuming the density of limestone is about 2.6 – 2.7 tonnes/m3 and the density of clay soil about 2.0 – 2.3 tonnes/m3 and using the estimated volume of 62.83m3,  a range for the quantity of sediment removed can be deduced.

Using the lower density values above, for limestone 2.6 x 62.83 = 163.4 and for clay soil 2 x 62.83 = 125.7, a range between 125 tonnes and 163 tonnes of sediment has been removed from the pot in the Soft South since December 2020. This is likely to be an underestimation.



4th December

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, December 04, 2021 15:44:42

With Nick, Jake, Jon, and Brockers

Nick was left to do the digging, he seemed very pleased with the latest acquisition from a local car-boot, I hauled up the filled bags and sporadic dislodged rock or chunk of flowstone. Jake was catching the hauling bucket on the ledge, Jon at the junction with Brockers stacking everything in the entrance to be cleared out later in the morning.

Nick fills bags, the newly acquired long bar not far from his side!

The digging effort was concentrated at the eastern side of the pot (Soft South) where we are at least one metre into what appears to be a substantial choked “passage”. There is some interesting and intriguing sediment deposition ranging from fine compacted silt, loosely compacted medium to coarse sand, shattered calcite flowstone blocks, and cobbles/boulders of dolomitic conglomerate. Layering is clearly visible with evidence of high energy flow and static water, and ice damage.

Composite image of the passage on the east side of the pot.

All the bags filled including the hessian sack, it was time to clear out the cave and add some more spoil to the heap!



27th November

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, November 28, 2021 16:58:51

I was on a trip to the Peak District attend the BCRA Cave Science Symposium being held at Hulland Ward, near Ashbourne. Decided to stay at the Orpheus Caving Club hut. The passing of Storm Arwen sort of changed our plans and we spent nearly 5 hours digging snow off the track leading up the hill, back to the A515. The image below was snapped by Andy Farrant during a brief rest from digging!

However, a reduced team of stalwarts did turn-out at Hallowe’en Rift to continue the excavation in the Soft South. The following report was penned by Jon:

“Three of the team (Brockers, Jake and Jon) arrived in stormy conditions. The strong wind overnight had not completely died down and the rain had turned to sleet.

With only a small team, the approach taken to digging was different to usual. Sixty bags were sent underground and all three of the team went to the bottom and proceeded to dig.

New hauling rope. Photo by Brockers.

Jon dug in the North-West corner where Nick’s boulder used to be. The apparent bedding closed down to the North; any development in that part of the pot can only be to the West (or down!).

Brockers and Jake dug under the arch in the North-East corner where Jake’s boulder used to be. This remains the obvious place to dig.

Having filled all sixty bags and replaced the rope on the bottom skip, hauling proceeded in a very efficient and industrious fashion. Spoil was initially stacked at the junction and then hauled to the surface in conditions of bright sunshine. The few rocks dug out today were left underground.

The team then retired to a local hostelry for well-earned refreshments.”



20th November

digging 2021 Posted on Wed, November 24, 2021 17:30:17

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick

Earlier start for me, some large boulders to start reduction to more manageable pieces. Underground about 09:00am. The largest of the boulders was much thicker than expected and only achieved in trimming off the edges. So, concentrated my efforts on the slightly smaller rock and almost finished when Brockers turned up. Paul installed a safety rung at the edge of the ledge to provide a foothold for the bucket catcher.

The rest of the team had arrived, Jon joined me down in the pot, Brockers on the ledge, Jake at the junction with Nick temporarily storing the spoil at the bottom of the entrance.

As digging progressed the feature revealed last weekend on the east side of the pot became more interesting. An arched roof with remnants of fractured calcite formations showing up. It looks intriguing.



13th November

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, November 14, 2021 08:29:24

With Brockers, Jake, Nick, Jon, and Duncan

Met Brockers at the farm, 09:30, an early start to finish off installing the rungs in the pot, I had a new drill (18v) and a couple of boulders to break-up. The drill was okay and managed to reduce the rocks, or most of them to manageable pieces. The rung climb in and out of the pot done too. These tasks were ceased when the rest of the team arrived.

Jake and Nick digging, Jon on the ledge, I was at the junction, Duncan at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers up on the surface. Digging proceeded at a steady rate with a good flow of filled bags and rocks hauled out of the cave. There came a loud ‘yelp’ from below in the pot as an exceptionally large boulder decided it was time to make a bid for freedom narrowly missing Jake on the way. This boulder was eventually joined by another of equal proportion but in a more ‘controlled’ manner. They will require some effort to break-up. Now the boulders are out of the way, there appears to be an intriguing development to the east-side of the pot.

All available bags had been filled and hauled up to the surface, it was time to exit the cave and empty them and add the rocks to the wall.

Back at the farm, assistance was required to free my van from the field, an error of judgement parking in that spot!



6th November

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, November 07, 2021 08:24:40

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick

Met up with Brockers at 09:30 so that the installation of fixed rungs would be completed or, at least, well underway by the time the others arrived at the cave.

Brockers drills holes (14mm) for the rungs.

The lower- to mid-section rungs were placed enabling the ladder to be removed. Unfortunately, lack of battery power prevented the installation of the upper rungs, they will have to wait for another day. Jake, Jon, and Nick had arrived, so digging could commence.

Fixing the rung into place.

Me and Brockers were down in the pot filling bags and moving rocks (Brockers had a long wrestle with an especially large rock the was well jammed into a crevice). Jake was on the now rather slippery ledge, Nick was at the junction, Jon temporarily storing the spoil at the bottom of the entrance. When all the available bags were filled, and a pile of rocks accumulated it was time to clear out the cave and we all moved back.

It was disappointing to see that ‘someone’ had been up to his usual antics, the mindless and exceedingly pointless erosion of cave passage!

Just the one session again this weekend, did not bother going to the Hunter’s.



30th October

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, October 30, 2021 18:40:48
Shaggy ink cap (Coprinus comatus) growing on the spoil heap.

Vince, Nick, Jon, Brockers, and Jake

I arrived early so that I could photograph the sediment section, that I tidied and cleaned up last Saturday, before the digging activities got underway, and it became too steamy. Recorded a few video clips as well and was just about done as Jon and Nick arrived. After a brief discussion they climbed down into the pot to start digging and I went to ledge and clipped into the safety line. After some recent heavy rainfall, there was abundant and constant drips of water today and the potential for slippery conditions. Brockers came along the aqueous junction, Jake was at the bottom of the entrance. Digging began in earnest and the flow of filled bags (and some rocks) out to the entrance progressed at a steady rate. When all the bags available had been filled, hauled, and temporarily stacked at the entrance it was time to go and clear out the spoil.

All bags pulled out, emptied, and hung up on the line, the rocks added to the wall, it was decided that was enough for today and we returned to the farm. Just for a change, we made our way up the hill to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.

Sediment deposition layering visible in cleaned section.



23rd October

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, October 23, 2021 14:54:28

Solo

No-one else showed up, no matter. Spent the morning squaring and repairing the reference section, very peaceful it was too. Took my packed lunch underground with me and enjoyed my break sat on the ledge pondering the sediment layering I could see before me. Took the time to tidy up a couple of other things that were looking a bit scruffy too. Unfortunately, when it came to making a digital record my camera battery was flat, which was more than a bit annoying.

16th October 2021

Took a break from digging and decided on a bike ride, Devon Coast to Coast. Set off from Ilfracombe to Plymouth along National Cycle Network (NCN) route 27. Got to Plymouth, turned around and cycled back to Ilfracombe. 310km, 3300m ascent, 21hrs 50mins ride time. There were a lot of hills!

9th October 2021

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

The day started with a positive vibe. Underground by 09:15 and set about reducing the boulders in the deep Soft South to more manageable pieces. I was soon joined by Brockers who installed a backup to the pulley anchor. The boulders broken up, the backup installed, Brockers decided to head out to the surface to fetch some empty bags so that we could start clearing up the loose debris. He was absent for quite some time having met the later arrivals.

Next to appear in the deep Soft South was Duncan who was adamant that he was digging and joined me in the pot. Tav showed up and took a position on the ledge, the loose rocks were hauled up followed by the bags that Duncan had been filling. He thought the ‘cut-off’ cone was very useful for filling the bags with sand. At c.12:30 we decided to break for lunch as is the norm.

I spent the afternoon on the surface with Jake, he hauled the spoil out of the cave, while I emptied bags and added rocks to the terrace wall. It was very pleasant in the unseasonably warm sunshine. Unfortunately, the positive vibes were not going to last. Earlier, and mistakenly in hindsight, I had agreed to split a small boulder on the ledge that jutted out from my reference section. I had pointed out that the boulder formed an integral and important part of the section and should not be completely removed. The rock was split, and I made certain that the remaining portion was secure and tidy. I was very pissed off (and still am) when I recognised the last rock to come to the surface as the very rock I had asked not to be removed, the reference section will now be prone to erosion/collapse and I will need to spend more time on sorting it out!



2nd October

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, October 02, 2021 15:34:09

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

Nick and Jon digging, I was on the ledge, Duncan at the junction/corner, Tav at the bottom of the entrance, leaving Jake on the surface to haul out the spoil and the weather wasn’t great, it didn’t improve either!

Digging progressed at a steady rate although there was a moment of alarm when a very large slab of rock detached from the wall and landed on Nick’s head, thankfully, Nick was okay. Jon then attacked the offending rock with the sledgehammer until deciding that plugs and feathers might be a better way of size reduction. The morning progressed without any further incident. However, it was noticed that the approach passages were becoming rather wet, a small stream now flowing down the entrance. The available bags were all filled, and we thought it time to exit the cave and empty the accumulated bags up on the surface.

Due to the inclement weather and the forecast was that it would get wetter we made a group decision to call it a day and head back down to the farm and make our ways to our respective homes.

Further down in the deep Soft South!


25th September

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, September 26, 2021 11:15:22

Vince, Brockers, Jon, Jake, Duncan, Nick, and [French] Matt (?)

As planned, I got to the farm early, changed, kit sorted and walked up across the fields to the cave. Underground by 0900hrs. Set to work with the plugs & feathers reducing the sizeable boulders at the bottom of the pot in the deep Soft South to more manageable sizes, at least so that they would fit into the skip. I was soon joined by Brockers, who was keen to get some overtime in, he started to bag-up the loose sediment. Jon and Jake arrived, Duncan too, and the spoil was moved along the passage to be stashed at the bottom of the entrance. I continued to break up boulders. When Nick and Matt arrived around midday (they had cycled from Draycott with Nicole, who decided not to stay) the spoil temporarily stored at the bottom of the entrance was hauled out of the cave to be distributed onto the spoil heap. There is now another pile of rocks ready to be used for wall building at a later time. Down in the pot, the boulders were gone, and Jon was filling bags while I hauled them up to Brockers on the ledge. At around 1230hrs we decided it was time to stop for lunch and made our way to the surface.

In the afternoon session, Jake and Matt were digging (first time guests get to go digging!), Brockers resumed his position, as Project Director (no filming today), on the ledge, Jon and Nick were hauling the spoil back to the entrance while me and Duncan were on surface duties. Filled bags were hauled out and emptied, rocks were added to the pile, even found some time for a little bit of terrace walling. It was warm and humid, some mizzle arrived mid-afternoon. When all the bags had been filled (and emptied) the today’s digging was ended. Time to go wherever!

Jon had picked up some 25 litre drums from Hugh Tucker (thanks Hugh) and I took a couple home to convert into hauling skips as the current ones are starting to look a little worse for wear.  



18th September

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, September 19, 2021 10:32:48

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

Another fine turn-out, the more the merrier!

Me and Jake were down in the deep Soft South to start the days proceedings, Duncan was on the edge, Brockers and Tav cleared the spoil along to the bottom of the entrance, Nick and Jon hauling the bags and rocks out of the cave and redistributing it onto the ever-burgeoning spoil heap.

Down in the pot, a decision had been made to remove a considerable quantity of fractured calcite and rock from the wall of the pot prior to further downward progression. And the area of interest that appeared last weekend was below it too. Jake got to work with the bar, I was putting the loose material into bags and hauling away. Then lots of stuff came crashing down so I got out of the way, the end product was a large pile of debris. Bags were filled and hauled away, along with smaller skip-size rocks, the larger boulders put aside to be attended to at a later date (probably an early start for me next weekend armed with a drill and plugs & feathers).

Duncan on the ‘edge’

By lunchtime most of the debris had been disposed of, and we needed a break.

The afternoon session, Brockers and Duncan headed off into the deep Soft South, Tav took position on the ledge to catch the bucket, Kick and Jon were hauling the skips, me and Jake were on the surface. Bags came out of the cave at a steady rate, were emptied and hung-up on the line(s) to air-dry, most of the rocks that appeared were added to the terrace wall. It was warm work. Some of the bags are beginning to look worse for wear and were assigned to the recycling pile.

It was another good productive session, apparently there is a very large boulder awaiting reduction in size, and photos/video clips were taken by Brockers (using my camera) to be edited later.

In the deep Soft South, essential stabilisation works as directed by our Health & Safety Advisor [rough cut]



11th September

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, September 12, 2021 09:41:23

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

Me and Jake were on surface duties so headed up to the cave to start wall building. As the rest of the team assembled, the gate opened, Brockers and Tav set-off for the deep Soft South to commence the morning’s digging activities. Nick and Jon followed them to shuttle the spoil from the ledge back to the bottom of the entrance. Jake and I took it in turns to haul the spoil out of the cave and distribute it onto the spoil heap. In between hauling and emptying bags, wall building continued until the rock pile was used up. During the morning session about 100 bags plus rocks were added to the spoil heap (and wall).

Lunch break.

When the afternoon session got underway, Nick and Jon took over in the deep Soft South, me and Jake shuttled back and forth moving the spoil, Brockers and Tav on the surface took care of spoil disposal. Another 60 or so bags plus quite a few rocks were added to the spoil heap. At the bottom of the pot, interesting developments might be taking place…



4th September

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, September 04, 2021 19:15:21

With Jake, Jon, Brockers, and Tav.

Jon and Tav took the first digging shift, Jake and Brockers shuttling the spoil from the ledge to the bottom of the entrance, I was on the surface. 100 filled bags were hauled out of the cave, emptied onto the spoil heaps, and even managed to add a few rocks to the terrace wall. It was warm work, and the buzzing flies were increasingly irritating. I was glad there were none of the biting flies around.

Refreshments were enjoyed in the warm late summer sunshine.

Jake (l) and Vince (r) digging at the current base of the pot (Soft South). Photo by Brockers.
(Click on the image to open a short action film made by Brockers)

Back underground for the afternoon session. Brockers was digging with Jake but offered to swap position with me, so I ended up digging and, hauling up the spoil from the bottom of the pot. Brockers and Tav were shuttling the spoil back to the entrance, Jon was on the surface hauling out the bags and emptying them onto the spoil heap. Brockers found my camera and decided to do some filming and snap a few images. We had fun with plenty of good-humoured banter and another productive couple of digging sessions.



28th August

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, August 28, 2021 18:47:15

With Brockers, Jake, Tav, Nick, and Duncan (for the morning session).

A bit of fettling of the pulley system and hangers beforehand, some discussion about the best position for pulling up the skip, we settled on the diggers hauling the spoil from the bottom of the pot. Jake and Tav were digging for the morning session, I was on the ledge catching the skip and shuttling the bags along to Brockers at the junction. Brockers then dragged the spoil to the bottom of the entrance where he loaded the skip to Nick and Duncan on the surface. It was a busy session.

Lunch was enjoyed in the sunshine this weekend, Duncan had to leave at this point to attend more pressing matters.

For the afternoon session, me and Brockers were digging in the pot, Nick was on the ledge, Tav shuttling from the junction to the entrance, Jake was on the surface.

In the pot, Brockers uncovered several larger rocks that were too big to break-up with the sledge so will require some reduction in size (plugs and feathers) at a later date. Digging is quite easy and still progressing downwards. On the surface, Jake found time to empty the bags in between batches of spoil arriving from below. By the end of the day, quite a lot of bags were emptied onto the spoil heap and more rocks were added to the stockpile, another productive day.



26th August

digging 2021 Posted on Thu, August 26, 2021 15:13:37
Rocks piled ready for the next phase of wall building.

Solo

A morning spent tidying up the spoil heap and starting the construction of the next terrace wall. Very peaceful in the warm sunshine.

The next terrace wall construction underway.



21st August

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, August 21, 2021 17:48:53

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Tav.

Me, underground by 09:00 as planned, got the kit laid out and set to work breaking up boulders. Sometime after 10:00 Brockers turned up and made a start on bagging up the loose gravel and fine sediment. Then Jake arrived followed by Jon and a bit later, Tav. Jake pulled up a couple of skip loads of bags and rock and then swapped places with Brockers. Steadily the pile of rocks was removed to the surface while I was still reducing the large boulders to manageable pieces. When the last of the large boulders was broken up, I made my way to the surface to start hauling out the stockpile of spoil at the bottom of the entrance, Tav made his way to the surface to help out. With the majority of rocks and bags on the surface we decided to have a break for lunch, just as the sky decided to open. It was a soggy lunch.

Lunch over and it was still raining. We decided clear the remaining spoil and to fill all the available empty bags that were underground. I stayed on the surface to haul out, the rest of the team went below ground. Eventually, the rain abated, and the sun made a brief appearance.

At the end of todays sessions, c.100 bags had been filled and emptied and the equivalent of three fridge-, several microwave- and numerous electric kettle-size rocks shifted. There is plenty of wall building material for the next terrace. A fine effort from the reduced team.



17th August

digging 2021 Posted on Wed, August 18, 2021 07:05:39

Solo

Finished work at home at a reasonable time, so I decided to head over to HR and reduce the boulders there to manageable pieces rather than going over early Saturday to do it. The large boulder turned out to be a bit of a pig – it was heavily mineralised and just wouldn’t fracture easily. Lots of rolling it around and taking off lumps. Eventually, it was done but used all the battery power. It was then that I started to prod the long bar here and there and managed to bring down another substantial lump of rock and loosen another. The result of this action is that I will have to return early on Saturday to deal with these large lumps of rock.

In amongst the jumble of boulders in the pot (Soft South) is more displaced calcite, these flowstone fragments are upside down. Photo taken 17th August 2021.



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