31st December

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.