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Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

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

The exploration of Hallowe'en Rift was started in 1982 by Trevor Hughes with other members of the Bristol Exploration Club, then during the early 1990's Vince Simmonds and other, mostly, local diggers were active at a number of locations within the cave, including the start of the dig to the 'east' side of the entrance, leading to An Unexpected Development in August 2018, with Graham Johnson in December 1991. The current phase of exploration was commenced in 2009, with the majority of the early work being carried out by Vince Simmonds and Alex Gee, now the regular team also includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price, Mike Moxon and Matt Tuck. There has been occasional help from others including Mike Willett, 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.

1st August 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, August 02, 2020 07:41:37

Vince, Brockers, Jon, Tav and a late appearance by Nick.

At the current end of Cold Gnarly North, checked to make sure all was good before the morning’s activities got underway, quite a lot of gravel had had been ejected along the approach and needed tidying. Tav followed me up for a gander but declined the offer to swap places and clear so I got on with it. Loose debris was placed into the skip and bagged-up by Tav in the small chamber near the aven. The filled bags then hauled along to a temporary stash in the “spa pool”, now just a muddy puddle. The filled bags were moved to the surface and emptied later in the morning.

All cleared, a total of eight holes were then drilled, two clusters of 4no. holes, dimensions c.450mm x 12mm, placed on the right-side (roughly east) of the passage. One group to widen the rift a bit more at the end(?) near to the small phreatic tube and the second group placed to start enlarging the “eye-hole”. The conglomerate is variable with frequent calcited vughs and mud-filled joints. Tav returned from hauling bags to help with dragging out the kit. Holes were drilled, filled and fire from a safe distance, and I too, made my way out of the cave. On the surface the team had gone down to the farm, I secured the cave and went to join them

25th July 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Mon, July 27, 2020 06:22:53

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

Yep! Another bang to clear. At the dig I went along to check al was as it should be, all good I returned to the small chamber near the aven. Nick went up to clear the debris, I hauled the skip back and bagged the loose debris comprising gravel and cobbles of conglomerate. The filled bags placed into the next skip to be hauled away by Jon. The bag started its journey out to the surface, temporarily stored in the ‘lake’ now more a muddy puddle. About three dozen bags and an assortment of rocks made it out to the surface and not all of them came from the end.

When Nick had cleared the debris from the end, I went along to continue the expansion work. Today, 8no. holes, c.450mm x 12mm, 3no. to remove a bulge of rock on the left-side, 5no. on the right to open up access to the phreatic ‘eye-hole’. This is an interesting feature that needs further investigation. Holes drilled, Nick came back from assisting in hauling the spoil out to retrieve the drill bag and bit tube and take them out of the cave. The holes were then filled, wired. and fired (from a comfortable position) and I made my way out of the cave to join Nick on the surface. I was surprised to find a torrent of water flowing down the entrance and into the Soft South. Apparently there had a ‘monsoon’ Nick informed, the other team members had high tailed it back to the farm. The cave was secured, and we left too.

18th July 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, July 19, 2020 07:14:39

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

Yesterday I had spent some time fettling a dozen skips for use in HR from six 25 litre containers supplied by Hugh Tucker, these were loaded into the van along with the rest of the kit, all prepped and packed, ready to go.

At the farm, the team congregated, the van unloaded, got changed and made our way up the hill, laden with various bits of kit and bags. Some of the skips were left in the shed to be used when required.

At the end of the Cold Gnarly North, last weekend’s application of IRS had done a good job and more space had been created, but first there was a pile of gravel and cobble size debris waiting to be cleared. We soon had a skip installed and with a few tweaks to get the correct length of hauling line, away it went filled with loose spoil. Jake was bagging up the skip contents down in the chamber near the aven before sending the bags on their way out of the cave. The skip worked a treat and it was a much more efficient method for spoil removal. Once the loose debris was cleared some work with hammer and chisel to remove some fractured flakes, it was time to have a good look at the end. The sloping floor of the passage leads downwards to another constriction, it appears to be blocked by sediment. However, interestingly on the right (east) side a small phreatic tube leads, after a metre or so, to what appears to be another ‘parallel’ rift. Fresh air seems to emanate from this direction, it is intriguing.

Anyway, to the job in hand. It was comfortable drilling today, plenty of room to sit and move around. A total of seven holes, 3no. on the left-side (450mm x 12mm) and 4no. on the right-side (3x 450mm x 12mm, 1x 600mm x 12mm), these were placed to widen the constriction and start to expand the small phreatic ‘eye-hole’. Brockers came back, after helping the team to remove the spoil from the cave (30 bags and 10 skip loads of rock), to help out with dragging my kit out. While he was waiting, he got to work with lump hammer and chisel to remove an irksome lump of rock that had impeded smooth passage of the skip.  

All drilled, filled and fired from a safe distance, the cave was vacated.

We’re back, and we have been busy!!!

digging 2020 Posted on Mon, July 13, 2020 08:12:48

4th July 2020

Vince, Jon, Jake, Brockers and Duncan.

It was pleasing to see a bigger pile of debris on arrival at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, the bang had been effective. There was still a lot of gravel but more cobble and small boulder-size lumps too. The crystalline calcite band was gone, and more competent conglomerate was exposed, should make drilling holes easier. Unfortunately, the way ahead is not as open as hoped for, there is a large pendulous flake of rock barring further access or a good look at what lies beyond. What can be seen is the passage slopes down at about 40o leading about 2m to a small opening, the passage is about 0.75m wide (or will be when the flake is gone) and draughting still.

Once the loose debris was cleared, got to work with a hammer and chisel bringing down some more fractured rock, leaving a cleaner face for the next set of holes. A couple of holes were drilled into the pendulous flake and a group of holes placed to try and open access further. The holes, 4no. 600mm x 12mm and 2no. 450mm x 12mm, were filled and wired and ready to go. Jon came back, after helping to clear the spoil to the surface, to assist with the bags. The charge was fired successfully.

Exited the cave a bit later than usual, the team were waiting, the cave secured, we made our way down to the farm and refreshments. The Hunter’s Lodge Inn is not reopening yet.

11th July 2020

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

On arrival at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North once again it was pleasing to find a good pile of debris had been created. The pendulous flake of rock was almost gone, frustratingly, the way ahead is still constricted, and more chemical persuasion will be required. Clearing the spoil is not an easy task in the narrow passage, head first down a calcited slope, throwing the cobbles/boulders back and scraping the gravel backwards underneath your body. It is then bagged up in the constricted space and the filled bags dragged back along the rift to the next in line. We should sort out another skip but space to use it properly at the moment is lacking.

When the spoil had been cleared, we had gained a couple of metres or so, there is a gap to follow just too tight. The draught was not so strong today, but surface conditions were probably the cause of that, temperature about 15o and a high-pressure front moving across the southwest. The team set about removing the spoil from the cave while I set about drilling and filling another set of holes, 6no. 450mm x 12mm. the aim to remove more of the flake and expand the space at the end to create somewhere a skip can be loaded.

After helping to shift the spoil beyond the lake, Jake cemented another ramp to ease the movement of the skip, then came back to help drag out my kit bags. The morning was brought to a loud, satisfactory conclusion from the corner by the lake and I left the cave.

17th March 2020

notes Posted on Tue, March 17, 2020 18:38:09

Due to the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic and the latest UK Government advice all digging activities are suspended for the foreseeable future. Good luck and hopefully, good health people!

14th March 2020

notes Posted on Sun, March 15, 2020 14:36:56

The global pandemic, Covid-19 (corona virus), that is spreading at an alarming rate requiring various Governments around the world to take draconian measures to protect us all, well that’s what they want us to believe, has in a roundabout sort of way, affected our activities in Hallowe’en Rift this week too.

Earlier in the week, following Government advice, the materials supplier was confined in self-isolation, therefore no collections were possible and resulted in no IRS taking place in HR; no bang, no spoil and nothing to clear on the weekend! Add to that, yours truly hasn’t been on top of his game either, it has been a rather unsatisfactory week and weekend – digging wise anyway!

Unfortunately, this is probably just the beginning of a very disrupted time ahead and some of the consequences are, almost certainly, going to very disappointing, devastating for some too.

7th March

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, March 07, 2020 15:40:57

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers and Alex.

Prior to setting off up the hill to meet the team and go digging – another bang to clear, I spent some time charging drill batteries, cleaning the drill and ignition device and generally sorting out kit and sundry items.

Met at the Hunter’s as usual and drove down to the farm where we got changed and walked up the cave entrance. Once underground we were soon in our respective positions in the Cold Gnarly North ready for another good session.

At the end of the narrow rift there was the expected pile of debris, once again the rock had disintegrated into mostly gravel with some medium cobble-sized pieces of rock. I scraped the debris from the constricted rift back to Brockers who was bagging it up and passing the filled bags down the line to Jake, Jon and finally, Alex who stacked the spoil in the low, muddy corner ready to be shifted later in the morning. The gravel and rocks cleared there remained a pool of red muddy water, this I bailed into the passage ahead. The water drained away immediately without backing up, although I couldn’t hear it draining. Looking forward about 1m, the narrow rift appears to be blocked by calcite flowstone, however, there seems to be something going off to the left, difficult to know for sure until we get there. It’s still draughting, been working hard and haven’t overheated nor has the air quality diminished. The expansion will continue. Jake and Brockers both went to the end for a look and came back with the same conclusion.

It was time to move back and clear out the spoil, this was achieved in a couple of stages. On the surface about 25 bags were emptied onto the spoil heap, for some of the bags this had been their final journey, they had succumbed to the rigours of the trip in and out of the cave.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s as usual.

4th March 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Thu, March 05, 2020 06:26:03

Report by Vince


Stuff all prepped and ready to go, a new drill battery was delivered today, and I’ve charged that ready for use. Didn’t get underground until 19:30 this week so it was a later finish. Shouldn’t have rushed my dinner, it was now heavy in my stomach, and shouldn’t have worn a neo-fleece and long-sleeved thermal shirt. It was not a very comfortable trip.

I decided to bail the trench in the floor of the rift into the narrow slot, it didn’t drain away as quickly as expected. Bailed the puddle at the end of the narrow rift too. Continued the expansion of the narrow rift, it was, of course, awkward and always takes longer having to keep going backwards and forwards for this or that. There isn’t much room to manoeuvre. Eventually, 6no. 550mm x 12mm holes were drilled and filled, kit packed and retired to a safe distance to bring the task to a noisy conclusion.

Gave the pub a miss and headed home to sort out kit, some of it will be needed tomorrow evening for Wookey Hole.

29th February

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, February 29, 2020 15:52:13

Report by Vince

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

Another bang to clear. There was a pile of gravel at the end of the rift, very few lumps of rock though, must be “soft” rock just seems to disintegrate. There was the bonus of a puddle of water to lie in too, and the trench at the start of the rift had filled with water since Tuesday. We have had quite a lot of rain recently, another storm passing over this weekend, Storm Jorge. I’m a bit disappointed with the results of the bang really, just 14 bags of gravel and a couple of large cobble-sized fragments of rock. All was cleared by mid-day. There was a brief discussion with Nick and Jon re: the possibility of opening the very narrow slit in the floor where the water from the trench was bailed into (doesn’t back-up at all). The current end of the rift appears to be quite calcited, although there is still a draught. I will ponder on this for a while, wouldn’t like to give up on the rift until a conclusion is arrived at, one way or the other.

There was also a conversation about finding somewhere else to dig to fill the time rather than going to the pub early, perhaps a return to the south-west passage is on the cards.

25th February 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, February 26, 2020 06:34:47

Report by Vince


After collecting the supplies at 16:45, I was underground by 18:00. Arrived at the end of the Cold Gnarly North and was surprised to find that the trench in the floor of the rift hadn’t refilled with water. Perhaps Jon’s probing with the long bar on Saturday had the desired effect. However, there was a puddle of water at the business end. I decided to continue the with the passage widening and to remove the remaining bulge of rock in the floor. The 4no. were again widely spaced (in pairs) and I used a 12mm diameter drill bit, maximum depth c.550mm. While drilling the fourth hole the cutting tip sheared off possibly the result of accidentally dipping the bit in the puddle of water at the end. Luckily, I had spare bits and was able to drill a parallel hole (the broken tip was at the bottom of the other hole!). All holes drilled, filled and fired from a safe distance and I exited the cave. I was cold, so secured the cave and jogged back down to the farm to warm up a bit.

Didn’t stop at the pub went straight home to sort out the kit and get things drying out.

22nd February

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, February 23, 2020 06:36:56

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers, Nick and Tav

Usual thing after the application of IRS, reeled in the wire, checked all was as it should be. It hadn’t got any drier along the rift at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, but there was a pile of fractured rock debris to shift. The gravel and cobble-sized lumps of fractured rock were scraped and passed backwards to Jake, who had a bit more space to bag it up. The spoil then moved along the line to be stacked on the “dry” north side of the “spa”.

When the spoil was cleared from the end and an idea of what actions were required next, Jake went along to the end to have a look. It’s a good lead with potential. That done, all shifted back to clear the spoil from the cave. Jake needed to avoid the “spa” as he had left his pub clothes at home, not an ideal move, good job he had his motorcycle gear.

Twenty bags were emptied onto the spoil heap. If the weather had been better, we might have mooched around on the surface for a while and built up the wall, it was quite a bit earlier than usual. No matter, the cave was secured, and we made our way back to the farm and, a little later, the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. Plenty of time to get back and watch 6 Nations Rugby.

18th February

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, February 19, 2020 06:30:03

Report by Vince


Collected supplies and straight to the farm to get ready to go into Hallowe’en Rift, underground by 18:20.

The plan was, rather than progressing the end, I would remove a few ‘bulges’ from the wall and make the passage a bit roomier. When I arrived at the end of the Cold Gnarly North, I was surprised at how wet the narrow rift had become. The trench in the floor was now a deep puddle and at the current end where I was to be working, it also now contained a puddle of water. I would have to be careful where I put the drill down, lithium ion batteries do not like water!

4no. holes were drilled, up to 550mm length x 10mm diameter, filled and fired from a safe distance. As usual, rock could be heard repositioning itself, should be stuff to clear on the weekend.

15th February

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, February 15, 2020 17:02:34

Report by Vince

Vince, Tav, Jake and Jon

A small band of stalwarts assembled at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, undeterred by ‘coronavirus’, an excursion to Cheddar or, shopping. As we did last weekend, the spoil would have to be removed in stages.

All into the van and down to the farm where we changed into caving kit and made our way up the hill into the face of Storm Dennis, in all honesty, it was a bit windy and not very wet, yet.

At the end of the narrow rift in the ‘far’ reaches of the Cold Gnarly North there was plenty of debris to be removed. It was hard work scraping the gravel and cobbles sized lumps back to Tav who was busy filling bags and passing them down the line to Jake and Jon. The spoil stacked at the bottom of the aven. It is just a tad constricted at the end of the rift and I reached the conclusion that I am going to make it bigger. The spoil cleared, or most of it, we shifted back to start moving the spoil out of the cave. From the aven it was moved and stacked in the ‘spa’, from here the next stop was the bottom of the entrance. Twenty bags and six skip loads of rocks were eventually emptied onto the surface spoil heap.

The walk down the hill to the farm was a bit windier and wetter, glad that it wasn’t cold as well!

11th February

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, February 12, 2020 06:27:58

Report by Vince


Collected the goods at c.17:00, stayed to chat for a short while before heading over to the farm. Materials prepped, got the oversuit on and up across the fields, into the woods to the cave entrance. Dragged myself and the kit to the Cold Gnarly North and along the narrow rift. There’s not a lot of space with me and two bags. Drill and filled four awkward holes. I’m considering making it bigger in the future. Retreated to a safe distance and brought the evening’s task to a noisy conclusion. Job done, dragged myself and the bags back out of the cave, back on the surface at 20:00.

It was cold walking back down the hill to the farm.

8th February

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, February 09, 2020 06:48:33

Report by Vince

Vince, Jon, Nick and Jake.

A smaller team assembled today so to get stuff out to the surface it was necessary to stage the bags and rock debris at several temporary places.

At the current end of the Cold Gnarly North we were greeted by a pile of gravel and fragmented rock, the result of the latest phase of IRS. I scraped the gravel and lumps of rock back to Jon who had a bit more space to put it into bags. The spoil was then passed back to Nick and Jake where it was stacked at the entry to the aven. When all was clean and tidy at the end, ready for the next application of chemical persuasion, we moved back to move the spoil to the next stage on the north side of the ‘spa’. We shifted positions again and it was my turn to feel the benefit of soaking in the cool mineral waters of the ‘spa pool’. The spoil had arrived at the Junction, some made it to the bottom of the entrance. All cleared from beyond the ‘spa’ the spoil was on its way to its final destination, to be deposited on the spoil heap. About 20 bags and several skip loads of rock was the tally for this session. Job done, we secured the cave and left, ready for some refreshment.

4th February

digging 2020 Posted on Tue, February 04, 2020 22:42:14

Report by Vince


Collected the supplies c.17:20 and headed over to Hallowe’en Rift, underground by c.18:30.

It is a bit constricted along the narrow rift with me, two bags full of kit and a drill tube rattling around. Some awkward manoeuvring required with the 600mm drill bit. Anyway, another 4no. holes were drilled, filled and fired. Should be something for the weekend, mobile rock was heard. Just got to wait a few days to get back and see the results.

1st February

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, February 02, 2020 08:01:15

Report by Vince

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

A strong team today. I went ahead to reel in the wire and check that all was as it should be. Everything was fine and I scraped the resulting debris from the IRS back to Brockers who had a bit more space to bag it up. The filled bags were passed back to Tav who was shuttling to and fro between the rift and the aven. The spoil was on a journey to the Junction, not sure where each of the other team members had positioned themselves.

Frustratingly, although the IRS had created plenty of gravel, further access along the narrow rift is still not possible. A clear sight of whatever lies beyond obscured by more flowstone, I was a little bit disappointed really. Never mind, we’ll just have to keep chipping away at it, metre by metre, until we come to s conclusion, satisfactory or not.

The end all cleared ready for the next application of IRS, we all moved back to clear the cave of spoil. About 30 bags and a few skip loads of rock were added to the spoil heap and some rock was added to the wall too.

28th January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 29, 2020 06:28:40

Report by Vince


Decided to collect supplies and go directly to the farm for an earlier start into Hallowe’en Rift. Material prepped and packed, I was all kitted up, everything ready to go, and then I realised…no drill bit tube! So, into the van and back over the hill to retrieve the tube from my tackle store. Half-hour wasted…no matter.

Eventually arrived at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, sorted the kit out and got to work. The small trench in the floor along the narrow rift now has a puddle in it. 4no. pilot holes, c.250 x 16mm drilled in the required spots then the holes were extended to c.500 x 10mm and filled. A little bit of tamping just to seal the holes, all wired-up, kit packed away, and retreated to a safe distance to bring the task to a noisy conclusion. Rock was heard re-locating, should be stuff to clear next session. Might be able to get a better glimpse of whatever lies beyond too.

25th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 26, 2020 06:41:39

Report by Vince

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon and Nick.

The application of IRS had the desired effect and there was a pile of rubble waiting to be removed. I passed the larger lumps behind and scraped the gravel back to Jake, who had a bit more space to bag up the debris and down the line the spoil moved. It’s quite a long way along the rift now so the team was fully employed. The bags and rocks joined last weeks stockpile on the north side of the “spa”. When the loose stuff had been cleared from the end, the hammer and chisel were used to remove fractured stuff from the wall, all clean and tidy for the application of the next phase in the coming week. Hopefully, next weekend we’ll get a better look at the way forward.

The end all tidy it was time to move back and clear the filled bags and rock from the cave. Brockers had been suffering from a cold so it was suggested a spell in the healing waters of the “spa” would do him good, at least that was the plan. Once a few teething problems, such as a missing skip, were ironed out the hauling process worked smoothly, and the spoil was delivered to the bottom of the entrance.

The last task of the session was to haul the spoil out to the surface; 50+ bags and a dozen or so skip-loads of rock were added to the heap. Some walling was also achieved. All cleared, the cave was secured and we departed.

21st January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 22, 2020 06:33:28

Report by Vince


Materials collected, prepared and delivered to the Cold Gnarly North. Another set of holes drilled, filled and fired. A bit awkward in the narrow rift but job done. It was loud. Something more for the weekend!

I shone my torch along the narrow rift ahead, another 3 or 4 metres, it looks interesting, there’s still the fine echo. I’m enthusiastic, as ever.

Jogged back down to the farm to warm-up a bit.

18th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 19, 2020 21:22:33

I was busy elsewhere this weekend attending a BCRA Special Interest Explosives Users Group (EUG) training event being held at Westbury Quarry. Others were left to clean up my mess.

Report by Jon

“Four of the usual suspects (Jon, Tav, Jake and Nick) assembled at the appointed hour.  It was a cold morning with fog lying across the levels.  Above the fog, the sun shone from a cloudless sky.  At the farm, the team encountered the odd combination of warm winter sunshine and smog.

With a small team, expectations on progress were relatively low.  More than a few minutes were spent passing the time of day with the farmer.  Eventually the team started up the hill, remembering to take the key despite the distraction of also taking a new lock.

Underground, Jon took the lead position, supported by Tav, with Nick stacking spoil.  All bang debris was bagged, stacked and subsequently restacked at the first corner beyond the spa.

Jake spent some time in the spa, trying to create a drain hole using a long steel rod.  He later joined the others. 

There was no significant change at the dig face; progress continues as before. 

On the way out, Nick went down to the lower passage to look for evidence of drainage from Jake’s efforts.  No evidence was seen and attempts at voice communication from the spa also failed.

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

14th January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 15, 2020 08:58:09

Report by Vince


Another set of 5no. holes drilled, filled and fired. Continuing the expansion of the north west passage at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North. Awkward drilling position in the narrow rift. The echo from beyond is, as ever, intriguing.

11th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 12, 2020 06:52:27

Report by Vince

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

Nick, Jon, Brockers and me set off to the Cold Gnarly North laden with new skips and trays, hauling ropes and empty bags. Reeled in the wire along the way too. Jake and Tav opted to clear the accumulation of rocks from the bottom of the entrance and join us later, when required.

Beyond the “spa”, a new skip run was put into place at the current end, the worn-out skip was replaced, although separating the rope from the skip proved not to be straight-forward and took a bit of time to sort out. Nick had gone to the end of the rift to clear the debris created by Tuesday evening’s expansion. The loose gravel and cobble-sized stuff into bags, larger lumps were passed back. Then Nick got to work with a hammer and chisel, some substantial flakes were removed enabling a better glimpse beyond. There is still the echo and the air fresh, it always appears to widen just a bit further ahead. Until it does, the expansion work will need to be continued. All the loose debris had been cleared and the fractured rock removed, the end was ready for the next phase to be carried out during the coming week. We moved back, Jake and Tav joined us and the spoil was removed from the cave to the surface, including a large boulder that had been strapped into a drag-tray for the journey out.

Today’s tally: Jake and Tav had hauled out 36 skip-loads of rock, these had been added to the wall along with others from the stockpile. From the Cold Gnarly North the count was 23 bags and 9 skip-loads of rock including the big boulder. A good session!

7th January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 08, 2020 06:22:37

Report by Vince


Continuing the expansion of the narrow rift leading circa north-west at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North. Another half-dozen holes, drilled, filled and fired. Should be something for the weekend!

4th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 05, 2020 07:41:07

Report by Vince

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

During the coming year, 2020, the team at Hallowe’en Rift are embracing a new approach to health and well-being. We are not opposed to jumping on any bandwagon should the fancy take us. The whole digging experience is to be re-branded, the ‘lake’ once thought a place of foreboding now considered to offer ‘cold mineral water therapy’ an aid to focusing mind and body. The mineral rich sediments are recognized as having exfoliation qualities that unlock the secrets of soft, glowing skin. A digging session can provide an excellent full body work-out, no need for expensive gym membership, the provision of beer will be deemed appropriate. Remember, exercise isn’t just good for your body – it works wonders for the mind as well!

There now follows an update of the latest activities from the Hallowe’en Rift Spa:

When returning to the dig following another application of IRS, there is a sense of anticipation wondering, how has it gone, what, if anything, has been revealed? It’s usually a case of ‘just a little more is needed’ and today wasn’t going to be an exception. Still there was plenty of debris to be moved, in addition to the spoil already bagged up on Wednesday, so everyone was kept busy. As usual the spoil was dragged back to the north side of the ‘spa pool’ where it was neatly stacked awaiting removal later in the morning. The dig cleared ready for the next phase of expansion, it was time to move back and clear the backlog of spoil. Brockers was first in line to experience ‘cold mineral water therapy’ and took up his position in the ‘spa pool.’ Unfortunately, he didn’t really emerge as a ‘new man’ probably due to not being immersed in the waters for a long enough period, he was still talking afterwards. 54 bags were hauled out and emptied on the spoil heap and 6no. skip loads of rock joined the wall building supply. There is another estimated 30 loads or so of rock awaiting removal at the bottom of the entrance, but the consensus had decided it was pub time.

Jon had met Hugh Tucker who had provided six 25-litre containers ready to cut-up into skips, that’s a job for me later today after kit washing.

1st January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 01, 2020 16:38:13

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake and Brockers.

There was a bit of a moment when Jake tipped out his caving kit to find he had left his helmet at home, a detour to Dinder was required. We returned to the farm where we met a rather confused/concerned Brockers, who being late had arrived at the farm to find our kit and no sign of us. However, distractions over, we changed and made our way up the hill to the cave.

Once underground we were soon at the dig where Jake and Brockers cleared the debris. I retrieved another bag of kit ready for later in the morning and then stashed filled bags at the base of the aven, rocks were just moved aside and left in a tidy pile. The IRS had worked well and there was plenty to shift. Loose debris gone some work with hammer and chisel produced some substantial flakes of rock and calcite. Bang debris cleared, we swapped places and I was able to get a look. One more bang might enable a squeeze into the narrow rift and get a better glimpse of what lies beyond, or not. It will be interesting to see on Saturday. Back to the job in hand, more holes were drilled and filled while Jake and Brockers set about improving the skip routes by removing quite a lot of rock along the approach passage. By the end of the session a considerable pile of spoil had been amassed. It had been an enjoyable and productive session, brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

It was busy in the pub but, thankfully, not too busy to deter us from refreshment!

30th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Mon, December 30, 2019 15:39:26


Supplies collected, drove to Wells where I briefly stopped at Morrison’s and Halfords for some odds and ends, then to the farm. Materials were prepped and packed before setting off across the field, into the woods to the cave entrance. Gate opened, clambered down the entrance and headed to the Cold Gnarly North, dragging one bag behind and pushing the drill bag ahead. Took extra care across the lake to keep the drill bag out of the water. On arrival at the north west leading rift, unpacked the kit and got to work drilling and filling the required number of holes. All done, stuffed some packs of empty bags into the bottom of the rift, that had been so diligently cleaned on Saturday, to prevent in filling back up with debris. Holes well stemmed, all loose ends taped, moved back to connect the wires and start out of the cave. Stopped at a safe distance to bring the morning’s task to a satisfactory conclusion. The results will be seen on Wednesday when it is planned to return and clear the rift.

A quick stop at the Hunter’s before heading home to spend an hour or so cleaning and washing kit ready for next time.

28th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, December 29, 2019 07:35:32

Vince, Duncan, Jon, Brockers, Jake and Matt (on the surface)

After reeling in the wire and a quick inspection to check all was as it should have been, Duncan went upfront and cleared back the loose debris. Vince was next in line filling bags and moving fractured rock back to Jon. A skip was loaded and hauled away by Brockers to Jake at the [temporary] end of the line. The spoil removed from the skip and stashed neatly into every available nook and cranny on the north side of the lake. When all the debris had been cleared, a quick look to formulate the next plan of action for the coming week, we all moved back to get the filled bags and rocks out of the cave.

Neither Duncan nor Jon were wearing wetsuits or neo-fleece, so Vince took the lake position again. Duncan loaded the skip on the north side of the lake, Jon in position at the corner, Brockers and Jake at the junction/entrance. Mostly things moved along okay there was the occasional spillage as an unbalanced skip load turned over and required reloading. The difficulty then was finding the right hauling rope that had sunk into the murky water.

Eventually, all the bags and rock were cleared, we made our way back to the entrance. We were all thankful that Matt had made a very timely appearance and hauled todays quota of 50 bags to the surface. It had been decided that the rocks at the bottom of the entrance could wait for another day as it was pub time. There wasn’t any argument about that.

26th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, December 27, 2019 08:16:58


The task for today was to widen the approach into the rift. This will facilitate an easier skip route and improve access for further drilling along the narrow rift. Before this plan was put into action, I unpacked my camera and took a few snaps of the features along the rift. The constricted passage made it a bit awkward to get a decent shot, took some anyway and will try again after the widening process has been completed.

Fractured and damaged speleothems, more evidence for freeze/thaw processes (?).

Then back to the job in hand, 5no. pilot holes were drilled in each location, c.250mm length x 16mm diameter, each hole extended to c.400mm length x 12mm diameter. The holes, spaced to remove several lumps and bumps, were filled, well stemmed and all wired up. Kit was repacked and all was moved back to a safe location and the morning’s session brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Rock could be heard re-positioning, there should be plenty to do on Saturday morning. Job done it was time to leave the cave.

24th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, December 24, 2019 21:25:36


The holes that had been drilled and filled along the rift had been effective and had carved some sizeable slabs of rock from the cave wall. They needed a bit of effort to remove them, i.e. they required some reduction in size. Before this could be done the “bridged” constriction needed some attention. Some hammering, chiselling and levering with the bar the constriction was gone (mostly). Once the bulk of material had been cleared, I managed a couple of metres of forward progress to gain a better look ahead. The upshot…still more work required! At least another 2m or so of passage to be widened, not really a surprise. The narrow rift ahead is covered with calcite flowstone and there’s further evidence for the effects of frost and/or ice freeze/thaw processes. This needs a photographic record.

Did as much clearing as I thought necessary then had a look around to plan the next phase of action. After some consideration maybe it’s time for consolidation and expansion rather than struggling to push too far ahead in the restricted rift. All sorted, time to leave and go to the pub for some lunch.

23rd December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, December 24, 2019 06:36:47


Back to the Cold Gnarly North for the next application of IRS (Induced Rapid Speleogenesis). Holes drilled and filled in the constriction and along the narrow rift that leads north west beyond the aven. It was a slow process today mostly due to awkward drilling and variable rock; it goes like that sometimes. The late afternoon/evening’s task brought to a satisfactory conclusion with a loud bang and the clatter of mobile rock.

The lake wasn’t quite as deep as it was on Saturday but still deep enough for a soaking. Planning to return tomorrow and clear ready for the next phase. Didn’t stop at the Hunter’s, wanted to get home and sort out kit ready for the next session.

21st December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, December 22, 2019 07:50:31

Vince, Tav, Brockers, Jake, Jon, Nick, surface support was provided by Matt.

I went to the farm to see Mark and family to hand over a small offering of thanks for their support during the past year. We might even get Mark underground in 2020 to have a look in Hallowe’en Rift.

At the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, the latest application of IRS had created a satisfying quantity of debris, although a rather annoying bridge of rock/calcite remained. This impeded forward progress somewhat and got in the way of a good look ahead. It wouldn’t succumb to vigorous attention from hammer and chisel, it will be dealt with later. All the loose rocks and gravel were bagged and dragged to be stacked, very neatly, on the dry north side of the lake. When the loose debris had been cleared, Tav and Jake came forward to inspect the prospects ahead, a plan was formulated for the next phase of IRS then, it was time to clear the spoil from the cave.

Brockers looking into the chamber ahead.

It was my turn to occupy the damp spot in the lake. I sat in a central position, the muddy water, c.300mm deep lapping around my waist. I hauled the skip, loaded with bags and/or rocks by Jake, it arrived from the darkness of the low passage, slid down into the murky water, partially submerged and approached like a ‘menacing crocodilian’. The load was transferred to the next skip to be hauled away by Tav and Brockers. After a while the cold began to seep in and I was glad to hear “last bag” called. Jake then decided that we should wrestle a large and heavy boulder that barely went through the lower sections, out to the surface. We, of course, embraced the challenge. It was good to find out that Matt had turned up to assist in surface duties and the bags had been emptied, 45 of them plus about 10 skip loads of rock or equivalent thereof.

It was a bit surreal to exit the cave to the sounds of carol singers and fluttering tinsel. Roz, Rebecca and Rachael had decided to turn up with a festive surprise, mince pies, sausage rolls and a stocking for each of us hung in the trees.

The festive spirit (l to r: Vince, Matt, Jon, Rachael, Brockers, Tav, Nick).
Photograph by Rebecca Johnson.

17th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, December 18, 2019 06:26:29


Finished work, collected supplies, then home to prepare and pack everything for this evening’s trip into Hallowe’en Rift. Soon it was time to drive over the hill to the farm, got changed and walked across the field, into the woods to the cave entrance.

Underground, the lake wasn’t any drier, cold too! Plan is to continue the good works at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, beyond the aven, following the northwest passage. Almost 7no. holes drilled and filled, up to 500mm length x 12mm dia., the 7th hole only 350mm length as battery power faded. A slight change in material and a 2nd det. made a loud bang this evening. Should be plenty to clear next digging session.

Got home after a quick stop at the Hunter’s, then the task of unpacking the kit to let it dry out before the next session/instalment. Washing machine loaded with wet, muddy under-garments and into the bath for me.

10th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, December 10, 2019 21:14:02


Continuing the north-west quest, beyond the aven, next phase of IRS duly applied. Hopefully the calcited constriction will be removed and a better look into what lies beyond might be possible. Hope it’s more effective than the last attempt, a certain amount of flying rock could be heard.

The calcite constriction. Scale 0.2m

7th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, December 07, 2019 16:14:47

Vince, Jake, Brockers, Jon, Nick and Tav

Vince set-off to the current end of the Cold Gnarly North with Jake and Brockers to clear the debris from Wednesday evenings application of IRS. Nick, Jon and Tav cleared the rocks still at the Junction/entrance area. There were rather more there than estimated – 46 skip loads out to the surface.

Unfortunately, the IRS didn’t really have the desired effect probably due to the calcite blockage and softer ‘marly’ rock. Even so, there was enough fractured rock that just required loosening some more with bar and hammer. Plenty to occupy three diggers for a while, the result a roomier chamber and an improved ‘skip-run’ for the future. Nick came to find out how we were progressing just as we were deciding to start clearing out the spoil. It didn’t take too long to remove c.25 filled bags and another 8 skip loads of rock out to the surface. A satisfying morning’s work.

A plan has been formulated for the next phase of IRS to be progressed mid-week.

4th December 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Thu, December 05, 2019 06:16:21


Continuing the quest for the north-west passage beyond the aven. Next phase of IRS duly applied. Finished with a flourish as the re-positioning of rock could be heard in the distance.

30th November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, December 01, 2019 08:06:18

With Jon, Jake, Tav, Duncan, Nick and his son, Chris.

Reeled in the wire and went up to the dig face to clear the debris from the last application of IRS. A bit disappointed that it hadn’t been quite as effective as hoped for. A combination of calcite, tiny voids and ‘marly’ conglomerate. Anyway, cleared the rubble that had been produced, aided by Chris. Hammered off some calcited cobbles and ‘knobbly’ flowstone enabling a squeeze up into the rift, just about possible to stand up. This gave a better view of what lies beyond.

A glimpse of what lies beyond!

The rift continues, it is possible to see about 5m ahead, the maximum width is c.0.25m, both sides of the rift are covered in calcite and there is more evidence for the effects of frost and/or ice, the vertical range is about 2m. Couldn’t really see what was going on at the lower part of the rift where it appears to intersect the bedding. This is where the way ahead is still blocked by about 0.5m of rock and calcite. Removal of the blockage should give access (or a better view) to a continuation of the rift/bedding. Just need to persevere, Hallowe’en Rift won’t give up its secrets easily. I got out of the way and Chris squeezed in to have a peek.

All clean and tidy, ready for the next phase of IRS in the mid-week, it was time to re-join the others and get the spoil out of the cave. 59 bags were hauled out to the surface, the rocks remain underground at the junction and some at the bottom of the entrance. The bags were emptied and some attention to wall construction got underway. This was curtailed when today’s ‘lake dweller’ started to feel cold and headed off to the farm, it was quite chilly in the easterly breeze, especially when soaking wet!

The cave secured, we all headed back through the wood, across the field to the farm.

28th November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, November 29, 2019 06:20:45


It’s so much better in a caving oversuit that fits well and isn’t more hole than cover – the newly purchased oversuit had arrived from the Irish suppliers, Over the Ground.

5no. holes drilled and filled; all went off with a satisfying clatter. More debris to clear for the weekend!

26th November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, November 27, 2019 07:46:57

With Mike, Nick and Jake

Another oversuit had succumbed to the rigours of digging and was binned. Sadly, the temporary replacement was next to useless, very ill-fitting, it won’t be worn underground by me again.

We cleared the debris that resulted from last evening’s application of IRS, the filled bags and fractured rock all stacked along the passage on the north side of the lake. Everything clean and tidy ready for the next phase, probably on Thursday evening. Frustratingly, still not quite able to get a clear view along the rift. A tantalizing glimpse is all that is possible, there’s an echo and good air movement, so near and yet…

It was noticeable that there were no fumes at the dig tonight.

If nothing else, we have created a comfortable chamber, roomy enough for four, a space for a moment’s contemplation and chat between friends about old times. Probably more importantly there is ample space for the temporary storage of spoil as the dig progresses.

25th November 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, November 26, 2019 06:30:37


The quest for the north-west passage continues, expanding the [current] end of the Cold Gnarly North, beyond the aven. A slow trip this evening, lots of stuff to drag, the wire needed trimming, drilling was slow at times – harder clasts within the conglomerate, didn’t feel great either. Still, got the job done. A good resounding bang with the satisfying sound of re-positioning rock! Should be something to keep us busy for the next session(s).

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