This introduction contains some useful information regarding theTriassic timescale. Source: The Geological Society of London, Open Access.
Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick
A dash over to Portishead, where Hidden Earth 2023 was being held, to drop-off my entry to the Art Salon then back for digging. By the time I arrived at HR the rest of the team were already at it.
Quickly underground I settled down at the bottom of the entrance and started to haul back the supply of filled bags and stashed them all around me for removal later in the session. Brockers was busy on the ledge, Jake was going flat-out on the shuttle as Nick was in a digging frenzy, Jon working hard to clear the filled bags back to Jake.
As ever, digging activity was curtailed at midday to clear the accumulation of filled bags from the cave. After the recent rain the going up to the spoil disposal area was less than ideal. Today’s total was 95-bags hauled out and emptied.
To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments before returning to Hidden Earth (and Nick too).
Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick, and Brockers
Down in the deep Soft South, Brockers was upfront digging and filling bags, aided and abetted by Nick, Jon was on the haul and shuttle, back and forth to the pot. I was perched on the ledge catching and emptying the bucket then transferring the filled bags to the skip hauled away by Jake where the bags were temporarily stored at the bottom of the entrance. When there was a sufficient accumulation of filled bags I moved back to the entrance and Jake climbed up to the surface and the accumulated bags were cleared away (to be emptied later). Then we returned to our original positions for the next lot…and so on.
About midday as usual the digging wound down, loose material had been cleared away, ant the remaining backlog of bags were cleared out of the cave to the surface and emptied onto the spoil heap. 95-bags filled, hauled, and emptied today.
There’s a late summer heatwave at present and it was getting warm on the surface, refreshments taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn quenched our thirsts.
I would have taken some photographs but, earlier in the morning, when i opened the peli’ box to get my camera, the box was empty, my camera at home still on my desk!
With Tav, Jake, Nick, and Jon
Grinder packed ready for action.
In the deep Soft South, initially Tav filled a few bags while I trimmed the ‘studding’. That done I took over filling bags and Tav cleared the spoil away to Jake who shuttled it along to the pot. I think Nick was on the ledge and Jon at the bottom of the entrance, temporarily stacking the filled bags.
In the sizeable chamber digging sediment and filling bags is straightforward, moving the spoil through the cave requires considerable effort. At midday digging ceased, the cave needed clearing, and we moved back to get it done. Some of the bags were already on the surface but all required emptying. About 90 bags and a couple of large boulders that didn’t come from the end dig in the deep Soft South.
Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.
17:00, after loading kit and stull into the van, drove over to the farm, changed, and lugged all the stuff up to the HR (c. 40kg). Opened the cave and dragged the kit and stuff along to the deep Soft South, had to do it in stages. Once I was at the end, set about building a [roof] slab-retaining wall. Drilled holes into rocks and narrow rock-ledge, inserted ‘studding’ and cemented into place. Kept going until I ran out of cement. Packed everything away, bags were much lighter now, and made my way back to the farm. It was getting dark, 20:30.
With Jon, Tav, Brockers, Jake, Nick, and guest, Paul Agnew (Australia)
Took another hauling rope and pulley to the cave to be used on the pot hauling line. This will allow the in-situ rope/pulley to be cleaned. It is getting difficult to grip the rope when it becomes impregnated with mud.
Down in the deep Soft South, underneath the “pissing tree” Jon was digging, my task was to clear away the filled bags to Tav on the haul/shuttle/haul along to the pot. Brockers was on the ledge (he swapped over the rope/pulley on the pot), Jake was at the bottom of the entrance.
Took the opportunity to inspect the “rock of concern” in the roof above the approach to the ‘final’ chamber and, following some discussion, came up with a satisfactory remediation strategy.
Digging was well underway when we were joined by Nick with a friend, Paul (a colleague from Australia). Nick took Paul for a tour of the cave – but not through Trick or Treat – but did include a crawl along to An Unexpected Development.
As usual digging was ceased about midday and the spoil was cleared from the cave. About 80 filled bags were emptied onto the spoil heap.
Once changed, we all reconvened at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.
With Jon, Jake, and Nick
Down to a team of four this weekend. No problem. Nick upfront digging, Jon clearing the filled bags away, Jake on the shuttle and haul along the NE passage, and I was up on the ledge unloading the skip and dragging the bags along to the bottom of the entrance.
Before the digging got underway in earnest, I went to have a quick look at where last weeks connection to Trick or Treat actually came in. That established, returned, and after a brief chat with Nick made my way back to assume my position on the ledge. It was a full-on session with a rapid succession of filled bags moving through the cave, some were stored at the base of the entrance, and a second temporary stockpile accrued in the pot as the flow of bags caused a backlog.
At around midday the digger(s) upfront ran out of empty bags and had to come back. The next task was to clear the filled bags from the cave and empty them onto the spoil heap. Today’s total = 85 bags.
To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.
Vince, Brockers, Nick, Jake, Tav, Jon, and Mike
A good turn-out today with Mike having a work-free weekend and deciding to come and lend a helping hand.
Down in the deep Soft South, I continued working in the righthand corner while Brockers, whose main objective was to clear away filled bags, dug on the left-side of the end chamber. Mike came up to the end to check on progress as he hasn’t seen it for a while, before going back to shuttle spoil along to the pot. Nick was in the pot hauling up rocks and filled bags whenever they were delivered. I think Jon was on the ledge, with Tav at the bottom of the entrance, and Jake on the surface hauling up the spoil. There was some swapping around of positions going on as Nick ended up shuttling along the passage to the pot, Mike shifting position to somewhere else.
The digging on the right-side of the end chamber is an ongoing task – layers of sediment overlying a calcite false floor which, in turn, overlies more sediment with some degrading calcification evident.
Meanwhile, to the left-side of the end chamber, Brockers dug another connection into Trick or Treat (not an unexpected outcome). This was, eventually, confirmed when Brockers negotiated the slippery climb and following wriggle into Trick or Treat and reporting back that he had seen the light! I could hear him through the small gap that was the connection. Time to clear-up the loose, last bag(s) dispatched, we left the dig for the surface (after a few photos, bit steamy with two working in the chamber).
All bags were empty when we arrived on the surface – c.90-bags and 50 skip-loads of rocks. Good session. Time for the Hunter’s!
Vince, Tav, Brockers, Nick, Jon, and Jake
Full team available today which means the spoil will be moved, in one go, from dig to surface.
At the current dig, down in the deep Soft South at the end of the NE passage below Trick or Treat, Tav worked away in the righthand corner, loosening sediment, filling bags, and removing a section of ‘false floor’ comprised of slightly degrading calcite. I was clearing away the spoil, up and over the ‘bench’ and dropping into the lower section of passage and loading onto the drag tray. Brockers hauled the spoil away, shuttling it along to pot, and loading the bucket, then hauling it up to Nick on the ledge. In addition, a large quantity of the stockpile of rocks in pot were moved out of the cave. From the ledge, Nick transferred the spoil to the next skip to Jon at the base of the entrance. Jake was on the surface (in the rain) hauling filled bags and rocks up to the surface.
As usual, the digging came to a natural pause around midday when all out from the cave to empty to 70- or so bags on to the spoil heap. Surface conditions weren’t great after the rain which had now stopped.
All to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments!
Vince, Jon, Tav, and Jake
Just a team of four again this weekend, spoil will be stashed at the bottom of the entrance to be removed later in the morning.
Down in the deep Soft South, Jon digging, Tav clearing away, Jake shuttling along the NE passage and hauling the spoil up onto the ledge where I was positioned. The bags were removed from the skip-bucket and dragged/manhandled along to the bottom of the entrance. The bags, initially, arrived in batches of four then six became the norm. It was non-stop action when thing got underway. No time for any photographs today.
As usual, digging ceased about midday and the team moved back t clear the spoil from the cave. A total of 92-bags hauled out and emptied on to the spoil heap. It was time to go to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.
With Jon, Jake, and Nick
As planned, arrived at HR early with drill and plugs/feathers. Down to the deep Soft South and along to the end of the NE passage and the current dig. There are a couple of large boulders left behind from previous digging sessions that require some reduction in size. The boulders comprised conglomerate and a thick mineral deposit (calcite).
Just about finished breaking up boulders when the team arrived. Packed kit away and started to fill some bags. Jon cleared away the pile of rocks and then the filled bags, Jake was hauling the spoil back and shuttling it to the pot where Nick was on the ledge. Nick then dragged the filled bags to the bottom of the entrance ready for hauling out of the cave.
At midday digging was ended for the session and moved back to clear the spoil from the cave. About 70-bags were hauled out and emptied onto the spoil heap, the rocks were left piled up in the pot for another day. There was a stream of water was flowing down the entrance shaft, it was raining steadily.
To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.
With Brockers and Nick
A small team assembled but strong enough to make a good fist of it. Some pre-dig banter regarding the benefits of flower shoes over a good digging session. Arrived at the cave, packed the bags, and underground to the deep Soft South to continue the task in hand.
Brockers was upfront digging, following a brief discussion about where to concentrate today’s effort, I was clearing away the filled bags (and sporadic rocks) and dragging them back to load the skip. The skip was being hauled by Nick, who manhandled the bags along the passage to the pot, and up the fixed ladder to deposit them up on the ledge.
As the time approached midday we decided to stop digging and clear the spoil out of the cave. Somewhere about 50 filled bags were emptied onto the spoil heap. A satisfactory digging session.
To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments!
8th July 2023
Disappointingly, no digging today due to a variety of reasons including flower shows, holidays, and family commitments.
Report by Jon:
“After the previous week’s disruption, Tav, Jon and Nick once again met at the Hunter’s. Tav passed the observation test and then Nick drove the others to the farm on what threatened to be a damp morning. Jake and Paul made up the team for the day.
Jake remembered the key.
Tav dug, focusing on the left hand side of the dig face. Paul supported Tav; Jon managed the ‘haul and shuttle’. The walk across from the pot is now very sticky. Two bags of spoil were created purely from the scrapings from Jon’s wellies. Jake worked on the ledge; Nick stacked at the entrance and moved up to the surface at intervals to haul.
The pile of rocks that had grown up near to the front of the dig was also removed. Jon made a start at moving the main rock pile back to the pot. Otherwise there is little to report…
…except that there were unconfirmed reports of digging in a restricted area. Investigations are ongoing.
100 bags of spoil were removed in total. Jake replaced the key, witnessed by Jon. The team then retired to the Hunter’s for liquid refreshment.”
Report by Jon
“Four team members (Tav, Jake, Nick and Jon) arrived at the farm on a hot morning. Jon forgot the key……but so did everyone else, and they went up the hill first. Brockers met the team at the dig, having arrived on foot.
After a short delay to retrieve the key, the team ventured into the cool underground. Nick dug, supported by Tav. Brockers did the haul and carry to the pot. Jon worked the ledge and Jake initially stacked at the entrance. As has become common practice, when 20 or so bags reached the bottom of the entrance, Jon and Jake moved up a position and Jake hauled them to the surface. It was hot on the surface; there were insects.This week differed from usual in terms of the bag count. Tav dispatched batches of bags using a regular, non-prime count. Six bags were returned in each batch except the last, where an extra one appeared. We presume this was the result of a tidying up exercise.Six is a perfect number.The team removed 109 bags of spoil. The dig front remains spacious.
This week the Hunter’s was closed. The team retired to the spoil heap for liquid refreshment and discussion of the important matters of the day. A submarine disaster at the site of the Titanic and War in Eastern Europe were soon covered and the conversation moved from Vladimir Putin to such luminaries as Chalkie White and Bernard Manning. Brockers demonstrated a new feature on his mobile phone.Tav’s recent retirement was also covered. He is regularly walking the Dorset coast path and his observations about other coast path walkers were tempered only by the fact that Vince is currently walking the entire South West coast path. As expected, the discussion then turned to serial killers and the opportunities that await Tav in his retirement.”
Jake returned the key.
… Tav commented
“It should be said that when I suggested that serial killers always seemed to be relatively anonymous quiet types we all automatically looked at Jon, while Brockers attempts to converse with his telephonic device in an Indian accent must count as one of the more surreal Hallowe’en moments. I blame the heat and the clegs of which, thanks to the maniacal zeal and commitment of Jake, are now considerably fewer in number.”
Report by Jon
“Five team members (Brockers, Tav, Nick, Jake and Jon) assembled at the farm at the appointed time. Jon remembered the key.
At the dig front. Jake dug, supported by Nick. Tav managed the horizontal haul. Brockers and Jon worked the ledge and entrance shaft, changing positions as required.
100 bags of spoil were removed.
The news from the front was that nothing has changed.
Jake replaced the key. The team then retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment.”
Report by Jon
“The draw of long distance walking and record fairs reduced the team to four members this week. Jake assumed the role of key-holder, but Jon was appointed key-carrier by virtue of having a zipped pocket in his boiler suit.
At the front, Jon dug, supported by Jake. The initial focus was straight ahead, revealing a little more of the rocky floor uncovered last week. The effort then moved to a small air gap high on the left hand side. Some easy digging revealed what appeared to be the left hand edge of the block in the roof. With three edges uncovered, the question is what keeps the roof in place? Some nervous digging determined that it is not a clear cut edge, but we need to be cautious of a line of weakness at this point.
It looks as though there is development to the left. There are small air gaps appearing in the roof, the infill is easier to dig and the top layer is almost dry and dusty.
Nick did the horizontal haul and carry back to the pot. There was no pool of water at the haul; it is now somewhat sticky. Greater effort is needed to haul the skip, but on the positive side the hauler can stay dry. It remains wet and muddy underfoot.
Tav worked on the ledge and stacked at the entrance. He also acted as time-keeper. Time was called after 80 bags of spoil were stacked. All bags were hauled out and emptied. The team then retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment.”
With Tav, Jon, Jake, and Brockers
Tav upfront digging at the current end of the Soft South (going under Trick or Treat), Jon was clearing the filled bags (and rocks) and, when the opportunity arose, also filled a few bags. Jake was transporting the spoil along the NE passage to the pot then hauling it up to Brockers on the ledge. Brockers then moved the spoil along the bottom of the entrance. Initially, I was positioned at the bottom of the entrance until a small stockpile of bags had accumulated before moving up to the surface to haul out and empty the bags. Another productive session, 112 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. It was very pleasant in the sunshine, followed by a trip to the Hunter’s for refreshments.
20th May 2023
No digging took place this weekend due to a number of reasons.
With Tav, Jon, Nick, and Jake
My turn to dig, Tav was clearing away the filled bags and rocks, Jon was transporting the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and hauling it up to Nick on the ledge. Initially, Jake was at the bottom of the entrance then moved up to the surface where with Nick’s help the bags were hauled out and emptied – top effort resulting in more time for digging at the end.
Digging was concentrated to the right hand [SE] side of the approximately 3.5m wide x 2m deep x 1m high chamber. When the opportunity arose Tav came forward to fill a few bags from the left side. The sediment in the dig face consists alternating layers of red-brown silty sand, grey silt, and light red clay. At the base, a rockier layer with conglomerate boulders and mineral bands. Within the fine sediments there is visible evidence for successions of flood events followed by periods of standing water and drier conditions. What is not clear is the time spans between these events.
Sediment layers exposed in the current dig-face. Top left – NW to bottom right – SE, dig-face c.3.5m wide x c.1m high.
Digging ceased at 12:30, I took some photos while the last few bags were moved out to the surface. All the bags empty, cave secured, it was time for the pub.
With Jake, Tav, Brockers, and Nick
At the far north-eastern reaches of the deep Soft South, going under Trick or Treat, Jake was digging, I was clearing away filled bags and rocks. The spoil loaded into a drag tray hauled away by Tav who then carried the filled bags (the rocks stacked to one-side) along the passage to the pot where they were put into the bucket and hauled up to Brockers on the ledge. The spoil then moved along towards the entrance where Nick was storing it ready for removal to the surface later in the morning.
Jake loosened the compacted sediment from the bank ahead of him and loaded it into bags, several rocks were dug out and broken up too. When 8-packs (80-bags) had been filled, digging ceased, and we moved back to start clearing the cave. It was noted that somewhere along the way other bags had been filled.
On the surface, the recent rain made for sticky, slippery conditions, the mud adhering to boots and bags. Todays total was about 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap. The rocks were left underground. Another good productive session. It was noted how tenacious brambles are, shoots appearing through the spoil heap, at least they will aid stabilisation.
It was disappointing to find the Hunter’s Lodge Inn was closed. Never mind back home to watch the opening time trial stage of the Giro d’Italia. Put my oversuit into a bucket to soak!
With Nick, Jake, and Tav
A reduced team for this session and a strict time restraint as one of the team, under instruction, had to go and collect some rescue chickens.
Down in the deep Soft South, Nick was upfront digging, filling bags and smashing rocks, Jake was clearing away the bags and debris, I was shuttling to and fro along the NE passage to the pot and hauling the spoil up to Tav on the ledge. Tav was last in line and with limited space dragged the spoil along towards the entrance or, at least, as far as he could. The pulley at the top of the pot was mired in mud making hauling much harder and the bucket, when emptied, did not return easily or freely (the pulley will need swapping next session so will bring spanner and clean pulley).
As instructed, digging was curtailed slightly earlier than usual, and the spoil removed from the cave. At the end of the session about 50-bags had been hauled away and emptied onto the spoil heap. The claggy contents were not always forthcoming which caused feint grumblings among the team.
To compensate the effort we sought refreshment at a local hostelry.
With Tav, Brockers, Nick, and Jake
Continuing to explore the potential of the large fossil passage going under Trick or Treat, trending c.NE. Tav was digging, Brockers clearing away the filled bags and rocks, Nick was shuttling the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and hauling it away to Jake on the ledge. The spoil transferred to the next skip to be hauled away by me, at the bottom of the entrance. Here, the filled bags were temporarily stored to be removed later in the session.
From my perspective, a largely uneventful morning there’s not much to look at except for the blue sky on the surface, there were a couple of skip overturns that needed attention, but mostly it was hauling and unloading the skip. There was the first annoying buzz of a bluebottle this year, and a bit of rearrangement of the grotto where odd remnants of stal recovered are placed.
At midday, digging was curtailed, and the filled bags were hauled out of the cave and the contents emptied onto the spoil heap. Tav counted 72 bags, of course there were other bags filled but these remained uncounted. It was as usual a satisfying morning.
Post-digging refreshments were at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as tradition dictates.
With Jake, Jon, Nick, Brockers, and Tav
A full complement of diggers for this morning’s session. Following some discussion at the cave entrance regarding individual task and positioning it was decided to get the spoil out to the surface rather than stack the bags at the bottom of the entrance.
Jon was leading the advancement and winning the spoil aided by Tav who was clearing away the filled bags (and sporadic rocks). Brockers hauled the drag tray, shuttling the filled bags along the NE passage to the pot where he hauled the spoil to Nick, positioned up on the ledge. Nick loaded the next skip to be hauled away by Jake, at the bottom of the entrance the skip contents transferred to the next one and it was hauled out the surface by me.
It was pleasantly warm in the spring sunshine, and I soon had tor take off the oversuit. Birds were singing, butterflies (brimstones) flitting by, it was peaceful. The hauling out was virtually non-stop action, not much time to empty many of the bags. At the final count, c.140 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied – about 100 came from the far end, and 40 others were filled somewhere else (probably very close to the ledge, Nick’s spot).
A good and productive session followed by refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.
With Brockers, Jon, Jake, and Tav
It was reported that a large boulder required some attention. So, I got to HR early loaded with drill + plugs and feathers packed. Although it had been quite dry for the last few days it was still wet in the cave, and it wouldn’t take too long to become rather squalid once digging was underway.
Got to the dig at the current end of the NE passage beyond the pissing tree (off the pot in the deep Soft South) and there was a sizeable boulder ready for size reduction. Unpacked kit and got work. Soon after Brockers turned up to remove the reduced lumps of rock while finished off. Brockers went off to do something else and I loosened sediment and started filling bags. Then Jon appeared and cleared away the bags, I carried on digging. Jake and Tav were somewhere in the cave doing their bit to redistribute the bagged spoil. Not sure who was doing what.
Although there was plenty of fine sediment to loosen and put into bags at the current base level there were more rocks to be removed. One large boulder was eventually moved to one-side for further attention later in the session. Cleaned down to what appears to be a significantly rockier layer that may or may not be large boulders, bit too early to be certain. At midday, filling bags ceased and while the rest of the team moved back to clear out the cave, I remained to reduce the boulder put aside earlier to more manageable pieces. That done I packed kit away and exited the cave. On the surface the others were waiting. Cave secured we left. Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.
I was away on a solo walk following Offa’s Dyke Path going south to north and I can confirm that the weather was atrocious at times.
The following report of continuing activities at Hallowe’en Rift was written by Jon:
“Paul and Jon met at the Hunter’s; no-one else had indicated that they would be available. The two man team discussed whether anything practical could be achieved. As the man in charge, Paul insisted that we should check at the farm before attending to other duties elsewhere. Unfortunately, we waited too long at the farm. Jake and Nick both arrived.
It had been the wettest March for 40 years. The walk to the dig was very wet underfoot, the dig was wet, but the rain held off…initially.
Paul dug, supported by Nick. Jon and Jake carried spoil to the pot and hauled much of it up to the ledge. About mid-morning the water dripping into the pot increased. The rain had started again. 60 bags of spoil were removed. One large boulder was moved back to the rock heap. There is now a larger boulder that needs attention. The suggestion from the dig face was that plug and feathers may be required. The skip on the haul from the ledge to the entrance was replaced. The pulley over the pot was lightly oiled; it remained silent. The pulley on the surface worked well in the wet conditions. The spoil heap was likened to The Somme. Emptying bags was not a joyful experience. However, the Team dutifully completed the task and then sought solace at a local hostelry.”
With Brockers, Jake, Nick, Tav, and Jon
Bigger team this weekend meant spoil could be moved back to the entrance and temporarily stashed there.
At the current end of the NE trending passage beyond the pissing tree down in the deep Soft South, I was digging, Brockers clearing the filled bags, Jake and Nick were taking it in turns to haul the drag tray along and shuttle the spoil to the pot back along the NE passage. Tav was perched on the ledge with Jon at the bottom of the entrance stacking the filled bags ready to be removed later.
Digging wasn’t especially targeted in any one area this session, more a general tidying up on all fronts. Towards the end of the session cleared out the narrow rift opposite the access route to Trick or Treat (now about 2m above the current dig). The narrow rift wasn’t without interest and this area might develop with further attention in the future. Evidence for ice damage was noted in the roof.
About midday digging ceased and we all moved back to clear the filled bags from the cave and empty their contents onto the spoil heap, about 80-bags in total. Empty bags were hung on the line ready for packing up next session.
Hunter’s Lodge Inn for post-dig refreshments.
With Jon and Brockers
Low on numbers today but no matter we had digging to do.
Jon digging, I was clearing the filled bags back to Brockers (via a drag tray) who then shuttled the spoil along the passage to the bottom of the pot (Soft South). The digging was concentrated on the left-hand side (NW) to reach a possible wall and turning NE under an arched roof. Six packs of bags was the quota for this session before the move back to shift the filled bags up to the bottom of the entrance. The final stage of the morning was to haul the bags up to the surface and empty them – 59 bags was the final tally for the day.
Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.
With Brockers, Jon, Jake, Tav, and Nick
Stronger team today, in numbers anyway!
Brockers and Jon took the prime spots today, upfront digging; Jake and Tav moving the spoil from the dig along the NE passage to the pot; Nick was on the slippery ledge, and I was at the bottom of the entrance where the filled bags were temporarily stored. Care taken to spread the bags out and avoided stacking them one on top of another, makes life a lot easier when it comes to emptying the bags of their contents.
About midday, digging ceased and the filled bags were hauled out to the surface. A total of 81-bags were filled, hauled, and emptied this session.
It was reported that at the end some rocks had been encountered (and removed). At present still working downwards and some expansion sideways before a more concerted effort in a forward direction can be followed.
Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, as usual.
With Brockers, Jon, and Jake
Arrived at the farm a bit earlier this morning to meet up with Brockers. Our plan was to replace the pulley’s on the surface and on the pot (Soft South) before digging got underway. We also replaced the hauling rope on the pot for good measure. Just as we finished and were making our way to the end to start digging we were joined by Jon and Jake.
I was digging at the end, Brockers was next in line, Jon and Jake were shuttling the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and up on to the ledge. Quite a few bags were dragged back to the bottom of the entrance too.
A large part of the digging effort this morning was focused on enlargement of the end “chamber” and cleaning off tumble material and levelling the approach passage beyond the stalagmites. We might decide to install a skip/drag tray some time in the future. By the end of the session there was enough for two people to dig at the end. Digging was stopped slightly earlier today to give plenty of time to clear out the cave and empty the bags. There was a bit of a glitch with the surface pulley, apparently, caused by hard-packed mud but the issue was soon rectified by Brockers. Today’s total was 70-bags, filled, hauled, and emptied. To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for well-earned refreshments!
Vince, Jake, Tav, and Brockers
Jake upfront digging aided by Tav who cleared back the filled bags, I was hauling away the skip (loaded with bags) and passing the bags to Brockers, who was carrying them back to the pot where they were temporarily stored. A couple of times Brockers and I moved back to the pot to shift some bags up onto the ledge until the available space was filled. It is interesting to note that there is a lack of rock within the fine sediments which might suggest that we are at the upper part of a larger passage, the rocks being in the lower section.
At midday it was decided to stop digging and start to clear out the cave. The mud was especially sticky and soon clogged up the surface pulley (which is too small anyway) making the hauling out of bags even harder. Brockers stated that he would rather be emptying bags (a somewhat onerous task at times) than hauling. At the end of play, in excess of 80-bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap. Time for the Hunter’s and refreshments. Unfortunately, I had left my change of clothes (and wallet) at home and was just a bit damp (and increasingly cold) at our favoured hostelry so didn’t stay too long.
This account represents a summary of the early history of the discovery in 1982 and, the subsequent exploration of Hallowe’en Rift up to 1991. The data has been collected from available online resources including the Mendip Cave Registry & Archive (MCRA) and Bristol Exploration Club (BEC) websites. It is not claimed to be a full and definitive account of the early years as there is more information contained in personal logs not accessed. However, it does cover the significant advances made during the early exploration of the cave.
Note: Several of the following accounts have been edited for grammatical and typographic errors.
With Nick, Mike, Tav, Jake, and Brockers
Another coming together at the Hallowe’en Rift Correction Facility, a gathering of like-minded individuals discussing their personal journey’s to arrive at this point in their lives. This involved a good deal of jovial banter blended with irreverent and, largely, irrelevant comments, and some character assassination. Never mind this ‘bollocks’ – what about the digging!
Nick occupied the ‘official’ digging spot, aided by Mike, Jake and Tav were alternating the haul, carry, haul of spoil along the passage. It was dripping water throughout the cave, so care was needed when moving around. I was on the ledge, Brockerswas stashing the filled bags everywhere and anywhere close (enough) to the entrance. Bags flowed through the cave at a good steady rate.
Come midday, digging was ceased, although time was allowed to clear-up the loose material. A move to the surface and haul up the filled bags to empty the contents onto the recently levelled spoil heap. All the while, the jovial banter continued.
A further gathering was convened at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshment following the digging session.
Spent a very pleasant two and a half hours in the sunshine (T-shirt weather!) at HR levelling the spoil heap. A very useful tool is an azada (digging hoe).
With Brockers, Nick, Mike, Jon, and Jake
A grey, damp, and mucky start to the day, the ground sticky, not great when it comes to walk up and down the spoil heap to empty bags later.
At the far end of the deep Soft South (NE passage) Brockers and Nick were filling bags (Brockers at the ‘official’ dig). After a brief discussion it had been decided to try having two people transporting the spoil along the passage to the pot. Mike was hauling from the diggers, Jon carried the filled bags to the pot and hauled them up to Jake on the ledge. I was at the entrance where the bags were stored in the available space and trying not to stack them on top of each other, this will make then easier to empty later.
At about midday, in spite of plaintive calls for more bags, digging came to an end as it was time to move back and clear the bags from the cave. Brockers was a bit disappointed to be last to the entrance so had to load the skip from there, he had no-one to talk to as the rest of the team were on the surface, enjoying the usual banter. Nobody took any responsibility for counting the bags and we arrived at a best fit guesstimate of about 100, we were happy with that. Satisfied with the morning’s effort we secured the cave, returned to the farm, changed and made our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.
A much-depleted workforce available today due to a variety of reasons but not because of Brexit, war in Ukraine, or another tory party/government f**k-up! … or was it?
We decided to spend the morning carrying out some dig maintenance. While Jake set about replacing the surface pulley, I headed underground with drill/plugs and feathers to sort out the rock bulge. Later on, Jake, having completed the pulley swap, joined me at the dig and proceeded to level the skip hauling route and replace the worn-out drag tray. Also, placed a ladder against the slippery climb up to the dig. With a bit more time to spare the rock bulge was removed (there were probably fractures from the last session) and the floor levelled. It is much easier to move along the passage now. The resulting lumps of rock were moved along to the ever-expanding rockpile, loose gravel and sediment bagged to be hauled out of the cave to the surface and emptied on to the spoil heap.
A satisfying and productive morning. Finished a little bit earlier than usual and did not stop at the Hunter’s today – start of 6 Nations rugby this afternoon!
With Brockers, Nick, Jon, Jake, and Duncan
As planned, I had arrived at the cave earlier to get to work with plugs and feathers to remove a bulge of rock that impeded easy spoil removal from the current dig face. Didn’t go as well as I had hoped, the rock was large and being rather stubborn, but I did manage to take off a large chunk of it before the team arrived. Brockers was first on the scene. Packed away my kit and sent it out of the cave. Digging commenced in earnest. My main effort was to make more room at the end, while Brockers decided to do some “tidying-up”. Nick was shuttling spoil back to the pot, Jon on the ledge, Jake at the entrance where, initially, the spoil was being stashed. Duncan then turned up and stuff went up to the surface
Back at the dig, eventually managed to remove a large flake of calcite and roll it back to Brockers who then reduced it in size with the sledgehammer. Towards the end of the digging phase I tidied the access through to ‘Trick or Treat’ removing some loose cobbles and boulders and some sticky sediment. It was soon time to stop filling bags and think about getting up to the surface and emptying them. I exited the cave by way of the newly created ‘round trip’ followed by Nick, Brockers decided on a ‘traditional’ exit route. I was glad that I had taken the time to dig a channel and empty the static pool of water on my last visit to ‘Trick or Treat’. Duncan had his Disto with him and went off to survey the connection while the rest of us emptied bags, about 85 of them. Empty bags were hung on the lines to dry out, hopefully! An interesting session prompting some discussion on future prospects – all good and positive.
To the Hunter’s for post-digging refreshments!
With Jon, Mike, Nick, and Tav
The bags that had been left hanging-up had dried out nicely, just needed to be bundled up into packs of ten ready to be filled (not all today!). A total of 200 bags available. Not enough people to get the spoil out to surface in one go so it would need to be stockpiled in the entrance to be removed at the end of the session.
Jon digging, me clearing the filled bags and loading in to the skip, Mike hauling the skip away and shuttling the spoil along the NE passage then hauling up to Nick, perched on the ledge at the top of the pot. Tav hauled the skip away from the Soft South back to the entrance where the bags were stored for later removal. Tav stared longingly up to the bright blue sky above, one more person and Tav would have been up on the surface in the sunshine.
Jon’s initial effort was to enlarge the working space to make forward progress more comfortable. In between I scraped some of the mud away from the stalagmites filling a few more bags. Eventually, Jon had made sufficient space and started pressing forwards. A small hole revealed by Tav at the end of last weeks session was expanded, I heard a muffled clatter of rocks and Jon reported back that an interesting space was opening. He invited me to take a look and it was confirmed that the connection to Trick or Treat had been accomplished. It needs a bit of work to make it big enough for all and the round trip is on the cards for next weekend. Still convinced that the more interesting prospects are at a lower level and this can be pursued now that the distraction of Trick or Treat is over.
It was time to move the backlog of bags and clear the stockpiled spoil out to the surface (about 70-bags in total). All done, refreshments at the Hunter’s. Another satisfying digging session over.
With Brockers, Jon, Tav, Mike, and Nick
Earlier start for me and Brockers (met at 09:00) to install a handline around the edge of the pot leading to the deep Soft South before the team arrived to dig. We had just finished when the gang turned up.
Tav digging assisted by Jon, I was shuttling the spoil along the NE passage, Mike was up on the ledge, Nick at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers on the surface. Thankfully the early heavy rain had stopped but it was very wet not only on the surface but underground too. There was plenty of standing water and active drips. It didn’t take long for conditions to become rather squalid. The bags of ‘slop’ were not easy to carry, and the buckets proved to be very useful for transporting the bags along the passage.
Digging continued beyond the stalagmites, small spaces were being revealed as digging progressed and by the end of the session it was looking more interesting. It might be worth another trip along to Trick or Treat to try a voice connection again. About 110 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied on the surface. Surface duties are not easy in the current conditions another fine effort, this week, by Brockers.
Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn were well-earned!
With Brockers, Tav, Jon, Jake, Nick
Picked up Tav, Jon, and Nick from the Hunter’s so there were less vehicles parked down the hill at the farm. Got changed at the farm then a soggy walk up to the cave. Another wet start to the day although the rain was forecast to pass us over, at least until early afternoon. As expected, it was soggy underground too. There is a benefit, in that, the loaded skips would be easier to haul along the passage.
Brockers was digging, Tav bagging up spoil including the pile left-over from last week’s session. Jon could be heard squelching along the NE passage carrying the filled bags to the pot, to be hauled up to the ledge. On the ledge I was safely attached and leaning over to catch and empty the bucket. The load transferred to the next skip and hauled away by Jake to the bottom of the entrance. Nick was on the surface hauling up the filled bags and, with considerable difficulty, emptying the bags – a sterling effort given the poor conditions. Wet spoil, wet bags = increased work, two negatives result in a bigger negative.
Upfront, the digging effort concentrated on developing the “roof-arch” that had been revealed last session. A total exceeding 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. Another good positive morning’s work.
Refreshment was taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. It was very sad to hear that a dear friend, John Beauchamp, had passed away recently. I had done a lot of caving with JB when we were MCG members and travelled around SE Asia with him. I was also best friend at his wedding in Australia. RIP Old Chum!
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.