9th December

Vince, Jon, Tav, Jake, and Brockers

Following the recent rains our expectations of finding a ‘dry and dusty’ dig were not high. At least the bags left hanging up on the surface were well and truly rinsed.

Heading down to the deep Soft South, then from the bottom of the pot following the ‘northeast’ passage, under and [almost] beyond Trick or Treat, Jon took his turn upfront digging. Sediment loosened with the mattock was placed into bags and thrown behind along with infrequent rocks to be cleared away by me. The spoil was carried across the chamber, a newly formed ‘lake’ required wading through, and the bags tossed over the ‘hump’, through a ‘monsoon-scale’ dripping of water’ to Tav. The spoil loaded into a drag-tray to be hauled along by Brockers. Between them Jake and Brockers moved the spoil along the NE passage, up the pot to the bottom of the entrance. And so, the digging progressed until that moment when we decided it was time to clear out the cave and we repositioned ourselves so that objective could be fulfilled. By the session end, about 90 bags of spoil were emptied onto the spoil heap. And then, to the Hunter’s for refreshments.

Todays attempt at imagery were not great!

Through the murk! Jon loosens sediment and fills bags. The drip was strong and it was wet and steamy at the dig face. photograph taken 7th December 2021

2nd December

Vince, Brockers, Jon, Nick, and Tav

Little bit of a problem to start the session, the sub-zero temperatures of the last couple of days had resulted in a frozen lock. I spent quite a while fiddling with it to no avail, then Jon “dragon-breath” Riley had a go – almost immediately the lock was freed and the cave open and accessible.

Down at the dig, Brockers grasped the reins, forging ahead and filling bags aided by Jon. I was on the ‘other side’ of the hump, loading the skip to be hauled away by Nick, until he had a malfunction and Tav took over. Some of the filled bags made it to the bottom of the entrance, the rest were temporarily stored in the pot. Just before midday digging activities were curtailed and the filled bags were shifted out of the cave.

Eighty-three filled bags were hauled out and emptied onto the spoil heap. A productive session. It was still cold, and a low mist had settled into the valley. Time for the warmth of the pub to debrief and get some refreshments.

Back at home, kit to wash!

25th November

With Nick, Jake, Brockers, Tav, and Mike

A good bright and frosty day, so much better than rain!

The Great Wall in the woods. 25th November 2023

Down in the deep Soft South, Tav was beavering away filling bags aided by Brockers, on the other side of the hump, Jake was dispatching the filled bags along to Mike, who then transported them to the pot and hauled them up to Nick perched above on the ledge. The spoil was transferred to the next skip to be hauled away by me and stashed around the bottom of the entrance ready to be cleared later. When about 20 bags had accumulated at the entrance, Nick and I hauled them out to the surface then returned underground to clear the backlog of bags (about 30). These were then hauled out. Although it was dry on the surface today it was still wet underground, and the hauling rope soon became claggy and difficult to grip. Another backlog cleared, the time had passed midday, and it was not too long for the last filled bags to arrive. Everything up to the surface, about 80 bags emptied and hung up to dry, time to walk back down to the farm. All changed and up to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.

18th November

Vince, Tav, Jon, Brockers, and Jake

Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat chamber I was digging, Tav clearing away the filled bags and sporadic rocks away, over the hump to Jon. The spoil loaded into the drag tray to be hauled away by Brockers/Jake, the spoil carried along the passage to be stored, temporarily, at the pot. Later in the session Brockers and Jake moved the spoil up to the bottom of the entrance ready to be cleared to the surface later.

The expansion of the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat chamber continues, worked away on the ‘east’ side, mostly removing the now exposed calcited layer of fractured, sometimes degraded speleothems and lumps of conglomerate that overlies the bedrock. Slower going today, about 70 bags (and rocks) were shifted through the cave. The filled bags were hauled out of the cave and emptied onto the spoil heap. Job done!

To the Hunter’s for refreshments.

11th November

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

A full complement of fit, able, and willing participants this weekend and all were ready to shift some spoil! From the farm we headed-up to the cave with some new hauling buckets I had made this morning and full of the usual enthusiasm.

Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat area, Nick busily swung the mattock, loosening sediment, and filling bags, I was clearing away the filled bags and sporadic rocks and moving the spoil up and over to Tav. The spoil then loaded onto a drag tray to be hauled away by Jon where it was transported along the passage to be hauled up to the ledge by Brockers. Mike unloaded the bucked from the ledge transferring the spoil to the next skip to be hauled away by Jake where it was temporarily deposited at the base of the entrance. As the morning progressed  and the available space near the entrance began to fill, some of the team moved positions and the spoil hauled out to the surface ready to be redeposited onto the spoil heap.

The current dig-face looking NE, over the calcite is the original point of entry to Trick or Treat

At the dig-face, Nick continued to fill bags, about 140 for today’s count plus numerous rocks and lumps of degraded calcite/flowstone. Currently, we are working underneath a false floor, removing fine (layered) sediment that overlies another calcited floor comprising flowstone, stalagmites (some detached), and calcited rock (cobble- and boulder-size) and finer sediments. This in turn, overlying solid rock (conglomerate). The prospects of what might (or might not) lie ahead was a constant topic of conversation throughout the session. Much consideration regarding deposition processes and speleogenesis was undertaken. There are many things to ponder as we dig.

4th November

Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick, and Tav

A bit of a smaller team after last weekend’s big turnout. No matter. After a brief discussion we decided that all go to the deep Soft South and down below the pot where the spoil would be temporarily stored. As expected, it was wet underground and there was evidence that a significant flow had run down the entrance. It would quickly become rather squalid.

Jake was upfront, busy with the mattock, loosening the sediment, and filling bags, aided by Nick. I was on the other side of the ‘stal’ obstruction taking the filled bags (and sporadic rocks) from Nick and loading into a skip to be hauled away by Tav, at the next stage along the NE passage. The skip unloaded and the spoil carried along to the pot by Jon. The filled bags and rocks moved along through the cave at a good, steady rate (there was not much time in between the bags/rocks). By the time digging came to an end there was a substantial pile in the pot. All moved back and re-positioned to move the spoil out to the surface. I was in the pot hauling the bags to Tav perched above on the ledge, the bags then transferred to the next skip and hauled away by Nick at the bottom of the entrance. Jake and Jon were on the surface hauling out and emptying the bags. There were some grumblings regarding skip failure from the surface duo, that might have been catastrophic for Nick (but weren’t!). at the end of the session all the bags made it out to the surface, although it took longer than planned and we finished a little later than usual. About 120 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied. The rocks remained underground.

We still made it to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for our customary refreshments and debrief.

28th October

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

A strong team assembled at the farm, changed, and loaded up with a variety of new skips (thanks to John Cooper, Wessex CC) we made our way up to the cave. On arriving at the entrance, the drying (?) bags that were hanging up were packed away ready to be refilled, all headed off underground, except for Tav who had forgotten his caving hat and light, so he opted to be on the surface and hauling bags.

Jon set-off for the deep Soft South with Jake and Nick. Mike, initially, was hauling and shuttling along the passage to the pot. I was up on the ledge, Brockers at the bottom of the entrance. Replacement skips were installed where required and soon bags were moving through the cave at a relentless rate. When a sufficient number of bags (c.50-bags) had been hauled out of the cave, Brockers decided to go up and start emptying them, I moved back to the bottom of the entrance, Mike up on the ledge, Nick on the haul and shuttle. Jon kept on filling bags and Jake continued to clear the filled bags away. As the bags were being emptied digging was able to continue a bit longer (ceased about 12:30pm).

Final tally for the day = 130 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. All done, cave secured, back to the farm to change, then to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments. Another fine session.   

The archaeological earthworks around Hallowe’en Rift and Wookey Hole, mostly lynchets (purple) and ridge and furrow (pale blue). © Crown Copyright and database right 2023. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900. Historic England Aerial Investigation Mapping Data Open Access, https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/news-events/he-aerial-mapping-oa/

21st October

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

On arrival at the cave, packed away the ‘not-so-dry’ bags that were on the line ready for refilling, and headed underground to our various positions. Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat area Brockers was digging, filling bags to be cleared away by Jon, Tav was on the haul and shuttle to the pot, Jake on the ledge, and I was at the bottom of the entrance stashing the filled bags into any  and all available spaces. Nick, having arrived a little later, went to the deep Soft South to help Tav on the haul and shuttle before returning to the surface to start hauling out the spoil.

We seem to have reached a point where the digging is just a bit further on and requires that extra bit of effort to clear the spoil back. This prompted some more job sharing as Tav moved along to help Jon clear away the bags from the ‘dig-chamber’, where there is an ‘up-and-over’ obstacle to clear. There was a brief discussion regarding the removal of rocks but as the skips are a little ‘worse for wear’ it was decided to leave the rocks where they were, at least until we have a supply of drums so new skips can be made.

After the recent rain it was wet throughout the cave, the skip-runs well-lubricated, and standing water was abundant. It was impossible to stay clean and dry.

Total bag count for today, 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap!

14th October

Vince, Brockers, Nick, Jon, Jake, and Mike

A better turnout this weekend, and a welcome return of Mike after his summer [working] break.

Down in the deep Soft South/Trick or Treat area it was my turn to dig, Brockers clearing away the filled bags and rocks to Nick and Mike on the haul and shuttle to the pot. Jon and Jake were occupying the ledge/entrance positions although I do not know who was where.

As a result of the torrential rain yesterday the dripping of water was noticeable throughout the cave and there was standing water along the cave passages, at least the skip runs would be well lubricated. A pool of water in the dig chamber was channelled away by Brockers.

The digging bit is relatively easy at present, standing up, mattock in hand, and loosening the sediment before putting into bags. The harder effort comes in relocating the spoil all the way to the surface. About 100 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied along with several skip loads of rocks. A jovial session with plenty of banter as usual. Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments before going home to wash kit ready for the next digging session.