13th April

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

A full team assembled for today’s digging activities. It was going to be productive.

An earlier start by me and Brockers. The dodgy pulley and sling were replaced at the entrance before venturing underground. There was a small accumulation of boulders on the ledge that needed dealing with, so I got to work with plugs and feathers, Brockers cleared away the reduced lumps of rock and also filled a few bags in Can of Worms (leaving a pile of debris for Jake to clear way later). Jake was the next to arrive and took over from Brockers digging Can of Worms. Rock reduction completed I went up to the surface, collecting some a small bar, as requested by Nick, on the way out. The rest of the team had arrived. Nick was repairing the stile in the woods before heading underground to dig at the NE end beyond Trick or Treat. The subsurface support team comprised Brockers, Mike, and Tav, Jon joined me on the surface. With the two os above ground, the bags were hauled out, emptied, and the dumped spoil levelled, the rocks were added to the wall to create more space for spoil dumping. It was a very pleasant morning on the surface.

Below ground digging progressed a good rate. About 140 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied, plus quite a few rocks hauled out and placed on the spoil heap wall. Refreshments were well-earned at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn today.

6th April

Report by Jon

“Only three reliable members of the Team arrived on site at the appointed hour. Between them, Jon, Nick and Jake remembered the key. It was a blustery morning, but dry, as the Team walked up to the dig. The stile just before the dig is in need of attention. A previous attempt to shore up one of the posts has highlighted the fact that the post needs replacing.

The dig was unlocked using the multi-person, rock-and-key method.

Jake repaired the skip on the entrance haul. Cable ties are now available at the bottom of the entrance. After an absence of more than a week, Nick was clearly desperate to dig. The Team opted to focus on the Can of Worms. While Nick filled his first pack of bags, Jon and Jake moved some building stone. Jon worked on the ledge; Jake hauled. After Nick had filled several bags, Jake moved up to the bottom of the entrance. Jon carried bags of spoil from Nick back to the ledge. Nick also dug out a quantity of rocks. Three larger rocks remain on the ledge and will need further persuasion to be removed. Jake hauled.

As is now normal, the hauling pair then moved up again and took the spoil bags to the surface. Jon loaded at the bottom of the entrance. Jake hauled.

Jake’s new oiling system for the pulley above the entrance came too late. The pulley needs to be replaced with some urgency. It survived the morning but is audibly distressed. Some 60 bags of spoil were removed along with 18 loads of stone.

The tree eventually advised Jake that it was time to retire to a local hostelry for light refreshment. The good news was that the tree had put its clock forward the previous week. The key was dutifully returned to the correct place. This act was duly witnessed.”

30th March

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers, and Mike

Mike digging at the NE extent, continued along on right side to work towards the ‘open’ spaces, reducing the hump of sediment. There is a thin crust of calcite between the ‘space’ and the sediment. Interesting. Meanwhile, in the SW, Brockers was expanding the broad dig-face in a Can of Worms. There is no obvious way ahead as yet, just a wide. Inclined bedding filled to the roof with sediment. Plenty of stuff for us to dig, probably all the way to Badger Hole! The support team – Jake, Jon, and me – worked to keep the filled bags moving freely through the cave to the surface where they were emptied into the extension area. Jake was principal bag remover, Jon did most of the hauling out to the surface and emptying bags, I was flitting about somewhere in between wherever required. All went smoothly and time passed quickly.

 Today’s bag total = 106 filled, hauled, and emptied (42 from the NE, 64 from the SW), plus a few rocks were pulled out to be added to the wall building pile ready for use (probably tomorrow).

23rd March

Vince, Jake, Brockers, Tav, and Mike

My turn to take up the ‘lonely’ spot beavering away beyond Trick or Treat, Mike was up on the landing opening a Can of Worms. The support team comprising Jake, Brockers, and Tav, not only kept the digs clear of bags but also hauled out a pile of rocks for wall building.

 As the morning progressed at the NE extent the dig ahead looked increasingly interesting. There are more spaces being revealed over the top of the sediment, sometimes with a thin crust of calcite flowstone and a feint hint of air movement. We appear to be approaching a bit of a ‘hump’, another metre or so of digging might reveal something more – all very tantalising, good stuff.

  At the close of the session, about 80 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied and an estimated 30 skip loads of rock for wall construction.

  Another excellent session rounded off with a visit to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for some refreshments.

16th March

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Mike

Jake digging in the ‘lonely’ spot at the NE extent while I was opening a ‘Can of Worms’ to the SW. the support team; Brockers, Jon, and Mike were kept fully occupied clearing away filled bags and rocks.

Opening a ‘Can of Worms’, it soon becomes ‘steamy’

I had packed a drill and plugs/feathers with a plan to reduce a couple of boulders to a more manageable size. Rocks are required for the next phase of wall-building in the extension area. That done, I then got on with loosening sediment and filling bags. A productive session with a steady supply of filled bags and rocks being removed from the two dig sites. The spoil (or at least some of it) was removed to the surface and bags were emptied too.

 Jake had lugged up from the shed a bag of ready-mixed mortar to carry out remedial work to the upper skip haul route. This was done when all spoil had gone beyond that stage and was mostly on the surface. The excess mortar was used to consolidate a rickety stile post on the path to the cave/farm.

 About 90 bags filled, hauled, and emptied plus quite a lot of rock added to the wall-building pile. Empty bags were repacked and back underground ready for the next session.

 The session was concluded with refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.

Vince in a ‘Can of Worms’. Image taken by Brockers with Vince’s camera, 16th March 2024

9th March

Vince, Nick, Jake, Jon, and Tav

The digging continued to be pursued on the two fronts; Nick (on a self-imposed time constraint for this morning) was promptly dispatched to the NE extent, clutching a pack of fresh digging bags (supplied by Brockers), to work alone, Jake was digging at the SW extent in Can of Worms. The support team, comprised Jon, Tav, and me, worked continuously to keep both digs clear of filled bags (and making sure empty bags were available to be filled).

 Jake concentrated his effort on widening Can of Worms to see if the bedding reduced in height on the south side. Meanwhile, Nick working away in the ‘lonely’ spot had opened a small space at roof level that looks interesting, although more work is required to open the space fully to see how it might develop. As Nick was on a time limit, digging ceased in the NE about 11:30 and Nick returned to the surface, staying long enough to haul up some bags before leaving.

 At the bottom of the entrance there was a considerable accumulation of filled bags and the support team decided it was time to get the filled bags out of the cave, Jake was left to continue digging in Can of Worms. Eventually, all hands were engaged in spoil clearance. Once on the surface the bags were then emptied over the wall into the new extension area. I will level off the spoil dump later in the week. Today’s final count was about 120 filled bags emptied, and a token rock added to the wall. The woven bags supplied by Brockers are a lot easier to grip and carry than the plastic bags.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.

2nd March

Vince, Jon, Jake, Brockers, and Nick

As is the current trend, work continues at either end of a NE/SW alignment. Jon was dispatched to the ‘lonely’ spot at the NE extent, dragging a pack of wet and heavy ‘empty’ bags with him. Brockers was in the more sociable SW extent now known as a Can of Worms, support for the diggers was provided by Jake and Nick, I was at the bottom of the entrance. Digging was slightly delayed at the SW extent as the digger needed to adjust his attire. Eventually though work progressed.

 When about 20 bags had amassed at the entrance, I went up to the surface, with Nick loading the bucket, the filled bags were hauled out of the cave, then returned underground to clear away the backlog of bags from the diggers, and the next lot of bags were hauled up to the surface, some of them were emptied too. The rain continued intermittently mixed with hail/sleet. Back underground.

 About midday digging activities were wound down and the process of clearing the cave and emptying the bags took priority. About 100 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied plus one rock. Light rain continued to fall. Job done, back to the farm, changed, and up to the Hunter’s for refreshments.

29th February

Solo. At the cave about 2 hours

A small alcove at roof level revealed by Tav last Saturday (24/02/24) appears to be part of the ‘rift’ alignment we are currently pursuing. I think we need to stay to the right of this line (and straight ahead), to the left will lead to An Unexpected Development.

Undergroundwent along to the NE extent (Trick or Treat/An Unexpected Development area) to have a quick look at progress (see above) and to take some sediment pH/temperature readings [mean pH 5.2; soil temp. 10 degs C]. Back to Can of Worms for more sediment pH/temp. readings [mean pH5.1; soil temp. 10 degs C], then returned to the surface

Above ground – moved the pile of rocks to where I needed them, down to the spoil heap extension, and then added them to the wall. When all available rocks were used up, that was it for today. Last task was to take some surface soil pH/temp. readings [pH 5.6; soil temp. 8 degs C].

Recording pH/temperature in Can of Worms. Image taken 29th February 2024

25th February

Solo. At the cave about 1½ hours

Weather forecast (Met. Office) is for heavy rain spreading in this afternoon, dry in the morning. So decided to head over to HR and level yesterday’s spoil dump before the rain came and turned it to slop. While I was there added just a few rocks to the extension wall because I couldn’t resist doing so.

 As I headed back over Mendip (south>north) the sky had darkened and it was just beginning to rain!

Ferromanganese spherules in small fragments of crust (sample 006/COW). Now need to consider which formed first; the spherules or the crust?

24th February

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

Working on two fronts, Tav was dispatched to the ‘lonely spot’ at the far NE extent, beyond the Soft South, the support team would relieve him of his accumulation of filled bags later in the session. Meanwhile, Jon was forging ahead in the ‘Can of Worms’ in closer contact with the support team, Jake and Brockers. Nick was hauling back a steady supply of filled bags and rocks as the underground rockpile was being deployed to the surface for wall-building later in the coming week.  I was on the surface hauling the spoil to the surface. Nick occasionally resurfaced to help empty bags.

An unusual occurrence when the tranquillity of the setting was shattered by squawking children playing in the fields to the north of the woods. Not a particularly welcome noise.

 No-one paid too much attention to the bag count today it was probably somewhere between 100 and 120 filled, hauled, and emptied plus a lot of rocks including quite a few large ones, ideal for wall-building.

16th February

Vince, Tav, Nick, Jon, Jake, Brockers

Following the recent trend digging was continued on two fronts each end of a NE/SW line. I was on the solo effort at the far NE extent while Tav was at the SW extent opening a ‘Can of Worms’ accompanied by the newly acquired ‘Wormslayer’ replacing the measly pick that I broke last weekend. The support team  (underground section) comprised Jake, Brockers, and Jon, with Nick on surface duties this weekend.

 At the NE extent, digging was slow but steady in the slightly constricted space. It is rather squalid as there is a strong drip of water, especially where you need to lie and dig, by the end of the session I was thoroughly soaked through. Looking ahead at the dig face there is a tantalising gap over the top of the sediment and the roof has plenty of ‘scalloping’ evidence of strong water flow through the passage. Also detected a feint air movement.

 At the SW extent, progress was more productive as the digging area is more spacious.

About 100 bags (NE c.30, SW c.70) were filled, hauled, and emptied over the wall to the extension area below (to be levelled off during the coming week) and about 30 skip loads of rock were brought to the surface for wall-building.

11th February

Updated and annotated survey 11th February 2024
Sample 006/COW location in Can of Worms in the Soft South

An interesting looking sediment deposit had previously caught my eye located off the ledge at the top of the pot in the Soft South, Hallowe’en Rift, Mendip. It was a change of circumstances that prompted a review of our digging strategy and the development of Nick’s ‘alternative’ dig, now renamed ‘Can of Worms’ that prompted a bulk sample (about 1kg weight) to be taken on 03/02/2024. Subsequently, a sub-sample (c.200g) from the bulk was washed over a 63-micron test sieve to remove the silt/clay fraction leaving the sand- and gravel-size particles to be graded (see image below). Clearly evident is the abundance of iron/manganese spherules in the sample. These are thought to have accumulated in turbulent eddies during flood events during the Pleistocene period, the finer silt and clay particles having been winnowed away. The origin of the iron/manganese is the object of further ongoing research. The presence of iron/manganese spherules has been noted in previous sediment samples taken in Hallowe’en Rift but not in the same concentrations.

Sample 006/COW after washing over a 63-micron test sieve to remove silt/clay fraction. clearly evident is the abundance of sand- and fine gravel-size iron/manganese spherules.

10th February

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

Just one down in numbers today. Continued to dig on two fronts at each end of a NE/SW line. Nick on a solo effort at the NE extent on the far side of Trick or Treat (now approaching An Unexpected Development), every now and again the support team going along to clear the accumulated pile of filled bags. At the SW extent, in the “Can of Worms” it was my turn to dig. This dig is still in its infancy at this early stage and will need some time to develop, we might then begin to conjecture about what is happening, or not. It is, however, a very comfortable digging spot.

 The spoil was being taken all the way out to the surface where Jake was busy hauling, the bags were also being emptied. The spoil was being tipped over the wall into the new extension where it will be levelled later in the week. The new extension means it is quite a bit easier/quicker to dispose of spoil. A good, steady session with about 140 bags filled, hauled, and emptied from the two digs.

It was noted, by at least one of the support team, that the heady aroma of “peppermint” had not quite dissipated, requiring an occasional trip to the surface to help empty bags and get a breath of fresh air!

 Up to the Hunter’s for the usual refreshments.

27th January

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

Nick found a rather excellent and perhaps apt sign at a recent car-boot that now takes pride of place in the entrance to Hallowe’en Rift!

Digging proceeded on two fronts again this weekend; Mike and Jon headed off to Trick or Treat to continue the effort there, bags were stored temporarily, while digging also continued off the top of the ledge (Soft South) in Nick’s “Can of Worms.” Brockers took control of the situation here, Nick shuttled the filled bags and rocks along the ledge to load the skip which was hauled away by me at the bottom of the entrance, Tav was on the surface. With the spoil coming from two fronts, it proved to be a full-on session hauling spoil out of the cave. Later in the session I briefly returned to the surface to haul a few bags and helped to empty some before going back underground.

The short video above shows Brockers busily developing Nick’s “Can of Worms” on the ledge above the pot in the Soft South, as Nick approaches from the entrance to keep an eye on proceedings!

Later, Mike reported that the main dig in Trick or Treat appeared to be opening up a bit, hopefully, we are close to getting past the constricted point. The dig off the top of the ledge in the Soft South is still in its infancy and has to be developed more before a better understanding is reached. There are, of course, several theories already discussed – time will tell if any of them were right!

 A total of 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied plus several skip loads of rocks added to the wall-building pile. As ever, refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

20th January

Vince, Tav, Mike, Jon, and Nick

A bit down on numbers today – no matter still plenty to make some progress. Arrived at the cave, packed the “freeze-dried” bags that were left hanging up ready to be refilled later, then all underground. Tav led the way to the dig on the northern side of Trick or Treat with Mike to assist, Jon was at the ‘hump,’ Nick transporting the spoil along the NE passage to the pot, and I was up on the ledge.

 There was a bit of a delay in bags arriving, so I was tempted to take a poke at Nick’s ‘dig’ off to one side of the ledge, an action that immediately aroused interest in from Nick. Jon came along with a message from Tav that “progress would be slow, and bags could be temporarily stockpiled.” That was it really, Nick’s “Can of Worms” was opened and was developed further through the course of the morning. With the three of us spoil could be moved all the way to the bottom of the entrance. Every now and again we (me, Nick, Jon) reverted back to clearing the stockpiled bags from Tav and Mike. When about 50 or 60 bags (and rocks) had accumulated at the bottom of the entrance we then thought we had better get the spoil out to the surface, which we did. Jon remaining on the surface to empty the bags while Nick and I headed back along towards Trick or Treat to clear the bags from there.

 Digging activities thereafter came to an end and the last few bags were hauled out to the surface and emptied. All the session’s bags were hung up on the lines to dry or more likely rinsed off if the latest weather forecast is correct for the week ahead – Storm Isha arrives tomorrow apparently! Hopefully, they won’t all blow away.

 Todays’ total, c. 80 bags filled, hauled, and emptied, plus a couple of skip loads of rock added the wall-building stockpile. To the Hunter’s for refreshments.

13th January

Tav peers through from the ‘chamber’ to the dig, 13th January 2024

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

A full team turnout today – the spoil will go all the way out to the surface!

 At the dig on the northernmost part of Trick or Treat it was my turn to loosen the sediment and fill bags. Tav was clearing the spoil away across the ‘chamber’ to Brockers on the other side of the ‘hump’. Mike hauled the spoil back and transported along the NE passage to the pot. Nick on the ledge caught the bucket, emptied it, transferring the bags to the next skip  which was then hauled away by Jake to the bottom of the entrance. After digging last week, Jon was on the surface and hauled up, and emptied, the filled bags – 120 of them. Only c.80 bags were filled at the far dig, Nick filled some from another dig somewhere near the top of the ledge. Also, Brockers filled a ‘couple’ of bags, and so did Mike – tidying!

 A productive session and refreshments at the Hunter’s later were well-earned.

A sequence of deposition of sediment and calcite precipitation is clearly evident. The lower stalagmite consists of several growth phases before being buried by fine sediments during an unknown period of time. These phases are then sealed by further calcite deposition. Scale = 20cm (0.2m)

6th January

Vince, Jon, Tav, Brockers, and Jake

The first digging trip in HR of the new year. The bags that had been left hanging on the ‘drying’ lines were well-rinsed on the exterior but not so ‘dry’ on the inside. When rolled into packs of ten they were not exactly lightweight!

 All the team set off into the deep Soft South to take up various allocated positions. Jon was at the helm, digging on the northernmost end of Trick or Treat, I was clearing back the filled bags, across the ‘chamber’ to the ‘hump’. Tav was on the other side of the ‘hump’ hauling away the loaded drag-tray and transferring the load to the next skip to be hauled away by Brockers. The spoil was then lugged along the NE passage to the pot and pulled up to the ledge where the bucket was unloaded by Jake, the filled bags then stacked neatly at the top of the pot.

 Trick or Treat is now a sizeable ‘chamber’, it is about 10m from the dig across to the ‘hump’ and up to about 5m wide, it is mostly stooping height, although there are places where it is about 3 to 4m high. There are some interesting calcite deposits, including small helictites, botryoidal, flowstone, stalactites, and stalagmites, with varying colouration from white to red.

 Digging ceased at midday when the priority became clearing of the accumulated spoil from the cave. By the close of play about 70 bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s as usual. A mellow session.