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dighalloween

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 present dig 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 includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Matt Tuck, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price and Mike Moxon. There has been occasional help from others including Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, with regular guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

10th August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, August 11, 2019 07:07:10

With Tav, Jon, Nick and Brockers.

We continued the work to expand the passage in the Cold Gnarly North. Tav digging, his efforts concentrated on trying to remove one of the ‘calcited ribs’ in the floor that make progress forward a tiny bit awkward. Tav worked with hammer, chisel, bar and, due to the slightly constricted passage size, pushed the resultant debris behind him. I then bagged the gravel, the filled bags and larger rocks were loaded into the skip which I dragged back to the small rift, the load transferred into the next skip to be hauled by Nick to the ‘lake’ chamber, the next transfer station. Jon was lying in the intermediate corner, on the ‘bed’ I had prepared for him earlier hauled the next skip back before it continued it’s journey down to Brockers at the junction near the entrance. The skip arrived at its final destination and was unloaded and returned to from where whence it came. The filled bags and loose rocks were stored ready to be removed later.

Nick, in between skips, tried to dig a drainage hole in the ‘lake’, the water had been scooped into a temporary trough (supplied by Tav), so several bags of slurry were added to the spoil heap. Brockers probably did some ‘tidying’ too.

All too soon it was time to move back and clear the spoil from the cave. Todays tally: 59 bags and 12 skip loads of rock. Some of the rock was added to the wall.

Tuesday’s survey of the west-side of HR revealed some interesting results and there is renewed vigour to the cause. Basically, there are several options at the end that might be productive. Enough to keep us occupied for quite some time!



6th August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, August 07, 2019 09:07:30

With Duncan and Tav

There was a plan: Duncan and Tav were surveying the western passages, the recent foci of attention, while I wanted to take some more sediment samples.

My first sample location was at the top of Merlin’s, just before the Slippery Slope. The roots are getting longer. After taking the sample, I climbed down into Tuck Shop, just for a look around really, then back up the slope into Another Emotional Journey. Took the passage on the right towards the T-Junction and Trick or Treat beyond. The duck into Trick or Treat was dry and didn’t look like it had any water in it for some time. A thorough re-acquaintance with Trick or Treat before returning to T-Junction and crawling into Toil and Trouble.

Looking down through Toil and Trouble

The next sample was taken from the end of the passage leading off ‘T and T’ where I had recovered the Bison bone. The roots are really long here. Then back down ‘T and T’, up Witches Cauldron and to the western passages to rejoin the others. I had forgotten just how much passage there is in the ‘lower’ series of the cave.

I still had enough time to visit the south-western passage before the surveyors returned from the Cold Gnarly North, their mission completed. Air movement had been noted at the end of both passages, especially the north.



3rd August 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, August 03, 2019 17:57:59

With Brockers, Duncan, Tav and Jon.

No IRS to clear this weekend but there’s plenty of scope for digging, Brockers at the vanguard. Duncan was next in line, clearing back from the dig and loading the skip to Tav in the ‘lake chamber’. Tav spent a short time re-constructing the ramp to ease the passage of the skip. A dozen or so bags were emptied here to consolidate the running boards. When Tav was satisfied with the ramp the were then hauled along the passage to the junction near the entrance. I was in the intermediate spot, Jon at the junction where the loaded skips were decanted, and the spoil stacked awaiting removal to the surface later in the session.

Things settled to a good steady pace as a succession of skips were filled, hauled and emptied. It didn’t seem long until it was time to think about clearing out the spoil stacked at the junction. Digging ceased and we moved back to haul out the backlog of bags and rocks. About 50 loads were removed to the surface and distributed on the spoil heap. Satisfied with the morning’s effort, the cave was secured, and we made our way down to the farm. Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn as usual.



27th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, July 27, 2019 16:41:14

With Jake, Jon, Brockers, Duncan and Mike Moxon.

Good to see Mike turn-up to help-out, extra hands always welcome. Got last weeks IRS to clear in the Cold Gnarly North today, no lounging about in the comfort of the Soft South. I went ahead to reel in the wire followed by Brockers with a new skip and hauling ropes. Jon was in the, still wet, ‘lake’ chamber, Duncan settled into the corner, Mike and Jake were at the junction/bend and the bottom of the entrance where the spoil was stashed ready to be removed later at the end of the session.

Last weeks application of IRS had the desired effect and there was a considerable pile of fragmented rock and gravel waiting to be cleared. While Brockers sorted the skip, I started to bag up some of the gravel and move some of the rock. Some of the larger slabs of rock were shifted back to Brockers who reduced them to skip size. By the end of the session the passage was wider and higher, access to the further reaches is considerably improved, although a bit more digging will make it even better, of course. Another bedding development with arched roof to the left and right sides is visible and air movement is noticeable. A bit more digging is needed to see if this is significant, or not. The debris cleared, time to move back and haul out the bags and rocks from the entrance. Meeting Jon in the ‘lake’ chamber it was pointed out that the new skip is worn-out already and needs replacing. There was also, a brief discussion about the “left-handedness” of the skips, causing them to snag, the decision to make some “right-handed” skips was agreed on, Duncan said he will follow this up in time for next week’s session.

A final count of 51 loads were removed from the cave to the surface comprised of 33 bags of gravel and 18 skip loads of fragmented rock. The rock was added to the evermore impressive wall and the gravel used to consolidate behind the rock.

Good session. Pub!



23rd July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Wed, July 24, 2019 06:25:30

With Jake

Due to circumstances, some beyond his control, Jake hasn’t been to An Unexpected Development, 28th July 2018 was the date of his last digging trip along the approach passage. Then went on holiday, injured knee, surgery followed, almost a year to get back into it.

Managed to pack the requisite kit into one bag – hand/lifeline, ladder, tapes and steel karabiners. It was a very warm and humid walk up to the cave entrance. Once in the cave it was much cooler and we had a very pleasant evening spent appreciating a fine bit of cave passage and talking a few things over.



20th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, July 21, 2019 06:55:32

With Jake, Jon, Brockers and Tav

We assembled at the usual time, 10:00, in the Hunter’s car park. Waited around a while for Nick, although Nick did say on Thursday evening, he might not be available, so headed down towards Wookey Hole, to the farm. Got changed and walked across the fields to the cave entrance in the woods. Then, another key moment, when I came to unlock the gate the key that had been in my caving helmet was no longer there. So, I had to retrace my steps to search for the missing key, Jon came along to help. Luckily the key wasn’t too far down the path and we returned to Hallowe’en Rift and the gate unlocked.

Brockers led the way to the Cold Gnarly North, he’s been absent for a couple of weeks and keen to get back into the swing of things. There were plenty of bags and loose rocks to be cleared from the “lake” chamber, there’s still standing water here. I went ahead to continue the expansion work beyond, Brockers helped with the bags, keeping them out of the water.

In the small rift chamber, I unpacked the kit and set about drilling the required holes. There was a rather disconcerting moment when a large, quite heavy flake of rock detached from the roof and landed, painfully, on my left knee. 4no. holes, 550mm (length) x 12mm (dia.) were drilled, some short, 260mm, 14mm (dia.) pilot holes were drilled first, makes things a bit easier in the restricted space. Then the holes were filled, I turned around, “Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Tamp”, six balls of silt/clay, all in a row thoughtfully prepared by the team last week. Good tamp too. All done, I wired up and made my way south to join the others, shoving my bags and drill tube ahead while unravelling the wire.

After clearing last week’s debris, the rest of the team had returned to the Soft South to continue digging. There was a stack of bags in the entrance to be hauled out to the surface before my morning’s task was brought to a satisfying conclusion with a resounding boom.

All out, the cave secured, we made our way back down across the fields to the farm. Another productive morning, 73 bags and 12 loads of loose rock, Jake had managed some walling too!



13th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Mon, July 15, 2019 20:52:41

I was away this weekend, digging on Gower, the following report was submitted by Jon:

“Only three of the digging team (Jon, Tav and Duncan) were available for duty. All arrived in good time and made a prompt start at the farm. Ignoring recent tradition, the team picked up the key before walking up the hill.

The task for the day was the removal of bang debris from the Gnarly North. There were too few diggers to haul around the corner at the top of the slope in one go, so the team were forced to stack rocks and bags of gravel along the side of the lake.

Duncan took the lead position and Tav volunteered for the deeper lake, leaving Jon to stack along the side of the shallow lake. All the bang debris was removed to this point. Then the team retired for some liquid refreshment.

Only one bag was successfully removed to the surface. It contained the bang
wire. This is now to be found in the shed.”



6th July 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, July 06, 2019 16:22:00

With Jon, Nick and Tav.

The Cold Gnarly North was my destination today, the others decided to dig in the Soft South, which is the easier, more comfortable option.

Drag line attached, bags attached, drill tube and wire reel in hand I set off along the passage north. I was a bit surprised to find that there were two puddles of standing water, 50mm – 75mm depth, in the ‘lake’ but it wasn’t an issue. My plan was to widen the next constriction just beyond the small
rift to improve access and make digging and spoil removal easier. Drilled 4no. holes, 550mm, length x 12mm, diameter and charged. I looked around for “Trevor’s ball of tamp” that I had put to one side for safe keeping, but it had gone, added to the spoil heap I assume. Unfortunately, this is probably the only part of the cave where there is not any mud suitable for tamp. I had to make do with arisings and the little bit of mud that I could scrape up.

All done, I made my way south, dragging/shoving by bags and kit along the passage while reeling out the wire. At the junction, the ‘Soft Southerners’ were about finished digging, just the hauling out and emptying of bags to be
done, so I gave them a helping hand. About 70 bags were hauled to the surface and emptied. When the bags were all empty, I returned underground to bring my morning’s task to a satisfactory conclusion.

Then down the hill to the farm in the warm sunshine, changed and up the hill to the Hunter’s for refreshments.



29th June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, July 06, 2019 16:21:25

I was at a BCRA Field Meeting – Hypogenic Caves of the North Pennines, UNESCO Global Geopark at Nenthead. The rest of the team had other commitments, no digging took place.



22nd June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, June 22, 2019 15:37:04

With Jon and Brockers

A small team assembled for today’s activities and it was soon
decided that the best and most effective use of manpower was to dig in the Soft
South.

While Jon packed bags, Brockers went ahead to start digging and I headed
up to the Cold Gnarly North. I wanted to look and make an assessment for the
next phase of IRS and expand the low grovel that is the continuation north. On the
way back to join the others I scraped up the loose material lying in the low
section.

Back in the “comfort” of the Soft South I took my position
stacking bags in the entrance ready to be removed later. Jon was at the
junction/bend and Brockers was busily digging away.

It was a pleasant way to spend the morning, chattering away to Jon,
stopping occasionally to stack another bag in the entrance. It’s surprising how
big the pile gets as the session progresses.

Then the time came to clear-out the spoil, Jon and I went up to
the surface and took it in turns to haul up the skip. Brockers remained below
ground to load the skip. When all the bags were out of the cave, they were then
emptied onto the spoil heap and the bags hung-up to dry. Today’s tally; 49
filled and emptied bags, and a stone that didn’t qualify as a load or even half
a load really.



15th June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, June 21, 2019 07:26:55

Another flint knapping
workshop at Butser Ancient Farm for me. I didn’t dig but the rest of the team
did. The following report was written by Jon:

“Shambles
/ˈʃamb(ə)lz/

noun

1. A state of confusion, bad organization, or untidiness, or something
that is in this state.

2. A butcher’s slaughterhouse
(archaic except in place names).

3. Five diggers at Halloween
Rift on Saturday 15th June 2019.

The usual call to action is via a text-based messaging system
(e-mail). This week, attempts were made to circumvent this and use
instead a text-based messaging system (SMS). Four members of the team
(Tav, Nick, Duncan and Jon) assembled at the appointed hour. A fifth
member (Paul) sent a message to indicate he was running late.

The team patiently waited and, after further reference to the
messaging system, waited some more. Finally giving up on the latecomer,
the team moved on to the farm, to be met by the latecomer. For his sins,
he was appointed hut warden.

With echoes of past failures, the team set out without a
key. A Sage Elder saved the day; a runner was despatched to get
one. Fortunately, a second team member also went back and got the correct
key.

Effort was directed at the Cold Gnarly North, with Paul in the
lead. Nick took the wet spot, in his lake. Tav hauled at the
corner, a position gaining a reputation for being cold and miserable.
Duncan and Jon hauled and stacked at the entrance. 44 bags of spoil and
11 loads of rock were removed. Paul reports that this was largely loose
spoil that had previously been stacked along the sides of the passage.

The team learnt from their earlier mistakes and made sure that
they finished on time. They then retired to a local hostelry for liquid
refreshment…

…or rather, three team members did. Those who had manned the
wetter, colder positions went straight home.”



8th June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, June 08, 2019 22:15:40

With Jon, Brockers and Nick

We made a return to the Cold Gnarly North to finish off the job we
had started last weekend. Jon was the first to cross the “sea of slurry” and go
up to the nice dry bit to fill bags. Somehow, Brockers had talked himself into
the cold mucky job in the slurry, I was positioned at the bend in the north
passage just beyond the first “pinch-point”, Nick was at the junction where he
stashed the filled bags and rocks, although some went to the bottom of the
entrance too.

Although my position had started off dry it was soon rather wet
and squalid with a good deal of splashback coming from the haul-rope, at least
the skip route was well lubricated.

Jon cleared the loose debris left-over from the IRS and quite a
bit more stuff too, Brockers busied himself improving the access to the passage
north from the “lake”, Nick, meanwhile was quietly digging something, anything,
it’s like a ‘nervous-twitch’. The stash of spoil was accumulating.

Eventually, it was decided that we shift back and clear-out the accumulated
spoil from the cave. Some quite large boulders had appeared, and they hadn’t
come from the north. They were to stay below ground ready to be hauled-out
another day. There were 64 loads hauled to the surface today, 48 filled bags
and 16 skip-loads of rocks.

The warmth of the June sunshine was very welcome after spending a
couple of hours or so in the Cold Gnarly North.



1st June 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, June 02, 2019 06:38:08

With Jon, Nick and Tav

The only plan for today was to clear the debris from last
weekend’s application of IRS up in the Cold Gnarly North. While the others were
packaging the dry bags ready for use later, I went ahead to reel in the wire.

On arrival at the “pinch-point” it was evident that the IRS had
been effective, further progress prevented by a “wall” of shattered rock and
gravel. Initially, spoil removal wasn’t easy, the skip was a bit too big for
the passage and difficult to load, the larger lumps of rock were moved behind
me then, I reversed along the passage, kicking the rocks ahead to a place where
Jon could reach them.

Eventually, I was able to squeeze over the top of the rock and
gravel pile and get into the small “chamber” beyond, from there it was easier
to load the skip and the spoil removal was more rapid. The larger cobbles and
boulders placed directly into the skip, Jon sent up some empty bags for the
smaller cobbles and gravel. Interestingly, as the “wall” of debris was
breached, a feint movement of air could be detected.

We hadn’t finished the rubble clearance, when word come to us that
there was a large accumulation of spoil that needed to be taken up to the
surface. Jon came up to have a brief look at the progress so far, while I set
about with a hammer and chisel to remove some fractured rock flakes from the
roof. We then left to join the others and clear out the cave.

It was noticed that Jon appeared to have a liberal coating of mud,
whether he was particularly happy about this was difficult to gauge, his face
masked in a veil of mud. Apparently, the shallow puddles that had remained in
the “lake” chamber had quickly turned to slurry with the passage of skips, this
creating splashback from the haul-rope and the skips made quite a splash on
arrival. We were, of course, unsympathetic.

It was positively tropical on the surface, and the flies are
starting to make a comeback. It had been noted, that below ground, bluebottles
were annoyingly present. Anyway, today’s final count: 31 bags, filled and
emptied, and 28 skip-loads of rock, more wall building material. There is still
plenty of loose spoil to be removed from the area of the, now former,
“pinch-point”.



25th May 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, May 25, 2019 21:03:46

With Duncan, Brockers, Jon, Nick and Tav

I had to collect some supplies at 09:00 and then met the team at
the Hunter’s 10:00. From there we drove down to the farm. I stayed behind for a
while at the farm to prep things, the others got changed and made their way up
to the cave to get digging underway, they carried some of my stuff up to the
cave with them. When I had thing sorted I made my way up to Hallowe’en Rift to
join the others.

The digging team had decided to dig in the Soft South, I picked up
my bags and other gear and headed to the Cold Gnarly North. My plan was to
apply some induced rapid speleogenesis and enlarge the next pinch-point and so
ease progress towards our objective. The puddle wasn’t quite as dry as had been
predicted and there was still some slurry in places, nothing to worry about too
much. Dragged the kit through the constriction and drilled 4no. holes, 12mm
dia. x 550mm length. There wasn’t any sediment around suitable for tamp so
decided to make my way up to the terminal [at
least for now
] aven. Looking around I found a ‘ball’ of mud, Trevor’s ‘ball
of tamp’. I returned to the focus of today and completed the next phase, and
then, pushing all my kit ahead, made my way south, unravelling the wire as I went.

The digging team were just finishing up, 100 bags and a rock, the
tally for this session. When all were out of the cave, the proceedings were
brought to a satisfactory end. The cave entrance secured, we made our way back
down to the farm in the warm sunshine, got changed and up to the Hunter’s for refreshments.

Some of the afternoon was spent cleaning kit.



18th May 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, May 19, 2019 06:11:54

I attended a Flint Knapping Workshop at Butser Ancient Farm (Chalton,
Hampshire) today. The rest of the team were at Hallowe’en Rift, the following summary
of the morning’s activities penned by Tav:

“Tav, Duncan, Brockers, Jon, Jake and Alex

Tav installed the hose extension into the old dig (which in the
end wasn’t needed) and then headed up to the Cold Gnarly North armed with the
new pump and main hose, which Dunc straightened out to ease the flow of water.
While Tav pumped the pool, the rest of the team continued work in the
Soft South (Jon’s report to follow). The new pump worked very well and cleared
almost all the water until it finally became blocked with slurry when down to
the final dregs. Both pump and hose were later removed for cleaning. With the
water gone, Tav set about clearing the bang debris, which was strewn quite a
long way down the crawl in mostly handy plate-sized lumps. A few larger pieces
were levered off the roof and wall, but these were easily broken up with a lump
hammer. It proved a long drag back down the crawl and across the bed of the
ex-lake, to reach the skip which Dunc hauled up from his familiar position on
the corner. However, all proceeded smoothly and by close of play all the bang
debris had successfully been removed.”

Jon’ account of the morning’s activities:

“While
Tav and Duncan addressed matters in the Cold Gnarly North, the rest of
the team (Jon, Paul, Jake and Alex) resumed work in the Soft South.

Jake
returned to underground duties, initially working at the junction.
Alex, who cycled to the morning’s activities, was lightly dressed and
only ventured to
the bottom of the entrance shaft. That left Paul and Jon once again
working at the dig face…

…until
the music stopped. The first time this happened, Alex found himself at
the surface, with Duncan at the bottom of the entrance. The second
time, Duncan
had returned North, Jake was at the bottom of the entrance and Jon was
at the junction. At the third time of asking, Alex and Jake shared
surface duties Jon loaded at the entrance and Paul manned the junction…

…and so on.

Total tally for the day from both ends was 70 bags and 16 rocks.
Another useful session.”



11th May 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, May 12, 2019 06:49:36

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

For me, the first stop of the day was to collect the necessary
supplies for the task ahead and then meet the team in the Hunter’s car park at
the allotted time.

In the cave, while the others were digging in the Soft South, I headed
to the Cold Gnarly North to apply the IRS. Keeping the kit out of the puddle
was my main concern; as I had found to my cost previously, lithium ion
batteries do not like getting wet! Luckily there is a shelf on one-side where
the kit could be laid-out. Then to the drilling, I spent some time trying to
work-out whether I could achieve the task in hand and stay reasonably dry, I quickly
came to the realisation that this wasn’t going to be the case. I drilled 4no.
14mm x 260mm pilot holes in the required locations, that was okay, it was the
full length, 12mm x 550mm holes that required me to lie flat-out in the puddle.
Once soaked, I began to feel a bit chilly. Anyway, with a bit of care, the task
was completed and the kit re-packed. I went back to retrieve the wire reel from
where I had left it, Duncan came up to take the drill and bit tube. I returned
through the puddle. All wired-up, I made my way back south to join the team.

Brockers and Jon were digging and filling the last few bags. Duncan,
at the bend/junction was hauling the loaded skip part-way then Nick, at the
bottom of the entrance, pulled the skip the rest of the way. The load was
transferred to the surface skip where Jake and Tav were rotating the hauling
and emptying, in the pleasantly warm morning sunshine. The count for today; 120
loads, 110 bags and 12 loads of rock (some of these were ‘extra’s’ provided by
Nick, who just can’t help himself).

When all were out of the cave, my task was brought to a
satisfactory conclusion. The gate was replaced, and the cave made secure. We left
to walk down to the farm. The usual refreshments at the Hunter’s followed,
although I didn’t tarry long, I was still cold so returned home to soak in a
hot bath.

Just the caving kit and other equipment to clean in the afternoon.



4th May 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, May 05, 2019 05:50:40

Note: no activities took place last weekend (27th April). I was over on the Gower
peninsular digging with Jon and Alex at Harry Thomas’s Cave, Overton. Others
had their own commitments.

With Brockers, Duncan, Jon and Jake

The digging effort, once again, was concentrated in the Soft South
due to numbers, and there is still a puddle in the Cold Gnarly North. Brockers
and Duncan were digging and filling bags, Brockers worked on the east-side,
Duncan to the west. I was at the junction (more like a bend, really), Jon at
the bottom of the entrance, Jake on the surface.

While Jon was replacing the skip, I ventured up to the north to
collect some tools and can confirm, there is still a pool of water. As I was
there anyway I had a good look at the way ahead and gave some thought to an
easier solution to moving forward. I arrived at the decision that some ‘rapidly
induced speleogenesis’ might prove fruitful, if I had some help to keep the kit
dry. It’ll be a lot quicker than digging, I’ll ponder and see if I can make
some arrangements. I remembered to collect some tools although the big bar
could not be located.

Back at the dig, we settled into a steady rate of removal and the
banter flowed freely. Now that I was wet, the draught from the south-west
passage was increasingly noticeable, as the session progressed I became cooler.

Towards the end of the session, Duncan had wormed his way into a
small space, a possible cross-rift, that was interesting but requires some more
work to fully see what’s going on. This was the last action of the day and we
exited the cave. Jake had hauled and emptied 66 bags and 2 skip-loads of rock
onto the spoil heap.

Walking back across the fields to the farm, I had a feeling that I
was missing something, then it dawned on me – my camera. I returned to the cave
and to retrieve it – another senior moment!



20th April 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, April 21, 2019 06:20:51

With Brockers, Nick, Jon and Tav
A view from the Junction. Jon to the north assists with the pipe from the pump. To the east Tav, at the bottom of the entrance, contemplates, it was sunny on the surface.
Today circumstances dictated that the digging effort was to be
concentrated beyond the former ‘pinch-point’ in the cold, Gnarly North. The perceived
‘dry and dusty’ conditions did not come to fruition and pumping was deemed to
be required. Unfortunately, this action was a failure, the pump sprang a leak and
did not work, so the pump and all its attachments were removed to be fettled,
back at Tav’s place. This left Nick and Brockers to wallow in a larger than
anticipated pool of slurry at the digging end. They said it was cold, how we
chuckled. Earlier in the session, another skip had been put together and this
was set-up from the dig to the ‘snug’ spot where Jon was lying. This too,
became ‘damp’ as the spoil was transferred between skips. I was at the Junction
and Tav at the bottom of the entrance, where the filled bags and rocks were to
be stashed awaiting removal at the end of the session.

The bags were filled partly with sediment, partly with slurry, it
was a good job that the sediment was granular. It was, rather forlornly, hoped
that the water would drain out and the bags become a bit lighter, it didn’t,
and they weren’t. The skip between myself and Jon soon wore out and became
difficult to haul, so that was replaced, and the hauling was much smoother. Most
things, by now, were liberally coated with slurry and splashbacks were a common
occurrence.

Soon the time came for digging to cease and for the entrance to be
cleared of spoil. The bags hauled out to the surface to be emptied, the rocks
piled ready for walling, a few were added to the wall as a token gesture. Those
of us on the surface rotated the hauling, leaving Brockers, who had been digging,
to load the skip to the surface. This he wasn’t so impressed with, he reckoned
he was cold after lying all morning in the slurry pool in the cold, Gnarl
North. We, however, were warm in the very pleasant spring sunshine – warmest day
of the year so far, I believe. 49 bags were hauled out and emptied plus 10
skip-loads of rock.

Satisfied with the morning’s endeavours and in high spirit, we
departed and made our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for the usual refreshments.



13th April 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, April 14, 2019 07:01:50

With Jake, Jon and
Tav

Due to other
commitments, a smaller team today so the digging effort continued in the Soft
South. Tav filled bags and moved the occasional rock to Jon, who was positioned
at the junction. I was at the bottom of the entrance hauling the skip away from
Jon and transferring the load to the surface skip, this was hauled out of the
cave by Jake.

It all seemed to
be at an easy-going pace this morning, but at the end of thesession 85 bags
and 16 loads of rock, a total of 101 loads, removed to the surface. A good,
productive effort.

Tav fills
bags

Jon, at the
junction, hauls the skip away from the digger
Jake empty’s
the bags onto the ever-growing spoil heap

Jake remarked that it been very pleasant on the surface in the
warm spring sunshine with the bird’s singing and only very rarely could a car
be heard!



6th April 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sat, April 06, 2019 16:51:00

With Jake, Jon,
Duncan and Tav

Although last
weekend it required three persons to secure the cave, only one was necessary to
re-open the cave for this session. Given that we were a team of five, when it
was suggested that we should dig in the ‘Soft South’, there wasn’t too much
dissent.

I went ahead and
clambered down into the cave. I called up for some empty bags and, before I
could get out of the way, I received several packs thrown down the entrance by
those team members remaining on the surface above.

In the ‘Soft
South’ I spent the session lowering the floor of the ‘chamber’, also removing
sediment from the southern and eastern extents. Jon, in between loading the
skip to Duncan, at the bottom of the entrance, modified the skip haul route
into the ‘Soft South’. There had been a delay to the start of today’s
proceedings while Jon had to go across the border, beyond the former
pinch-point, to the ‘Cold Gnarly North’ to search for tools. The bar that had
been used last weekend (lastly, by Brockers, it seems), despite a determined
search, had disappeared. Jon reported back with tools from the north and
commented that there wasn’t as much water in the puddle as might be expected
following this week’s heavy rain. The missing bar was later rediscovered,
buried under a considerable pile of loose spoil that had been left un-bagged.

A couple of
substantial boulders were loosened, then dragged and cajoled to the base of the
entrance, where the surface team comprising Jake and Tav accepted the challenge
of getting them out in their entirety. This task called for the use of two
ropes. A successful challenge completed, and two more fine rocks were on the
surface ready to be used in the base of another stone wall, sometime in the
future.

On the surface it
had turned into a fine and warm spring day. Today’s final tally was 83 loads
out to the surface; 68 bags and 15 loads of rock. Another productive session.

And, I remembered
to pick-up my camera – didn’t take any photos though!



30th March 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Mon, April 01, 2019 21:02:59

I attended the Somerset
Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) Annual Archaeology Day at Wells
and Mendip Museum, and was unavailable for the Saturday morning digging session
at Hallowe’en Rift.

The following
report was provided by Jon:

“Five of the team
(Tav, Jon, Duncan, Jake and Paul) met at the appointed hour. Although one
later admitted that it was only because he had nothing better to do on a
Saturday.

With the
attendance a little lower than usual, it was proposed that we should dig in
what is now known as the ‘Soft South’. The motion was carried unanimously,
and the team set off up the hill on what proved to be a fine spring
morning.

The decision to
dig south was influenced by the need to keep all team members involved (a key
factor for a successful dig) and by the wish to ensure that all digging spoil
was removed to the surface (another key factor). Another key factor
is the key.

Digging started a
little later than usual.

There was much
debate about who should work where. Digging took place at two faces
during the previous week and involved three of the team. Under the normal
rules of rotation, Tav, Duncan and Paul could all claim a place on the surface
on a fine sunny morning. Paul and Duncan each tabled motion’s claiming
their own right. Tav, as the sagest of the elders on duty, ruled that any vote
on the matter could only be indicative and that the team had to abide by the
house rules. As a result, Jon was moved up the order from surface duties
the previous week, directly to the dig face, with Paul in support. Tav worked
at the bottom of the entrance. Jake and Duncan worked on their sun tans.

81 bags of spoil
were removed along with 25 loads of stone, mainly from the previous week.

At the end of the
session, three members of the team successfully locked the cave, and all
retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment.”



23rd March 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, March 24, 2019 07:07:01

With Jake, Jon,
Nick, Duncan, Brockers, Tav and Mike (Moxon)

After digging last
weekend, Jon was on the surface with Jake, who managed to add some more stone
to the wall, but spoil is required to back it up. I was at the bottom of the
entrance, Nick took up position at the junction.

Nick at the
junction, viewed from the bottom of the entrance.

Tav headed down to the “soft” south with an array of new
implements he had purchased from ‘Proper Job’, a good source for cheap digging
tools. Mike, on light duties following some eye surgery, was in the small the
small “chamber” just beyond the former pinch-point. That left Brockers and Dunc
“up-front”, surprisingly, after a dry week, the pump was required, this took
some time to assemble and drain the water away. A miscalculation in the
drainage route resulted in the south passage, downslope from the north,
suddenly becoming much wetter. Some hasty readjustment of the pipe allowed the
water to drain elsewhere.

Soon, the “lake” was
“dry”, digging was underway. Earlier in the session there had been some time
for quiet contemplation, this was soon to end as the bags and rocks began to be
shifted through and out of the cave. Jake and Jon rotated the hauling and
emptying roles, 115 loads of bags and rocks were brought out to the surface,
and there are still rocks left at the bottom of the entrance, including a
rather large one. Its “twin” had been removed with some effort earlier.

On their return
from the north, Brockers and Dunc were cold and a little grumpy, which was of
some amusement to the rest of us. It was obvious from their attire that the
north had been just a little bit squalid. Still, nothing that some refreshments
at a certain local hostelry wouldn’t sort out.

Looking up
out of the entrance.



16th March 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, March 17, 2019 06:48:32

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

Jon’s turn in the
“pond”, Dunc chose to be next in-line again and took up position in the small
“chamber” just beyond the former “pinch-point”. It took some time to assemble
the pump and drain away the considerable quantity of water. A task made more
onerous as the pump had been left, in a safe position, on the far side of the
“lake”, the “pond” now re-designated.

Meanwhile, in the
nice dry and comfortable south passage/chamber, I was happily digging away,
filling bags, finding the occasional lump of rock, just an ideal digging spot.

Eventually though,
the “lake” was drained, the water that had been spilt lubricating the haul
route, Jon was able to start digging. Tav, at the junction, was soon very busy.
Nick, at the bottom of the entrance, had been “tidying”, the step that had accumulated over many sessions was now gone, the rocks there had joined the pile
on the surface waiting to be incorporated into the ever-growing wall.

Brockers, after
digging last session, was on the surface with Jake, hauling out the spoil from
the cave. Jake continued the wall building until a steady flow of bags started
to arrive at the surface to be emptied.

It was another
productive session; 108 loads out to the surface, 81 bags and 27 loads of rock
for the wall.

Happy days!



10th March 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, March 10, 2019 17:14:48

Solo

Just a brief visit
underground to collect my camera that I managed to leave behind yesterday. Took
a few snaps of the magnificent spoil-heap.



9th March 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, March 10, 2019 07:03:19

With Jake, Tav,
Nick, Brockers and Duncan

Tav and Nick discuss prospects to the south.

After some heavy
rain during the week, it was obvious to us that Tav’s pump was going to be
required. The pump was set-up and proved to be very effective, the water soon
was drained away.

Duncan gives Brockers a helping hand to set-up the pump.

The water gone,
Brockers was able to dig away to his heart’s content. Merrily filling bags,
some of them with very sloppy sediment, and loading rocks into the skip. Duncan
was next in line, lying in the small chamber, aiding the skip along its route
to me at the junction. Once again, I had made a small error and suggested Nick
might go south and dig there. He was in his element. It was a busy session for
me, Tav at the bottom of the entrance and, especially, for Jake who hauled up ~85
skip-loads to the surface; ~70 filled bags and ~15 loads of rock, including one
rather weighty boulder that required the use of the strops. Good wall building
material though.

With, probably,
the two most enthusiastic ‘fillers of bags’ digging in tandem, it was necessary,
at times, for me to decant some of the bags to more suitable weights for
hauling out of the cave, and so easing some of the pressure on Jake’s back. At
the close of the session, Nick found some large boulders that he happily
reduced in size to more manageable proportions. These were then rolled to the
bottom of the entrance where they await extraction.

It had been another
productive and convivial digging session, rounded off with a stop at the Hunter’s
Lodge Inn for the customary refreshments.

NOTE: the digging effort, at present, is concentrated on the enlargement
of the north-west leading passage, to the south-west side of the entrance (towards
Trevor Hughes old dig). Also, there has been some activity in the opposite
direction on the south-side.



2nd March 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, March 03, 2019 07:27:45

With Tav,
Brockers, Jon, Nick and Jake

The induced rapid
speleogenesis applied last Sunday morning had the desired effect and we were
presented by a considerable pile of fractured rock and gravel. This took quite
some time and effort to remove. I went ahead, scraping back the gravel and
fractured rock to Tav, who was bagging up the gravel and loading the skip with
rock. Brockers and Jon then dispatched the spoil to the surface where it was
being dealt with by Nick and Jake.

Eventually, there
was enough space to get past the debris and get to work with a small bar to
remove the loose and fractured rock, clearing it back to Tav. When that task
was completed, Tav moved forward, passing me to reach ‘Nick’s pond’, which
wasn’t too wet today. Brockers was able to take up occupation of the position I
had held for the last few weeks. He set about enlarging the passage towards
Tav. I moved back, clearing away the last remnants of gravel and fractured rock
before heading out to the surface to assist Jake. Jon was at the junction, Nick
had moved down to the bottom of the entrance, trying to entice Jon into some surreptitious
removal of an imaginary obstruction. How does the saying go, “idle hands make
mischief”?

That aside, it had
been another enjoyable and productive session; ~100 loads out to the surface,
>60 bags and over 30 skip-loads of rock, more material for the wall.

The banter and
joviality continued at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, where we partook of the usual
refreshments after a mornings hard digging.



24th February 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, February 24, 2019 21:11:18

Solo

Another glorious
day weather-wise and it was a warm walk up the hill to the cave with kit.
Lowered the bags down the entrance, then pushed them through to the north-west
passage. There, the bags were clipped together to form a train and I dragged
them through to the other side of the pinch-point. It took a bit of
organisation to arrange the kit neatly in the somewhat confined space. The
drilling was a tad awkward, so I sank some pilot-holes in the required spots. I
managed to snap a drill-bit but luckily, I had another one. I took a lot more
care finishing the 4no. holes with a 550mm drill-bit. All the holes primed and
tamped, kit packed away and the bags, carefully, pushed through the pinch-point,
I pulled the hauling line out of the way too. All wired up the mornings task
was bought to a satisfactory conclusion on the surface. Disturbed a couple of
pheasants. Hopefully, there will be some more rock for the wall to clear out
next weekend.

That’s phase one
of dismantling the ‘backstop’ to allow the free movement of people and
materials to pass unhindered between the north and south completed.



23rd February 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, February 24, 2019 06:52:51

With Nick, Tav,
Brockers, Jonathon, Jake and Alex

A strong team
today, seven of us. Note that I’ve resisted the temptation to add the prefix
“magnificent”!

For the fourth
week in a row, Nick was dispatched to his pond, although this was almost dry
after a week of fine weather. Once again, I passed through the pinch-point to
take up position in the snug, low chamber I had cleared out during the last few
sessions. Tav was “up the junction”, a decision he was later to rue. I had
suggested to Brockers that he might find some suitable wall-building material
in the southern passage, where Trevor Hughes et. al. had dumped most of the digging
spoil in the 1980s. This is also, an area that Willie Stanton had suggested
there may be some potential for palaeontological remains. He also thought it
was a resurgence but that in now believed to be unlikely. Tav was to be very
busy, when Brockers and Nick got underway, occasionally I was able to add a few
loads too. Brockers found some very decent large boulders, ideal for
wall-building, but a challenge to get out to the surface.

Jon, at the bottom
of the entrance, was responsible for dispatch, Alex on hauling duties today.
Sixty-six filled bags and more than three-dozen skip-loads of rock, well over
100 loads out today. Alex mentioned that his arms and shoulders were a little
sore, he’ll get over it.

Anyway, it was a nice
morning on the surface in the warm ‘spring-like’ sunshine.

Tomorrow, the
pinch-point will be dealt with and others can delight in the joy of Nick’s
pond, that is, currently a ‘dust bowl’ (Nick’s
words!)



16th February 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, February 17, 2019 08:10:20

With Nick,
Jonathon, Alex and Jake

The plan was to
continue to enlarge the north-west passage. Unfortunately, Tav didn’t make it
today so, neither did the pump. Nick was, sort of, volunteered to bail-out the
pond of his own making. When he got there, Nick was relieved to find the water
level was quite low and it didn’t take long to bail the water out. It was
noticeable that, after a dry week, the drips were not so pronounced. I was back
in the same position as last weekend and managed to get some bags filled and slabs
shifted, not many though as Nick was sending back a steady supply of bags and
rocks. Jon was at the junction, where we had removed the ‘boardwalk’, and was now
clearing away the accumulated detritus that had been around and under it. Alex was
at the bottom of the entrance, hauling away the spoil and loading the skip to
the surface to be pulled up by Jake. Jake had constructed a wooden platform
that straddled the entrance, making it easier underfoot and more stable for his
knee.

Although the
conditions are not ideal at the moment, it was an enjoyable session with a
constant flow of banter and not too much character assassination this morning.
By the end of the session 55 loads had been hauled out to the surface: 35 bags
and 20 skip-loads of rock ready to be added to the wall, when there is time.



9th February 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, February 10, 2019 08:36:32

With Nick,
Jonathon, Tav and a massive welcome back to Jake

A jovial group of
diggers ventured up the hill from the farm to the cave entrance. The loose
bags, left-out to dry at the end of the last digging session, were packed-up
and dispatched to below ground. I descended the entrance and headed to the
north-west passage followed by Jon. Nick and Tav followed on too. Jake, still
recovering from knee surgery, remained on the surface to begin constructing
another spoil retaining wall.

Underground, Jon
got to the pinch-point but not quite through it. After turning around to have a
look, and a discussion I could now see what needed to be removed to make it
passable for all. I will have to arrange with the supplier, a Sunday morning
collection soon. At present, work commitments rule out a mid-week evening trip.

It was then decided that Nick go to the end
and dig because he would be happier there. And he needed to confirm his
thoughts last session that he was digging a pond. This, indeed, turned out to
be the case. There was a lot of water and some hasty improvisation of equipment
was required to remove it. The removal of the water ensured that the passage
was now well lubricated, some might have suggested, squalid. Eventually, it was
almost dry enough to dig and spoil removal could commence. To supplement Nick’s
endeavours, I filled some bags with loose sediment from the position I was
lying in, made a little more space for myself too. Strangely, lying in the squalor
of liquid slurry, I find the passage to be rather aesthetically pleasing,
lights reflecting off the glimmering slurry and constantly dripping water. It was
cold though now that I was completely soaked, glad that I had decided to wear a
fleece undersuit today. There were some grumbles from the entrance, where Tav
was stacking the filled bags, regarding the weight of some bags, unfortunately,
this fell on deaf ears and Nick carried on regardless.

Soon it was time
to move back and deal with the products of today’s effort. Some bags were
easier to empty than others. Thirty-nine bags and three skip-loads of rock were
disposed off on the surface. During our time underground, Jake had constructed
a fine wall and had used most of the available rock. We will have to create some
more very soon.



2nd February 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, February 05, 2019 21:29:06

Due to some adverse
weather conditions, quite a lot of snow, digging activities for today were
cancelled. Jonathon made a gallant effort to make the Hunter’s but was thwarted
when he came across a damsel in distress on the Old Bristol Road. I think she
had managed to park in the hedge and needed some assistance to free her
vehicle.



26th January 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, January 27, 2019 06:58:10

With Brockers,
Jonathon, Nick and Tav

After the lurgy
and a week at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Lab, it was good to
get back into Hallowe’en Rift for my first digging session of 2019.

The plan this
session was to continue the enlargement of the passage along to Trevor’s Old
Dig, trending circa north-west. There had been some mention of a ‘pinch-point’
so this is where some of the effort was directed. Nick set-off to the end so
that he could free an old bang wire that was impeding the skip hauling.
Meanwhile, I started to remove some of the loose material that had been stashed
to the sides of the passage just beyond the pinch-point to make more room. Nick
returned and asked that I pull the old wire through, that done, Nick started to
enlarge the passage about 6m beyond me, his plan was to see if could remove
layers of calcite from the floor and so. Enlarge the passage. He did wonder
whether, or not, he was digging a pond, I guess we’ll find out next session. Filled
bags and rocks were being removed at a steady rate to Tav, positioned at the
junction, who re-directed the skip to Brockers, at the bottom of the entrance. To
keep himself occupied in between loads, Brockers had decided to do some ‘tidying’,
keeping Jon, on the surface, busy. There was an occasional grumble from above
ground, ‘Nick bag’, too heavy, too claggy, very difficult to empty, below
ground, the comments passed by.

Today’s count: 76
loads, 54 filled and emptied bags and 22 skip-loads of rock. It had been
another productive session and I, for one, enjoyed it!



5th January 2019

digging 2019 Posted on Tue, January 08, 2019 07:33:56

I had succumbed,
like so many others, to the lurgy and so, was out of action. Jonathon sent the
following summary of the morning’s activity at Hallowe’en Rift, the first session
of the year:

“We were down to
two diggers – Jon and Paul.

Thinking that
there was little to do with just two, we took a quick look to the East.
There were a few pools of water, but not as bad as expected. Specifically,
we went to have another look at the cross rift just after Thou Shall Not Dig
Here. We removed a few rocks until we could get a better view and then
decided it was not worth trashing the place any further. I cannot see any
reason to dig there now.

We returned to
Trevor ‘s old dig and removed what we could. We then cleared the rocks from
the entrance. The count: 8 bags and 23 loads of stone.”