30th December 2019


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

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

28th December 2019

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

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

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

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

26th December 2019


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

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

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

24th December 2019


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

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

23rd December 2019


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

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

21st December 2019

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

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

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

Brockers looking into the chamber ahead.

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

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

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

17th December 2019


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

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

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

10th December 2019


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

The calcite constriction. Scale 0.2m

7th December 2019

Vince, Jake, Brockers, Jon, Nick and Tav

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

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

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

30th November 2019

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

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

A glimpse of what lies beyond!

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

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

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

28th November 2019


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

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

26th November 2019

With Mike, Nick and Jake

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

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

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

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

25th November 2019


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

23rd November 2019

Vince, Nick, Brockers, Jake, and Tav.

The Lake

Nick and Brockers were digging, ensuring it was clean and tidy ready for the next application of IRS. Jake and Tav were along the passages hauling the loaded skip along to me at the corner on the north side of the lake (where it was dry). The filled bags were stashed ready for hauling out later. There was a slight delay to the start of hauling while Jake sorted out a replacement skip.

When the available space was just about filled and there wasn’t any loose material left at the dig, it was time shift positions and start to clear the spoil out of the cave. Had a quick peek at the end with Jake before heading out, clearing bags on the way.

A very neat stack of bags in the entrance was dismantled as the bags were cleared out to the surface. 55 bags and 1 rock added to the spoil heap, good session.

21st November 2019

Report by Vince

Vince, Tav, Jon, Jake, Nick, Duncan, Mike and Leonie (? MCG)

The bang did good! Lots of lovely shattered rock and gravel to shift. Initially, we concentrated on moving the larger lumps to give a bit more room to work, there was plenty of them. Some of the lumps required reduction to skip size which Nick seemed happy to oblige. Towards the end of the session we moved back a couple of positions to ease the movement of spoil out of the cave. About 20 filled bags were left at the end and there’s plenty more to bag up on Saturday. Then the levering and hammering of fractured rock can be progressed. All needs to be cleared ready for the next application of IRS.

About 20 skip loads of rock made it all the way out of the cave ready for integration into the wall. Lots of people and another good productive effort!

Took the camera but, didn’t take any photos!

19th November 2019


Continued the expansion of the passage north-west at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, beyond the aven. 5no. holes drilled into bedrock, c.550mm x 12mm dia., plus 1no. hole drilled into the large boulder, c.350mm x 12mm dia. Drilled, filled and fired. I could hear fractured rock being re-positioned. Should be plenty to clear for the next couple of digging sessions.

16th November 2019

Report by Vince.

With Brockers, Jake, Jon and Nick.

The main objective of the morning was to clear out the accumulation of spoil left in the cave after the last couple of digging sessions. Once we got over the “Who’s wearing what?” and Who’s going where?” debate, we made it underground. I went up to the end to make sure it was ready for the next application of IRS, the rest of the team got on with moving filled bags and loose rocks back to the Junction.

At the end everything was clean and tidy ready for the mid-week visit until I decided to start tapping some exposed rock surfaces and came across an almost loose slab, it had to come out. After a bit of a wrestling match I had it mobile just as Jon arrived to see if there was anything to move back, very fortuitous. The slab of rock was out of the way and soon reduced in size. A few bags and loose rocks were hauled out of the way then Jon and I went to join the others.

Soon, all the spoil was out to the surface, 83 loads – 45 bags emptied and 38 skip loads of rock, lots of stuff for the wall some time in the future. All done in good time and we were in the pub earlier than usual!

12th November 2019

Report by Vince.

Vince, Alex G

Alex had decided he would like to re-visit the cave after a long break and I appreciated someone to help with the bags and other stuff.

Another phase of expansion required at the [current] end of the Cold Gnarly North. 5no. holes drilled and filled, c.500mm length x 12mm diameter; pilot holes were drilled first in each location, c.300mm (L) x 14mm (dia.) 4no. holes were into conglomerate (okay) 1no. into degraded calcite (hard going). All went off successfully. Hopefully, progress towards the echoing/draughting cross-rift will be improved. Should be plenty to clear out next digging session.

9th November 2019

Report by Jon.

I attended the UBSS Centenary Symposium held at the University of Bristol. Jon supplied the following account of Saturday’s activity in Hallowe’en Rift:

“Five diggers (Jon, Jake, Tav, Paul and Nick), all of whom knew each other, assembled at the appointed place.  In a week when fireworks, metaphorical or otherwise, were a regular topic of conversation, the early arrivals were a little subdued, possible as a result of the cold and wet conditions.  Then Paul arrived, buoyed up by New Van Syndrome, and spirits were raised.

At the dig, Paul took the lead position, supported by Nick.  Jon and Jake hauled skips.  Tav again volunteered for the position in the lake.  The water was somewhat higher that during previous sessions, but over the course of the session was largely removed with the spoil.

Initially, rocks that had been stacked near the dig face during a previous session were removed to the lake.  In due course, spoil from the rift was bagged and hauled out.  Some bags were notably heavier than others.  The team, as always, were quick to blame Nick, but just as quick to forgive him.  It is just in his DNA.

Come the afternoon, the hauling team moved back and removed the spoil from the lake back to the junction.  Paul and Nick continued to dig for a while longer, making sure to leave the spoil well away from the step in the floor which now needs removing.  As lunch time approached, the team moved to the entrance where a decision was needed on whether, or not, to haul the bags out.  Paul remarked on how well the bags had been stacked; the team then departed. 

In the changing hut, the conversation returned to the topic of fireworks.  Some reminisced about their childhood experiences.  Sparklers were a common factor in many a childhood; Paul had been forced to watch the welder.

The team retired to a local hostelry for light refreshments and proceeded to put the world to rights.  Nick then went to buy a firework.”

7th November 2019

Report by Vince.

With Nick, Jake, Jon, Tav, Duncan and Mike.

Far too big a team for the current requirements in the Wookey Hole dig but perfect for clearing the bags from the [current] end of Hallowe’en, the rocks could be left for another day.

I went to the end with Nick, so he could have a quick look before we started shifting bags. Mike was just beyond the lake, Tav opted to be in the water, Duncan seemed very content at his corner station, Jake at the Junction and Jon stacking the filled bags in the entrance. Everyone was happy!

When enough bags had been cleared back from the end, I moved along the line to relieve Jon, who went to the surface and hauled the spoil out of the cave. 60+ bags and a couple of skip loads of rock to the surface. The bags were emptied at the end of the evening, re-bundled and returned below ground ready for the weekend.

A productive and enjoyable session!

5th November. I’m not interested in fireworks!!!

Report by Vince.

I had packed my UV torches (365nm and 395nm) but got distracted along the cross-rift. In hindsight, perhaps I should have packed the compass too. I had gone there to assess the next phase of IRS but started poking at some calcited cobbles comprised of fractured speleothems. I got far enough along the rift to see that it is too narrow to pass higher up, but the interesting thing is that it appears to continue lower down, maybe dropping. There is good air movement and a resounding echo. Frustrating. I’ve got a plan regarding the IRS and will try and sort it out for next week.

2nd November 2019

Report by Jon.

I was away digging Harry Thomas Cave on Gower this weekend; Jon supplied the following summary of events:

“Only three of the team (Jon, Jake and Duncan) were available to dig on this wet and blustery morning.  A prompt start was made.  Duncan took the lead position at the end of the Gnarly North, supported by Jake.  Jon stacked bags at the bottom of the slope.

 After the previous session, visions of simply removing the loose rocks from the floor and rapidly moving to the constriction were perhaps to be expected.  However, the digging was hard work.  The apparently loose rocks are somewhat calcited.  Progress was slow.

The floor leading up to the rift was further lowered, but a hard edge proved difficult to dig out and may need to be removed by other means.

All three of the team took a turn at digging before nature called and a departure was made.  No spoil was removed today.  A good hauling team will be required shortly.”

31st October 2019. It’s Hallowe’en!

Report by Vince.

With Jon.

No-one else was tempted by the joys of an evening in the Cold Gnarly North. No matter the two of us could get something done. The idea was that digging might be slower so we would loosen some material and fill a few bags so the weekend team would have a head-start; and the body in the lake would be occupied and too busy to think about being cold.

Jon went ahead and started digging, I cleared the filled bags and sporadic cobbles and stacked them neatly. There’s plenty of space available for temporary storage. We filled a couple of dozen or so bags then decided to have a peek at the prospects going forward.

Jon managed to wriggle on his back, into the cross-rift, to the right (~south) the rift pinches in, to the left (~north) the rift continues but a slab of calcite-coated rock obscured the view. We swapped places. I followed Jon’s lead and wriggled in on my back and with some effort was able to remove the slab and drag it back to Jon. The slab is aesthetically pleasing and can be relocated elsewhere. Then back for a better look. The cross-rift intersects the bedding and to the left (~north) continues, c.0.25m at its widest, and c.1.5m high, to a pinch-point low down. Here the rift appears to turn slightly and beyond the pinch-point widen considerably, there is an ‘echo’ and cool air movement (even Jon could detect it!). Immediately above the low pinch-point it looks passable. The prospects going forward look very enticing and we could be on the cusp of another significant development. There’s about 2 or 3m of hard digging required to gain access to whatever lies beyond. Some of you will see for yourselves on the weekend, you will be impressed, you too will be excited!

26th October 2019

Report by Vince.

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon and Duncan.

Some of the team came prepared for the wet conditions and getting beyond the lake, sporting a variety of neo-fleece or old surfing wetsuits. Some weren’t quite as prepared.

While I went ahead and carried on with the digging, there was a pile of filled bags and rubble leftover from last weekends endeavours. The accumulation of debris was hauled away by Jon, Duncan and Brockers to Jake in the lake where it was stored awaiting removal later. I also wanted to check if there was any requirement for the further application of chemical enhancement during the coming week. It was soon apparent that this would not be necessary. Ahead the digging comprises an accumulated layer of fractured calcite flowstone and fine sediment overlying thin bands of more competent calcite. These layers can be levered off with a bar. Below these more calcite but slightly degraded and mixed with finer sediment, although some areas are calcited and need a more sustained effort to break it up. The loose material needs to be dragged back to a position where it is easier to bag it up.

Eventually, the call came from the lake that there was a considerable pile of spoil to be hauled out to the surface. The team moved back to start the clear-out.  I stayed where I was for a short while to prise out some calcited cobbles to gain a tantalizing glimpse into whatever lay beyond. It appears that we are about to intersect a cross-rift with a bit of an echo and some air movement, interesting. To the north (?) I could see some open space, albeit rather constricted, perhaps 2 to 3m, I couldn’t quite see what was in the other direction. We’re not going to get a better look without a lot more digging yet. I moved back to take over from Brockers in the lake. A total of 62 skip loads went out to the surface; 48 filled bags and 14 loads of rock to be added to the wall at some point in the future.

Those that had not been so well prepared grumbled about being cold. No-one was too sympathetic, and we made our way back to the farm.

The prospects in the cave look interesting, that’s a good way to finish a session!

19th October 2019

Vince was attending the BCRA 30th Cave Science Symposium being at the British Geological Survey, Keyworth followed on the 20th October by a field trip to Creswell Crags. This account of the activities at Hallowe’en Rift on Saturday was provided by Jon:

“The sagest of the elders took a leave of absence and a small turnout was expected. Jon, Duncan, Jake and Nick were preparing to depart when a storm arrived in the form of the hut warden, Paul, back from his sabbatical. At the farm, Mike was a late arrival, turning up after his preferred digging session was cancelled.

The team divided in two, based on the members’ dress sense.  Jake was dressed in his pub clothes and Mike was dressed for a dig elsewhere. Nick brought a wetsuit in preparation for his expected position within his lake. The others were suitably dressed for underground activities. I won’t comment on frocks.

Initially, Paul and Nick went to the dig face and between them managed to stack bags and rocks back at the corner. The remainder of the team cleared the spoil from the previous digging session, which had been stacked at the junction. Mike and Jake then moved on to surface wall-building activities, while the others re-organised themselves underground.

Paul now took the lead, supported by Jon, and Duncan cleared the spoil at the corner. As the tide was high, wet-suited Nick gallantly stacked in the lake. Paul concentrated his digging efforts on the left-hand side, up towards the calcite feature. At close of play, this was clearly visible. Loose rocks and gravel were removed. The floor now needs to be lowered. A small entrenching tool or spade may be useful next time, but nothing more technical is needed at present.

Pub time approached and the team moved out to clear the lake of spoil. The water remains! At the dig face there are now a dozen or so bags stacked and ready for removal, along with half as much of rock.

57 bags and 25 loads of rock were removed to the surface before the team retired to a local hostelry for light refreshments.”

17th October 2019

With Duncan, Tav, Jake, Jon, Nick and Mike.

A big turn-out this evening, all eager to enjoy the benefits of a good digging session…

The last application of IRS has the desired effect and there was plenty of rock and gravel to be removed. Tav was digging, filling bags and rolling rocks behind him, where I was immediately behind loading and guiding the skip around the bend. Jon was at the next bend hauling and guiding the skip along it’s way to Mike at the corner north of the lake. The load was transferred to the next skip. Duncan has prepared for his session in the lake and had donned a wetsuit and was adamant that the water did not require bailing. The effects of the sloshing water were apparent later when the wooden ramps at either end of the lake began to float. Nick was out of harms way at the intermediate corner where he was surrounded by solid rock and had no tools. There was a steady flow of bags and rocks to keep him occupied too. Jake was at the Junction, this evening’s final destination for the spoil. All the spoil remained underground awaiting removal to the surface on the next session, Saturday.

Back at the dig, when most of the loose stuff had been cleared away along with some large slabs of fractured rock and calcite a better view of the prospects ahead was possible. It looks interesting and there are tantalising glimpses, but this is Hallowe’en and more digging is required yet. There are options to the left- and the right-sides and air movement can be detected. Another application of IRS is not immediately needed as there is plenty of loose stuff and fractured/shattered rock to be prised free. We have gained a couple of metres or so extra length to the cave this session and it won’t be too long before we’ll have to think about the next staging position, either north of the lake or in it. The problem with stacking in the lake is the water will deepen and we might not be able to find all the spoil.

Wasps nest in the beech tree near to the cave entrance. The wasps have hanging around outside for a couple of weeks now.

15th October 2019

With Roz.

A return to the Cold Gnarly North, beyond the lake to continue the quest for the northerly passage, yet to be discovered. There are high hopes. A total of five holes (3no. 550mm length, 2no. 400mm length, all 12mm diameter) drilled and filled, well tamped and fired from the middle of the lake.

A restricted glimpse into whatever lies beyond.

It was a challenge to keep the kit out of the water, especially the drill and lithium ion batteries. Should be stuff to clear on Thursday evening (Wookey Hole dig is flooded at present and I’m at the BCRA Cave Science Symposium at BGS, Keyworth on Saturday).

A quick stop at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for some refreshments and then home.

12th October 2019

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

After the recent heavy rain, it wasn’t too surprising the ‘lake’ was no longer dry, it had filled with water to a substantial depth. Jon had drawn the short straw, it was his turn in the ‘lake chamber’ and much of his time was to be occupied with pumping/bailing the water, in between emptying and loading skips. Jake, on the other hand, was most comfortable in the dry, dusty dig. Unfortunately, Jake had worn his pub clothes underneath his caving oversuit and had to cross the lake to get to the dig. Caving kit next session! Tav was next in-line, wallowing in a recurring puddle of my creation as I emptied skip loads of water into an inclined dip in the bedding, where Tav had chosen to lie. Duncan hadn’t needed to venture beyond the lake and was comfortable (his words!) at the intermediate corner. Nick had been left to his own devices at the Junction, which turned out to result in a rather disappointing outcome. On our return from beyond the lake thoroughly soaked through we had then to wallow in the complete mess that Nick had created! And there is a large boulder right in the way of operations.

At the dig, Jake had cleared the debris, frustratingly still can’t quite see ahead, but the area is clear enough for the next application of IRS. There’s a block of conglomerate exposed so something solid to drill into, the quantity of calcite here is problematic. It will be a challenge to get the drill and equipment bags across the lake and keep them dry.

55 loads were removed from the cave to the surface, a few of those were completely un-necessary.

8th October 2019

Vince and Roz.

Back again! Another look into the space beyond, it becomes more enticing every time I look at it.

Striving for the space beyond!

6no. holes (5no. to 400mm and 1no. 550mm length, 12mm diameter) were drilled and filled, spaced to shake-up the calcited rocks and blocks of conglomerate. Fired from the ‘lake’ chamber, no wetter than it was yesterday evening. All sounded good, flying rock was heard. Should be stuff to clear on the weekend.

5th October 2019

Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick, Tav and Pete Bolt.

The main task of the morning was to clear up after another application of IRS. With a team of six we could get the spoil back to the Junction. I went ahead to reel in the wire and to check that all had gone according to plan. It had and there was plenty of debris. I moved back to the dry ‘lake’ and Nick set about filling bags and shifting fractured rocks. The initial line-up was; Nick clearing, Jake and Tav moving the spoil away and transferring the spoil into the skip hauled by me in the lake chamber, the load dumped into the next skip, hauled away by Pete at the intermediate corner and then, to Jon at the Junction where the spoil was temporarily stashed.

Things were progressing smoothly, then I needed a comfort break and returned to the surface, Pete and Jon moved one position forward. I returned, relieved, and took up position at the Junction for a short while. Then Jake passed by needing a comfort break, so we all moved forward one position. Meanwhile, the spoil was still being cleared away despite the positional changes.

A rumour had been spread from the ‘north’ that things had gone from “looking good” to looking “very good”. Hammering could be heard in the distance and spoil removal had stalled. Some of the team headed back to start clearing the stash of filled bags and rocks out to the surface. I wanted to get a look at the end to plan for another mid-week application of some chemical persuasion and Pete also wanted to see the current end, so we moved forward to join Nick.

Nick was trying to coax a couple of obstinate boulders out of their position where they were impeding the view of the space ahead. They were loose but there was not quite enough gap for their removal. Eventually, with a combined effort the offending rocks were removed and a good look at the prospects ahead was possible. It looked good, straight ahead was open space, about 2m length x c.2m width x c.0.2m height, there appears to be a continuation to the left (?north) but this cannot be confirmed yet. There is air movement. The initial progress forward is constricted by calcited boulders that will require some loosening; the mid-week task is clear. If all goes to plan, we’ll get an even better look at it next weekend.

Satisfied with the prospects we headed out to help clear the cave of spoil, 54 loads in total – 34 bags and 20 skip-loads of rock. Pub time.

Both digs (Wookey Hole and Hallowe’en Rift) have positive outcomes this week. How good is that!

1st October 2019

Vince and Roz.

We got caught in a heavy rain shower as we walked up across the field into the wood. Underground it was relatively dry including the “lake”.

At the aven, the effort was concentrated around the ‘wobbly’ rock to the right-side of the aven. There seems to be some air movement emanating from the currently restricted space beyond. It looks interesting enough, let’s see how it develops. 5no. holes, 550mm length x 12mm diameter, drilled and filled. The evenings task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion from the “lake” chamber. All good!

Drilling holes with the new Bosch hammer drill.

Back on the surface, the heavy rain had ceased, just drizzly rain. Should be plenty to shift on Saturday.

28th September 2019

The following report was written by Jon: 

“With some members away at conference, some away on courses and others convalescing overseas, the Saturday meeting was barely quorate.  Tav, Nick, Jake and Jon attended; just enough to clear spoil back to the Lake.

The team made a prompt start, arriving early at the hut and finding it in a remarkably clean and tidy state.  Knowing that the Hut Warden was overseas, the team quickly concluded that Ladies Day had been a huge success.  A motion was proposed and passed uncontested; henceforth, women will be allowed to enter the changing hut.

In an extraordinary departure from previous practice, the team immediately identified the correct key and took it with them to the entrance rift.

The aim of the day was to remove the bang debris from Vince’s midweek visit.  Jon took the lead position and was presented with a veritable scree-slope.  Once cleared, the access into the Aven was somewhat wider than previously.  On the right-hand side, below the Aven, small fractured pieces of rock were removed from around the calcited blocks, one of which is now loose but still in place.  It is now possible to see beyond the blocks.  The view is similar to rest of the cave, appearing to be a shallow bedding with airspace above. 

Given the recent rainfall, it was expected that the ‘lake’ would be full.  None of the team had brought a wetsuit, but Tav volunteered to take that position.  Surprisingly, the ‘lake’ was completely dry.  32 bags of spoil and 18 skips of rock were initially stacked there, and then removed to the surface.  The team then retired to a local hostelry for light refreshment.”

24th September 2019

Vince and Roz.

Continued the expansion of the passage into the aven in the Cold Gnarly North. It’s still nice and dry despite the recent heavy rain.

4no. holes to c.500mm length x 12mm diameter drilled and filled. Fired from the Junction, sounded okay. There should be some work for the Saturday team. Me, I’m off to Hidden Earth, the national caving conference being held this year at Glyndwr University, Wrexham where I’ve booked a stand for the BCRA Cave Archaeology Special Interest Group (SIG).

21st September 2019

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

A good strong team today meant that the spoil could be transported back to the bottom of the entrance rather than being temporarily stashed in the lake chamber.

I went ahead to reel in the wire and to check that all was good with the IRS, and it was.

There was plenty of gravel, cobbles and boulders of fractured rock to be shifted (I offered to swap places with Jon and Nick but they both declined). As the spoil was removed the then the passage became more spacious and was rather comfortable, digging was eventually possible from a hands and knees position and the skip run was fine. When the loose stuff had been cleared away there was some hammer and barring to be done to remove most of the fractured rock leaving a clean ‘face’ for the next application of IRS on Tuesday. It’s a bit easier to get into the aven but still on the snug side, that can be remedied. Jon came forward to have a look at the future digging prospects before going back to the cave entrance to assist in clearing the spoil out of the cave. A total of 71 loads were hauled out of the cave, 47 bags and 24 loads of rock. Another fine effort!

17th September 2019

Vince, Jake, Jon and Tav.

Jake, Jon and Tav cleared the rocks that were still in the cave and did some walling on the surface. The large rocks that had accumulated around the cave entrance were used too.

Me, I made my way to the Cold Gnarly North to drill holes, 5no. (split 2no. and 3no.) pilot holes, 250mm x 14mm, then extended to 400mm x 12mm (first battery ran-out on the 5th extension). The group of 3no. holes placed on the right side of the approach to the aven were extended further to 550mm x 12mm. these were a bit problematic, the bit kept jamming, not good rock, a lot of calcite vughs, slowed the process somewhat. Eventually though all the holes were filled, tamped and wired ready to go. Both bags packed, drill bits in the tube, these were pushed ahead while I reeled out the wire. The evening’s task brought to a satisfactory conclusion at the Junction. Hopefully, there will be plenty to clear on Saturday.

The cave entrance has another replacement lock to secure it.

14th September 2019

Vince, Tav, Duncan, Jon and Jake.

Met up with Tav and Duncan at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn at the usual time, 10:00. Jon cycled to the farm as he’s carless – something about pheasants and windscreens. Jake later joined us underground.

The bang did good! We were greeted by a considerable pile of fractured rock and gravel. The larger lumps of rock were reduced to more manageable pieces, the gravel was put into bags and the spoil made its way to be temporarily stashed in the ‘lake’ chamber. The loose material had been removed, some hammer and chisel work cleared the fractured material from the roof. It had taken quite a while to clear the debris so only the bags of gravel made it out to the surface, the rocks remain. We plan to return on Tuesday evening for a rock removal session, also another application of IRS. It’s all starting to come together. Happy days!

9th September 2019


I have purchased a replacement drill, this time I’ve opted for a Bosch 36v heavy duty professional model. The drill has two 2ah batteries and I was unsure how many holes I would be able to drill so decided to go and find out before purchasing any supplies. I also wanted to photograph an interesting exposure of calcite flowstone before it gets covered in mud.

Underground, I took the photographs first. Seems like more evidence for the effects of Pleistocene frost/ice on speleothems in Hallowe’en Rift. An interesting point, recently I have read several archaeological excavation reports for site such as Paviland Cave and Pontnewydd Cave (both in Wales) that record fragments/clasts of speleothem within a matrix of other sediment, some of this has been dated. The dates have some correlation with glacial/interglacial cycles during the Quaternary.

Calcite flowstone exposure in the Cold Gnarly North

Onto the drilling, the first thing I noticed is that the Bosch drill is lighter and smaller, easier to use in constricted space. 1st battery: 4no. pilot holes 250mm x 14mm, these were then extended using 400mm x 12mm drill bit. The 1st battery just started to fade on the 4th extension, so hardly used the 2nd battery. Very pleased with the tool. Packed everything away and left the cave. I’ll be back tomorrow to finish the job!

7th September 2019

Vince, Tav, Jake and Jon.

Me first reeling in the wire, followed by Tav, Jake and then Jon who, nursing a tennis elbow, opted for the more spacious and now dry “lake” chamber.

There was a bang to clear and a very good job it had done too. Some of the loose gravel and cobble-sized fragments were bagged up before getting to work on the large slab of rock that had been detached from the roof. A few hefty blows with a lump hammer and then used a bar to prise apart the fractured slab the resultant lumps of rock were rolled back to Tav. A few of the lumps were further reduced before being dispatched by Jake to Jon in the “lake” chamber where the debris was temporarily being stored. Then we returned to removing the remaining gravel and cobble-sized fragments.

All the debris cleared, a brief visit to the aven with Tav and a short discussion about prospects and the next step – another application of IRS to ease access into the aven and improve the route for the removal of spoil in the future. There is a low, possibly phreatic, arch just to the right-side of the squeeze into the aven that might be an option for some further attention.

Then all back to clear out the “lake” chamber and get the spoil to the surface. Thirty bags were hauled out but, as time was getting on, about twenty skip loads of rock were left at the bottom of the entrance for another day. Good session!