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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 dig to the 'east' side of the entrance, leading to An Unexpected Development in August 2018, 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 also includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price, Mike Moxon and Matt Tuck. There has been occasional help from others including Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, and several appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

There have been visits from some notable experts in their various fields including: Charlie Self, Andy Farrant, Christopher Smith, Derek Ford, Joyce Lundberg, Don MacFarlane, Marc Luetscher and Gina Moseley. All have added to a better understanding of Hallowe'en Rift.

7th March

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, March 07, 2020 15:40:57

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers and Alex.

Prior to setting off up the hill to meet the team and go digging – another bang to clear, I spent some time charging drill batteries, cleaning the drill and ignition device and generally sorting out kit and sundry items.

Met at the Hunter’s as usual and drove down to the farm where we got changed and walked up the cave entrance. Once underground we were soon in our respective positions in the Cold Gnarly North ready for another good session.

At the end of the narrow rift there was the expected pile of debris, once again the rock had disintegrated into mostly gravel with some medium cobble-sized pieces of rock. I scraped the debris from the constricted rift back to Brockers who was bagging it up and passing the filled bags down the line to Jake, Jon and finally, Alex who stacked the spoil in the low, muddy corner ready to be shifted later in the morning. The gravel and rocks cleared there remained a pool of red muddy water, this I bailed into the passage ahead. The water drained away immediately without backing up, although I couldn’t hear it draining. Looking forward about 1m, the narrow rift appears to be blocked by calcite flowstone, however, there seems to be something going off to the left, difficult to know for sure until we get there. It’s still draughting, been working hard and haven’t overheated nor has the air quality diminished. The expansion will continue. Jake and Brockers both went to the end for a look and came back with the same conclusion.

It was time to move back and clear out the spoil, this was achieved in a couple of stages. On the surface about 25 bags were emptied onto the spoil heap, for some of the bags this had been their final journey, they had succumbed to the rigours of the trip in and out of the cave.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s as usual.



4th March 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Thu, March 05, 2020 06:26:03

Report by Vince

Vince

Stuff all prepped and ready to go, a new drill battery was delivered today, and I’ve charged that ready for use. Didn’t get underground until 19:30 this week so it was a later finish. Shouldn’t have rushed my dinner, it was now heavy in my stomach, and shouldn’t have worn a neo-fleece and long-sleeved thermal shirt. It was not a very comfortable trip.

I decided to bail the trench in the floor of the rift into the narrow slot, it didn’t drain away as quickly as expected. Bailed the puddle at the end of the narrow rift too. Continued the expansion of the narrow rift, it was, of course, awkward and always takes longer having to keep going backwards and forwards for this or that. There isn’t much room to manoeuvre. Eventually, 6no. 550mm x 12mm holes were drilled and filled, kit packed and retired to a safe distance to bring the task to a noisy conclusion.

Gave the pub a miss and headed home to sort out kit, some of it will be needed tomorrow evening for Wookey Hole.



29th February

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, February 29, 2020 15:52:13

Report by Vince

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

Another bang to clear. There was a pile of gravel at the end of the rift, very few lumps of rock though, must be “soft” rock just seems to disintegrate. There was the bonus of a puddle of water to lie in too, and the trench at the start of the rift had filled with water since Tuesday. We have had quite a lot of rain recently, another storm passing over this weekend, Storm Jorge. I’m a bit disappointed with the results of the bang really, just 14 bags of gravel and a couple of large cobble-sized fragments of rock. All was cleared by mid-day. There was a brief discussion with Nick and Jon re: the possibility of opening the very narrow slit in the floor where the water from the trench was bailed into (doesn’t back-up at all). The current end of the rift appears to be quite calcited, although there is still a draught. I will ponder on this for a while, wouldn’t like to give up on the rift until a conclusion is arrived at, one way or the other.

There was also a conversation about finding somewhere else to dig to fill the time rather than going to the pub early, perhaps a return to the south-west passage is on the cards.



25th February 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, February 26, 2020 06:34:47

Report by Vince

Vince

After collecting the supplies at 16:45, I was underground by 18:00. Arrived at the end of the Cold Gnarly North and was surprised to find that the trench in the floor of the rift hadn’t refilled with water. Perhaps Jon’s probing with the long bar on Saturday had the desired effect. However, there was a puddle of water at the business end. I decided to continue the with the passage widening and to remove the remaining bulge of rock in the floor. The 4no. were again widely spaced (in pairs) and I used a 12mm diameter drill bit, maximum depth c.550mm. While drilling the fourth hole the cutting tip sheared off possibly the result of accidentally dipping the bit in the puddle of water at the end. Luckily, I had spare bits and was able to drill a parallel hole (the broken tip was at the bottom of the other hole!). All holes drilled, filled and fired from a safe distance and I exited the cave. I was cold, so secured the cave and jogged back down to the farm to warm up a bit.

Didn’t stop at the pub went straight home to sort out the kit and get things drying out.



22nd February

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, February 23, 2020 06:36:56

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Jon, Brockers, Nick and Tav

Usual thing after the application of IRS, reeled in the wire, checked all was as it should be. It hadn’t got any drier along the rift at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, but there was a pile of fractured rock debris to shift. The gravel and cobble-sized lumps of fractured rock were scraped and passed backwards to Jake, who had a bit more space to bag it up. The spoil then moved along the line to be stacked on the “dry” north side of the “spa”.

When the spoil was cleared from the end and an idea of what actions were required next, Jake went along to the end to have a look. It’s a good lead with potential. That done, all shifted back to clear the spoil from the cave. Jake needed to avoid the “spa” as he had left his pub clothes at home, not an ideal move, good job he had his motorcycle gear.

Twenty bags were emptied onto the spoil heap. If the weather had been better, we might have mooched around on the surface for a while and built up the wall, it was quite a bit earlier than usual. No matter, the cave was secured, and we made our way back to the farm and, a little later, the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. Plenty of time to get back and watch 6 Nations Rugby.



18th February

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, February 19, 2020 06:30:03

Report by Vince

Vince

Collected supplies and straight to the farm to get ready to go into Hallowe’en Rift, underground by 18:20.

The plan was, rather than progressing the end, I would remove a few ‘bulges’ from the wall and make the passage a bit roomier. When I arrived at the end of the Cold Gnarly North, I was surprised at how wet the narrow rift had become. The trench in the floor was now a deep puddle and at the current end where I was to be working, it also now contained a puddle of water. I would have to be careful where I put the drill down, lithium ion batteries do not like water!

4no. holes were drilled, up to 550mm length x 10mm diameter, filled and fired from a safe distance. As usual, rock could be heard repositioning itself, should be stuff to clear on the weekend.



15th February

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, February 15, 2020 17:02:34

Report by Vince

Vince, Tav, Jake and Jon

A small band of stalwarts assembled at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, undeterred by ‘coronavirus’, an excursion to Cheddar or, shopping. As we did last weekend, the spoil would have to be removed in stages.

All into the van and down to the farm where we changed into caving kit and made our way up the hill into the face of Storm Dennis, in all honesty, it was a bit windy and not very wet, yet.

At the end of the narrow rift in the ‘far’ reaches of the Cold Gnarly North there was plenty of debris to be removed. It was hard work scraping the gravel and cobbles sized lumps back to Tav who was busy filling bags and passing them down the line to Jake and Jon. The spoil stacked at the bottom of the aven. It is just a tad constricted at the end of the rift and I reached the conclusion that I am going to make it bigger. The spoil cleared, or most of it, we shifted back to start moving the spoil out of the cave. From the aven it was moved and stacked in the ‘spa’, from here the next stop was the bottom of the entrance. Twenty bags and six skip loads of rocks were eventually emptied onto the surface spoil heap.

The walk down the hill to the farm was a bit windier and wetter, glad that it wasn’t cold as well!



11th February

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, February 12, 2020 06:27:58

Report by Vince

Vince

Collected the goods at c.17:00, stayed to chat for a short while before heading over to the farm. Materials prepped, got the oversuit on and up across the fields, into the woods to the cave entrance. Dragged myself and the kit to the Cold Gnarly North and along the narrow rift. There’s not a lot of space with me and two bags. Drill and filled four awkward holes. I’m considering making it bigger in the future. Retreated to a safe distance and brought the evening’s task to a noisy conclusion. Job done, dragged myself and the bags back out of the cave, back on the surface at 20:00.

It was cold walking back down the hill to the farm.



8th February

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, February 09, 2020 06:48:33

Report by Vince

Vince, Jon, Nick and Jake.

A smaller team assembled today so to get stuff out to the surface it was necessary to stage the bags and rock debris at several temporary places.

At the current end of the Cold Gnarly North we were greeted by a pile of gravel and fragmented rock, the result of the latest phase of IRS. I scraped the gravel and lumps of rock back to Jon who had a bit more space to put it into bags. The spoil was then passed back to Nick and Jake where it was stacked at the entry to the aven. When all was clean and tidy at the end, ready for the next application of chemical persuasion, we moved back to move the spoil to the next stage on the north side of the ‘spa’. We shifted positions again and it was my turn to feel the benefit of soaking in the cool mineral waters of the ‘spa pool’. The spoil had arrived at the Junction, some made it to the bottom of the entrance. All cleared from beyond the ‘spa’ the spoil was on its way to its final destination, to be deposited on the spoil heap. About 20 bags and several skip loads of rock was the tally for this session. Job done, we secured the cave and left, ready for some refreshment.



4th February

digging 2020 Posted on Tue, February 04, 2020 22:42:14

Report by Vince

Vince

Collected the supplies c.17:20 and headed over to Hallowe’en Rift, underground by c.18:30.

It is a bit constricted along the narrow rift with me, two bags full of kit and a drill tube rattling around. Some awkward manoeuvring required with the 600mm drill bit. Anyway, another 4no. holes were drilled, filled and fired. Should be something for the weekend, mobile rock was heard. Just got to wait a few days to get back and see the results.



1st February

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, February 02, 2020 08:01:15

Report by Vince

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

A strong team today. I went ahead to reel in the wire and check that all was as it should be. Everything was fine and I scraped the resulting debris from the IRS back to Brockers who had a bit more space to bag it up. The filled bags were passed back to Tav who was shuttling to and fro between the rift and the aven. The spoil was on a journey to the Junction, not sure where each of the other team members had positioned themselves.

Frustratingly, although the IRS had created plenty of gravel, further access along the narrow rift is still not possible. A clear sight of whatever lies beyond obscured by more flowstone, I was a little bit disappointed really. Never mind, we’ll just have to keep chipping away at it, metre by metre, until we come to s conclusion, satisfactory or not.

The end all cleared ready for the next application of IRS, we all moved back to clear the cave of spoil. About 30 bags and a few skip loads of rock were added to the spoil heap and some rock was added to the wall too.



28th January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 29, 2020 06:28:40

Report by Vince

Solo

Decided to collect supplies and go directly to the farm for an earlier start into Hallowe’en Rift. Material prepped and packed, I was all kitted up, everything ready to go, and then I realised…no drill bit tube! So, into the van and back over the hill to retrieve the tube from my tackle store. Half-hour wasted…no matter.

Eventually arrived at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, sorted the kit out and got to work. The small trench in the floor along the narrow rift now has a puddle in it. 4no. pilot holes, c.250 x 16mm drilled in the required spots then the holes were extended to c.500 x 10mm and filled. A little bit of tamping just to seal the holes, all wired-up, kit packed away, and retreated to a safe distance to bring the task to a noisy conclusion. Rock was heard re-locating, should be stuff to clear next session. Might be able to get a better glimpse of whatever lies beyond too.



25th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 26, 2020 06:41:39

Report by Vince

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon and Nick.

The application of IRS had the desired effect and there was a pile of rubble waiting to be removed. I passed the larger lumps behind and scraped the gravel back to Jake, who had a bit more space to bag up the debris and down the line the spoil moved. It’s quite a long way along the rift now so the team was fully employed. The bags and rocks joined last weeks stockpile on the north side of the “spa”. When the loose stuff had been cleared from the end, the hammer and chisel were used to remove fractured stuff from the wall, all clean and tidy for the application of the next phase in the coming week. Hopefully, next weekend we’ll get a better look at the way forward.

The end all tidy it was time to move back and clear the filled bags and rock from the cave. Brockers had been suffering from a cold so it was suggested a spell in the healing waters of the “spa” would do him good, at least that was the plan. Once a few teething problems, such as a missing skip, were ironed out the hauling process worked smoothly, and the spoil was delivered to the bottom of the entrance.

The last task of the session was to haul the spoil out to the surface; 50+ bags and a dozen or so skip-loads of rock were added to the heap. Some walling was also achieved. All cleared, the cave was secured and we departed.



21st January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 22, 2020 06:33:28

Report by Vince

Solo

Materials collected, prepared and delivered to the Cold Gnarly North. Another set of holes drilled, filled and fired. A bit awkward in the narrow rift but job done. It was loud. Something more for the weekend!

I shone my torch along the narrow rift ahead, another 3 or 4 metres, it looks interesting, there’s still the fine echo. I’m enthusiastic, as ever.

Jogged back down to the farm to warm-up a bit.



18th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 19, 2020 21:22:33

I was busy elsewhere this weekend attending a BCRA Special Interest Explosives Users Group (EUG) training event being held at Westbury Quarry. Others were left to clean up my mess.

Report by Jon

“Four of the usual suspects (Jon, Tav, Jake and Nick) assembled at the appointed hour.  It was a cold morning with fog lying across the levels.  Above the fog, the sun shone from a cloudless sky.  At the farm, the team encountered the odd combination of warm winter sunshine and smog.

With a small team, expectations on progress were relatively low.  More than a few minutes were spent passing the time of day with the farmer.  Eventually the team started up the hill, remembering to take the key despite the distraction of also taking a new lock.

Underground, Jon took the lead position, supported by Tav, with Nick stacking spoil.  All bang debris was bagged, stacked and subsequently restacked at the first corner beyond the spa.

Jake spent some time in the spa, trying to create a drain hole using a long steel rod.  He later joined the others. 

There was no significant change at the dig face; progress continues as before. 

On the way out, Nick went down to the lower passage to look for evidence of drainage from Jake’s efforts.  No evidence was seen and attempts at voice communication from the spa also failed.

The team then retired to a local hostelry for light refreshment.”



14th January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 15, 2020 08:58:09

Report by Vince

Solo

Another set of 5no. holes drilled, filled and fired. Continuing the expansion of the north west passage at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North. Awkward drilling position in the narrow rift. The echo from beyond is, as ever, intriguing.



11th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 12, 2020 06:52:27

Report by Vince

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

Nick, Jon, Brockers and me set off to the Cold Gnarly North laden with new skips and trays, hauling ropes and empty bags. Reeled in the wire along the way too. Jake and Tav opted to clear the accumulation of rocks from the bottom of the entrance and join us later, when required.

Beyond the “spa”, a new skip run was put into place at the current end, the worn-out skip was replaced, although separating the rope from the skip proved not to be straight-forward and took a bit of time to sort out. Nick had gone to the end of the rift to clear the debris created by Tuesday evening’s expansion. The loose gravel and cobble-sized stuff into bags, larger lumps were passed back. Then Nick got to work with a hammer and chisel, some substantial flakes were removed enabling a better glimpse beyond. There is still the echo and the air fresh, it always appears to widen just a bit further ahead. Until it does, the expansion work will need to be continued. All the loose debris had been cleared and the fractured rock removed, the end was ready for the next phase to be carried out during the coming week. We moved back, Jake and Tav joined us and the spoil was removed from the cave to the surface, including a large boulder that had been strapped into a drag-tray for the journey out.

Today’s tally: Jake and Tav had hauled out 36 skip-loads of rock, these had been added to the wall along with others from the stockpile. From the Cold Gnarly North the count was 23 bags and 9 skip-loads of rock including the big boulder. A good session!



7th January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 08, 2020 06:22:37

Report by Vince

Solo

Continuing the expansion of the narrow rift leading circa north-west at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North. Another half-dozen holes, drilled, filled and fired. Should be something for the weekend!



4th January

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, January 05, 2020 07:41:07

Report by Vince

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

During the coming year, 2020, the team at Hallowe’en Rift are embracing a new approach to health and well-being. We are not opposed to jumping on any bandwagon should the fancy take us. The whole digging experience is to be re-branded, the ‘lake’ once thought a place of foreboding now considered to offer ‘cold mineral water therapy’ an aid to focusing mind and body. The mineral rich sediments are recognized as having exfoliation qualities that unlock the secrets of soft, glowing skin. A digging session can provide an excellent full body work-out, no need for expensive gym membership, the provision of beer will be deemed appropriate. Remember, exercise isn’t just good for your body – it works wonders for the mind as well!

There now follows an update of the latest activities from the Hallowe’en Rift Spa:

When returning to the dig following another application of IRS, there is a sense of anticipation wondering, how has it gone, what, if anything, has been revealed? It’s usually a case of ‘just a little more is needed’ and today wasn’t going to be an exception. Still there was plenty of debris to be moved, in addition to the spoil already bagged up on Wednesday, so everyone was kept busy. As usual the spoil was dragged back to the north side of the ‘spa pool’ where it was neatly stacked awaiting removal later in the morning. The dig cleared ready for the next phase of expansion, it was time to move back and clear the backlog of spoil. Brockers was first in line to experience ‘cold mineral water therapy’ and took up his position in the ‘spa pool.’ Unfortunately, he didn’t really emerge as a ‘new man’ probably due to not being immersed in the waters for a long enough period, he was still talking afterwards. 54 bags were hauled out and emptied on the spoil heap and 6no. skip loads of rock joined the wall building supply. There is another estimated 30 loads or so of rock awaiting removal at the bottom of the entrance, but the consensus had decided it was pub time.

Jon had met Hugh Tucker who had provided six 25-litre containers ready to cut-up into skips, that’s a job for me later today after kit washing.



1st January

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, January 01, 2020 16:38:13

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake and Brockers.

There was a bit of a moment when Jake tipped out his caving kit to find he had left his helmet at home, a detour to Dinder was required. We returned to the farm where we met a rather confused/concerned Brockers, who being late had arrived at the farm to find our kit and no sign of us. However, distractions over, we changed and made our way up the hill to the cave.

Once underground we were soon at the dig where Jake and Brockers cleared the debris. I retrieved another bag of kit ready for later in the morning and then stashed filled bags at the base of the aven, rocks were just moved aside and left in a tidy pile. The IRS had worked well and there was plenty to shift. Loose debris gone some work with hammer and chisel produced some substantial flakes of rock and calcite. Bang debris cleared, we swapped places and I was able to get a look. One more bang might enable a squeeze into the narrow rift and get a better glimpse of what lies beyond, or not. It will be interesting to see on Saturday. Back to the job in hand, more holes were drilled and filled while Jake and Brockers set about improving the skip routes by removing quite a lot of rock along the approach passage. By the end of the session a considerable pile of spoil had been amassed. It had been an enjoyable and productive session, brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

It was busy in the pub but, thankfully, not too busy to deter us from refreshment!