26th December 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Nick. and Duncan.

Boxing Day digging session, Nick and Duncan were up front, although I expect Nick did the vast majority of the digging. Jake was at the junction, I was at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers did the hauling on the surface. I did offer to rotate places with Brockers if he wanted but the offer was declined, the rate of bags today was not quite as relentless as of late. It was too much to expect Brockers to empty the bags as well, not an easy task at the best of times, and we finished filling and the hauling bags to return to the surface and empty out the bags. After quite a lot of rain recently the spoil heap shows some signs of slumping and the big old beech tree has finally fallen down.

Nick suggested there is a possibility that a solid floor is slowly being revealed, or it might be a rock ledge, time will tell.

It was still grey, wet, and windy (Storm Bella is forecast to arrive tonight) not a pleasant day.

19th December

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

A fine body of men filled with vigour and ready for the usual Saturday digging session in Hallowe’en Rift, socially distanced, of course. The expansion work in the, still dry, Soft South continues.

Brockers at the forefront, I was backing up, doing some digging and loading the filled bags into the skip. Duncan was hauling from the junction corner; Nick was at the bottom of the entrance transferring the load into the next skip to be hauled out to the surface. Jake, Jon and Tav were rotating the surface duties, Jake had begun the session underground but difficulties with emptying the filled bags required a reallocation of personnel and so up he went to the surface.

Brockers filling bags

Although it is non-stop the digging is probably the easiest task of the day (at present) and another 100+ bags were filled, dragged, hauled up the shaft and, with some difficulty, emptied onto the burgeoning spoil heap. We ran out of bags to fill around 13:00 signalling the end of the digging session. By this time the hauling rope is caked with mud and it is hard to maintain a good safe grip.

December, post-‘lockdown 2’

Following another period of disruption caused by UK Government imposed ‘lockdown’ , the digging continues!

A mellow morning spent digging in the Soft South. Sitting back and observing the roof and thinking back to an exercise a few years ago when Alex and I tried to establish the depth of the entrance – we dug down c.2.5m below existing floor level but never did find solid rock. In the Soft South, at the end of the session we did not count the bags that had been hauled out to the surface and emptied onto the spoil heap, but it must have been well over 50. Good session.

Anther week, another session, and back to the Soft South, which was surprisingly dry. There had been quite a lot of rain on the north side of the hill last night/early this morning.
Once we had agreed our strategy and method it was all go, everyone seemed to be doing something; I was digging, Jake was digging, Nick was doing his own thing and Brockers, in between stacking bags in the entrance, was breaking up rocks with the sledge hammer, the rocks had been supplied to him by Nick. It was all very industrious! Sitting back for a moment, looking around and pondering, this is a big section of passage and we have decided to find out just how big. It is also easy digging, ridiculously easy. And there is the added bonus that it is completely “twat-free”. Many years ago, Willie Stanton predicted that this area might be a suitable spot for ‘archaeological/paleontological’ deposits or artefacts, it will be interesting to test this prediction. By the end of the session, all the available space in the entrance had been completely filled with bags and there was a boulder ruckle. No-one really counted but approximately 100 bags and 20 skip-loads of rock were hauled out to the surface and added to the spoil heap. Below ground, the difference was noticeable. A superb session and it is so good to get back to proper digging with your mates!

And so it goes on, the full quota of six today. Continued the Soft South excavation which, again, was still dry after recent rain, just like last weekend. Jake and Nick digging and filling bags, I was at the junction/corner after a quick foray to the Sunny South-West to retrieve some tools that were left there. Duncan was at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers and Tav worked in tandem on the surface, well aware that the supply of filled bags from the cave would be relentless with two digging. And the digging is really easy. About 110 filled bags were hauled out and emptied onto the spoil heap. It is looking quite interesting down in the Soft South, not only is it a big sediment “passage” but it appears that it might go deep too. A vertical face is being revealed with fluted calcite flowstone, the next few sessions will reveal more.

Into the Soft South
Digging underway!
Sediment deposition layering

We are leaving some sediment in-situ to see if the layering within the sediments will inform about flows and fill processes. From the small section(s) already exposed it is clear that many events have occurred in the past. At this stage we are following the downwards trend of the sediment layering. It is clear that more research is required, and this is ongoing.

The next instalment. It is still nice and dry in the Soft South and the expansion works continued. Tav and Jon were upfront, both were digging and filling bags. Brockers was at the junction, in between bags he was scraping the slop from the skip route and filling bags. I was at the bottom of the entrance hauling away the filled bags and transferring the bags into the skip to the surface where Jake were hauling out and emptying the bags onto the spoil heap. There were just over 110 bags hauled up the entrance and emptied. The quantity of sediment removed each session from the Soft South means that there is a noticeable difference to the dig at the end of each session. The impression that there is a deep, sediment filled pot has not changed yet. It was another jovial “twat-free” session with lots of nonsensical banter and laughter. This is proper digging!  

31st October 2020, and it’s Hallowe’en!

Vince, Nick, Jake, Jon, and Brockers.

Before we ventured underground, we gathered around the cave entrance for a discussion regarding the different digging opportunities open to us. There was scope for two diggers to go to the Cold Gnarly North, others might continue in the Sunny South-West, and there was always the Soft South to fall back on, we could carry out one or decide on a variety of permutations. Eventually, to aid the decision-making process, we went underground to check conditions, there has been quite a bit of rain recently.

Brockers made a beeline to the Soft South and quickly made the decision to remove the accumulation of ‘slop’ there, after bailing the puddle of water. After a secondary sub-discussion, Nick was on his way to the Sunny South-West and I decided to join him, Jake and Jon opted to assist Brockers. No-one ventured to the Cold Gnarly North.

In the south-west, me and Nick reviewed the options and previous digging efforts and came up with a plan and an alternative random dig site, Nick was happy there was somewhere he could dig. I left him to it and returned to the junction to haul the loaded skips from both the ‘sloppy’ south and the more ‘random’ south-west’, it was going to be a busy morning. Jake shifted position to stack the bags in the entrance, those bags of wet slop at the bottom were going to be a ‘joy’ to empty later!

All was calm and mellow, the diggers were happy in their respective endeavours, after the recent spate of breakthroughs and explorations, it was something of a relief to return to ‘proper’ digging, lying around in wet, claggy mud and filling bags with slop and sediment, ultimately to empty them again later in the morning, albeit in a different location.

It was a good session, in excess of 80 bags were hauled out of the entrance, the contents of the bags then coaxed, with varying difficulty, out onto the spoil heap. And the sun was shining for us, all was good!

The morning was finished off with refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. Unbeknown to us then, probably the last Saturday pub visit for several weeks to come!

24th October 2020

Vince, Nick, Jake, Jon and Brockers.

After some discussion at the entrance me and Nick went along to the “Cold Gnarly North” while Jake, Jon and Brockers returned to the “Sunny South West”.

We had decided to revisit the “Cold Gnarly North” to retrieve the empty packs of bags, tools and other sundry items including my ‘bang’ wire. While we were there, we had a chat regarding digging options and decided that we should leave some tools and bags there so that digging might be continued although it would be a bit on the slow side. The rest of the stuff was dragged back to the junction, after rearranging some of the skips to do so, where it could be utilised further.

The others had amassed quite a pile of bags and rocks, so Nick went out to the surface, and I took a position at the bottom of the entrance, and the backlog was cleared. It was reported back that while the initial digging had been productive it then petered out as calcite/conglomerate obstructions were encountered. This restricted the options and digging became difficult, a rethink is needed.

We returned to the surface to empty bags. That done, the cave secured, back to the farm to change. Refreshment was taken at the Hunter’s, thankfully the rain keeping the grockles away and there was plenty of seating available.

17th October 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

The winter migration to the ‘Sunny South West’ continued. We had a plan, well, more of a cobbled together idea really that came to fruition. Brockers sourced a generator, Jake brought along his 110v Hilti breaker, there were cables a plenty and everything was carried up the hill to the cave.

Jake went ahead to the ‘Sunny South West’ with his breaker and dragging one end of a cable with him, Jon ventured forward to lend assistance. The rest of us milled around on the surface until the generator was fired up and running. Nick went underground, soon followed by Brockers; I was left on the surface to baby-sit the “genny”. I occupied some of my time with spoil slope management and adding more stones to the wall. Underground, Jake was breaking-out rock, Nick had started an alternative route, Brockers and Jon assisting wherever they could. Eventually, there were bags to haul up to the surface and empty onto the spoil heap. When all the team were reassembled on the surface a discussion ensued, it was apparent that the breaker had not been a great success, but Nick’s dig has some promise. The upshot is that we have a viable dig to pursue, we were happy with that. All that was left to do was secure the entrance and lug all the paraphernalia back down to the farm.

10th October 2020

Vince, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

A mellow morning digging session back in the “Sunny South-West” passage. We had spent quite some time enlarging this passage only to put it on the ‘back-burner’ in favour of the “Cold Gnarly North”. Nick was poked into the rather constricted end and left to his own devices in an effort to make it a little bit larger. Digging was awkward so bag removal was steady rather than rapid, but progress was made. There were, of course, the usual discussions about the best way to proceed.

3rd October 2020

Vince, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

Back to the east-side of the entrance to have another, more concentrated look at the potential leads we noted last weekend. We split into two pairs with each tackling a lead. Jon and I looked at a location just beyond the climb down, “Thalt shall not dig there”, that leads into the bedding, while Jake and Nick explored to the left-side of the breakthrough point into “An Unexpected Development (AUD)”.

Jon and I cleared a narrow path through the fractured flowstone following a roof ‘trough’ for a few metres to reach a calcited blockage and no real prospect of progressing further. A tiny airspace can be seen to follow a phreatic arched passage, but it is probably not worth the effort. Jake and Nick had a bit more success in extending the low bedding that had been entered last session and added about a body length to it. This is heading towards the AUD extension to the right of the breakthrough, not much to be gained pursuing this any further. In the aven area, calcite is the problem, the gaps are small, and the flowstone is thick and fills them all. Can’t ‘bang’ it and can’t budge it with a bar either. So, all in all, inconclusive. It will require some thought. We called it a day.

26th September 2020

Vince, Jake, Brockers, Jon and Nick.

Following a brief discussion during the mid-week, we had made the decision to cross to the other side and revisit “An Unexpected Development” for a change of scenery and while it is still dry in the cave. I had packed a bag with ladder, rope, slings, and carabiners necessary for descending the rift.

So off we went. It was interesting along the way to find that a thin layer of calcite had been precipitated onto the floor and walls of the passage indicating that the water has a high level of carbonate in solution. Also noted were lots of moth and large fly wings scattered on the floor.

In “An Unexpected Development” the rift was rigged, and we all descended to the bottom. The tools that had been left there were collected together and the skips, these were hauled up the rift to be taken out ready for use elsewhere. A climb at the bottom of the rift up through jammed boulders of fractured calcite was completed, this led nowhere. The rift tidy we made our way back up and out.

On the way we stopped to look at some potential leads that had been overlooked when we had broken through in the extensions. At least two of them warrant closer attention and we plan to return to follow them up. A change is as good as a rest and so we will leave the Cold Gnarly North and do something different, for a while. Our prodding added about 10m to the length of this area. It had been a pleasant foray to the east-side.

12th September 2020

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

Missed last weekend (5th-6th September) as I was excavating at Bagpit with Professor Danielle Schreve and Ali Moody to extract some Pleistocene animal bones, mainly aurochsen and horse. This meant that there was nothing to clear this weekend.

A bit of a re-assessment at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North. The potential route through the small phreatic “eye-hole” appears to be closing down, it is only few centimetres wide. Last week’s clearing session had removed some of the sediment in the floor, so a decision was made to widen the passage in a downwards direction.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team decided to have a good tidy up, digs seem to accumulate lots of bits of tat and, of course “dead” skips. A bit of digging was also carried out in one of the alternative dig spots.

Refreshments were partaken in the garden of the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. It was a pleasant sunny afternoon.

5th September 2020

I was occupied with another excavation project this weekend, but activities in Hallowe’en Rift carried on regardless.

Jon’s report on Saturday’s dig:

“A reduced team of four diggers (Paul, Nick, Jake and Jon) attended this session, all complying the request to be prompt. In the absence of the most sage of the Elders, Paul was appointed Leader for the day.

It was a fine September morning; not hot but with warmth in the sunshine. This promoted a slight feeling of apathy within the team.

Some discussion was held about whether or not to take a drill underground to prepare some holes for a subsequent bang. With the main intention being to haul out the previous bang debris, and a limited team size, it was decided to concentrate on just clearing out.

Some discussion was then held about whether or not to take a hammer drill underground to chisel out rock loosened by the previous bang. Unfortunately, despite a very thorough search of Nick’s car, involving the entire team, an appropriate chisel was not found.

At the entrance, our Leader indicated that Nick should go to the dig face, supported by Jon. Jake was at the Aven, leaving our Leader to stack bags (and dig?) at the bottom of the slope.

The bang debris was duly removed, amounting to 21 bags and 4 loads of rocks. The team then retired to a local beer garden for light refreshment.”

29th August 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Duncan and, another late show by Nick (it is becoming a habit!).

The usual thing, up to the end, check all was good and start clearing the debris. All the loose material loaded directly into the skip to be bagged elsewhere. Some hammer and chisel work removed fractured rock from the walls.

At present, the way forward looks a bit disappointing having closed down considerably and has become choked with fine gravel. There is still air movement coming from the slot. It would seem that following the narrow slot in a northerly direction remains the best option but probably need to start going downwards too. That is the plan.

Refreshments were partaken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

22nd August 2020

With Brockers, Jake, Jon, and a later appearance by Nick.

At the end of Cold Gnarly North, all was as it should have been. To save time I got on with the clearing of debris, hammer and chiselling the fractured rock from the walls as well. The “eye-hole” has been opened enough to get a glimpse of what lies beyond, frustratingly, it is not as open as hoped for. A slot continues in an approximately northerly direction, but it is narrow, that said, there is air movement emanating from it, that, at least is encouraging. There was some loose debris in the slot that was not possible to remove, it might widen lower down. The expansion work continues.

Refreshments were enjoyed in the garden at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

Log entry, 16th August 2020

It’s been a bit hectic lately and haven’t had the time to update the blog until now.

15th August 2020

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

Might be under some time pressure today as the Hunter’s has re-opened at last. As expected, the main topic of conversation at the farm was – the pub’s open!

Got to the dig after reeling in the wire, all was good, Jon declined the offer to swap places, so I got on with clearing the debris. All clear, the expansion works continued.

By the time I surfaced the team had gone, I secured the cave and returned to the farm, as expected there was no-one there, all had left. I found them at the Hunter’s, sat in the garden, in the rain but their little faces were beaming with happiness. Ah! The simple pleasures of a digging trip.

8th August 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jon and Duncan.

All good at the current end of Cold Gnarly North, Brockers cleared the loose debris and fractured rock, loading it directly into the skip. Back in the small chamber near the aven, I hauled the loaded skip back and emptied the contents into bags, transferred the filled bags to another skip which was hauled away by Duncan and on to Jon who temporarily stashed the filled bags in a convenient location awaiting removal later in the session. When all hade been cleared from the far end the team moved back and the bags were hauled out to the surface and emptied onto the spoil heap. Meanwhile, the expansion process continues.

I emerged from the cave into very warm sunshine. Refreshments at the farm, a chinwag and then home to clean and sort the kit. Off to Gower later this afternoon.

1st August 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jon, Tav and a late appearance by Nick.

At the current end of Cold Gnarly North, checked to make sure all was good before the morning’s activities got underway, quite a lot of gravel had had been ejected along the approach and needed tidying. Tav followed me up for a gander but declined the offer to swap places and clear so I got on with it. Loose debris was placed into the skip and bagged-up by Tav in the small chamber near the aven. The filled bags then hauled along to a temporary stash in the “spa pool”, now just a muddy puddle. The filled bags were moved to the surface and emptied later in the morning.

All cleared, a total of eight holes were then drilled, two clusters of 4no. holes, dimensions c.450mm x 12mm, placed on the right-side (roughly east) of the passage. One group to widen the rift a bit more at the end(?) near to the small phreatic tube and the second group placed to start enlarging the “eye-hole”. The conglomerate is variable with frequent calcited vughs and mud-filled joints. Tav returned from hauling bags to help with dragging out the kit. Holes were drilled, filled and fire from a safe distance, and I too, made my way out of the cave. On the surface the team had gone down to the farm, I secured the cave and went to join them

25th July 2020

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

Yep! Another bang to clear. At the dig I went along to check al was as it should be, all good I returned to the small chamber near the aven. Nick went up to clear the debris, I hauled the skip back and bagged the loose debris comprising gravel and cobbles of conglomerate. The filled bags placed into the next skip to be hauled away by Jon. The bag started its journey out to the surface, temporarily stored in the ‘lake’ now more a muddy puddle. About three dozen bags and an assortment of rocks made it out to the surface and not all of them came from the end.

When Nick had cleared the debris from the end, I went along to continue the expansion work. Today, 8no. holes, c.450mm x 12mm, 3no. to remove a bulge of rock on the left-side, 5no. on the right to open up access to the phreatic ‘eye-hole’. This is an interesting feature that needs further investigation. Holes drilled, Nick came back from assisting in hauling the spoil out to retrieve the drill bag and bit tube and take them out of the cave. The holes were then filled, wired. and fired (from a comfortable position) and I made my way out of the cave to join Nick on the surface. I was surprised to find a torrent of water flowing down the entrance and into the Soft South. Apparently there had a ‘monsoon’ Nick informed, the other team members had high tailed it back to the farm. The cave was secured, and we left too.

18th July 2020

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Nick.

Yesterday I had spent some time fettling a dozen skips for use in HR from six 25 litre containers supplied by Hugh Tucker, these were loaded into the van along with the rest of the kit, all prepped and packed, ready to go.

At the farm, the team congregated, the van unloaded, got changed and made our way up the hill, laden with various bits of kit and bags. Some of the skips were left in the shed to be used when required.

At the end of the Cold Gnarly North, last weekend’s application of IRS had done a good job and more space had been created, but first there was a pile of gravel and cobble size debris waiting to be cleared. We soon had a skip installed and with a few tweaks to get the correct length of hauling line, away it went filled with loose spoil. Jake was bagging up the skip contents down in the chamber near the aven before sending the bags on their way out of the cave. The skip worked a treat and it was a much more efficient method for spoil removal. Once the loose debris was cleared some work with hammer and chisel to remove some fractured flakes, it was time to have a good look at the end. The sloping floor of the passage leads downwards to another constriction, it appears to be blocked by sediment. However, interestingly on the right (east) side a small phreatic tube leads, after a metre or so, to what appears to be another ‘parallel’ rift. Fresh air seems to emanate from this direction, it is intriguing.

Anyway, to the job in hand. It was comfortable drilling today, plenty of room to sit and move around. A total of seven holes, 3no. on the left-side (450mm x 12mm) and 4no. on the right-side (3x 450mm x 12mm, 1x 600mm x 12mm), these were placed to widen the constriction and start to expand the small phreatic ‘eye-hole’. Brockers came back, after helping the team to remove the spoil from the cave (30 bags and 10 skip loads of rock), to help out with dragging my kit out. While he was waiting, he got to work with lump hammer and chisel to remove an irksome lump of rock that had impeded smooth passage of the skip.  

All drilled, filled and fired from a safe distance, the cave was vacated.

We’re back, and we have been busy!!!

4th July 2020

Vince, Jon, Jake, Brockers and Duncan.

It was pleasing to see a bigger pile of debris on arrival at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North, the bang had been effective. There was still a lot of gravel but more cobble and small boulder-size lumps too. The crystalline calcite band was gone, and more competent conglomerate was exposed, should make drilling holes easier. Unfortunately, the way ahead is not as open as hoped for, there is a large pendulous flake of rock barring further access or a good look at what lies beyond. What can be seen is the passage slopes down at about 40o leading about 2m to a small opening, the passage is about 0.75m wide (or will be when the flake is gone) and draughting still.

Once the loose debris was cleared, got to work with a hammer and chisel bringing down some more fractured rock, leaving a cleaner face for the next set of holes. A couple of holes were drilled into the pendulous flake and a group of holes placed to try and open access further. The holes, 4no. 600mm x 12mm and 2no. 450mm x 12mm, were filled and wired and ready to go. Jon came back, after helping to clear the spoil to the surface, to assist with the bags. The charge was fired successfully.

Exited the cave a bit later than usual, the team were waiting, the cave secured, we made our way down to the farm and refreshments. The Hunter’s Lodge Inn is not reopening yet.

11th July 2020

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

On arrival at the current end of the Cold Gnarly North once again it was pleasing to find a good pile of debris had been created. The pendulous flake of rock was almost gone, frustratingly, the way ahead is still constricted, and more chemical persuasion will be required. Clearing the spoil is not an easy task in the narrow passage, head first down a calcited slope, throwing the cobbles/boulders back and scraping the gravel backwards underneath your body. It is then bagged up in the constricted space and the filled bags dragged back along the rift to the next in line. We should sort out another skip but space to use it properly at the moment is lacking.

When the spoil had been cleared, we had gained a couple of metres or so, there is a gap to follow just too tight. The draught was not so strong today, but surface conditions were probably the cause of that, temperature about 15o and a high-pressure front moving across the southwest. The team set about removing the spoil from the cave while I set about drilling and filling another set of holes, 6no. 450mm x 12mm. the aim to remove more of the flake and expand the space at the end to create somewhere a skip can be loaded.

After helping to shift the spoil beyond the lake, Jake cemented another ramp to ease the movement of the skip, then came back to help drag out my kit bags. The morning was brought to a loud, satisfactory conclusion from the corner by the lake and I left the cave.

7th March

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

Report by 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

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

Report by 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

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

Report by 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

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

Report by 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

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

Report by 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

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

Report by Vince


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

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

Report by Vince


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

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

Report by Vince


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

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

Report by Vince


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

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

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!