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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 Caroline Allen, Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, and several appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasey.

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.

10th April

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, April 11, 2021 06:48:16

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

A ‘full’ complement of participants today, we split into two groups; one group on the surface consisting of me, Jake and Brockers, the second group underground. The extra pair of hands on the surface enabled spoil heap management to be undertaken and the slope was redistributed. The use of a digging hoe was effective in moving the spoil to pack the space alongside the retaining wall. During sediment movement any stones recovered were added to wall where required.

It was a full-on effort during the morning session with Jake and Brockers rotating the hauling and emptying of bags. About 120 bags and a few skip-loads of rocks were removed from the Soft South out to the spoil heap.

Lunchtime, it was pleasant in the sheltered sunshine.

After break, Mike, Jon and Tav took on the surface duties, me and Brockers were digging, Jake, Nick and Duncan moved the filled bags and sporadic rocks along the passage to the bottom of the entrance, where the spoil was pulled out to the surface. There had been a baulk section between the two areas of digging, this was now mostly removed to allow ease of movement. This had taken-up most of the morning session and part of the afternoon too. The rest of the second session concentrated on expansion. The small fissure in the roof (south-west face) was partially cleared adding a bit more height to the expanding ‘chamber’, lower down, a ‘spread’ of boulders and fragmented calcite is being exposed. Between the boulders appear to be tiny ‘voids’ and the floor seems to be dipping downwards.

Another 120 or so bags and some large rocks were moved up to the surface, the total of loads removed today, about 270, a very productive session. No photos today.

5th April

digging 2021 Posted on Fri, April 09, 2021 05:42:23

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

Jake had commented on Saturday “we need to make up for lost time”, Nick had earlier postulated “200 bags!”, so we gathered again for a ‘super’ session. The predicted wintry weather had not materialised, in fact, according to the surface crews, it was pleasantly sunny.

During the morning session, Jake and Tav took on the surface duties, the rest of were underground. Brockers joined us a bit later in the morning. The underground duties were rotated, and 124 bags were filled, dragged, and pulled up the entrance to be emptied onto the spoil heap.

At lunchtime, all gathered around the entrance for refreshments in the sunshine.

The afternoon session followed, this time Jon and Nick were on the surface, Brockers, Jake and Tav took it in turns to dig, Duncan and I hauled the bags and loaded the skip up to the surface. Another 120 or so bags went out of the cave plus a few skip-loads of stones, a total of 250 for the very productive ‘super’ session.

A large, displaced stalagmite, now cemented, has been partially exposed. Further evidence for frost/ice damage ? Photo taken 05/04/2021

3rd April

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, April 03, 2021 14:45:24

At last breaking free from lockdown and the digging team assembled for the first time in 2021. After a quick chat underground, I returned to the surface with Brockers to haul-out and empty bags, etc. The rest of the team mixed it up underground and shared the duties. The filled bags emerged from the cave at a steady rate, 115 of them and a few rocks too, all pulled out by Brockers! It was very pleasant on the surface in the early spring sunshine and sheltered from the breeze.

Brockers welcomes Duncan back to the surface!

The team enjoyed themselves so much that we have decided on another session on Monday.

A happy team after a good digging session.
More of the calcite flowstone exposed and a possible floor level is emerging.

20th March

digging 2021 Posted on Mon, March 22, 2021 18:56:56

Vince, Roz and Brockers.

Carried on where we left off last weekend. Extended the upper section up to a small fissure in the roof, cleared some loose stuff away but could not see much. The exposed deposition layering continues to be intriguing and of particular interest was some layers formed over fallen boulders.

Sediment deposition over fallen rocks.

The extra pair of helping hands resulted in more stuff out to the surface, 36 bags emptied onto the spoil heap this weekend. There is still more to be done and looking forward to the team reuniting when the lockdown is over.

Calcite flowstone (?) partially exposed at base of scale.

13th March

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, March 14, 2021 07:28:08

Vince and Roz.

6th March

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, March 14, 2021 07:23:34

Vince and Roz

28th February

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, February 28, 2021 14:10:36
Packs of empty bags and buckets stashed underground ready and waiting for digging activities to be recommenced. It has been far too long!!!

9th January

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, January 10, 2021 06:37:36
The cave entrance

Just me today. Some spoil management required, the morning spent trying to extricate my boots from especially glutinous mud!

The spoil heap

2nd January

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, January 03, 2021 08:18:45

A low turnout for the first digging session of 2021 but, not wholly unexpected. The UK government has imposed more corona-virus pandemic restrictions, that includes an ever-fluctuating and rather confusing “Tier” system. And, the weather is not great, temperatures are just about at freezing point or below and the roads are icy.

As a follow up to a suggestion that buckets might be much easier to empty, I had made a cradle/skip to pull buckets/containers up and out of the entrance rift and today was an opportunity to try the system out. I had a couple of buckets at home and also, had converted a couple of 20 litre drums into ‘suitable’ containers for spoil. As we were underground anyway, we decided to fill some bags as well. Brockers was upfront filling the bags, I cleared them away and filled the containers, the bags and containers then were shuttled along to the junction. To make it easier to get up and down the ever-deepening pit at the current end of the Soft South a ladder was put in place. It was revealed that the “solid floor” partially exposed last session, is probably a large boulder.

We filled about 30 bags (plus the other receptacles) then decided it was time to move the spoil up to the surface and add it to the spoil-heap. I can categorically state that the 4no. containers were far easier to empty than any of the bags. However, for the alternative to be a success we need a lot more containers when it is considered that we have 100+ bags available to be filled with sediment.

It was also noted that the spoil heap requires some attention, and a redistribution of sediment is necessary.

As I drove back across the border to a “Tier 3 Area” it was snowing quite heavily!