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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, their interest waned by the late 80s. 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 with Graham Johnson in December 1991. This led to the discovery of An Unexpected Development in August 2018. 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, and Paul 'Brockers' Brock. There has been occasional help from others including Mike Moxon, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price, Phil Coles, Caroline Allen, Mike Willett, Matt Tuck, 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.

25th March

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, March 25, 2023 15:53:29

With Brockers, Jake, Nick, Tav, and Jon

Bigger team this weekend meant spoil could be moved back to the entrance and temporarily stashed there.

At the current end of the NE trending passage beyond the pissing tree down in the deep Soft South, I was digging, Brockers clearing the filled bags, Jake and Nick were taking it in turns to haul the drag tray along and shuttle the spoil to the pot back along the NE passage. Tav was perched on the ledge with Jon at the bottom of the entrance stacking the filled bags ready to be removed later.

Digging wasn’t especially targeted in any one area this session, more a general tidying up on all fronts. Towards the end of the session cleared out the narrow rift opposite the access route to Trick or Treat (now about 2m above the current dig). The narrow rift wasn’t without interest and this area might develop with further attention in the future. Evidence for ice damage was noted in the roof.

About midday digging ceased and we all moved back to clear the filled bags from the cave and empty their contents onto the spoil heap, about 80-bags in total. Empty bags were hung on the line ready for packing up next session.

Hunter’s Lodge Inn for post-dig refreshments.

18th March

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, March 18, 2023 14:59:51

With Jon and Brockers

Low on numbers today but no matter we had digging to do.

Jon digging, I was clearing the filled bags back to Brockers (via a drag tray) who then shuttled the spoil along the passage to the bottom of the pot (Soft South). The digging was concentrated on the left-hand side (NW) to reach a possible wall and turning NE under an arched roof. Six packs of bags was the quota for this session before the move back to shift the filled bags up to the bottom of the entrance. The final stage of the morning was to haul the bags up to the surface and empty them – 59 bags was the final tally for the day.

Refreshments were taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

11th March

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, March 11, 2023 15:53:24

With Brockers, Jon, Jake, Tav, and Nick

Stronger team today, in numbers anyway!

Brockers and Jon took the prime spots today, upfront digging; Jake and Tav moving the spoil from the dig along the NE passage to the pot; Nick was on the slippery ledge, and I was at the bottom of the entrance where the filled bags were temporarily stored. Care taken to spread the bags out and avoided stacking them one on top of another, makes life a lot easier when it comes to emptying the bags of their contents.

About midday, digging ceased and the filled bags were hauled out to the surface. A total of 81-bags were filled, hauled, and emptied this session.

It was reported that at the end some rocks had been encountered (and removed). At present still working downwards and some expansion sideways before a more concerted effort in a forward direction can be followed.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, as usual.

4th March

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, March 04, 2023 15:33:56

With Brockers, Jon, and Jake

Arrived at the farm a bit earlier this morning to meet up with Brockers. Our plan was to replace the pulley’s on the surface and on the pot (Soft South) before digging got underway. We also replaced the hauling rope on the pot for good measure. Just as we finished and were making our way to the end to start digging we were joined by Jon and Jake.

Brockers admires the new pulley and clean haul rope

I was digging at the end, Brockers was next in line, Jon and Jake were shuttling the spoil along the NE passage to the pot and up on to the ledge. Quite a few bags were dragged back to the bottom of the entrance too.

Sediment deposition at the current end of the dig. The older deposits are to the left of the scale bar (scale = 0.3m)

A large part of the digging effort this morning was focused on enlargement of the end “chamber” and cleaning off tumble material and levelling the approach passage beyond the stalagmites. We might decide to install a skip/drag tray some time in the future. By the end of the session there was enough for two people to dig at the end. Digging was stopped slightly earlier today to give plenty of time to clear out the cave and empty the bags. There was a bit of a glitch with the surface pulley, apparently, caused by hard-packed mud but the issue was soon rectified by Brockers. Today’s total was 70-bags, filled, hauled, and emptied. To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for well-earned refreshments!

25th February

digging 2023 Posted on Sun, February 26, 2023 09:16:14

Vince, Jake, Tav, and Brockers

Jake upfront digging aided by Tav who cleared back the filled bags, I was hauling away the skip (loaded with bags) and passing the bags to Brockers, who was carrying them back to the pot where they were temporarily stored. A couple of times Brockers and I moved back to the pot to shift some bags up onto the ledge until the available space was filled. It is interesting to note that there is a lack of rock within the fine sediments which might suggest that we are at the upper part of a larger passage, the rocks being in the lower section.

At midday it was decided to stop digging and start to clear out the cave. The mud was especially sticky and soon clogged up the surface pulley (which is too small anyway) making the hauling out of bags even harder. Brockers stated that he would rather be emptying bags (a somewhat onerous task at times) than hauling. At the end of play, in excess of 80-bags had been filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap. Time for the Hunter’s and refreshments. Unfortunately, I had left my change of clothes (and wallet) at home and was just a bit damp (and increasingly cold) at our favoured hostelry so didn’t stay too long.

18th February

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, February 18, 2023 16:58:00

With Nick, Mike, Tav, Jake, and Brockers

Another coming together at the Hallowe’en Rift Correction Facility, a gathering of like-minded individuals discussing their personal journey’s to arrive at this point in their lives. This involved a good deal of jovial banter blended with irreverent and, largely, irrelevant comments, and some character assassination. Never mind this ‘bollocks’ – what about the digging!

Nick occupied the ‘official’ digging spot, aided by Mike, Jake and Tav were alternating the haul, carry, haul of spoil along the passage. It was dripping water throughout the cave, so care was needed when moving around. I was on the ledge, Brockerswas stashing the filled bags everywhere and anywhere close (enough) to the entrance. Bags flowed through the cave at a good steady rate.

Come midday, digging was ceased, although time was allowed to clear-up the loose material. A move to the surface and haul up the filled bags to empty the contents onto the recently levelled spoil heap. All the while, the jovial banter continued.

A further gathering was convened at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshment following the digging session.

13th February

digging 2023 Posted on Mon, February 13, 2023 16:59:49



Spent a very pleasant two and a half hours in the sunshine (T-shirt weather!) at HR levelling the spoil heap. A very useful tool is an azada (digging hoe).


11th February

digging 2023 Posted on Sun, February 12, 2023 09:58:35

With Brockers, Nick, Mike, Jon, and Jake

A grey, damp, and mucky start to the day, the ground sticky, not great when it comes to walk up and down the spoil heap to empty bags later.

At the far end of the deep Soft South (NE passage) Brockers and Nick were filling bags (Brockers at the ‘official’ dig). After a brief discussion it had been decided to try having two people transporting the spoil along the passage to the pot. Mike was hauling from the diggers, Jon carried the filled bags to the pot and hauled them up to Jake on the ledge. I was at the entrance where the bags were stored in the available space and trying not to stack them on top of each other, this will make then easier to empty later.

At about midday, in spite of plaintive calls for more bags, digging came to an end as it was time to move back and clear the bags from the cave. Brockers was a bit disappointed to be last to the entrance so had to load the skip from there, he had no-one to talk to as the rest of the team were on the surface, enjoying the usual banter. Nobody took any responsibility for counting the bags and we arrived at a best fit guesstimate of about 100, we were happy with that. Satisfied with the morning’s effort we secured the cave, returned to the farm, changed and made our way to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn for refreshments.

4th February

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, February 04, 2023 13:44:14

With Jake

A much-depleted workforce available today due to a variety of reasons but not because of Brexit, war in Ukraine, or another tory party/government f**k-up! … or was it?

We decided to spend the morning carrying out some dig maintenance. While Jake set about replacing the surface pulley, I headed underground with drill/plugs and feathers to sort out the rock bulge. Later on, Jake, having completed the pulley swap, joined me at the dig and proceeded to level the skip hauling route and replace the worn-out drag tray. Also, placed a ladder against the slippery climb up to the dig. With a bit more time to spare the rock bulge was removed (there were probably fractures from the last session) and the floor levelled. It is much easier to move along the passage now. The resulting lumps of rock were moved along to the ever-expanding rockpile, loose gravel and sediment bagged to be hauled out of the cave to the surface and emptied on to the spoil heap.

A satisfying and productive morning. Finished a little bit earlier than usual and did not stop at the Hunter’s today – start of 6 Nations rugby this afternoon!

Rock bulge gone!
Peering up into Trick or Treat from the current dig-face

28th January

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, January 28, 2023 15:34:24

With Brockers, Nick, Jon, Jake, and Duncan

As planned, I had arrived at the cave earlier to get to work with plugs and feathers to remove a bulge of rock that impeded easy spoil removal from the current dig face. Didn’t go as well as I had hoped, the rock was large and being rather stubborn, but I did manage to take off a large chunk of it before the team arrived. Brockers was first on the scene. Packed away my kit and sent it out of the cave. Digging commenced in earnest. My main effort was to make more room at the end, while Brockers decided to do some “tidying-up”. Nick was shuttling spoil back to the pot, Jon on the ledge, Jake at the entrance where, initially, the spoil was being stashed. Duncan then turned up and stuff went up to the surface

Plugs and feathers, view to south-west from current dig.

Back at the dig, eventually managed to remove a large flake of calcite and roll it back to Brockers who then reduced it in size with the sledgehammer. Towards the end of the digging phase I tidied the access through to ‘Trick or Treat’ removing some loose cobbles and boulders and some sticky sediment. It was soon time to stop filling bags and think about getting up to the surface and emptying them. I exited the cave by way of the newly created ‘round trip’ followed by Nick, Brockers decided on a ‘traditional’ exit route. I was glad that I had taken the time to dig a channel and empty the static pool of water on my last visit to ‘Trick or Treat’. Duncan had his Disto with him and went off to survey the connection while the rest of us emptied bags, about 85 of them. Empty bags were hung on the lines to dry out, hopefully! An interesting session prompting some discussion on future prospects – all good and positive.

To the Hunter’s for post-digging refreshments!

21st January

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, January 21, 2023 17:55:10

With Jon, Mike, Nick, and Tav

The bags that had been left hanging-up had dried out nicely, just needed to be bundled up into packs of ten ready to be filled (not all today!). A total of 200 bags available. Not enough people to get the spoil out to surface in one go so it would need to be stockpiled in the entrance to be removed at the end of the session.

Jon digging, me clearing the filled bags and loading in to the skip, Mike hauling the skip away and shuttling the spoil along the NE passage then hauling up to Nick, perched on the ledge at the top of the pot. Tav hauled the skip away from the Soft South back to the entrance where the bags were stored for later removal. Tav stared longingly up to the bright blue sky above, one more person and Tav would have been up on the surface in the sunshine.

Jon digging at the current end of the Soft South

Jon’s initial effort was to enlarge the working space to make forward progress more comfortable. In between I scraped some of the mud away from the stalagmites filling a few more bags. Eventually, Jon had made sufficient space and started pressing forwards. A small hole revealed by Tav at the end of last weeks session was expanded, I heard a muffled clatter of rocks and Jon reported back that an interesting space was opening. He invited me to take a look and it was confirmed that the connection to Trick or Treat had been accomplished. It needs a bit of work to make it big enough for all and the round trip is on the cards for next weekend. Still convinced that the more interesting prospects are at a lower level and this can be pursued now that the distraction of Trick or Treat is over.

It was time to move the backlog of bags and clear the stockpiled spoil out to the surface (about 70-bags in total). All done, refreshments at the Hunter’s. Another satisfying digging session over.

14th January

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, January 14, 2023 16:13:54

With Brockers, Jon, Tav, Mike, and Nick

Earlier start for me and Brockers (met at 09:00) to install a handline around the edge of the pot leading to the deep Soft South before the team arrived to dig. We had just finished when the gang turned up.

The space beyond the stalagmites continues to develop!

Tav digging assisted by Jon, I was shuttling the spoil along the NE passage, Mike was up on the ledge, Nick at the bottom of the entrance, Brockers on the surface. Thankfully the early heavy rain had stopped but it was very wet not only on the surface but underground too. There was plenty of standing water and active drips. It didn’t take long for conditions to become rather squalid. The bags of ‘slop’ were not easy to carry, and the buckets proved to be very useful for transporting the bags along the passage.

Digging continued beyond the stalagmites, small spaces were being revealed as digging progressed and by the end of the session it was looking more interesting. It might be worth another trip along to Trick or Treat to try a voice connection again. About 110 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied on the surface. Surface duties are not easy in the current conditions another fine effort, this week, by Brockers.

Refreshments at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn were well-earned!

A closer look beyond the stalagmites

7th January – 1st digging session of 2023

digging 2023 Posted on Sat, January 07, 2023 16:45:56

With Brockers, Tav, Jon, Jake, Nick

Picked up Tav, Jon, and Nick from the Hunter’s so there were less vehicles parked down the hill at the farm. Got changed at the farm then a soggy walk up to the cave. Another wet start to the day although the rain was forecast to pass us over, at least until early afternoon. As expected, it was soggy underground too. There is a benefit, in that, the loaded skips would be easier to haul along the passage.

Brockers was digging, Tav bagging up spoil including the pile left-over from last week’s session. Jon could be heard squelching along the NE passage carrying the filled bags to the pot, to be hauled up to the ledge. On the ledge I was safely attached and leaning over to catch and empty the bucket. The load transferred to the next skip and hauled away by Jake to the bottom of the entrance. Nick was on the surface hauling up the filled bags and, with considerable difficulty, emptying the bags – a sterling effort given the poor conditions. Wet spoil, wet bags = increased work, two negatives result in a bigger negative.

Upfront, the digging effort concentrated on developing the “roof-arch” that had been revealed last session. A total exceeding 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied. Another good positive morning’s work.

Refreshment was taken at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn. It was very sad to hear that a dear friend, John Beauchamp, had passed away recently. I had done a lot of caving with JB when we were MCG members and travelled around SE Asia with him. I was also best friend at his wedding in Australia. RIP Old Chum!