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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, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, and Duncan Price. There has been occasional help from others including Phil Coles, Caroline Allen, Mike Willett, Mike Moxon, 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.

4th September

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, September 04, 2021 19:15:21

With Jake, Jon, Brockers, and Tav.

Jon and Tav took the first digging shift, Jake and Brockers shuttling the spoil from the ledge to the bottom of the entrance, I was on the surface. 100 filled bags were hauled out of the cave, emptied onto the spoil heaps, and even managed to add a few rocks to the terrace wall. It was warm work, and the buzzing flies were increasingly irritating. I was glad there were none of the biting flies around.

Refreshments were enjoyed in the warm late summer sunshine.

Jake (l) and Vince (r) digging at the current base of the pot (Soft South). Photo by Brockers.
(Click on the image to open a short action film made by Brockers)

Back underground for the afternoon session. Brockers was digging with Jake but offered to swap position with me, so I ended up digging and, hauling up the spoil from the bottom of the pot. Brockers and Tav were shuttling the spoil back to the entrance, Jon was on the surface hauling out the bags and emptying them onto the spoil heap. Brockers found my camera and decided to do some filming and snap a few images. We had fun with plenty of good-humoured banter and another productive couple of digging sessions.

28th August

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, August 28, 2021 18:47:15

With Brockers, Jake, Tav, Nick, and Duncan (for the morning session).

A bit of fettling of the pulley system and hangers beforehand, some discussion about the best position for pulling up the skip, we settled on the diggers hauling the spoil from the bottom of the pot. Jake and Tav were digging for the morning session, I was on the ledge catching the skip and shuttling the bags along to Brockers at the junction. Brockers then dragged the spoil to the bottom of the entrance where he loaded the skip to Nick and Duncan on the surface. It was a busy session.

Lunch was enjoyed in the sunshine this weekend, Duncan had to leave at this point to attend more pressing matters.

For the afternoon session, me and Brockers were digging in the pot, Nick was on the ledge, Tav shuttling from the junction to the entrance, Jake was on the surface.

In the pot, Brockers uncovered several larger rocks that were too big to break-up with the sledge so will require some reduction in size (plugs and feathers) at a later date. Digging is quite easy and still progressing downwards. On the surface, Jake found time to empty the bags in between batches of spoil arriving from below. By the end of the day, quite a lot of bags were emptied onto the spoil heap and more rocks were added to the stockpile, another productive day.

26th August

digging 2021 Posted on Thu, August 26, 2021 15:13:37
Rocks piled ready for the next phase of wall building.


A morning spent tidying up the spoil heap and starting the construction of the next terrace wall. Very peaceful in the warm sunshine.

The next terrace wall construction underway.

21st August

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, August 21, 2021 17:48:53

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Jon, and Tav.

Me, underground by 09:00 as planned, got the kit laid out and set to work breaking up boulders. Sometime after 10:00 Brockers turned up and made a start on bagging up the loose gravel and fine sediment. Then Jake arrived followed by Jon and a bit later, Tav. Jake pulled up a couple of skip loads of bags and rock and then swapped places with Brockers. Steadily the pile of rocks was removed to the surface while I was still reducing the large boulders to manageable pieces. When the last of the large boulders was broken up, I made my way to the surface to start hauling out the stockpile of spoil at the bottom of the entrance, Tav made his way to the surface to help out. With the majority of rocks and bags on the surface we decided to have a break for lunch, just as the sky decided to open. It was a soggy lunch.

Lunch over and it was still raining. We decided clear the remaining spoil and to fill all the available empty bags that were underground. I stayed on the surface to haul out, the rest of the team went below ground. Eventually, the rain abated, and the sun made a brief appearance.

At the end of todays sessions, c.100 bags had been filled and emptied and the equivalent of three fridge-, several microwave- and numerous electric kettle-size rocks shifted. There is plenty of wall building material for the next terrace. A fine effort from the reduced team.

17th August

digging 2021 Posted on Wed, August 18, 2021 07:05:39


Finished work at home at a reasonable time, so I decided to head over to HR and reduce the boulders there to manageable pieces rather than going over early Saturday to do it. The large boulder turned out to be a bit of a pig – it was heavily mineralised and just wouldn’t fracture easily. Lots of rolling it around and taking off lumps. Eventually, it was done but used all the battery power. It was then that I started to prod the long bar here and there and managed to bring down another substantial lump of rock and loosen another. The result of this action is that I will have to return early on Saturday to deal with these large lumps of rock.

In amongst the jumble of boulders in the pot (Soft South) is more displaced calcite, these flowstone fragments are upside down. Photo taken 17th August 2021.

14th August

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, August 15, 2021 11:08:05

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

Met with Brockers at the farm 08:30 where we got our respective bits of kit together and walked up to the cave entrance. Underground by 09:00.

I got on with the task of reducing boulders to a manageable size using plugs and feathers while Brockers sorted out the pulley system for hauling up and out of the pot. By the time the rest of the team arrived there was a pile of rocks and a pulley system operational.

Duncan on the ledge, waits for Brockers to load the skip. Photo taken 14th August 2021

Duncan took the ledge position opting to be first to try out the pulley system. After helping to shift the backlog of rocks (and bags), I swapped places with Nick at the junction so he could dig with Brockers (Nick’s going to miss a couple of sessions while on a first aid course). And it stops him from digging random holes the serve very little purpose. Tav was at the bottom of the entrance with Jon and Jake on the surface. There was a steady flow of filled bags and rocks from the end to the surface, a few rocks were used to backfill Nick’s “mud wallow” and make the junction position slightly more comfortable. Around 12:30 we stopped for a break.

Afternoon session: Tav and Duncan were down in the deep Soft South digging away happily, I was on the ledge pulley spot hauling away the spoil, and it is a cosy spot. Jon was at the junction, Jake at the bottom of the entrance, Nick and Brockers on the surface. Jon also backfilled Nick’s hole and reinstated a comfy seat. Once we got into the swing of things it was another good productive session. When all the empty bags were filled and rocks moved, a brief discussion in the pot, and then packed up and exited the cave.

A good digging session(s). and the pulley system is spot on!

7th August

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, August 08, 2021 11:01:38

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

Morning session: Tav and Jon digging in the deep (and getting deeper) Soft South, Jake on the ledge hauling the skip up out of the pit (c.100+ loads – top effort!) and transferring the contents to the next skip. I was at the junction hauling away the spoil from Jake and passing the load onto Brockers at the bottom of the entrance. Duncan and Nick were on the surface dealing with spoil redistribution. A good, steady supply of filled bags and rocks made the journey from the pot in the deep Soft South to the surface.

About 12:45 we decided to break for lunch.

Jake and Brockers on the ledge approaching the pot

Afternoon session: Me and Jake digging, our effort focused on loosening some of the larger accessible boulders at the [current] bottom of the pot so that these could be reduced into more manageable size with plugs and feathers at a later date. Brockers was on the ledge, Nick at the junction where he has dug another pond. Duncan at the entrance. On the surface, Tav and Jon, who experienced some monsoonal weather, at least it was warm(?). There was a trickle of water flowing down the entrance when we finally decided to exit the cave.

Progress downwards was clearly evident by the end of the session(s).

Brockers and Jake converse in the deep Soft South.

31st July

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, August 01, 2021 07:58:26

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

An earlier start for me as there was a pile of rocks waiting to be reduced to more manageable pieces. Underground by 09:00 and quickly got to work with the plugs and feathers. After one hour or so had passed there was a good supply of wall-building material awaiting removal from the cave. It was satisfyingly therapeutic sat there drilling and tapping. It was interesting to note that the method was successful in breaking-up calcite blocks too.


A barrage of packs of bags being tossed into the deep Soft South announced the arrival of Brockers and Nick. They started to move the pile of rocks as I finished splitting the last couple of boulders. The rocks cleared, Brockers set about digging and filling bags.

Brockers digs in the deep Soft South.

I climbed out of the pot and along the ledge to load the accumulated pile of rocks into the skip, the rockpile was soon supplemented by filled bags. Nick hauled the loaded skip away and transferred the contents to the next skip pulled along by Duncan, at the bottom of the entrance, the spoil on its way to the surface. Above ground, Jon and Tav hauled the spoil out of the cave while Jake was busy building walls to retain the spoil. It was a busy and productive morning session.

12:20, lunchtime.

Afternoon session: me and Brockers were on the surface, Jake at the bottom of the entrance, Jon at the junction, Tav clearing away from the diggers, Nick and Duncan. There was some question about the number of bags so a couple more packs were tossed down the entrance. Lots of rocks and bags were added to the burgeoning spoil heap, larger rocks were kept ready for the next wall-building phase. Another productive session!

24th July

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, July 25, 2021 10:12:29

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

Morning session: Nick and Tav in the deep South digging, Jon and me hauling the spoil away, Brockers and Jake on the surface. The filled bags and rocks were moved smoothly from the dig-face to the surface at a good, steady rate. On the surface, in between emptying bags, Jake managed to extend the terrace walling and create more spoil dumping space. When all the available bags had been filled and hauled out of the cave it was time for lunch.

Afternoon session: Me and Jon’s turn to dig in the deep Soft South down in the pot, Brockers and Jake hauled the filled bags and rocks away, Tav and Nick were on the surface. Nick and Tav found time to redistribute the amassed rockpile to where it was needed to build the next wall. Another busy and productive Saturday. The Soft South chamber is looking impressive and there is still plenty of stuff to come out. Also, a pile of rocks awaits size reduction with plug and feathers.

In the deep Soft South, Jon looks down into the pot after an energetic digging session, hence the steam! Photograph taken 24th July 2021.

17th July

digging 2021 Posted on Mon, July 19, 2021 09:19:20

I was away this weekend attending a BCRA field meeting to the Arnside and Silverdale AONB in Lancashire/Cumbria. However, the rest of the team continued with operations and the following report was written by Tav:

Brockers, Nick, Tav, Jon and Jake

A very hot day soon got even hotter as the team began removing the large pile of rocks produced by Vince and Callum’s midweek plug and feathers extravaganza. While Jake prepared the surface wall, Brockers moved the rocks to Nick then on to Tav and on again to Jon who stacked them below the entrance. As most of these were too large for a single hauler to pull out Jon returned to the surface to aid with the haul while Tav and Nick moved back a place. 30 odd large boulders were extracted, most of which were too big to fit in the skip and required the net. Several were described as silly in size and a select few as very silly. Meanwhile Brockers carried on digging and produced another 20 or so loads of rocks plus 50 bags. To move these, Nick and Tav shared the duties on the three underground hauling spots while Jon emptied the bags and Jake relocated the rocks to the new terrace wall. Following a well-earned lunch break, Jake and Jon took up the digging cudgels, Tav and Nick swapped places with Tav moving back down to the junction and Nick loading below the entrance. Brockers manfully hauled solo on the surface. By close of play another 50 bags were removed along with another 30 or so loads of rock including a few more which required the net. 180 odd loads extracted in total, which, if not quite our highest overall tally, must surely have merited a new weight record! Another very large boulder (the largest yet!) was exposed and requires plug and feathering.”

13th July

digging 2021 Posted on Wed, July 14, 2021 06:19:17

With Callum.

A successful and productive evening breaking-up boulders in the deep Soft South using plug and feathers method. After a quick lesson showing Callum how to use the kit, I drilled the holes and Callum split the boulders. There is quite a pile of rocks for the weekend team to shift out of the cave and add to the wall-building material stash.

Callum breaking-up boulders using plug and feathers. Photo taken 13th July 2021.

10th July

digging 2021 Posted on Sat, July 10, 2021 21:25:54

Vince, Jon, Nick, Brockers, and Tav.

Morning session: Jon in the deep South digging on down, I was on the ledge squaring-up a couple of sections ready for recording and loading the spoil into the skip for Tav to haul away. From the junction the filled bags and rocks were transferred to the next skip and hauled away by Brockers to the bottom of the entrance. Nick on the surface hauled the bags out of the cave and managed to find enough time to empty them too. 60 bags were filled, hauled, and emptied and several loads of rock were added to the wall material pile. I planned to photograph the section I had cleaned only to find the battery was empty, should have charged after using it yesterday.


Afternoon session: Brockers was dispatched to the deep South to fulfil his management potential under the guidance of Tav. Nick was at the junction hauling skips and “tidying”, I was at the bottom of the entrance transferring the spoil into the skip hauled up by Jon on the surface. Hauling the skip up the entrance pitch was not an easy task with the wet, claggy rope slipping through fingers and with three people filling bags, not much respite either. 50 bags were filled plus a lot of rocks shifted including 2 large boulders that we decided to leave for another day.

There are several large boulders in the Soft South that might benefit a reduction in size – a plug and feathers session is probably needed.

Sediment layering in the Soft South dig. Photo taken 13th July 2021.

3rd July

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, July 04, 2021 09:50:52

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

Morning session: Tav and Brockers did the first stint of digging, Nick and Duncan hauling the skips, me and Jon were on surface duties. 100 bags filled, hauled, and emptied onto the spoil heap, plus quite a few rocks (mostly from Nick’s illicit digging activities!)

Lunch break.

Afternoon session: Nick and Duncan digging, me and Jon hauling the skips, Tav and Brockers on the surface. The bags had become a tad claggy during the morning session so, 50 bags were filed, hauled, and emptied onto the heap, in addition there were plenty more rocks for the wall.

Another good productive day’s digging.

26th June

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, June 27, 2021 10:32:31

Vince, Nick, Jake, and Jon.

A reduced team today for one reason or another, no matter, we formulated a contingency plan!

Morning session:  Nick and Jake digging, Jon at the junction, I was at the bottom of the entrance. About 60 bags were filled and dragged back to be stacked in the entrance along with a few rocks. Then, all changed position and the spoil was hauled out of the cave and added to the spoil heap.

A slightly earlier lunch than usual before a return to digging.

Afternoon session: me and Jon digging, Nick at the junction and Jake at the bottom of the entrance. A bit disappointed to find the section I had wanted to keep intact had been dug into but not wholly unexpected. Me and Jon filled our 60-bag quota and removed several rocks, back at the entrance, other ‘extra’ bags had appeared, Nick, of course, had been carrying out skip run “improvements”. Anyway, it was time to clear the spoil from the cave. Today’s total, about 130 bags plus several skip loads of rock including one rather large broken, detached stalagmite (?).

As ever, the ever expanding ‘chamber’ in the Soft South remains enigmatic.

19th June

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, June 20, 2021 07:34:53

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

Morning session: Brockers digging, aided, and abetted by Nick; me and Jon were hauling the skips along the passage from the Soft South back to the entrance. Jake and Tav were on surface, they were joined later in the morning by Duncan. The filled bags were moved along the passage at a good, steady rate, the bags interspersed by lumps of rock, there was a lot of broken, detached calcite, Brockers said he “found it in the mud”. All the available bags filled (circa 100+) and rocks moved, it was lunchtime.

Afternoon session: me and Jon were digging, sharing the task of filling bags and clearing away. Some big boulders were broken up too. Most of our effort was spent tidying the trample and sediment from the current bottom of the ‘pot’ so we might get a better idea of whatever was going on here. Duncan and Tav were hauling away, Brockers and Nick on the surface hauling away the bags and emptying them. The rocks were dispatched towards Jake who was busy wall building around the spoil heap. Another circa 60 bags and a lot of rock removed from the ever-expanding chamber, and we are not really any clearer as to what is going on. There is, of course, still plenty of stuff to dig out! Happy days.

Composite of images taken 19th June 2021

12th June

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, June 13, 2021 11:06:57

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Nick, and Tav.

A glorious morning, plenty of warm sunshine.

Morning session: I was digging, aided by Tav who cleared away the filled bags and occasionally loosened sediment and also filled some bags. Jake and Nick were hauling skips, transferring spoil to the surface, and some “tidying” was inevitably being carried out. Brockers hauled the bags out of the cave, the bags were stashed aside to be emptied later. Around 60-70 skip loads up to the surface and about midday, the underground team decided it was time to return to the surface and empty the bags. I stayed underground a bit longer to take some photos. Lunch was taken.

Tav adds another bag of spoil to the heap. Photographed 12th June 2021.

Afternoon session: My turn on the surface, Tav was at the bottom of the entrance, Jake, and Nick further along the passage clearing away from Brockers, who was digging. Another 60-70 skips-loads out to the surface and bags set aside to be emptied later at the end of the session. It was pleasant on the surface and the flies were not too irritating yet. The pulley system makes hauling so much easier. It was another productive digging session!

The Soft South. Photographed 12th June 2021.

5th June

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, June 13, 2021 10:50:10

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

A full-strength team today and the weather was good.

Morning session: Jake and Jon digging, Brockers and Duncan clearing away, me, Nick and Tav on the surface. An extra pair of hands on the surface meant that some spoil heap re-distribution was possible. Work was concentrated on levelling the lower part of the heap to enable another terrace wall to be constructed. The filled bags from the morning session were rolled down the slope and emptied behind the existing retainer wall to further consolidate it.

After enjoying our lunch, we moved a quantity of rocks and rolled them down the slope so that the terrace wall could be started.

Afternoon session: Brockers and Duncan digging, Nick and Tav clearing away, on the surface, Jon was hauling, I was shuttling bags to the spoil heap, Jake was building the terrace wall and emptying bags.

Today’s total was somewhere around 150 bags and several rocks, no-one seemed to be counting really. The spoil heap does look much tidier now.

The spoil heap. Photographed 12th June 2021.

29th May

digging 2021 Posted on Tue, June 01, 2021 05:54:06

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

Some decent weather at last and surface duties were a popular option today.

Morning session: me and Jake were on the surface; Brockers and Duncan were digging with Nick and Tav clearing away. Now it had dried out a bit, some spoil heap re-distribution could be carried out. As the filled bags (and rocks) started to appear at a regular rate then emptying the bags took priority. Jake hauled up 50 bags or so, then we swapped places. Hauling is so much easier with the pulley system in place and functioning, easier on the back! About 100 filled bags rocks out to the surface and added to the spoil heap, it was time for lunch.

Afternoon session: Brockers and Duncan took over on the surface, Nick and Tav were digging, leaving me and Jake to clear away the bags and rocks. One of the drag trays died and needed replacing, making the haul a little easier. 50 bags were filled and quite a few rocks including a large, heavy boulder (probably 100kg) that was to test the branch on the way up. Thankfully, the branch was up to the job and the boulder made it to the surface.

The bag count for today: circa 150 plus an uncounted number of rocks for wall building some time in the future. Another productive session, there is a sizeable chamber in the Soft South!

22nd May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 23, 2021 11:45:32

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

Morning session: me and Jake digging, I concentrated my effort in the lower southwest section while Jake dug along the mid-level bench. Nick and Duncan clearing away (Nick, also carrying out some skip-run maintenance/improvements), Brockers and Jon were on surface duties. The spoil removal progressed at a steady rate until we decided to stop for lunch around 12:30. It was rather pleasant in the sunshine, a nice change following the persistent rain during the last couple of days.

After lunch there was some debate about who was doing what then, a plan was hatched to fix up a pulley system over the entrance, Nick had supplied a shiny new pulley. A suitable branch seemed to be in the right position, although some doubts were expressed by a few people. All we needed was someone to climb the branch and secure the tape sling, carabiner, and pulley in place, that person was me. It was soon sorted and all we needed to do now was try it out, so off we went back underground.

Photograph by Brockers!

Afternoon session: bags were filled, cleared, and loaded into the skip and up they went, the pulley system worked better than expected. There was, of course, the usual issue of the rope being difficult to grip as it became muddier but still it worked. The argument for not setting-up a pulley system earlier, well, we had to wait for the branch to attain a suitable size.

Anyway, back to the digging, the bags to be filled were restricted to 50 for this session due to them being especially difficult to empty now they were claggy, and there were plenty of rocks on the surface to be moved to the location for another wall to be built. As the bag supply dwindled at the dig face the number of rocks being removed started to increase, this was unfortunate as the section of sediment I had spent the morning squaring up had now been destroyed, which was disappointing as I did not get to record it. Will have to start again.

The ‘Soft South’

15th May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 16, 2021 10:14:42

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

Unsettled weather was forecast, a mixture of sunshine and showers. It had been raining earlier but was dry as we walked to the cave.

Morning session, Jake digging in the southwest lower section, Duncan clearing away the bags and digging along the mid-level bench extension, I was hauling and transferring the spoil from skip to skip at the junction/corner, Jon was at the bottom of the entrance. On the surface, Brockers was joined by a latecomer, Nick. We all settled into a good consistent rate of spoil removal and movement. By 12:30, about 100 skip loads (bags and rocks) had made the journey out onto the spoil heap and we decided it was time for lunch. Unfortunately, our picnic was disrupted by a shower of rain and, after some debate, we decided to return to the task in hand.

Afternoon session, me and Jake opted to take over the surface duties, Duncan at the bottom of the entrance. However, this left Jon digging in the lower south/southwest section, Brockers at the mid-level bench and Nick at the junction/corner where he was ‘side-tracked’ somewhat by his own ‘flood alleviation project’ (I have to admit to having carried out some clandestine work here myself during the morning session!). The result of this was three people were now filling bags and shifting rocks. The hauling out of the cave was relentless and the task was not made any easier as the rope became claggy as frequent showers passed over. And the midges were increasingly irritating in the humidity. Jake and I swapped around at regular intervals as the midges seemed particularly attracted to the area around the cave entrance. We started to dump the spoil in another overspill area as the regular tip needed some attention, there were some signs that a slump might occur, especially if affected by more persistent rain.

The session came to an end when all the bags had been filled and emptied then hung-up. If they do not ‘dry out’ at least they will get a good rinsing! Last job of the day was to haul out the small stockpile of rocks, useful wall building material. I did not return underground to take photographs today, next weekend.

8th May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 09, 2021 10:01:50

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

A grey, overcast morning but it seemed that the heavy rain had passed over and would not spoil the lunchtime picnic.

Morning session, me and Nick digging, Jon and Tav clearing away, Jake and Duncan on the surface. We decided to start removing the lower bench to widen the “chamber” at current floor level, this requires that the mid-level bench be re-cut (a task to keep Nick occupied). With the so much spoil being removed and quickly too the expansion of the “chamber” in the Soft South is clearly visible, almost as you dig! There was an interesting moment as a large slump of material occurred, resulting in plenty of stuff to bag-up. Will need to be more careful when undercutting the dig-face. About 100 bags filled plus rocks, a natural pause, it was time for a break. To the surface for lunch.

Down in the ‘Soft South’, the dig on the western side, photographed 8th May 2021.

Afternoon session, Jon and Tav took over the digging, Jake and Duncan clearing away, leaving me and Nick on the surface. The hauling and bag emptying tasks on the surface were split, 50 bags then swap around, made it a bit easier on the back. The bags were hung-up on the lines to ‘dry’ out, some were getting quite claggy. It was another productive day and 200+ bags were filled plus a quantity of rocks to be added to the wall sometime.

Photographs were taken at the end of the session, the cave secured, and we left for our respective homes.

1st May

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, May 02, 2021 08:50:30

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

Following my 2nd covid vaccination jab on Tuesday I have been suffering with an ‘iffy’ shoulder, hauling stuff out to the surface and digging is off the agenda for me. I settled down at the bottom of the entrance and transferred the spoil from skip to skip, out to the surface. The surface duties were attended to by Nick and Brockers (pre-lunch) followed by Tav and Jon (post-lunch). The main diggers were Tav and Jon (early session), Jake and Duncan (later session) there was, of course, some alternative digging mostly by Nick and Brockers. At the end of the day, a lot of spoil was shifted; about 250 bags and several loads of rock, some requiring the use of the ‘rock-net’.

During the lunch break a start was made on another extension to the spoil heap; brambles were slashed and walling re-located. A task to be continued at a later date.

At the end of the session, photos were taken.

Dig trending to west – southwest. Photo taken 01/05/2021.

During the post-lunch session, a visit to site by Caroline and Rebecca. Caroline stayed on to have a look at the current dig in the Soft South.

Tools lined up ready for the next session! Photo taken 01/05/2021

24th April

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, April 25, 2021 11:22:01

Vince, Brockers, Jake, Nick, Tav, and later, Caroline.

A lovely sunny day perfect for digging, and long may it continue. Tav turned up laden with digging skips and a rope net expertly constructed by Dave Brook and kindly donated to the cause by Alison Moody. These were to be put into use as soon as digging was underway.

I was digging, Jake on the surface and the rest of the team dealt with clearance of the filled backs and sporadic rocks. About 50 skip loads out of the cave, stopped digging and up to the surface to empty the bags. All change, I stated on the surface, Brockers took over digging, the rest of the team clearing away. It was pleasant on the surface in the spring sunshine sheltered from the breeze and not too many flies about yet. Just after midday Caroline turned up with [warm] sausage rolls for our lunch, and then proceeded to empty the bags that were on the surface, top effort!

The underground team returned to the surface and we had a welcome and well-deserved break.

Back to the fray, Nick digging, Brockers on the surface, and the rest of us clearing away. Another 50 or so bags were filled and hauled out of the cave before we decided to stop digging and empty the bags. That was the end of underground activities so went to have a look at the end and take some photos.

There are some interesting developments at the business end and the progress being made with the longer sessions is noticeable. Today’s total, about 160 bags and several rocks.

Circa south-west facing section, scale = 2m.

17th April

digging 2021 Posted on Sun, April 18, 2021 12:04:42

Vince, Jake, Brockers and Tav.

A depleted team today, some have gone diving and another has vehicular and mobility problems. No matter just means we will have to stack stuff in the entrance and work in shifts.

All underground, Jake digging, Tav and Brockers clearing away the filled bags and I stacked the spoil in the entrance. After about 20 bags Brockers decided to go to the surface and haul out the bags then returned to his position on the corner to resume his original task. We kept at it until mid-day when we all exited the cave to clear-out the entrance stash. The bags were emptied onto the spoil heap. The now compressed sediment was less easy to coax from the bags. Some spoil heap management was required, and any loose stones were added to the wall.

Time for refreshment. It was very pleasant in the warm spring sunshine (no flies yet!).

Brockers contemplates where to dig next! Photo taken 17/04/2021.

Back underground, Brockers digging, me and Tav clearing away and Jake stacking the spoil in the entrance. We are not spoiled for choice with where to dig, there is just a lot of stuff to shift. About 40 or 50 bags filled we decided it was time to clear the entrance again. The total for the day, 110 bags plus several loads of rocks. Good effort from the smaller team.

As ever the more sediment that is removed then more features are revealed, more discussions, more head-scratching, it is all very interesting. Photos were taken but it was quite steamy in the digging ‘chamber’ following the day’s efforts. The first bluebottle of the year was seen!

The southwest dig-face. Photo taken 17/04/2021.

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.

27th March

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, March 28, 2021 07:56:17

Vince, Roz and Brockers. Later in the morning, Caroline helped out with emptying the bags.

At the cave the work was concentrated on the uppermost level and cleaning a section there, this involved some reduced level excavation. Started the session digging on my side, by the end I was kneeling. 40 bags were filled, dragged away, and hauled out of the cave (the hauling done by Brockers). Caroline turned up to lend a hand as we started to empty the bags.

The uppermost level, cleaning the section underway. 6″ trowel for scale because I forgot to bring the proper scale.

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!

26th December 2020

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, December 27, 2020 07:19:27

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

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, December 20, 2020 07:22:16

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’

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, December 13, 2020 08:56:37

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!

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, November 01, 2020 06:25:18

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

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, October 25, 2020 05:42:40

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

digging 2020 Posted on Sun, October 18, 2020 07:53:03

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.

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