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The trials and tribulations during the quest to extend the known cave passages of Wookey Hole Cave, Mendip, Somerset.

The main participants (in no particular order) are: Vince Simmonds, Jonathon Riley, Robin 'Tav' Taviner, Nick Hawkes, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Mike Moxon, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Duncan Price, Roz Simmonds. Others have lent a hand too, including Tom Chapman, Ray Deasy, Alex Gee, Pete 'Snablet' McNab, Pete Bolt, Claire Cohen, Pete Hall, David Walker, Lee Hawkeswell, James Begley, Naomi Frazier.

1st August

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, August 02, 2019 06:25:56

Report by Vince

Vince, Mike and 7 Belgian cavers, members of the Cascade Caving Club.

Good job the Mike had recruited some help as we were a bit thin on the ground otherwise. It was a slower, steadier trip through the Chamber 20 passages. There were plenty of stops to point out some of the interesting features along the way. Photographs and discussions ensued.

When we all arrived at the bottom of the ‘sand pit’, it was a little bit crowded. I showed the Belgian team where to dig, gave them the mattock and the empty buckets and left them to it. Mike and I did the spoil management, I hauled the skip up the slope, and Mike emptied the buckets.

The Belgian contingent were enthusiastic diggers, there was plenty of banter between them (more chatter than Brockers). They did their bit, we did ours, time passed and soon the pub beckoned. The digging stopped and we left, no-one was counting the buckets. An enjoyable evening in good company.

25th July

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, July 26, 2019 06:31:17

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Jon and Tav.

We assembled in the showcave car park as usual and made our way up to the tradesman [tunnel] entrance. It was warm already.

A smaller team this evening so we utilised one of the alternative spoil disposal areas so that digging was possible. Tav did the brunt of the digging, Jon did all the clearing of the filled buckets and sporadic rock. Vince was at the top of the sandpit, the “real Chamber 21”, passing the receptacles to Jake who was in control of spoil management. To enable maximum utilisation to the available disposal space, rocks were moved, retaining walls constructed, and a lot of buckets were emptied.

With all the activities in full swing no-one kept a tally of the buckets filled and emptied so after some discussion, a compromise was reached, 77 is a good number, it has symmetry and we shifted that many last week. We were satisfied, a good productive session, by now everyone of us was warm, time to head out for some refreshment.

It was oppressively warm on exiting the cave and there was some spectacular lightning on the way up to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn.

18th July

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, July 19, 2019 06:30:08

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Jon, Nick and

A bigger team tonight and
good to see Jake back after his flat maintenance stint.

It was the usual warm
trip through Chamber 20 to the dig. The thing is, by the time you arrive at the
dig you are warm, very warm, then, straight into swinging the mattock and
loading the loosened sediment into the bucket. And you feel the need to work
quickly as those team members waiting might become impatient, well that’s the

Jake was digging, I cleared
away the filled buckets and passed them up to Tav at the top of the sand pit. Tav
transferred the buckets into the skip, which was hauled upslope to the spoil
dispersal area, this was being managed this evening by Jon and Nick.

As the session progressed
Jake got warmer and warmer, so we swapped places, my turn to warm-up, not that
I was particularly cool anyway. More buckets filled, rocks battered with the
sledgehammer, all removed to the spoil heap.

There was some
discrepancy regarding total number of loads removed, but 77 was the figure we stuck
to as it has some symmetry to it. A good productive session and we were all
ready for the pub for some well-earned refreshments!

11th July

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, July 12, 2019 05:28:37

Report by Vince

Vince, Nick and Tav

A smaller team assembled
this evening so we decided that spoil heap management would be a good thing to
concentrate our efforts on. We built some walls, moved some rock, built some more
walls somewhere else, and shovelled a lot of spoil around filling the nooks and
crannies. Time passed quickly. At the end of the evenings session we had a lot
more space to dump more spoil.

4th July

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, July 05, 2019 05:26:04

Report by Vince

Vince, Mike, Jon, Nick and

There’s been a short
break between digging sessions as sometimes happens when work and personal
commitments all come together. A good number of the team gathered for this
evening’s session though.

As usual it was a warm
trip through Chamber 20 to the dig. Jon and Nick entered the ‘dig-pit’ to fill
the buckets. Tav was at the top of the pit, transferring the loaded buckets and
occasional rock into the skip hauled up-slope by Vince. Mike was dealing with
the sediment re-distribution. The downside of lubricating the slope with a
regular splash of water is that the hauling position becomes quite mucky and
overalls become mud plastered, and damp!
Mike waits for the first buckets to arrive.

It didn’t take long for
the diggers to settle into a steady rhythm, there wasn’t much time between
loads, a total of 90 loads were dispersed, mostly buckets.

All went rather smoothly,
there were no mishaps, nor any character assassination (not much anyway) and it
was an enjoyable evening session. But all good things come to an end and it was
pub time!

6th June

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, June 07, 2019 17:56:52

Report by Jon

Last minute
delays meant that only three diggers (Jon, Mike and Nick) attended this week. Hopes raised by a brief sighting of a fourth
(Duncan) were dashed when it was realised he was taking the wet route.

With the
absence of unruly influences, the team members were on their best
behaviour. In an auspicious week for the
nation, in which presidents visited from Europe and America to remember events
of 75 years ago, nobody mentioned the War, nobody mentioned Brexit and the only
wall to receive a mention was the one around the spoil heap.

Jon dug out
stone from behind St. Vincent’s Rock.
Nick hauled 25 skip loads of it up the dry slope. Then work began on the spoil heap. While Nick tended the sharp end, moving spoil
high up into the corner, Jon concentrated on building up the wall at the other

Mike did
the jobs of three people at the bottom.
He dug 24 bucket loads from the end, concentrating on the right hand
side. He carried these up the slope and loaded
the skip. A Sage Elder recently revealed
that he thought that the way on might still be under the right hand wall. Mike reports evidence of a possible undercut.

49 skips,
no-one offended, the spoil heap tended and digging progress made. What good boys we were.

30th May

digging 2019 Posted on Fri, May 31, 2019 06:11:28

Report by Vince

Vince, Jake, Nick and Jon

The usual warm trip to
the end of Chamber 20. When Vince arrived (delayed by a battery change) the others had decided it was his turn to dig. Spoil removal is the easiest job,
plenty of room to swing the mattock, then scoop the loosened sediment into an
empty bucket. The sediment mostly comprises pale yellow silty sand overlain by
pink-brown stiff laminated silty clay. A lot more effort is required to
dispatch the filled buckets to the spoil heap. Jake cleared the filled buckets
up to Nick, who loaded the skip. Jon hauled the skip up the slope, emptied the
buckets, cleaned them and returned the empty, clean buckets. Jake, under
instruction from Nick, reduced a couple of boulders to more manageable pieces,
useful walling material.

Jon also took it on board
to record this evening’s tally. It was evident when looking at the count that
there had been a “mid-haul” crisis around the “30” mark, when a shaky hand
recorded the number. This was put down to Jon getting-up at 04:30hrs this
morning to get into work early so that he could leave earlier and have time to get
through the chaos of roadworks at Stonehenge and be on time for digging this

At the end of the
session: 58 buckets filled and emptied. Its okay with four but, more is better!

23rd May

digging 2019 Posted on Sun, May 26, 2019 17:17:15

Vince was away, digging on
Gower with John Cooper and Professors Danny McCarroll (Swansea University) and
Danielle Schreve (Royal Holloway, London). Jon provided the following account
of the evening’s activities:

Report by Jon

“Of late, the Wookey Hole
and Halloween Rift diggers have shown increased enthusiasm for their
activities. Early arrival and a prompt start now appear to be the
norm. And so, it was at Wookey Hole this week. Five of the team
(Jon, Tav, Jake, Nick and Mike) met before the appointed hour. Even the
latecomers were early.

At the dig, Nick assumed
digging duties, supported by Mike. Jon loaded the skip, leaving Tav and
Jake to haul and empty.

The digging spoil is now
dry, easing the task of emptying buckets, and a team of five is a good number
for this dig. The bucket count rapidly increased and, unusually, was
accurately recorded by those team members at the spoil heap. 135 buckets
of spoil were removed.

Mike reported that the
floor was lowered by some 12 inches (30cm).

The prompt start resulted
in early calls to depart, but the team held out to the end. They then
retired to a local hostelry for some well-deserved liquid refreshment.”

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