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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 protagonists, in no particular order, have been: Vince Simmonds, Jonathon Riley, Robin 'Tav' Taviner, Nick Hawkes, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Mike Moxon, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Duncan Price and 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, Estelle Sandford, Max Fisher, Adele Ward, Lee Smith, Chris Dubery and the Belgians (seven members of the Cascade Caving Club).

20th February

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, February 21, 2020 07:03:39

Report by Vince

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

Quite a turn-out this evening. The potential water levels in the cave was one of the topics of discussion as we were getting changed in the car park. It has been rather wet recently!

At the tunnel entrance, it was noticed that the leat was clear and through the showcave section the sump pools looked quite clear too. Beyond the showcave, the drips and trickles were no stronger than usual, and further on the water flowing down the calcite cascades was normal for this time of year.

Approaching the dig, it was no wetter than it was last week which was unexpected. At the dig there was, however, a deep puddle of water. Tav got in and started bailing, a line was set-up to bucket the water away. It was soon “dry” and Tav started to dig.

Alex provided a shoulder to stand on and I was able to squeeze up into the narrow rift above the dig. It didn’t go anywhere and closed to become too tight after a few metres. Another climb above the access point was also pursued, it also soon closed, just small solution tubes.

With a large team present it seemed like a good idea to conserve the spoil dumping space in the extension and move spoil down to the lower platform, so that is what we did. Everyone was kept occupied. The constant trickle of water flowing out of the extension down onto the platform was noted.

No-one was counting the buckets, but it was a ‘goodly’ few, digging conditions weren’t ideal, very sticky at times. Progress, though, was made!

13th February

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, February 14, 2020 06:28:19

Report by Vince

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

The usual amble up through the cave to the did. As expected, the drips along the passage were quite active.

The access point into the recent extension is slippery especially when trying to move kit up through the slot. All attempts to get the ladder through failed – an alternative solution will be sought!

Nick had bought a new, health and safety compliant, spade, so he was left in the dig to try it out. And because there was water in the hole Nick had started last session. The rest of us moved and emptied filled buckets, cleaned buckets, built walls and managed the spoil heap, tidied away slop and improved access into the extension. Tried to get some photos but there was so much activity going on the passage became very steamy.

There is much enthusiasm for this dig!

Digging in progress!

Photo Gallery: 6th February.

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, February 07, 2020 21:18:07

In the new extension by Vince (Olympus Tough TG4)

Surveyed passage dimensions: 15m length, 5m wide and 5m high.

6th February

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, February 07, 2020 07:32:18

Report by Vince

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

A jovial gathering in the showcave car park, waited for Jon but, unfortunately, he’d had a breakdown (vehicular) and couldn’t make it.

A steady stroll through the cave to the dig. There, a variety of tasks were undertaken before digging commenced. Photographs, survey, pathways sorted, the access tidied and improved, the debris of last weeks fervour cleared and a spoil dump established. When all this was done, digging began. The filled buckets were passed along a line to be emptied and any rocks were added to the wall. Our initial efforts will be concentrated at the north west extent of the passage as it seems the most obvious place. There are a couple of overhead possibilities, but these will wait until the next session.

It was another pleasant evening of irreverent banter we are so not ‘PC’.

Jake enters the passage
Duncan views the recently discovered passage.
Mike takes photographs.
Mud formations.
Drip pool.
Flowstone and ‘popcorn’

30th January

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, January 31, 2020 12:14:50

Report by Vince

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

A good turn-out this evening, although we all had to negotiate the car park full of film crew and all the paraphernalia that went with them. “The Spanish Princess” apparently, didn’t sound very gripping. On to more pressing matters…

At the dig, the ‘wall’ was approached on two fronts; Jake, aided by Nick, continued on from Tav’s efforts last session, Jon continued where he had left off a couple of weeks ago, now following a trickle of water, there were some feint mumblings about water dripping into his ear but these were ignored. The rest of us were occupied with spoil dispersal. Nick was also endeavouring to remove a large boulder. With all this digging activity the buckets were being filled and emptied at a steady rate.

Nick’s boulder had been loosened, Tav fetched the sledgehammer, I used it to beat the boulder into submission. Jake called out; things were “looking very good”, he could see space back towards Jon. Meanwhile, Jon had turned the drip into a more sustained flow of mud and water, then announced that he could see into “black space”. As Jon kept on digging the resulting slurry was scraped away down onto the now sticky platform. Eventually, Jon was able to wriggle up through a narrow, slippery slot, with some assistance, into the space beyond. We all followed…

A chamber, guesstimated to be c.12m length, up to 6m width and c.6m high, formed along a line of weakness and likely to be the continuation of the main passage, the floor area, strewn with degraded conglomerate. There is a calcite vein, perhaps evidence of some hydro-thermal activity, and plenty of fractured rock along a fault line. Water dripping from the roof has precipitated calcite flowstone over large areas of the chamber floor, some decent mud formations were noticed too. There is a need for some photographs and surveying to be carried out. A couple of holes were noted at high level that require checking and there are several potential leads to pursue. Some rock removal was around the entry point allowed enlargement of the wriggle. Jake’s dig would have entered the same space a couple of metres away.

Very satisfied with the evening’s outcome, we left and made our way out of the cave.

23rd January

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, January 24, 2020 06:35:43

Report by Vince

Vince, Tav and Mike.

With a rapidly diminishing digging team due to work commitments, late arrivals and missed trains, the three of us thought we’d better get on with it!

At the dig, Tav digging, Mike clearing the filled buckets away and I was emptying them, consolidating the raised platform. The weather forecast for the coming week is not favourable, more wet weather. Hopefully, the precautions we’ve implemented will enable the digging effort to continue.

Tav developed the small space revealed last session into something far more interesting, with some air movement too. Another digging session (or two) will be productive, the prospects ahead look intriguing.

A satisfying evening.

16th January

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, January 17, 2020 05:56:11

Report by Vince

Vince, Jon, Nick and Mike. Duncan did his own thing again.

Despite the recent heavy rain, the dig wasn’t as wet as expected. There was some water, but we were able to carry on with the digging. Our endeavours to create a platform last week had worked.

Both Jon and I were digging, the loosened spoil put into buckets, the filled receptacles then emptied onto the edges of the platform where it was drier by Nick and Mike. The cleaned buckets were returned. There were trickles of water coming from several locations making the whole excavation process increasingly muddy. As progress was made things became more interesting. That’s the thing with digging, things always look interesting; a small gap opens here and there; what’s happening here? Always something for the inquisitive!

All too soon it was time to finish, a quick tidy-up and we left. On the way up the climb Nick noticed something I’m not certain we’ve looked at, bear it in mind for next time, before we are too muddy.

9th January

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, January 10, 2020 06:33:32

Report by Vince

Vince, Nick, Jon and Mike. Duncan and Connor Roe did their own thing.

It’s been a while, so we thought we’d go and check the water level. There was some torrential rain this afternoon, so we weren’t too confident about the prospects of getting some digging done. However, as we progressed through the cave there were indications that it might not be as wet as expected.

On arrival at the sand pit we were pleased to find that is was dry and we were able to get on with some digging. Nick “the mole” led the way, he’s been out of action for a couple of weeks and was chomping at the bit, Mike was clearing away Nick’s spoil mostly in an effort not to get buried. The spoil was shovelled down onto the accumulating heap. Jon and I spent the evening levelling the spoil and creating a platform. Hopefully, this will enable us to continue digging in wetter conditions, the ladder can be used as a bridge if necessary.

By the end of the session progress had been made and it’s beginning to look rather interesting. A couple more sessions and things might start to become clearer and reveal something positive. We departed, satisfied with a productive evening.

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