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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, Mandy Voysey, David Walker, Lee Hawkeswell, James Begley, Naomi Frazier, Estelle Sandford, Max Fisher, Adele Ward, Lee Smith, Chris Dubery, Connor Roe and the Belgians (seven members of the Cascade Caving Club).

23rd July

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, July 24, 2020 06:31:07

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

Nick, Jon, and Duncan rotated the digging duties, I was shuttling the filled buckets through the chamber to be emptied in the lower intermediate spoil dump where Mike and Tav were attending to spoil management. Jake was busy cleaning the ladder, in case it is required later, when done he joined the spoil disposal activities.

At the dig, downwards progress was slowed due to a rock encounter. Some, potentially, large blocks of rock were being exposed. The way forward appears to be diminishing, which is disappointing. More sediment needs clearing away to be certain, but time ran out this session. A downwards direction still seems to remain the best option. We will have to deal with the rocks as and when necessary, there are a number of methods that can be employed, including plug and feathers, capping, or the application of IRS. We will have a better idea after the next couple of sessions.

It was a bit damp during the après dig refreshments in the ravine.

21st July

digging 2020 Posted on Wed, July 22, 2020 06:30:36

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

We’re ‘making hay while the sun shines’ and following-up on Nick’s suggestion by having a Tuesday evening digging session. Duncan went off to 23¾ to check out something while the rest of us went digging.

As usual we arrived at the dig warm and no time to cool down, I was straight into digging. I was going to get very warm swinging the mattock and filling buckets with the loosened sediment. After 20 minutes or so it was time to cool down and Jake took over digging duties. Jake continued where I had left off until he too became overheated and it was Mike’s turn for a while, then it was Tav before I returned for the final stint. Down in the lower, intermediate spoil dump, Jon and Nick were coping admirably with spoil management.

The majority of spoil removed was a varying mixture of clay, silt, and sand ranging in colour from light red to brown becoming light creamy brown and bright yellow. There are distinct layers throughout where the sediment has settled, presumably following flood events. Good progress was made in a downwards direction. In the later stage of the session some sub angular to subrounded cobbles and boulders were encountered, these showed signs of continuing erosion by aggressive water/moisture. A few rocks were removed but others remain in situ until Thursday evening’s session. It is certainly looking interesting at present.

As ever when all are busy time seems to pass quickly and the session came to an end. We moved the tools out of the way and made our way out of the cave.

It had been warm work and refreshments at the entrance were welcome. We took the opportunity to discuss the evening’s activities and to plan for Thursday. Happy days!

16th July

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, July 17, 2020 06:21:47

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

Duncan went off to ’23 and whatever’ to do his own thing. The rest of us went digging.

Jon, Tav and Nick rotated the digging and shuttling of filled buckets across the chamber. Jake and me, were on spoil management duties. The filled buckets were transferred, by me, from the chamber to the lower intermediate spoil stashing location where Jake emptied the buckets and stuffed the sediment into all available nooks and crannies. Basically, backfilling the spot he had been digging before Jon dug into the chamber above. We need as much spoil disposal space as can be utilised.

It was a busy session and good progress made in a downward direction. It was reported that there are some encouraging signs beginning to develop, or so it is hoped.

Après dig drinks and debrief were enjoyed in the Wookey Hole ravine. It was a pleasantly warm evening.

9th July

digging 2020 Posted on Fri, July 10, 2020 07:01:57

We’re back and we have been busy!

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

As has become the norm we met in the village and got changed at the cave.

It was the usual warm trip through the cave to the dig. Jake was first to arrive, so he was elected to dig (by me, no-one else was there yet anyway). I started to clear the filled buckets away when Nick turned up to help followed by Roz. Nick came forward and was delegated ‘step digger’ and a bucket platform was required. Unfortunately, Jake was digging down faster than the steps were being cut. It is a deep hole and it get’s noticeably deeper every digging session. Some interesting sediment layers were the subject of discussion and speculation.

All too soon it was time to leave, the last bucket filled, tools stashed out of harm’s way and off we went. Comments were made on the fine spoil retaining wall as we passed.

At the entrance, we changed, refreshments retrieved from cooling in the leat and some chill-out time ensued. It’s very peaceful in the Wookey Hole ravine in the late evening.


Miscellaneous Posted on Sat, March 21, 2020 06:53:56

Due to the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic and the latest UK Government advice on social distancing, etc. all digging activities are suspended for the foreseeable future. Good luck and hopefully, good health people!

27th February

digging 2020 Posted on Sat, February 29, 2020 07:02:17

I had been dispatched to deepest Dorset to liberate a Bronze Age bowl barrow from an invasion by aliens – rhododendron. When I arrived, I found that the forces assembled were ill-equipped for the initial foray and the invading aliens had taken the higher ground with the aid of some well-established pine trees and bracken. The assault was long and sustained but ultimately unsuccessful, we shall return better prepared when the birds have finished nesting. As a consequence, I was back too late for this evening’s activities in Wookey Hole.

Report by Jon

“Five of the team (Jon, Tav, Nick, Jake and Mike) attended this evening’s digging session.  Following another wet week, the expectation was for wet cave conditions. However, it had also been noted at the previous session that the dig had become sandy with a good chance of draining. One of the team was eager to remind the others about this.

Jon was elected to dig, supported by Jake.  The two moved to the front a little quicker than the others and immediately set about bailing the water from the dig face. Jon then commenced digging.

The sandy layer in the floor was not as deep as previously thought and soon became quite rocky. The floor was initially dug back a little from the dig face to create more room, and then to the right for the same reason. A goodly number of buckets of spoil was removed, along with a useful amount of building stone. While the digging continued, other team members spent some effort improving access by cutting steps into the mud bank at the last breakthrough point. As a final gesture, the worst of the mud was removed from the floor of the dig face to offer hope that it might drain a little before the next session. The team then retired to a local hostelry for liquid refreshment.”

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!

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