23rd December

It has been a while since the last visit to Wookey Hole for a variety of reasons including work and pandemic restrictions. There were two objectives for this late afternoon/evening trip: firstly, a chance for Roz and Tav to see the Wookey 24 streamway and, secondly, to rig a ladder up and over a dry route to bypass a swimming section streamway to reach Wookey 24 “camp”. This will enable easier access to more passages and opportunities for exploration beyond.

After recent persistent rain, the water levels in the streamway were much higher than our previous visit (29/10/20) and several metres above our heads the “bubble” ring was evidence that the water had been very much higher. There was plenty of wading and lots of steam generated (photos are a bit ‘blurry’).

Roz explores a section of Wookey 24
Wookey 24 ‘camp’

Wookey 20 to 24, the connection!

The expansion of the Wookey Hole showcave by a driven tunnel into Wookey 20 was completed in 2015. The tunnel allowed easy access to the cave passages beyond by ‘dry’ cavers, more specifically to ‘diggers’ eager to check out the potential leads. In late 2015, the regular diggers at Hallowe’en Rift were invited to take a look at a lead on the east side of the far reaches of Wookey 20. This route had been explored by divers, Tom Chapman and Keith Savory, in the 1990s to a low and too tight arch. There followed a period of expansion and induced rapid speleogenesis culminating in about 70m of gnarly passage gained and leading to another sump, named ‘23¾’, linking to the Sting Corner area in Wookey 24. Diving continues in this area.

In early August 2020, another project was set in motion by the regular team of Wookey Hole diggers in a small side passage off the route that leads down to sump 23¾. Following a collaboration between divers and diggers to establish a voice connection and pinpoint the best location, an intense digging effort of almost non-stop activity, finally, on the evening of October 29th 2020, a ‘non-diving dry’ route from Wookey 20 to Wookey 24 was completed by Vince Simmonds, Nick Hawkes, Duncan Price, Graham Johnson and Mike Moxon. The route, following the small side passage off the route to sump 23¾, connects to the recently discovered extension, Beginner’s Luck, above the streamway found by divers, Connor Roe, Duncan Price and Max Fisher, leads down a steep descent into the Wookey 24 stream passage. The route is physically demanding, especially on the return, and has some difficult, awkward climbs.

A few days later, the English government plunged everyone into a second lockdown and our activities were, somewhat curtailed. This also meant that several of the regular diggers, absent on the breakthrough, had not yet passed the connection to Wookey 24. We are still in lockdown!

Subsequently, a disappointing and blatant “poacher’s” trip to the connection has occurred. Video clips of the trip were posted, then removed, there was some negative feedback posted on various platforms along with a lot of bullshit and bollocks being uttered. It is categorically stated here that none of the participants involved on this “poacher’s” trip were, or have ever, been involved with any of the digging activities to make the connection to Wookey 24 or any of the other recent discoveries in Wookey 20 (Land of Hope and Glory) and any inferences of such is just not true!

Update: There was a rapid response to this post, a dialogue ensued and an apology has been received. It still rankles, but the clock can’t be turned back and we need to move on rather than enter an endless cycle of recriminations and finger-wagging. A line has been drawn under it.

“Land of Hope and Glory”

First entered on 15th September 2020. Also, the 80th anniversary of the “Battle of Britain”.

Nick negotiates “Fuzzy Wuzzy”
It goes! (L to R: Duncan, Jake, Nick and Jon, Tav is ahead and Vince took the photo)
Jon looks back towards the climb.
A lofty rift passage leads north…
…into an impressive rift chamber (view to west).
The big rift chamber (view to east)
Banded calcite
Dog-tooth spar
Mineral deposition
Mud cone formations

25th August, and it’s my 64th birthday!

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

We split into two units, Tav and Jake went to dig the “top o’ pit”, the rest of us headed to “23 and a bit”.

The recent wet weather has had a dramatic affect both in and out of the cave, the resurgence was flowing strongly. Throughout the cave there were plenty of drips, the trickling stream was flowing through Chamber 20 and water pouring down the calcite cascades. Very impressive. The climbs down through “23 and a bit” to the dig were wet too.

Vince at the top of the climbs. Photo by Roz Simmonds 25/08/2020

20th August

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

Jake wrestles with an obstructing boulder.

The boulder removed, I swapped places with Jake, dug out some mud, some cobble- and boulder-sized lumps of rock and calcite then wriggled through into a small chamber, c.2m (h) x 3m (max. l) x c.1m (max. w), at first it appeared to be formed within a calcite vein but, more likely, it is part of a Neptunian dyke. A Carboniferous limestone fissure filled with Triassic [dolomitic] conglomerate that has degraded leaving the void that I was now standing in. Remnants of the conglomerate infill can be seen in the roof.