Log Book 2018

Mangle Hole. Fri 15th Dec 2017

So I returned to Mangle Hole yesterday with my new friends Mr. C. Bar and Mr. M.tock to see if I could make any progress.

I first tried to move the rock stuck in the bedding as it seemed like an easy prospect but it was jammed solid, wielding a 600mm crowbar above ones head in a narrow space was harder than I expected so I decided to temporarily give up and do some digging in the passage next to the bedding which also issues a cool draught.

Digging of the floor made access easier and soon I was able slide into the passage and see what was in the black space ahead, to the right was all choked with mud, to the left it was all long thin slabs stacked upon each other that appear to have at some stage have detached from the roof and fallen to the floor. More progress could be made by further digging and rock shifting but that would likely require lots of trips to achieve anything turning it into a long term dig.

I turned my attentions back to the rock, after much examination it seems to have fallen in from above and become stuck between floor and roof at an angle, by a process of randomly waving the crowbar/ mattock at it I managed to start chipping off bits of the roof that should be holding it up.

After some time it still wouldn't budge so I admitted defeat and plan to return with a hammer and chisel, it's not very thick so I don't think capping would be a good option as it would get blasted to pieces right in front of your face, it's approx 20cm thick by 80cm long (tapered) by 50cm wide.

There is just enough room to squeeze along side it and look beyond where once this rock is out the way progress could be made into open passage.

I think both the route beyond the rock and through the dig must join to the same area as they both draught steadily and are quite close together although they are angled at 90° to one another and both have signs of water flowing in along these separate directions.

I'll be heading back next week if anyone is keen to join me.

– Max

Sidcot Swallet. Jan 2018

Hi I was asked to right up a club trip what can I say but wow 😲 we started going to sidcot swolet but I don't not get throw the first squeeze after the entrance then we presented to go on a nover trip and it was amazing involved a lot of climbing and weching hopefully if I am allowed I would like to do this as my club trip as it was really good fun and axel struggled with it and for the first time ever I was better than him at it that felt good as normal struggling to keep up if I was to do a club trip here who is up for it I will check the name with Barry I would like to take a club rope down with use as we had to stop because there was a little bit of a free claim straight down that looked fun but there scechey so rope and Belay from the top will be needed to explore there then ended up at hunters after.

– Will 20/1/2018

Rope tech skills, Goaters. Thu 22nd Feb 2018

Burt, Emma, Peter, Chris C, Lawrence

After meeting in a freezing car park with the above and Barry, Danny and Will (who went to West twin adit) we trooped into goaters main chamber and had a good session setting up various handlines, assisted handlines, Z rigs and hauling systems. There was a lot of metal gear to have a go with; prussiks, shunts, stops, a rack, crolls, grigris etc and a variety of different setups were assembled and used. Some were more complicated than others! The old adage of “less is more” seems to be the way forward unless you intend to carry out some form of complicated rescue with a very badly injured person - in which case you'd probably call MCR. The other useful gem to come out of the night was a link to this site: www.animatedknots.com.

Overall a very useful session which I will run again using more scenario based problems, and in a different cave just to add some spice.

– Burt

Tween Twins. Fri 17th Aug 2018

Jonathan Williams, (leader), Aidan Harrison, Emma Gisborne, Lawrence Wilson

All met up at the Burrington car park at 19:00 then walked up to the entrance, after a long, dug entrance crawl the top of a dug and blasted rift was reached, this was descended easily with a hand line and ladder to the breakthrough point into a roughly 3m diameter horizontal passage. The formations where amazing and reminiscent of those in Sidcot Swallet although in pristine condition including mud formations on the floor, a series of gour pools continue along this passage. Due to the recent drought these where bone dry allowing us to see the “pop corn” formations inside them.

The gour pools and our trip terminated at Water lily chamber, named after an amazing formation where a stalagmite has touched the surface of the water in a gour pool then spread out to form a lily pad, we returned to the surface via the same route at 20:00 A short but beautiful trip that gives an insight to how Goatchurch and other Burrington caves must have looked originally, thanks to Jonathan for taking us and Emma for organising the trip.

– Lawrence Wilson

Bradshaw's Cave. Thu 30th Aug 2018

Pete Sanders, Emma G, Chris Castle, Andy Watson (leader).

Bradshaw's Cave is not widely known, it's not in the guide books, although it is in the Registry; and is difficult to find. Until recent years it was very short. It was first noted by Dr Reg Bradshaw, a geologist, around 1970 who informed Willie Stanton but nothing more happened and it was forgotten about until 1982 when Phil Hendy of the Wessex found it. He got in 12 metres but was stopped by a squeeze. He then thought it had become blocked until 2015 when Andy Watson re-discovered it and started digging in earnest, mainly with Paul Stillman. They opened up the first entrance and later dug open two more. The exact length of the cave is not known as it still has to be surveyed, but Andy estimates that it is heading for 300 metres.

The first entrance is now blocked so we entered the second, a sharp wriggle, bringing us to a 30m long straight passage, the Long Straight, which goes towards the first entrance. We stopped short of this due to unpleasantness caused by badgers, and returned. Passing the way to the third entrance we continued crawling further into the cave, passing a variety of obstacles coming to April Passage where it was possible to stand up. We paused for Andy to tape off some fine cave pearls then carried on to see a remarkable formation - The Blackstone Stationary Engine. The cave is noted for black nodules which look like chert, but are some sort of petrified infill or water-deposited something or other, it's not really known yet, and the Engine is a wonderfully bizarre example of this. It looks like a construction of metal rods, I've never seen anything like it. Peter took some photos, I hope he can get one onto the website. Not too far further on we reached the end where digging is continuing although Andy suspects they are headed for a fourth entrance.

We then struggled back (well, I did) and exited by the third entrance.

There was far more to this cave than I expected. I found it hard work but I am past my peak! The dried mud added to the difficulty - it had a high coefficient of friction with an oversuit! There are no access restrictions, and although we don't want them in this case I think the cave needs protecting just for the Blackstone Stationary Engine. You have to step over it and if people start going there without Andy it will soon get destroyed.

– Chris Castle

Cloford Quarry Big Cave. Thu 13th Sept 2018

Chris Castle, Emma Gisborne, Andy Watson (leader)

This cave is a small Eastern Mendip cave geologically significant because much of it has developed along an unconformity between the Carboniferous Limestone at the bottom and Jurassic Oolite at the top, so there's around 100 to 200 million years' worth of rock eroded away between the two.

Andy led us around the edge of the quarry, keeping away from the edge as we didn't want to fall in, that would have been a bad start. Eventually he said “Here's the entrance” and pointed at a bramble bush. Indeed it was, it would be extremely difficult to find as there's no clue to it's existence, except a gated entrance nearby, the result of the quarry company gating the wrong hole back in the 70s.

We slid down a slope into a small chamber followed by an unpleasant crawl of 30m, The Tube, not tight but awkward. I had great trouble due to my thick cordura oversuit, which had great friction, a mistake I made on our last trip. At a junction we turned right into Link Crawl which mercifully opened up into the larger Unconformity Chamber where the unconformity could be seen very clearly. There were also fine corals and crinoids here and in other places, and also many roots coming through the roof as it is very close to the surface. To the right is a side passage called The Trench, the only place you can stand up, but I'd got behind and didn't go in that. Making our way over the boulders we came to Double Passage, two parallel passages with gaps between them and more bloody crawling. We took the left one, passing a nasty looking dig in the floor, went most of the way along then returned along the other passage. At the dig which Andy dug some years ago and which looked horribly tight, he went down a way, thought better of it, and had quite a struggle getting out.

On the way out I had even more trouble passing The Tube, especially what's marked as a squeeze on the survey. It wasn't particularly tight, but I couldn't get any purchase to overcome the friction of my suit, had to wriggle out and try again while the others waited for me patiently.

Despite it being a short trip I was knackered, poor old fart. A fascinating cave, but I won't be hurrying back. If you want to see the unconformity you don't have to go to all that trouble as the famous De La Beche Unconformity is in the nearby Vallis Vale.

– Chris Castle

Hunters Hole. Tue 18th Sept 2018

Sean Tidey, Lawrence Wilson

Having not done any SRT for about 20 years I was very keen to give it a go again, thankfully Sean was up for my reintroduction. After much looking through cupboards I gathered all of my kit together and we met at 19:00. It took me quite a while to kit up with everything the right way around and in the right order, especially the chest harness! At 19:30 we descended, Sean rigging in tandem down to the rock bridge with an MCG group who was already in. We then split off to the large ledge on the right, it all started coming back to me, the dry mouth, quickening pulse and getting frustrated with myself for constantly ending up with various cows tails etc getting the wrong side of the rope. Sean had kindly(?) left the last rebelay for me to do, so my first ever figure of eight on a bight and SRT rigging was completed while dangling on a rope (all went OK but I left the loop between the two ropes too short which made it very hard to swap ropes on the way back up). Finally we reached the bottom and had a brief poke around, then back up the rope, same frustration of getting myself tangled up, short rope at “my” rebelay etc. Took a bit of a swing off the ledge, I haven't got the same head for heights that I used to have but managed to suppress a scream! Reached the surface at 21:30 into a beautiful warm evening, to calm my nerves a swift pint in the Hunters seemed in order. My first trip down Hunters Hole was excellent and a real SRT playground, huge thanks to Sean for doing all the hard work.

– Lawrence

Oregon Caves. Sep 2018

Oregon Cave Just finished a great trip to the Oregon Caves. Well worth it if you can get this far, but it is a bit remote. The caves are in marble as opposed to limestone. I also managed some lava tubes down in California and climbed more than half of Mt Shasta. Didn't see the Sasquatch.

– Barry Hulatt

Waterwheel Swallet. Tue 2nd Oct 2018

Sean, Peter S, Andy, Rachel, Lawrence

All met up at 7:00pm in car park, to somewhat puzzled looks from dog walkers we got kitted up in wetsuits and walked to the entrance in the failing evening light.

Unlocked the very posh hatch and descended the concrete tubes to “old man's chamber” where the original (now blocked) entrance came in. From here we followed a very well constructed passage, then descended steeply through consolidated boulders admiring black, orange and red formations as we went, Sean pointed out a couple of very white and fragile straws that we presumed have been formed since the cave was dug and stabilised with much cement.

An awkward little down climb lead us to our first water feature just above some impressive black gour pools, thankfully(?) Rachel removed the bung (this is the only dam with a removable plug, all the rest have been concreted up) allowing the water to run down the cave with us. At the bottom of the gour pools the first duck came as a bit of a shock to the system when the icy water found its way to your chest, immediately after duck 1 is duck 2 which is deeper but with more head room this leads to a rift chamber.

Andy free climbed the narrow rift and the sound of splashing confirmed that he had safely reached the pool at the bottom, Sean and Peter rigged a 7m ladder directly into the same pool. OMG the shock of lowering myself into cold water up to my chin was enough to raise my voice by a couple of octaves! I then stood back to watch Peter come down the ladder, as he is six inches shorter than me I expected him to just disappear under the waves but to my surprise (disappointment) he bobbed across with his chin clear of the water, the advantage of a 6mm wetsuit! Once we were all down we climbed the dam and followed a tightening rift to the start of the terminal sump. From here most retuned via a dodgy traverse then up the ladder whilst I climbed back up the rift. Back through the two ducks then up and up (a total of 56m!) to the surface. After a lot of pulling and swearing at too tight wetsuits we drove to the White Hart for a debrief or two.

A very interesting and sporting cave that is a rarity on Mendip as it is short and wet, great fun.

The link below is an insight to the 440 digging trips that opened up the cave for us to enjoy. www.ubss.org.uk/resources/proceedings/vol18/UBSS_Proc_18_1_3-19.pdf

– Lawrence 3/10/18

Coral Cave. Tue 9th Oct 2018, 19:00 to 21:00

Sean, Peter S, Rachel, Lawrence

Parked at the bottom of Bourton Lane on the road, changed and walked up towards the farm, sadly my local knowledge was 35 years out of date so ended up going to far up the hill and bramble bashing until finding a path that did ultimately go in the right direction. On the upside we were treated to a great sunset as we walked due west low down on the flank of the hills. Just as I was getting a bit worried that we weren't in the right spot Sean found the entrance.

The padlock is the new CSCC one, the entrance is a somewhat snug (18 inch square) trap door with a pair of bolts about a foot above it.

Two ladders were joined and lowered down (total 17m) and a safety rope rigged. I barged to the front and descended first, almost immediately regretting it as I had to clear the large number of huge cave spiders out of the way! About 8m down a steeply sloping ledge covered in debris was reached. At this point I had to change sides on the ladder before continuing down next to a wall to the floor of steeply sloping debris and rocks. Down came Peter and Rachel on the ladder with Sean abseiling down last.

A lot of stuff has been chucked down the hole in the past so a bit of time was spent looking at bottles, tins, pots, pans and even a milk churn. Peter found a couple of frogs that we put into a tackle bag for latter release on the surface.

Following the spoil heap down through an arch an ascending gallery was followed upwards to its termination, presumably not far from the surface. This gallery was increasingly muddy with what looked like surface mud that had been washed in but couldn't see from where.

The whole cave is surprisingly large and phreatic in nature somewhat reminiscent of Goughs.

We all disappeared back up the ladder one by one, strenuous but OK until the hatch was reached at ground level, it being snug with the ladder ending only a foot above it was awkward to say the least.

If anyone is thinking of doing this trip on a sunny weekend it maybe worth having someone to leave on the surface as it is very close to a footpath and is impossible to shut hatch with ladder and rope hanging down.

A pleasant walk back to the cars via fields and stiles (much easier) was followed by a debrief or two at the New Inn, Cross

– Lawrence

Vallis Quarry Cave. Thu 11th Oct 2018

Chris Castle (solo)

As I'd never been here before I thought it was time for a look-see.

Pushing open the bat grill (which I've never seen locked) I crawled over broken glass, tins and goodness knows what to a wriggle up through boulders to a muddy chamber, then another wriggle up to a not so muddy chamber. At the end was a dug passage to a mud choke which looks as though it could go further. The work looked very old, I wonder who did it? Anyway, that was it. I had a look into a few holes to the side but they didn't go anywhere

This small cave has little to recommend it but it is noted for being Mendip's most easterly cave and the unconformity (see Cloford below) is well exposed.

– Chris

Pierre's Pot. Thu 11th Oct 2018

Barry, Dan, Will, Axel

Four of us did a trip down Pierre's Pot on Thursday and noticed the gravel and skid marks on the road. The walk from the carpark is at times quite hairy and on that occasion was particularly worrying in the dark for the large troops of kids we met. Well done those in charge of them and well done kids for being so careful.

We had some interesting gymnastics in Pierre's and all got in and out of the parts we could easily fit into. Dan and I noticed that someone has been doing a bit of uncompleted 'hidden persuasion' in the slot below the bolted slot. Any of us?

– Barry

Burrington Coombe. Thu 11th Oct 2018

It is sometimes easy to forget how lucky I am to have the Mendips on my doorstep and to treat it's gorges as nothing more than roads with bends in them that get me to where I want to be.

I thought I would share an unusual period in Burrington Coombe that perhaps goes to show that others also just use it as a road, or possibly race track.

On Thursday 11/10 I was working for Charterhouse outdoor centre doing morning and afternoon trips gorge walking in the East Twin valley. After a successful morning trip I loaded the kids into the minibus and drove down the Coombe to turn round and head back to the centre for lunch, however, rounding the bend at the West Twin valley we came across a car on its roof with a paramedic just arriving on scene, the young lady that was driving was out of the car and fine so we headed back.

After lunch I drove back to Burrington but was confronted by lorries reversing back up the Coombe and drivers flagging me down to say that there had been an accident and the road was closed, assuming that it was just the recovery of the mornings crashed car I carried on as I would be parking before I got to the closure, however when I got to the sharp left handler with the matrix sign I saw that it was a head on collision between a lorry and transit van (not much left of the van) not wishing to have the kids walk past the gory scene I went back to the Burrington Hams car park and took them for a walk instead.

Saturday morning saw me doing a morning Goatchurch trip for some scouts. To my surprise there was a car on its roof resting on the bottom of the Rock of Ages.

Sunday and a morning down Goatchurch then afternoon down Swildons, amazingly no upside down cars at all! It was too good to last as Andy Sparrow came out of Goatchurch in the afternoon to find a car on its roof at the bottom of the West Twin valley. So in summary a 400yard stretch of road had seen at least 4 separate accidents in 4 days writing off 5 vehicles and who knows what injuries.

It's Autumn so the roads are wet and have leaves on them, but nothing out of the ordinary or one would think dangerous? I'll continue to use the gorge roads and remind myself how lucky I am to be able to use them as part of my “commute”

– Lawrence

Shute Shelve Cavern. Mon 15th Oct 2018

Chris Castle, Lawrence, Andy and Rachel, Neil and Carol, Will, Kriss Cawson and Nikolai Stankiewicz (guests).

Everybody was at the car park on time, despite some having difficulties with A371 being closed.

The cave can be difficult to find, but I'd made a couple of recce trips in daylight and it's OK if you follow the fences. After about 15 minutes we were at the ochre workings with the entrance down a pit.

The first few metres are quite small and there was some concern whether Will would fit, but he went feet first and was fine. This opened up into Reynard Chamber, the fox's skull that was found when cavers first entered still there. We looked at the fine stal to the right and Pit Prop Passage, where the miners entered, to the left. In the roof is a big geode.

Next came Corkscrew Drop down into the Flat Room, with its impressive wide flat roof. Some people had a look at the side chamber to the right, Jim's Attic, then a careful descent of HD climb into Box Tunnel. This has the interesting ccc's - cryogenic cave calcite (I think), calcite affected by extreme cold under permafrost conditions, not much to look at perhaps, but apparently difficult to identify.

Finally came the descent into the dig at the bottom, which I was involved with many years ago. It is a frustrating dig, the huge cave couldn't just end and the dig would soon break through and start going up, but we dug down to bedrock. The ACG are going to dig next season at a possible site near the top of the hole in the hope of finding a strike passage. I don't know, it doesn't look big enough. There is a lot of breakdown perhaps covering a passage.

The journey back was uneventful and we slithered back downhill to the cars.

An aside. This cave is extremely old. It was one of Andy Farrant's study sites for his PhD and his sampling showed that some of the stal was over 350,000 years old and the magnetism in the silt is reversed showing that it was laid down over 780,000 years ago.

– Chris

Shute Shelve Cavern. Sun 21st Oct 2018

Chris Castle, Judi Durber, Peter Sanders, Emma Gisborne, Brendan Hanley.

This trip was much the same as the last one so I won't go on too much.

Once in Reynard Chamber an inordinate amount of time was spent taking photos in Pit Prop Passage before descending into the Flat Room and a look at the side chamber, Jim's Attic. This was much bigger than I remembered. Down the climb into Box Tunnel for a look at the cryogenic calcite crystals and the dig at the bottom. Since I was last there the ACG have had a furtle where they intend to dig next year; it's on the right before the descent to the old dig. Possibly, but it looks a lot of work, it's all boulders, maybe they don't go far.

Out we came and down to the car park where Judi realised she'd left her keys by the cave. Off she went and came back amazingly quickly.

Many thanks to Alan Gray of the ACG for arranging access.

– Chris

GB. Mon 29th Oct 2018

Ian, Alex, Will Puddy, Richard (new members) Peter, Lawrence

Parked on the road at 19:00, changed and walked to the cave in the dark.

Straight down to the first grotto then left through the flat out crawl to Mud Passage, a short time later we emerged into the impressive Gorge. Following this down and over the bridge we had grand views down the Main Chamber from The Gallery high on the right hand wall, formations where admired in White Passage and Rift Chamber before descending The Loop to the Hall and more great views across Main Chamber finally dropping into it via the Oxbow.

The climb into ladder dig was tackled making full use of the two p bolts and chain then the crawl into the Boulder ruckle from here our smooth progress went to pot, not quite sure of which way to go we started to look for the way up through the boulders into Great Chamber, at one point Peter was seen below us on his way to Bat Passage not to be seen again for 45 minutes!

Eventually gave up on finding the Great Chamber and visited Bat Passage then back to the start of the crawls where we met up with Peter who had gone to the top of the ladder and back looking for us! All descended the ladder, I noticed that one of the P bolts is very warn, presumably from people abseiling from it and then pulling the rope through, there is no need as there is a perfectly good in situ mallion to use.

Back up Main Chamber, Gorge, and Mud Passage to the entrance emerging into a frost covered field at 22:10. Finally had a debrief at the Swan, Rowberrow having been to the Penscot (closed), Cider Barn(closed) and Star Inn (closed down?)

A great trip and a privilege to introduce 4 people to the dramatic size of GB.

– Lawrence

Winterhead Hill Swallet. Thu 15th Nov 2018

Axel, Barry, Will, Stu, Steph, Seán

Axel, Barry, Will and Stu, TOOTHACHE MOLERS joined Steph and Seán for a slightly delayed start due to Danny being diverted back home due to fog. Upon arrival each person seamlessly drifted into a task for the first ?? or so minutes clearing vegetation, building silt traps, clearing out the “sink point/s and capping the monster rock seemingly blocking the way on. Seemingly was right, after its removal smaller, some about half the monsters size steadily followed along with about half a cubic metre of mud, silt and thin layer of yellowish sand.

Toward the end another monster was encountered, I say toward the end it was actually about an hour ish. After strenuous efforts of crowbarring digging out around it heaving and cursing, a single hole with 2 caps seemed to have sorted it 3 or 4 just liftable [ getting tired!] lumps left the last little bit ….. uuuuuuuuuum 20 mins or later after having cleared a few football size rocks from around it, “THE LAST LITTLE BIT” desperation and aggression took over and it was pounded by “Bertha” the 6ft 30kg+ digging bar, little bits giving up as it slowly sank below the water level. sinking below the water level! ! ! OH s*** we had puddled the drainage, so end of session was using Bertha to find it again. Successful night, of around 2 1/2 hours - 3 hours resulted in gaining a depth of about 1m+ over an area of about 1m x 1.5m.

Site is interesting, at present no solid walls or bedrock, rocks are fairly rough of various types, sort of conglomerate, possibly harptree bed and quite minerally, hard to get a good picture as most is covered in mud, so have not seen a lot of time in water? The next one or 2 sessions will probably be good with a team of 4 to 6/7, spoil removal will need to be organised and a plan of where to put it most certainly organised before much more effort. The “way on” furthest point in the sink depression looks extremely uninviting at the moment, under a cliff of “loosely” stacked rock. Without shoring and a bigger area to work in was the basis of my encouragement to dig where we did ! NEEDED is a quantity of scaffold/ clips and items to assist shoring. There are a couple of digs that currently are not being pursued so maybe a forage of these sites will have a lot of what is needed.

– StuL

Far Rift Dig. Thu 29th Nov 2018

Andy, Lawrence, Paul Far Rift Dig. 29/11/2018

I'm sure we are all aware of the massive potential of Goughs Cave (huge resurgence, massive catchment, little known cave).

About 35 years ago Far Rift was identified as a possible way on, out of the known cave system. A dig was progressed through a squalid duck, finally reaching a narrow vertical rift that was forced by Tom Chapman to the top some 5m above, where it opened out a bit but had no obvious way on, interestingly a dead bat was found at the top, where did it come from?

Interest waned and the dig was abandoned. Scroll forwards 15 years and Andy Sparrow was a cave leader, leading a group of tourists around the adventure cave circuit he noticed a draught coming out of the dig, on closer inspection the draught was actually causing ripples on the surface of the duck, interesting.

Another 15 years passed, Gough's management changed and Andy managed to get access agreed for Cheddar Caving Club to dig at the site in April 2017. The first phase was to improve access to the top of the rift. The horizontal squeeze, crawl and duck was blasted open to provide an easy hands and knees crawl to the bottom of the vertical rift. This was enlarged but unfortunately in doing so large amounts of mud was released which meant a lot of time was spent shoring up with a bag wall and drystone wall. Lots of man power from the ChCC! Finally the top of the rift was reached and a decision had to be made. Up and left, or up and right. The consensus was up and left. Much blasting (courtesy of Aubrey Newport) resulted in the blind top of the rift. Think again!

Rudimentary smoke testing suggested that the draught may be coming from the right. At this point Aubrey (and his explosive licence) retired from the dig due to a knee injury. Fortunately Andy came to the fore managing to get his license. Since Andy has gained his explosive license progress has been rapid with multiple trips per week. A horizontal tube near the top of the rift on the right has been followed for 3m until Tuesday this week when a vertical space above was noticed, this was blasted last night without much hope, more to rule it out before continuing horizontally.

Today (Thursday 29th 2018) myself and Andy met at the cave to clear debris from the blast and see what needed to be done next. I was a few minutes late meaning Andy had fallen into conversation with Paul (cheddar cave leader) so he was invited along to see progress.

As expected a few bags of rubble was removed from the bottom of the rift then up to the top to inspect the damage, sadly the upward squeeze into the vertical space was still intact but a couple of minutes with a hammer removed a nobble and I was volunteered to “give it a go” with much pushing from below I managed to get up about 3m, time for a rest and shout back a description of what I could see, “closes down to the left, not much to the right, maybe a hole about 4m above me but looks like another blind top to the rift” I found another foot hold allowing me to push up another half meter. To my surprise I was looking straight into a horizontal alcove on the bedding about 2m round and 20cm high!! Putting my head in between the stalactites I could see around the corner along a passage about 20cm high disappearing into the distance!!!

A hammer was passed up and I started along the right hand side of the 2m wide passage. After about 3m I was half way along and could see over a low mud bank to a void beyond, despite best efforts it was just to narrow and digging heavy clay with a claw hammer just wasn't going to do it.

I retuned to get Paul's helmet with GoPro (hopefully uploaded soon) pushing to the max I got within 2m of the void, it is about 3 or 4 m across and maybe vertical in nature, I got the impression I was at the top of a pitch? So we are now out of the rift into a very different area, also it is covered in bat shit and draughting well. This is all heading out of the known cave, couldn't be more excited!

What next? Andy is now on holiday for a couple of weeks (damn him!) then a couple of bangs to widen the vertical squeeze then a night digging towards the pitch/chamber, then who knows?

So essentially about 15m of new passage found with a very obvious and potentially open way on, this is what dreams are made of.

– Lawrence

Swildons Sump 1

Will, Axel, Danny

The other day I did a trip with Danny and axle down to sump 1 and back not through as there was not enough of us. I would like to go through next time with a wet suit on a weekend. it took use 4 hours dead on I know it is a along time but never made it that far before.

– Will 7/12/2018

Goatchurch. Thu 6th Dec 2018

Will, Axel, Danny

Hi guys feeling a bit broken today as last night Me Danny Axle done caving I got down the drain pipe with Dan 1 end and Axle the other I know. I actually got down the last time I done it I was about 10 and shot through took me slightly longer last night. We then went down the pub.

– Will

Far Rift Dig. Sun 16th, 17th, 19th Dec 2018

Andy, Lawrence, Paul

Andy finally got back from holiday on Saturday, I don't think I could have waited much longer.

Sunday evening and we were back in the cave drilling holes into the vertical squeeze, a loud bang later and we retreated to allow the fumes to clear.

Monday morning and the waiting was finally over, Andy, Paul and myself(Lawrence) met at 10:00am with tools, rope, drills and bolts nothing could stop us now! Debris was cleared from the bottom of the rift and up we went, sadly only the bottom half of the squeeze had vanished, I was once again volunteered to go up. Wow was it this tight last time? Andy and Paul set about enlarging the remainder of the vertical squeeze with hammer and chisel while I set off along the horizontal squeeze. Again it seemed to have shrunk.

Flat out digging heavy clay was tough, with only minimal spoil space I kept the trench through the mud bank to about 8 inches from the roof and shoulder width, eventually I had to fully commit as I had run out of places to stack the spoil. Only 1m left to the void ahead, dig ahead and push spoil forward and around me, no way to reverse out, I had to get through. Predictably I got wedged with the wet clay sticking me to the floor, 5 minutes rest and getting my head back together. Had to go forward. Push. Push. Scape the mud away with my hands, movement! Struggle, shout back I'm through! Lie half out of the tube to get my breath back. What can you see? The floor! Is it a pitch? No!

Andy and Paul had made good progress and Paul was half way along the horizontal squeeze but could get no further. The GoPro was sent through and film shot, apologies for heavy breathing but I was knackered.

So what did we find? The squeeze exits about a foot off the floor of a small chamber about 2m across, a hole in the right hand wall leads into an area of breakdown with three passages leading off, the first a bedding plane is half full of mud and would need digging, the second a well decorated tube, any investigation would destroy the pretties, the third leads up a mud slope into a high rift with possible bedding going off at a high level. Straight ahead the passage continued into the darkness about 4m high and 1m wide, I turned back at this point to let the others join in. Got back to the squeeze knackered so all decided to retire have a rest day and return for the big breakthrough.

Today (19/12/18) all met at 10:00am, expectations high. I went straight up and through to continue digging the floor down in the squeeze, Andy removed some rock from the roof at the start of the horizontal squeeze (provisionally named The Portcullis) Twenty minutes later and all three of us where through and ready to go into the unknown. Previous point was passed, another two steps and the open passage ahead closed down to nothing NO! NO! NO! Not to worry, Andy climbed high into the rift to have a look at the possible bedding going off, it didn't exist, NO! All other possible ways on where examined, nothing. I had misidentified the rift as passage, it is in fact the top of a cross rift.

So we have found about another 20m of passage, there is bat shit everywhere, a breeze, the squeeze and rift both head north, the bedding plane heads north and east, there is scalloping all over the place.

What next? A break for Christmas, then some housekeeping to improve access, then explore the bedding. We will be looking at a couple of hauling sessions and skinny cavers to continue digging out the floor of the squeeze so should be plenty of opportunity to come and have a look at progress yourself.

Today was disappointing at first, however we are heading out of the known system in a relatively large passage complex and we may have picked up a network of bedding planes in a cave that is dominated by them.

Although I have been on point for the last couple of trips this is due to my build, the dig is very much Andy's baby and he did a fine job today on motivating us after the initial disappointment

– Lawrence

Last modified: 14 Mar 2019 00:17