Through usage a few names for discoveries have stuck, the existing rift (with the knotted rope) at the end of the original dig with water in is now “Referendum Rift”. The start of the tight bedding plane is “The Portcullis” making the breakthrough bedding plane “Portcullis Passage”. The well decorated tube is “Pretty Passage”. The new rift is “Backstop Rift” none of these names are official yet but are what the diggers are using at the moment.
So four possible ways on have been identified, the end of Backstop rift, the top of Backstop rift, Pretty Passage and a small hole across the bedding plane. I will deal with each in turn.
End of Backstop Rift
This has been pushed to its conclusion and other than a very small hole (2 inches diameter) in the roof, nothing. The floor has been probed to a depth of about 2 feet revealing that the walls of the rift continue straight down at least that far. No evidence of bats.
Top of Backstop Rift
Andy has bolted to the very top where an intriguing tube about 8 inches diameter was discovered, seemingly breaking into another rift. The next trip saw Andy doing some incredible gymnastics to drill ready for blasting. We retreated to Referendum Rift and pushed the button, it was somewhat louder than we expected leading to theories of cross rifts and passages heading back over Referendum Rift. The next week Backstop was climbed to the blast site and a small bedding passage was discovered heading East, sadly it is only about 6 inches across but goes for at least 2m where it disappears around a bend. No evidence of bat droppings.
This was pushed in just a fluffy to keep it clean, amazingly no formations where damaged. After about 6 foot everything closes down with 4 or 5 holes between the mud floor and stone roof, all of them about 3 or 4 inches high. Lots of bat droppings all over the place. As this seems to be trending west and south (back towards known cave) it is being left for the moment as it will be a big dig rather than a quick breakthrough.
Small hole across bedding plane
Looking north across the bedding plane is a hole about 8 inches across, sadly the bedding plane is only about 5 inches high just before it. Richard Nurse brought an endoscope along and although not conclusive it does seem that the hole trends east. This will need blasting when Andy returns from the Alps. There are plenty of bat droppings here. To keep us busy we are currently digging along the bedding plane, it has revealed itself as an ellipse about 12 inches high in the middle with nice scallops in the ceiling and heading east. Much excitement 2 weeks ago when the roof went vertical and a small airspace was encountered. The horizontal bedding plane seems to have encountered a cross rift about 10 inches across, who knows how high and heading northish. There is a possibility that this rift intersects both the “small hole across the bedding plane” and the “small bedding passage” at the top of Backstop Rift.
So all quite complex and needless to say frustrating as we know there is open passage somewhere but we still don't know where the bats are coming from!
– Lawrence 11/2/19
Emma, Chris C, Rachel & Andy, Lawrence, Rich and Andy C
Tourist trip in via the Gough's 'adventure caving route' and down through the ‘Far Rift Dig’ tube - this dig was started by Andy Sparrow in 1984. After a short crawl through a muddy puddle that leads to 'Referendum Rift'. The climb is in two stages with a knotted rope hanging down in both sections and giant staples strategically placed within the rift to assist with your assent. The second half of the climb pinches in and it's a thrutch to get up this section without much leg room.
Turning immediately to the right we went through the horizontal squeeze through 'the Portcullis Crawl' which is interesting on the return to the top of the rift. Then a careful flat out crawl past the stalagmite column into 'Boot Scraper Chamber' up through muddy tubes that lead to 'Back Stop Rift' and a look up into impressive flooded swirl pots in the roof. Phreatic tubes and ancient muddy flood lines in this area. Then onward to the 'Sparrow's Nest' where there is a traverse line helpfully rigged over the rift that leads down to North and South dig sites below (visited by climbing down the rift with a knotted rope as a hand line). Going along the top of the rift we climbed up into ‘Pillar chamber’ where there is a potential dig site through boulders. From ‘Pillar chamber’ we gained access up to 'The Gods' through huge boulders and a scramble up a muddy slope where Andy drilled and banged the roof. After a thorough guided tour by Lawrence et al we all made our way back - removing our suits at the lid of the ‘Far Rift Dig' extension. This is ensure the adventure caving route is not caked in the mud you became covered in from the trip. Heading back through cave passages last night in a fury suit without knee/elbow pads and gloves felt very strange.
After exiting the cave and climbing over the fence we washed off our suites etc in the river. A quick change into dry clothes and a most enjoyable debrief in the White Hart over drinks and nibbles.
The Team: Andy Sparrow, Richard Nurse, Will Puddy, Lewis Tucker (new member), Rachel Sparrow, Lawrence Wilson
Following on from previous report.
Andy returned from Alps and the small hole across the bedding plane was enlarged, as it would take three or four visits to allow access to see around the corner digging along the narrow rift continued, more as something to do rather than with any expectation.
With a new member recruited to the team (Lewis), Andy and myself where freed up to do some long overdue housekeeping stabilising the stone wall at the bottom of Referendum Rift.
The diggers went up and examined the result of the last blast, progress but no way through so continued the digging. After half an hour a large rock was removed and a small air space was revealed above it. The clay changed to pebbly sand with the air space enlarging as they went, after 1m of rapid progress pebbles started to bounce down into a void ahead! Richard pushed and was through, closely followed by Lewis and Will. The small tube broke into one end of a large rift about 4 or 5m from the floor. This was down climbed and the large size of the breakthrough seen, they decided to return at this point to get Andy and myself to join in, sadly we had exited the cave a couple of minutes earlier so caught up with us washing kit in the river, much excitement and talk of ways on, as it was late it was decided to reconvene the following evening to explore.
Seven o'clock and everyone was changed and raring to go, all made it up to start of bedding plane dig then off to explore, the small breakthrough passage really is quite unusual breaking out at the end of the rift onto a small bedding ledge. The down climb isn't straight forward so Rachel decided to stay on the ledge (Sparrow's nest?) the rift is between 2 and 4 meters wide, about 20m long(?) and maybe 15m high and is aligned North-South.
The floor slopes down at about 30 degrees, at the higher end it is mostly clay with a possible dig site under the Sparrows nest. At the lower, far end there is a lot of sand and another good dig site. There is bat shit everywhere, even more than in Backstop Rift. A few small passages were pushed but none went, the rift was climbed from the floor to no avail.
Back at the ledge Rachel and Andy had spotted a high level traverse about half way up the rift, this was crossed into an unstable area with lots of leads in all directions, the most intriguing of which is a small bedding plane heading off South-East, it dips down, is half full of mud but can been seen going around a slight bend about 4m ahead.
So in summary, up to 30m of new cave discovered, this is the third rift we have encountered and they seem to be getting progressively bigger as we go. More evidence of bats, still no clue where they are coming from, there was no known open link between Backstop rift and this one before we dug through.
What next? We desperately need all of the new extensions surveyed (Max has volunteered).
There is a lot of “hanging death” jammed in the rift so some careful stabilisation.
Access needs improving all the way from Referendum rift.
Traverse line, hand line, platform or staples need fitting at traverse.
Bedding plane and other leads need digging/exploring.
Will Sampson, Danny Burnett, Barry Hulatt
Three of us, Will Sampson, Danny Burnett and me, Barry Hulatt, did a quick trip around Lionel's Hole in Burrington last night. Decided in absence of the rest of our team and the potential amount of water / flooding to postpone our proposed Swildon's trip. Lionel's was warm and dry, sharp and squeezy in places. We explored the upper part of the cave and the several holes in the floor of the main chamber. The way on was not obvious as diggers had deposited spoil in the passage but Danny cleared this sufficiently for a quick furtle. We did not make it to the streamway or the pitprop area which D & B had remembered from a previous life. There's plenty of scope for a return trip, remembering that the stream area is rather tight and tortuous. Others would be welcome.
– Barry Hulatt