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is all about excursions in the countryside including caving and digging trips, walks and thoughts.

Simmonds, V. 2014. An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst. Mendip Cave Register & Archive (MCRA). (currently being revised, 2016)

An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst is freely available online at and in the archaeology section of the Mendip Cave Register & Archive at

Harry Thomas Cave, Gower

field notes 2019 Posted on Mon, September 16, 2019 19:17:38

15th September 2019

Saturday evening: I decided to drive over to Gower this evening rather than Sunday morning. After ‘phaffing’ around too much it was after 18:00 by the time I was on my way.  There was an amazing sunset as I drove west and a big harvest moon had risen when I arrived at Cefn Bryn, about 21:00. There were several vans already parked, I found a good spot and joined them for the night.

Sunday: The main reasons for driving over yesterday were, this morning, fulfilled – I’ve had a little ‘vamping’ fix and a peaceful, relaxed morning after a good nights rest. The sun was shining but I was thankful for having my down jacked. Fresh coffee, samosa, bhaji and vegetable spring roll for breakfast before setting off to Overton to meet John at 09:30. Stopped briefly in Port Eynon to use the facilities there. Looked at the sea and thought to myself “wish I had my swim shorts”, it was high tide and like a mill pond.

John was already at Overton and we were soon on the walk to Harry Thomas Cave. At the cave we went to the final ‘chamber’ at the current end and John gave a run-down of the latest progress. John has dug a pit to recover more animal remains and there were still plenty more to excavate. I had brought along a 100 LEDs UV flashlight (395nm wavelength), we turned off all the other lights and illuminated the finely decorated chamber with UV. The effect was even more dramatic than I had anticipated, revealing differences in fluorescence in the speleothems and the more recent moonmilk. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera, we will have to repeat and record the process next visit.

I returned to the surface, sorting out the haul lines on the way up. With the hauling system ready all the rocks stacked on the platform were loaded into the bucket and pulled up to the entrance. The rocks cleared I suggested we clear some of the bags, but John was determined to excavate some more. I returned underground and we picked over the cobbles and boulders to recover a variety of animal bones in variable states of preservation, including bovid, cervid, canid, lagomorph, rodent and avian. A mixed assemblage to be dried, cleaned and sorted.

John makes a photographic record. I didn’t have my camera but my phone was useful.

We recovered dog skull number 40 and there is every possibility that more will be revealed as excavation continues. Could really do with another spoil shifting session to remove a bulk of the cobbles and boulders. Time flies when you are busy and enjoying yourselves and before we knew it, time to pack things away and make our way home.

The bones were sorted into trays and I carefully carried them up to the surface where they were wrapped in cling film to be transported back to Overton where the vehicles were parked.

The assemblage safely on the surface ready to be wrapped with cling film.

The image above is an inscription dated Mid to late 18th century (1767) located just inside the entrance to Harry Thomas Cave. The image was taken with a Sony Xperia L1 and illuminated from the left side using hand-held caving light. It looks like there was at least one other attempt to make the inscription just above the ‘RD’

A day trip to Gower

field notes 2019 Posted on Mon, August 05, 2019 22:16:34

Spent the day on Gower. In the morning helping John Cooper and David Hughes at the cave excavation, the afternoon at Paviland Cave and other caves.

A weekend’s digging on Gower

field notes 2019 Posted on Fri, July 19, 2019 21:06:04

13th to 14th July 2019

Saturday: Walked the dog, then sorted kit and loaded van, coffee, breakfast and, eventually, on the road to Gower c.08:15. I had left at 08:00 but forgot something and turned back. Arrived at Overton just after 10:30, bit of traffic congestion in Parkmill, got stuck behind a coach. John was waiting.

Looking down the slade.

We chatted while I got my kit sorted then, laden, a stroll along the coast path to the slade and Harry Thomas Cave. At the cave got changed and went underground to take a quick look at the recent progress and to assess what needed to be done to construct the next platform, the main project for this weekend. It was obvious that there was plenty of clearing to be done before any construction work could be started. I returned to the surface, set-up the haul line and pulled the loaded bucket up from the depths, John stayed below and loaded the bucket with bags and stones. There were some breaks while John broke-up some larger rocks, I took the opportunity to take the bags along the path and empty them onto the “scree” slope, I also managed to clear the last of the bags that had previously been dumped along the path. I returned to the cave entrance to haul more bags and stones, then, Danny McCarroll turned up to lend a hand.

When the bags and rocks were cleared from the proposed platform area I went back underground with Danny and together we got to work constructing the platform. Some new ‘acrow bars’ had been purchased and one of these was bolted into place, after a little bit of rock engineering. A second acrow was fixed and scaffold bars attached to make a firm base. Scaffold boards were cut to size to form the platform. Time had passed quickly, it was 17:00 and we decided to call it a day, the last few boards would wait until tomorrow. We packed up and departed the cave.

John and I went to the Ship Inn, Port Eynon for a beer, Danny had to get away so couldn’t join us. After a couple of beers, a fish and chip supper for me, then up to Cefn Bryn to park up for a night’s “vamping”. A chance to try out the extra layer of ‘karrimat’ inserted into the van. Time to write up the day’s events too. It had brightened up a bit but was still a bit chilly, breezy as well.

Sunday: I enjoy these peaceful “vamping” weekends. a decent night’s rest and awoke to a pleasant morning. Coffee brewed, an omelette for breakfast, reading Aldhouse-Green, et. al. 2000. Paviland Cave report and writing in the diary. I had arranged to meet John at c.09:30, after a brief stop in Port Eynon drove to Overton.

Today at Harry Thomas Cave, the platform was completed, boards cut to size and secured, the ladders re-jigged and the job was “a good-un”. We then had another hauling session, clearing bags and rocks from the current end chamber. Initially, the bags were carried up the short ladder and stacked on the newly completed platform before I went up to the surface to haul them out of the cave, john loaded the bucket. It was warm and sunny on the surface.

John then suggested I might lift the “horse” skull recently found to one side of the end chamber, so we returned underground. In the chamber I cleared some loose stones from around the skull and to make access a little easier – it didn’t look like a horse skull to me – took some photographs, also noted another dog skull and other remains. The skull was in fair condition and almost complete, it was easy to lift – it was obviously a sheep, John wasn’t so interested with it after that.

The skull.

By now it was time to start packing things away and exit the cave, there was some discussion regarding various aspects of the end chamber. I picked up my drill bag on the way out of the cave. The cave secured, we departed. A brief chat at Overton before parting company.

A visitor to the cave.

I was heading along the heads of the Valleys road (A465) to the Lamb and Fox, Pwll Ddu to a wake for Brian Lewis, the former landlord. 25 years ago, during the heady days of discovery in Ogof Draenen, Brian and Carol had been very good to us. Met up with several old friends and raised a glass to Brian.

BCRA Field Meeting: North Pennines

field notes 2019 Posted on Tue, July 09, 2019 05:34:27

28th to 30th June 2019: BCRA Field Meeting – North Pennines.

A summary of a weekend exploring the Hypogenic Caves of the North Pennines in the UNESCO Global Geopark, at a joint meeting of British Cave Research Association (BCRA) and The North Pennines UNESCO Global Geopark (NPUGG).

Exploring Hudgill Burn Mine Cave.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

field notes 2019 Posted on Tue, July 09, 2019 05:22:19

17th to 20th June 2019: Archaeology, Geology and Speleology! An account of a few day’s spent on the Burren, County Clare in the west of Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher.

An away trip for some of the Hallowe’en Team!

field notes 2019 Posted on Sun, May 12, 2019 07:17:20

27th-28th April: An away trip to the Gower for some of the Hallowe’en Team.

Looking down into Harry Thomas’s Cave from the entrance platform, Alex and Jon pictured.

A day trip to the Gower Peninsular

field notes 2019 Posted on Sun, May 05, 2019 06:25:04

7th April: A day trip to the Gower Peninsular with John Cooper and Danny McCarroll.

Minchin Hole, Gower

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, December 28, 2018 08:48:25

27th December 2018: with Roz, Brockers, Nick, Tav and Jon.

Had purchased some supplies and a good team assembled to help carry the equipment, including drill bag, sundries bag, drill-bit tube, wire and a 3.5m aluminium ladder, into the cave. There was some debate regarding the length of the ladder, so Brockers carried in a hacksaw, just in case. A careful trip through Chamber 20 to the sand dig where there was plenty of evidence for recent slumping.

With a bit of jiggling the ladder was installed and I was able to drill 4no. holes into the slab of rock. Brockers passing various bits of kit and stuff as and when required. The rest of the team spent time sorting out the spoil heap and ran-out the wire. The holes were charged, and the evening brought to a satisfactory conclusion from a safe location.


Sandy Bay/Middle Hope, North Somerset

field notes 2018 Posted on Mon, December 24, 2018 08:11:31

23rd December: Spur and furrow morphology at Sandy Bay, North Somerset.

The spurs comprise silts and clay with some sand, the base of the furrows being lined by a coarse pebble/fine cobble layer, which could be an underlying sediment or a lag deposit dragged into the furrows by the tide.

Swallow Cliff Bay drift sequence. The most complete exposure is found in the south-eastern corner of the bay (right-side of image) where it rests on the fossil shore platform, here it is cut into [Carboniferous] basaltic lava at about 12.5 m OD.

Reference: Case, D.J. 2013. The Coast of the Bristol Region: Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology. Geologists’ Association Guide No. 71

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, December 07, 2018 08:35:17

6th December 2018: With Duncan, Jonathon,
Nick, Tav and Alex

The trip through Chamber 20
didn’t appear to be much wetter than last week, in spite of the recent rain. At
the sand dig, the water level had risen c.150-200mm and was encroaching into
the alcove. Everything at the bottom of the dig was slippery, the self-digging
hadn’t occurred, and the large, precarious slab of rack was still overhead.
After some protracted discussion, it was decided that the rock needs to be
dealt with before digging can continue [relatively] safely, some chemical
persuasion is required, it will be done!

Tav suggested that we
might re-locate the retaining wall and so create extra spoil dumping space,
this seemed a good idea so, that’s what we did for the evening.

I had a less than
comfortable trip out of the cave, the sole of my boot had decided to become
detached and go solo, one moccasin is not great for caving – or one socked foot

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, November 30, 2018 12:53:16

29th November 2018: Last weeks digging
session was abandoned for the pub when only three of us turned up at Wookey

Better turn-out this
week, with Nick, Tav, Jonathon, Duncan, Mike and, course yours truly, all keen
and raring to go, unfortunately Roz got left behind and wasn’t happy about it!

After some persistent wet
weather recently, we weren’t all that hopeful about this evening’s prospects
but, we headed off anyway. The cave was active, the sound and sight of
dripping, running water all the way up through Chamber 20. At the sand dig, the
anticipated puddle of water but, rather surprisingly, not as deep as expected.
The excavation had become
self-digging as more had slumped from the roof to reveal a space overhead,
which was encouraging, and potential lead(s). Some digging was possible but
continual slumping and a large, suspect slab overhead soon put an end to it. That
was, until Nick decided to poke a bar into the bottom of a small pool of water
that became a flow of water and a pile of sloppy sediment. After some more
interventions, more slumps, and time running-out, we decided to leave it to
settle down, perhaps continue to self-digging and return next week. hopefully,
the water will continue to drain freely, and wet conditions will not impede
further progress too much.

To the pub!

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Sat, November 17, 2018 07:09:25

15th November 2018: with Jonathon, Mike, Nick and Alex

Surprisingly, the sand
dig was dry and didn’t appear to have backed-up at all after the very heavy
rain last weekend. However. A seepage of water through the sediments in the
alcove had caused some slumping and work was concentrated there to tidy-up and
consolidate. The trickle of water that enters from the chamber was constant,
making the steps slippery so these were tidied up too, very sloppy spoil. The water
from the trickle is draining freely through the sandy sediment at the bottom of
the dig.

Alex and Nick shared the
digging, Mike loaded the filled buckets into the skip, Jon hauled the skip up
the slope and I emptied the buckets. The process was, of course, repeated many

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