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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

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

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, November 09, 2018 06:27:28

8th November 2018: with Alex, Mike, Jonathon
and Roz

It’s been raining
recently and all the way up through Chamber 20 the results of this were clear;
the drips were stronger, pools were filling-up and water was flowing down the
calcite cascade. However, on arrival at the sand dig, we were pleasantly
surprised to find it bone dry and no signs of water having flowed into it, this
despite the small tube being full and overflowing.

Alex climbed down into
the pit and began digging in the alcove, I was moving the filled buckets and
passing them up to Mike, who then placed the filled buckets into the skip,
hauled by Jonathon, Roz was in control of spoil dispersal. The empty buckets
were returned, the process repeated, many times.
reaches for the mattock

In between moving buckets,
I spent a little bit of time tidying-up a section of the sediment bank where
evidence of flooding and subsequent draining events is clear. It really needs
more time spent on it and a full section cleaned and recorded.
of sediment sequence c.100mm

All too soon it was
time to move the tools to higher ground, just in case, and depart the cave.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, October 26, 2018 07:40:14

25th October 2018

With Alex, Nick,
Jonathon, Mike, Duncan and David Walker (curator at the Wells & Mendip
Museum and MCRA)

At the sand dig we were
relieved to see it had dried-up and quite quickly after the fill event by the
look of it. I started to dig in the [dry] alcove, because I got there first,
Alex reduced a limestone boulder in size and removed the slop from the lowest
point of the dig. The spoil management team were not impressed with the slop
and were experiencing some difficulty in extricating it from the bucket. The
solution, they decided, was to put a couple of handfuls of drier sediment into
the bucket first, the diggers, of course, complied with this instruction.

Nick was on the steps
passing the filled buckets to David, loading the skip to the spoil management
team comprising Jon, Mike and Duncan.

When Alex had removed the
slop, he turned his attention to clearing the loose sediment that I was
creating in the alcove. The buckets started to move freely at a good constant
rate. There are some very interesting layers of deposition to look at in the
sediment bank, these can become, somewhat, of a distraction. Flood events and
subsequent drying periods can be clearly distinguished.

All too soon it was time
to stop digging, clear the loose, stash the tools at a safe height and make our
way out of the cave. Changed in the car park and up to the Hunter’s for well-earned

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, October 19, 2018 06:06:10

18th October 2018

With (l to r) Mike, Duncan, Nick and Tav

After persistent rain
last weekend, it was not a surprise to find that the trip through Chamber 20
was wetter, the calcite cascade had water flowing down it. As suspected the sand
dig was had about a metre of water at the bottom and there was still a trickle
of water flowing into it, as such, it was undiggable. There were a few rocks in
a vulnerable position, if a slump-in occurred they might end up at the bottom
of the dig. So, these were moved and the spoil retaining wall was extended.
We were in the Hunter’s a
bit earlier than usual. At least the forecast is for dry weather for the next
few days, so the dig might drain. Unfortunately, it will not take much rain to
refill it though.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, October 12, 2018 05:44:50

11th October 2018

With Nick, Mike,
Jonathon, Tav, Alex and Duncan

Nick, Mike and Jonathon
at the sharp end, digging and filling buckets, then moving the filled buckets
and occasional rocks to Tav who then facilitated dispatch. Alex hauling the
loaded skip and passing buckets and rocks to Duncan. The buckets were emptied
onto the spoil heap where I was on spoil management duties. It was a pleasant
evening with the usual banter and a lot of sediment was shifted. The dig goes

We were joined, for a
while by a large [queen] wasp. It was noted too, that the cave was slowly
becoming wetter, previously dry pools now have water in them.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, October 05, 2018 05:27:22

October 2018

With Roz, Jonathon, Duncan
and Mike

A mellow evening. Jon and
Mike rotated the digging, Roz transferred the filled buckets to the skip,
Duncan hauled the skip up the slope and I emptied the filled buckets. The procedure
was repeated at a regular rate. A large rock was reduced in size, the pieces
were added to the wall retaining the spoil.

The evening was concluded
at the Hunter’s Lodge Inn in time honoured fashion.

27th September 2018

Duncan, Mike, Jonathon and Alex kept up the effort. Buckets were filled and emptied, rocks were removed.

Gower Peninsula, Wales

field notes 2018 Posted on Sat, September 29, 2018 07:07:20

September 2018

Friday evening having just got home
from Exeter, my phone rang, it was an excited John Cooper (JC), another
unexpected development this time in Harry Thomas’s Cave on Gower “drop
everything and come over, you’ll be able to get in”. So, to Gower for the

Saturday: Another early start, 05:00 alarm.
After walking the dog, got back and started to get my act together. An
assortment of kit, just in case, rope, ladders, hangers, SRT kit, cows-tails and
shunt, etc. Got the kit loaded into the hire van I’m currently using for work
purposes (squared with the boss beforehand), breakfast and was on my way at
08:00. Arrived Overton at 10:30, met JC and we made our way along the path to Harry Thomas’s Cave. At the cave
entrance, we got ready to go underground. Just before we ventured below, some
filled bags were moved along the path.

At the bottom of the cave, JC’s
open space did, indeed look enticing and rocks could be heard to rumble on. A
narrowing of the main fissure, c.200mm width, appeared to widen considerably,
c.2m lower down. A boulder strewn floor/slope could just about be seen. It was
a tad awkward head first in the narrow fissure, even more so when trying to
extricate myself. Poked and prodded some jammed rocks, filled some bags, but
most of the spoil was kicked down into the space beyond. JC passed a heavy
wrecking bar, some blows from that on a couple of key-stones did the trick, and
the boulder floor I was sat on, disappeared. Luckily, I was firmly positioned
in the fissure. Soon there was enough space for me to wriggle through into the
enticing space ahead. I slid down a loose scree slope, mostly cobbles and
boulders of limestone, into a roomy, quite well decorated chamber-like
continuation of the fissure, c.4m length, c.5m high and c.2.5m width, dominated
by a large calcite flowstone boss. There were lots more animal bones,
surprisingly most of them appear to be fox, I counted 6no. skulls. I took some
photographs before making my way back out of the extension to re-join JC.

calcite flowstone boss in the extension

mostly fox

We shifted some of the filled bags
from where they were stuffed in various places throughout the cave toward the
surface, some went along to the end of the path. About 15:00 we called it a day
and exited the cave. After securing the cave gate we went in search of Rick
Schulting who was, apparently, starting an archaeological excavation in a cave
nearby. We found and looked at several interesting things, but we didn’t find
Rick. Got back to the vehicles about 17:15.

Fish and chip supper in Port Eynon
for me, then got some supplies from the garage in Knelston and up onto Cefn
Bryn to park up for the night. After watching La Vuelta highlights (on Samsung
tablet with Bluetooth connection to phone), Simon Yates won the Tour, I got my
head down. I then discovered the hire van has an alarm to the back, which was
slightly surprising and a frantic search for the keys to turn it off.

Sunday: It had been a very windy night,
awoke to a grey overcast and, still windy morning. I had arranged to meet JC
and David Hughes (DH) in Overton at 09:30. I hadn’t bought anything for
breakfast, planning instead to get something in Port Eynon, unfortunately
nothing was open. I went, instead to the shop in Scurlage where I purchased a
hot sausage baguette.

Met up with JC and DH, a wet walk
along the path to Harry Thomas’s Cave.
After getting changed we moved more filled bags from the entrance, along the
path. I went underground and climbed up to swap the ropes around so that the
safety line would be more effective. Then, down into the extension, some more
photographs, before trying to enlarge the access slot. It was like a game of
‘Ker-Plunk’, pull one rock out and a whole lot more came tumbling down, making
the climb back out steeper and even more awkward. JC couldn’t accept that he
just wasn’t going to get through at this stage, even more importantly he would
not be able to get out. Eventually, we came to the sensible decision this was
getting us nowhere and spoil should be removed from the top down. I jammed in
some pieces of timber to try and stabilise the scree but was not convinced they
were very effective. JC insisted on bringing down another ladder down to the
bottom, adding to the clutter and not helpful. DH wanted to get away at
lunchtime, so we packed up, secured the cave, and had a damp walk back to the

Left Overton at 14:05, a slow
journey home, Swansea 10k, arrived at Rugmoor about 17:00. I needed a beer and
to chill-out.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Thu, September 27, 2018 05:36:50

25th September 2018: with Snablet, Roz and Tav

An impromptu trip after
Snablet’s enquiry “are we doing anything tonight?” following up some beer
fuelled conversation we’d had on Saturday evening at the Hidden Earth
conference in Churchill.

We sort-of expected the
sand dig to be under water or, at least, wet following the heavy rain that fell
over the last weekend, it was neither, so we set to work. Snablet and Tav
rotated the digging and filling buckets, as one overheated the other took over,
Roz was taking the filled buckets and loading the skip, I was hauling the skip
up the slope and emptying the contents. It was a pleasant, evenly paced session
with plenty of banter.

After the digging session
the evening was rounded off with a trip to the Hunter’s. Snablet is returning
to New Zealand on Thursday. A fine time was had by all.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

field notes 2018 Posted on Fri, August 24, 2018 08:31:53

August 2018:
With Duncan, Mike,
Jonathon, Nick and Tav

Duncan and Mike down in
the sand-pit digging, Jonathon and myself shifting the filled buckets up to
Nick and Tav who were hauling and emptying the buckets. Plenty of talk about
speleogenesis and looking at scalloping to determine flow direction, seems
recent events in Hallowe’en Rift have got us thinking and talking. Just don’t
mention paragenesis!

Gower Peninsula, Wales

field notes 2018 Posted on Tue, August 21, 2018 08:38:10

18th-19th August 2018

Saturday: Walked the dog, got back coffee and breakfast, packed kit, loaded van and set-off for the Gower at 08:00, arrived Overton 10:25. JC wasn’t there but arrived soon after. We walked from Overton to Harry Thomas’s Cave in mizzle. First job of the day was to clear bags from various stages in the cave and stack them in the entrance. Then, we were ready to dig and fill some more bags. While looking at the progress so far, I noticed what appeared to be animal scratch marks in the softer calcite and later, took some photographs.

I removed a small bank of wet claggy scree first, in amongst the sediments several animal bones were recovered, these were bagged to be identified later. Soon, more bones were uncovered, including two fox skulls, mandibles with dentition, vertebrae, ribs etc. There were enough bones to fill a large sample bag, mostly fox, but a few bones of other species including Rodentia.

Time for a lunch break and we returned to the surface. After lunch we moved some of the bags stacked in the entrance along to the end of the path, these can be emptied later. We returned underground.

I continued to dig down in the fissure and couldn’t believe it when I uncovered a third fox skull, moved a few more stones and there was the rest of the skeletal remains. At this point, we decided to stop digging, tidied up and left the cave.

After JC and I parted company I drove down to Port Eynon where I had intended to go for a swim but the inclement weather – strong wind, grey and damp – put off that idea and I had a paddle instead and walked along the beach. I decided while I was here I would get a fish and chip supper before driving up to Cefn Bryn for the night. It was windy and low cloud shrouded the hills, no views tonight. Settled down in the van and wrote up today’s proceedings in my journal.

Was rocked to sleep, not so gently, by the strong winds and squalls.

Sunday: When I awoke, the weather was much the same so decided to drive down off Cefn Bryn to find a more sheltered spot near Stout Hall. Washed, then breakfast, before a toilet stop in Port Eynon.

Met JC and David Hughes in Overton at 09:00. A wet walk with blustery winds, mizzle and occasional squalls to Harry Thomas’s Cave. In the cave, David went to the bottom, I was on the mid-point platform, JC at the entrance. We cleared yesterday’s filled bags and any others that were there. I hauled the bags up from David in a bucket, then climbed the ladder with bag in hand to dump them on the entrance platform for JC to clear to the outside.

When David had cleared the filled bags, he started to dig and fill more, I hauled them up, climbed the ladder and dumped the bags on the entrance platform, then returned to repeat the procedure many times. We also cleared a pile of loose large cobbles and boulders of limestone.

When JC had a backlog of spoil, I went to the surface to move the bags along the path. Lunchtime came.

After lunch, David moved bags on the surface, I returned underground with my Disto X310 to take some measurements, JC came down to take some photographs. It was then decided to call it a day, the remains of the third fox unexcavated, secured the cave and made our way back to the vehicles parked in Overton.

I left for home c.15:00, brief stop in Knelston for some supplies, arriving back at Rugmoor c.17:45. An interesting and productive weekend.

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