Swan Mine (also known as Kingsdown Quarry)

NGR ST 81019, 67022

With members of the Axbridge Caving Group (ACG), underground about 2 hours.

The entrance to Swan Mine

Entrance located opposite the Swan Inn public house. There were originally three entrances. A small but interesting stone mine (Freestone) where extraction is believed to have started in the late 18th century and ended in 1932. It is thought to be the last operational stone mine in the UK to remove stone using horse and carts – wheel ruts are a predominant feature throughout the mine passages, a few hoof-prints still remain. A major attraction of the mine is the numerous artefacts that are still in-situ including a well-preserved crane, a second crane has been crushed under a rockfall, a fine carved stone trough, and a variety of other industrial paraphernalia.

There are abundant historic markings throughout the mine related to quarrying activities sadly many markings have been defaced by unnecessary graffiti and, in places, calcite deposition.

A mixed panel of markings including quarrying related, a possible depiction of ‘Hitler’ and a poorly placed spray paint direction arrow!

Mostly easy walking although there are places where scrambling over rocks and negotiating lower sections is required. An interesting couple of hours spent wandering around and taking photographs. Some decent fossils were also noted, in particular, corals perhaps evidence for Jurassic reefs.   

Coral group
A stop to admire some hoof-prints
A dead end!

Lichens

Foliose lichen. Image taken 01/01/2024

Lichens are a stable, mutualistic association between a fungus (= mycobiont), the dominant species in the association, and a green alga or cyanobacteria (= photobiont). The mycobiont provides the photobiont with a safe place to live and grow, and in return, receives sugars from the photobiont which are the products of photosynthesis. When the mycobiont and photobiont join, they both change physically and chemically to become a lichen. The fungus is said to be “lichenized”.

Crustose lichen. Image taken 01/01/2024

Lichens are known in five forms:

  • Crustose – ‘crusty’, firmly attached to substrate
  • Foliose – ‘leafy’, with rhizines, loosely attached
  • Fruticose – ‘bushy’, branching
  • Leprose – ‘powdery’, dusty coating, likes shady places
  • Squamosa – ‘scaly’, leafy scales

Fruticose lichen. Image taken 01/01/2024

Lichen and bryophyte. Image taken 01/01/2024

Harptree Woods, Mendip

Boxing Day, a local walk.

In the past, forestry operations in Harptree Woods, Mendip channelled surface water into naturally occurring sinkholes. The drainage for these sinks is localised and there are several springs along the flank of Garrow Bottom, including Garrowpipe Spring, where the water re-emerges to flow into Molly Brook.

I had a tentative poke into this sink several years ago but gave up due to the instability of the small chamber gained. It has since slumped and filled in with debris.

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, Graham Johnson, Mike Moxon, and Duncan Price. 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, Max Fisher, and Duncan Price 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!

There was a rapid response to this post, a dialogue ensued and an apology 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 was drawn under it.