Wookey Hole, Mendip


The main purpose of the trip was to check-out the current state of the dig in Chamber 20. After the recent rain, I wasn’t surprised to find that the dig was still underwater.

But, I did take the opportunity to spend some time admiring some of the fine formations that can be seen in this cave passage.

These formations are formed by the precipitation of carbonate that is in solution in water, the energy of water can also lead to natural sculpting of the rock.

From my logbooks…25 years ago.

White Pit NGR ST 5270 5012

Heavy rain caused our planned trip into Welsh’s Green Swallet to be cancelled. Earlier in the day, Tony Jarratt (J’Rat) had suggested that Rich Blake and myself joined the diggers over at White Pit, near Priddy, if we were looking for something to do.

From the logbook:


Rich Blake, Andy ‘Eyebrow’, J’Rat, Trevor Hughes, Tim Large, Pete Hellier, Andy Sparrow, Estelle Sandford.

“Welsh’s trip was called off, so Rich and myself decided to go over to White Pit and lend a hand, neither of us had seen the end before.

The work done over here is quite phenomenal, I was surprised by the amount of spoil shifted. Anyway, Tim was already working away, so we got some rocks smashed and shifted, so as to gain entry into a rock-filled bedding. After shifting a substantial quantity of spoil, Tim decided to go for it. Down-slope was filled with too much rock, so he headed up-slope, passing some precarious looking rocks, calling back to announce he was in a huge chamber, I then called Andy Sparrow and J’Rat forward so that they could have the honour. Everybody managed to get into the large boulder-filled chamber that contained some very nice decorations. After everyone had a good root around and chatter they went back to tidy-up the rocks leading down-slope from the entry point. Rich and I were left in the chamber with Eyebrow and Estelle.

Rich and I had already spotted a promising looking site but some formations needed to be sacrificed. We started to shift rocks from the slope to get under an arched roof. I ended up head first down the slope at 45 degrees passing rocks back before I was able to push some to the side and then, some ahead of me. Eventually, I popped through into a big decorated passage. I called back, saying what I could see and to get word back to the others, also asking for a bar to remove a couple of calcited rocks. Rich, Eyebrow and Estelle then came through, I suggested we should wait for the others to arrive.

Andy Sparrow then told Estelle to lead-on. She entered some of the best decorated passage I’ve seen on Mendip. The passage was 60 to 70 feet long, up to 20 feet wide and 10 feet high, the left-hand wall was white with calcite. Crystal pools, cascades, translucent straws, big bosses, just fantastic. At the end, an easy dig would have led into more passage, it was decided that should be left for other’s in the digging team that were unable to turn-out this evening.

After we had got through to the end, J’Rat turned, smiled and shook Rich and I by the hand.”

Happy days indeed!

25 years ago at Welsh’s Green Swallet

Welsh’s Green Swallet [NGR ST 5506 4771] is something for the connoisseur. A couple of short drops lead to low crawling-size passages with an ample supply of mud, much like caving in liquid cement, there are some tight squeezes to negotiate along the way too. It is, however, probably the longest known cave in the world in Blue Lias Limestone and there are some fine selenite crystals to be seen.

First dug by persons unknown in the 1930s and by Wessex Cave Club in 1961. A new phase of excavation began in 1979, continuing to 1989 when the first breakthrough was made.

During October 1992, there was a period of sustained effort by myself, Graham ‘Jake’ Johnson, Rich Blake and Tony ‘J’Rat’ Jarratt, occasionally aided by others, to ‘push’ the current end of the cave. Eventually, there was a tantalising glimpse into ‘black’ space beyond, it looked good and we were excited.

From my personal logbooks:

28/10/1992 with Jake and J’Rat

Last night’s bang cleared some stuff, one quite large boulder. I still couldn’t
squeeze through, but did get a better look and it does look good, nice strong
draught and what looks to be, hands and knees size passage going away, can only see 8 – 10 feet. Jake was in raptures when he came back from drilling and
charging. We also shifted all the spoil back to the aven. J’Rat, also cordoned
off some fine selenite crystals. Another 1.5 hours trip.

29/10/1992 with Jake and Murray Knapp

Blitz-Krieg strikes again!

After some hammering, chiselling and barring, I finally managed to squeeze through into new passage, 15ft. x 15ft. x 3ft, high. Waited for Jake and Murray to pass through and then exploring brand new cave.

After the squeeze, you enter a bedding plane and then, a T Junction, the right-hand leg closes-down after 15ft., to the left, hands and knees crawling, up to 6ft. wide and very well decorated, leading for about 40ft. to another T Junction.
The left-hand side leads for about 40ft.of crawling, with stal and selenite, to a blind chamber, 10ft. x 5ft. x 3ft., with a dripping crack and nice float calcite on the edge of a pool. The right-hand leg [of the T Junction] goes for about 40ft.to a left turn and then, 15ft. to boulder break-down, some shoring and a bit of work here will lead to another breakthrough next trip. This small passage has the largest selenite crystals I’ve ever seen and some very nice stal and rusticles.

The entry squeeze is going to be left awkward because the whole area contains some very delicate formations. It also makes all the work worthwhile.

30/10/1992 with Jake, J’Rat and Rich

Back for more discoveries!

Didn’t take too long to get to the break-down, this time we had some short scaffold poles for a bit of shoring-up. Jake soon removed, what appeared to be a
chock-stone, and then squeezed through into more spacious open passage. The
way-on continued for about 60ft. until reaching more, big block break-down, Rich managed to get in a further 15ft. to a dig, very squalid as well, so that’s about it for a while.

The new section doesn’t have any stal but, it does have some large selenite crystals.

Following the breakthrough, several surveying trips were made with Trevor Hughes, the new extension survey length was 76 metres, we had guesstimated it as 230ft.(70m), so we were quite close. While we were at it, the entire cave was surveyed.

“…18th November, again on a Wednesday evening. Vince, Jake and myself surveyed 97m of passage that evening. The Compost Corner legs were most remembered – Vince managed, most successfully, to ensure that for virtually every survey station, to read the compass, I had to bung my somewhat hirsute chin into the mud, revenge I suppose for making him do all the outward trip backwards.” (Hughes, 1998).


V.J. Personal logbook 1990 to 1992

Gray, A., Taviner, R. and Witcombe, R. 2015. Mendip Underground: A Cavers Guide (5th Edition). Mendip Cave Registry & Archive

Hughes, T. 1998. Welsh’s Green Swallet – the Survey (Or The Mud-Pile Strikes Back) in Belfry Bulletin, 495 p22-25. February 1998

Somerset Geology Group Meeting

11th October 2017: Attended a meeting of the Somerset Geology Group (SGG) hosted at the Earth Science Centre, Stoke St. Michael.

The meeting discussed future plans and structure of the SGG followed by an open meeting to outline survey forms and procedure. The talking was followed by a practical field session at Tedbury Camp, a Mendip geo-classic.

Jurassic Inferior Oolite overlies Mid-Carboniferous Clifton Down Limestone (CDL), Lithostrotion, a colonial coral, is a type fossil to identify CDL. Peter Hardy described the unconformity in some detail, pointing-out some significant features. The holes left by boring bivalves (and other creatures) in the eroded Carb. limestone ‘hard ground’ surface have been filled by Jurassic sediments, these particular geological features have become difficult to see.

A Neptunian dyke, also filled with Jurassic sediments, there are hard ground surfaces in the Jurassic deposits too.

Unfortunately, the exposures are suffering from some unnecessary attention, as at the De La Beche Unconformity nearby.

Other features, such as fault induced folding and chert formation were discussed. The geological importance of Tedbury Camp, not just as a local/regional asset but as a wider national, even international resource was stressed.

We even got around to talk about the survey forms, eventually. An enjoyable field trip.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

21st September 2017: Back in the day, there may have been more of us, but many of the team fell by the wayside, just me and Tav made the journey.

Along the route, up through Chamber 20 to the dig, there is plenty of evidence for some recent high-energy water flow, many of the mud banks have been washed-out. The water appears to have issued from above, so fast surface run-off likely, it has been rather wet recently. Maybe there’s a higher network of passages.

We were not surprised to arrive at the dig and find it underwater. Spent a bit of time tidying away the tools and other equipment, before making our way back out of the cave, taking some stuff out with us. It is still a warm trip, even when a gentle pace, taking time to look around.


Of wood and stone. The use of wood and stone in the construction of prehistoric megalithic monuments has been interpreted by some as, wood representing the living, life, whereas, stone is suggested to be, the dead, death. Wooden circles are replaced by stone, for example, as at Stanton Drew.

Gower Peninsula, Wales

12th – 13th August:

Above: Worm’s Head, looks like a dragon swimming out to sea!

Spent the weekend helping out with exploration of a cave near Port Eynon, but on Saturday evening, I went for a walk along Rhossili Bay.

Shipwrecks and sea caves!

There were boulders of fantastic breccia with some massive clasts and a matrix of red sand with calcite veins and shell fragments. I assume, also a carbonate cement.

Scale = 8cm.

Harptree Combe

23rd July: Sunday morning stroll through Harptree Combe. This time of year it is very lush and green. There were a few showers of rain.

Somebody has spent a constructive hour or so making these dead wood sculptures in the stream.

Passing the ruins of this building by the stream.

The dead heart of an ash tree, snapped off in the recent storms.

Tree graffiti, initials carved into a beech tree. I wonder who ‘KC’ might be, not sure who else is involved?

Islands in the stream. There are plenty of these fantastic little vegetation covered cobbles and boulders in the bed of the Molly Brook.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

13th July 2017: with Jake, Tav and Nick, back from his travels, just!

Continued with the slope engineering, progress is being made. Nick and Tav took-up the digging duties, I was on hauling, Jake, also hauling, but attended to spoil dispersal as well. We will get back to digging at the bottom soon.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

6th July: with Jake, Jonathon, Tav, and that stalwart of the Grampian, Goon.

The usual warm trip up to the dig, the difference was the trail of blood left by Goon.

At the end, Jake and Jonathon, quickly got on with the digging, continuing to engineer the slope. Tav and I were on hauling duty and occasionally re-arranging some lumpy pieces of limestone, Goon was assigned to spoil dispersal. A good steady session.
I will need to bring the capping kit next session to split a few hefty boulders.

To the Hunter’s Lodge Inn to quaff a few glasses of fine ale.

Wookey Hole, Mendip

15th June 2017: Jake, Tav, Duncan P, Pete Bolt and Max Fisher.

Continuation of the slope engineering. Tav, Pete and Max with a combined effort in spoil removal, Duncan and me were hauling it away.
Jake was in control of spoil dispersal management. And, building a retaining wall.
Another fine evening in this mellow spot.