2014.000: Sunday, 30th November

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Louise Jenkins, Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Rose Clayton, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Sue Bishop

The Soggy Bottom Crew's outing for Sunday roast at the Priddy Good Farm Shop.

2014.056: Saturday, 29th November

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Sam Batstone, Simon Meade-King

Bags: 86

Chris' Report:

Unfortunately Tony could not be present due to rather inhibiting illness [Norovirus and NHS Direct; don't know which was worse. (T.A.) ]

So, Brockers, Paul C, Caroline, Sam & Chris descended to form the hauling party for the bags left previously at the top of Annieversary. Leaving Simon in charge on the surface with a copy of the Floyd Collins story as light entertainment.

We were later joined by Alice assisting with the haul up Tollens.

Chris manned the winch with Alice as banksman and Simon performing as barrow man. Twenty-one kibbles were wound to grass; 86 bags at the final count.

Brockers and Caroline descended to the bottom to chip off a bit more at the end. While the remainder of the party retired to the T Shed for tea and stickies. They finally emerged at about 16:30

Paul reported that he threw about a skipfull of debris down the hole at the end, which hits bottom with a reverberating bang. We need enlarge the area a bit more to get a good look.

The atmosphere in the working area did not steam up to any great degree so there must have been a degree of air movement through the cave. The heavy drip in the upper sections that was apparent last weekend had ceased.

Chris Batstone - his mark

2014.055: Sunday, 23rd November (1200 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock (Brockers), Paul Clayton, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Looks like a strong team, but Alice, Rupert and Tony claimed various infirmities and stayed above ground. Rupert's left shoulder is developing a substantial lump, almost like the beginning of an angelic wing; although those who know him very much doubt this as a genuine possibility.

The sick, lame and lazy spent their time improving the seating arrangements in the T-room - actually this ought to be referred to as the 'Miner's Dry' which more accurately describes its function.

Meanwhile, the heroic six went below and Chris has produced a report of their activities as follows:-

Brockers and Paul C went to muck out the end. Sam and I followed up at Soggy Bottom, which true to its name was very soggy. Sam took on hauling the skip back and busting up the larger lumps then loading the bags. While I assisted holding the bag open then stropping and stacking. Having stacked around eight bags things were becoming a little uncomfortable. Sam's hauling position was right under the shower of water from Humbug, he complained quite vocally about this. Eventually I managed to rig a diversion by placing a sack on the ledge above so that it formed a channel to divert the water to the floor behind him. We were soon joined by Caroline and Nick. With Caroline stationed in Humbug, we began to clear the build up of bags back to Nick at the bottom of Annieversary.

Having cleared the end, Brockers began to investigate the end which appears to be another pitch of unknown dimensions. (Much speculation on size & depth ensued later on surface). Meanwhile, Paul C extracted himself from the tube to join Caroline and Nick hauling on Anniversary, while Sam and I broke up and bagged the bigger lumps. 5 bags remain at SB.

Sam went to the end for a look while Brockers and I made our way back to Annieversary where we found Nick, Paul C and Caroline had managed to clear the bags back to the top of Annieversary and had begun skip hauling back through the crawl beyond. A short discussion took place as to whether we should continue with the bag hauling or exit for afternoon tea and tiffin. Needless to say tea and tiffin won! Nick went to have a look at the end, while the rest of the crew decamped for the surface.

The recent weather conditions have made the working positions below Annieversary somewhat wet and uncomfortable, welcome to winter at HCH! I have the beginnings of a plan to make a water deflector at SB and to rig something similar at the bottom of Annieversary.

We now have somewhere in the region of 70 bags to haul out to grass from the top of Annieversary at the next session.

I think that just about covers it.

Chris Batstone - his mark

2014.054: Saturday, 15th November (1200 - 1700 ish)

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock (Brockers), Paul Clayton, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Caroline, Paul and Tony started the day with yet another breakfast at the farm shop. This is getting to be a habit or possibly the early phases of an addiction. The wittering had gone on for rather longer than usual and we arrived at the dig to find Chris had been there for an hour and was beginning to give us up for lost. He had got the kettle on though. Our new digger Paul Clayton appeared on site wearing a blindingly new oversuit; thankfully, it didn't stay that way for long.

After this confused start, the digging began, Brockers, Caroline, New Paul, Sam and Chris went straight down to start clearing the dig face and dragging it back aided by the Magic-Mu-Machine. This, (the MμM), did help, but there is room for detail improvements, position, angle and the like.

After some faffing on the surface, Tony went down and we cleared the spoil back to the bottom of Annieversary, where there ended up a large stack of (? 50ish) bags with a Tony-shaped hole in the middle of it. This done, it was all change and offerings were made to the Goddess of the dig, while the bags of spoil were moved from the bottom of Annieversary and stacked at the top. At which juncture, most were feeling cold and that they had had enough so they retired to the warmth of the (heated) T-room. Paul came back down to the end to help shift the kit back from the end of the tube and carry it to the surface, Tony was very grateful for this.

It had been a hard session and the bottom of the dig is now unpleasantly wet and cold. There is a steady stream which can be heard trickling away not far ahead. So it will all be worth it in the end we tell ourselves.

We finished off with scotch eggs, falaffals and flapjacks, followed by a very necessary rehydration session.

As an aside, it is interesting the effect that the Home Close digging can have on some people - Here are a couple of photographs of Paul Clayton (taken by Duncan Simey and Chris Batstone). Before and After digging. You may choose which is which.

Personally, I prefer the photo(A)-Before; showing wonder and enthusiasm over the prospect of digging and photo(B)-After; having visited Soggy Bottom and the awful realisation of what he has let himself in for.

(A): Before, (or After?)

(B): After, (or Before?)

[As ever, strict adherence to the facts can spoil a good story].

2014.053: Sunday, 9th November (1130 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Caroline, Paul and Tony started off with a breakfast at Priddy Good Farm Shop, which included slices of black pudding at least 4½ cm thick. We had a bit of a slow start after this but it was worth it.

There was no spoil to remove from the dig, only a ritual offering to be made to the Goddess, so Chris thought that a bit of filming would be in order. The main idea was to set up the camera and lights as close as possible to the end, pointing outbye, then film the drilling from the sharp end. This involved lots of too-ing and fro-ing and repeated swappings of position for two of the least sylph-like members of the team. Not easy in the tube, but hopefully worth the struggle.

Thereafter, 8-fold offerings were made to the Goddess in the hope that she would dole us out a bit more passage in return. It would also be good (are you listening Goddess ?) to have some working space in the region of the corner. We will need this in the future as it is likely to become a hauling stance.

Elsewhere in the cave, Chris and Sam did some more filming in Annieversary and Paul attacked the ascending rift in the roof of Humbug Hall, before coming to the end to the tube to help clear the kit.

We finished off with sausage rolls, flap-jacks and falaffals with chilli and raita dips, then some much needed rehydration.

2014.052: Saturday, 1st November (1130 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Chris Batstone, Tony Audsley

More surface fettling.

Amongst other things, repairs and alterations to Les' "Chicken-House" store. I won't inflict the details of this on you, as you have probably suffered enough from last Saturday's 'much ado about nothing' account.

Although, talking about that, the fix to the leaking roof of the T-room does appear to have been successful and the interior was dry and snug after the heavy rain on Friday night.

2014.000: Sunday, 26th October (1315 - 1520)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Louise Jenkins, Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Rose Clayton, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

The Soggy Bottom Crew's outing for Sunday roast at the Priddy Good Farm Shop. Fantastic.

2014.051: Saturday, 25th October (1045 - 1715)

Alice Audsley, Chris Batstone, Tony Audsley

Louise Jenkins, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone

The plan today was to do some surface fettling, in preparation for winter. The major item was to fix the leaking roof of the T-room, which had been an annoyance since the dawn of time. We had been vowing to fix it since then, but as ever ; 'there is no time like tomorrow ...'

Having bitten the bullet, there was no need for a large and powerful team, so Paul, Caroline and Nick were given day-release passes and allowed to play elsewhere.

There is not much (any?) point in going into a great amount of detail but in essence we removed the wriggly tin from the T-room roof, covered the boards with roofing felt dosed with an appreciable amount of sticky felt-goo then replaced the wriggly tin. The felt-goo was wonderfully all-pervading as Chris found when he got a very large patch on the seat of his new-ish jeans. He had to go to the pub wearing a boiler-suit.

We were visited in the afternoon by Lou and Sam, who had been carpet-hunting and by Rupert (still excused from digging), who turned up with edible goodies.

Why Saturday working ? (A): it's never a good idea to be too predictable, but mainly (B): we had arranged to have a Sunday roast tomorrow at the Priddy Good Farm Shop and I defy anybody to much work with one of those inside them.

2014.050: Sunday, 19th October (12 ish to 4 ish - includes pre- and post-dig faffing)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Arthur the terrier

(Chris called him 'Arfer' because he arfed a lot).

Rupert Fear - attended the breakfast and the aprés-dig rehydration ceremony, but missed the middle bit.

The original plan had been somewhat different, but events decreed otherwise. So, after a huge breakfast at the Priddy Good Farm Shop and a bit of surface clearance work at the dig, Alice, Arthur, Caroline, Paul and Tony walked from there to Greendown and back, while HEROES Chris and Sam went to work underground.

Chris' report follows:-

Chris and Sam descended to Soggy Bottom carrying a rather weighty tackle sack containing the iron mongery for the friction reducer. The rainfall from the previous week has now percolated through making the bottom of Annieversary and Soggy Bottom rather unpleasant places to hang about.

We soon got to work and stuffed the spare conveyor belt in a bag, and with Sam going ahead, I followed rolling the bag along the Tube. Small puddles of fine sandy silt were a sign that the stream level had recently been higher. Sam crawled to the end of the existing conveyor and dragged it up to Paula's Corner.

I'm not quite agile enough to turn around in the wide part of the tube so passing Sam, I crawled to the end for a quick look while Sam rolled out the new piece of conveyor back toward Soggy B. The end of the belt now stops about 4 Metres short of the sharp end and 5 Metres short of the bend at Soggy B.

We made our way back to Soggy B and assembled the friction reducer on the corner of the bend where the skip rope tends to rub. A bit of chiselling to seat the foot of the device and some more cut into the roof for the pointy end. A few turns with the spanner and the job appears to be a "good un".

All this whilst the stream found its way up my left leg and out of my left sleeve then into Sam's right sleeve and out via his right leg. Not wishing to wallow any longer we beat a retreat to the surface, stopping to recover the phone from the bottom of the Builders Ladder. Back on surface after approximately 2 hrs. "Doesn't time fly when you are having fun".

The surface team returned from their perambulations shortly after we surfaced, to partake in tea and stickies.

Chris - signature

A bit about the friction device

The friction reducing device, or the 'Magic-Mu-Machine-MkI' was a short length of scaffold pole which had been 'stempleized' by the addition of lengths of 25mm threaded bar and matching nuts at the top and the bottom. It was then mounted vertically between the roof and floor of the Tube at the first corner as described by Chris. See diagram below. Incidentally, there is a MkII Magic-μ-Machine complete with roller being made, but we'll see how we get on with this one first.

tony sig

2014.000: Sunday, 12th October

Lots of snuffling and wimpery, but no digging.

2014.049: Sunday, 5th October (1100 - 1730)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Ian Gregory (Slug), Les Oxborough, Nick Gymer, Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Rose Clayton, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Bags: 76

In case you missed it, that's SEVENTY SIX bags !

A fine day and a very fine team. Caroline, Paul and Tony started it off with an early breakfast at the Priddy Good Farm Shop which set them up for the day.

The team was bigger than usual; Nick and Ian had been to the BEC dinner yesterday evening and were in need of gentle exercise, Les came over because as he said, "I couldn't think of anything better to do" and Paul C. and Rose were on a 'taster session' to see what the digging was like. The rest of us were there I suppose because we couldn't think of anything better to do either.

Paul and Caroline started clearing back from Paula's Corner and had done the vast majority of this before being joined by the rest of the underground team and the long process of transporting the bags to the surface began. It was a heavy session but seventy six bags made it to grass, which cleared the dig of all spoil except three modest boulders left in Soggy Bottom - where they form a useful step.

Back on the surface, the feeding frenzy was enhanced by Slug's contribution of bread pudding, a major ingredient of which seemed to be Jack Daniel's whiskey; very tasty.

The approach to Paula's Corner ...

Beyond Paula's Corner
... after

Sam, loading bags
at the bottom of Annieversary

Regarding the two photographs on the left, I know one bit of blasted passage looks very much like another, but you might as well have your moneys worth. When we get round the next left hand bend, doubtless there will be more photos of more passage, all looking remarkably similar. Well, at least we are consistent.

2014.000: Sunday, 28th September (1330 - 1530)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Louise Jenkins (Lou), Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Rose Clayton, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

A team outing to Priddy Good Farm Shop for 'Sunday Roast'.

This was magnificent, but we suspected that it would be impossible to do any digging after eating it, hence the fact that we dug on a Saturday this weekend. Pretty impressive forward planning one someone's part (not mine).

Before ...
Sunday Blow-out
... and After

(Rupert appears somewhat unhappy in the 'Before' photograph. This is partly because he was not feeling well, but mainly because he was looking at the latest version of the Home Close survey - strange).

2014.048: Saturday, 27th September (1200 - 1780)

Alice Audsley, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Simon Meade-King

A fine day, but a diminished team. Rupert has a lung infection and is not fit to attend, Caroline is at the Malvern Show and Sam is house-moving. So it was a hard session for the rest of us.

An uncounted, but considerable number of bags of rock were hauled back from the face at Paula's Corner and stacked at the bottom of Annieversary. Rites of passage were performed round the bend. That's about it.

Not quite; while we were underground Simon visited. He came down but failed to make contact, so he probably got lost in the labyrinthine coils of the upper series - better luck next time.

2014.047: Sunday, 21st September (1200 - 1800 - or thereabouts)

Alice Audsley, Annie Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Roger Galloway, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Digga, Tia

Bags: 35

A very fine, warm day and a very fine team to go with it. It was a day of multi-tasking.

Roger and Annie went down to extend their survey from the bottom of Annieversary to the bitter end (Paula's Corner). Most of the rest of us started on the task of bagging the spoil heaped in Soggy Bottom and then chaining out to the surface. Meanwhile, on the surface, invalids Chris and Rupert were assigned to light duties like driving the winch and, more importantly, preventing Tia from eating Digga; more or less a full time job.

At the end, Paula's Corner was a more comfortable size and, with any luck, it should be even more comfortable by now. However, round the corner, the way on continues miserably narrow for one to two metres before it turns sharp left again. Never mind, we still have the draught.

At feeding-time so much food was provided that, despite superhuman efforts, we couldn't eat it all. This does not happen very often.

Paula's Corner ... before
Paula's Corner ... before
Paula's Corner ... after
Paula's Corner ... after
Beyond Paula's Corner
Beyond Paula's Corner
... before

2014.046: Wednesday, 17th September (1000 - 1600)

More essential surface tasks - modifications to the telephone system (GCHQ please note) - this was necessary, but much too tedious to detail. (entry included to keep numbering in line with manuscript logbook).

2014.045: Sunday, 14th September (1100 - 1600 ish)

Alice Audsley, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

A fine sunny day, but a depleted and sickly team. Paul and Caroline were on holiday and Chris rang in the morning reporting severe back pain which meant that Sam could not get to the dig either. Plans were beginning to fall apart.

Rupert turned up manfully, clutching an updated medical X-Ray report. He now has four broken ribs and a break in what is known to lay people as the acromium process of his left scapula. Medical folk refer to this as the 'sticky-out bit on the arm end of the shoulder blade'.

Gleefully abandoning plan A, the one that involved going underground and getting cold and wet, we opted for plan B, essential surface work.

So an enjoyable time was had by most of us. Rupert spent a lot of time moving slowly around trying to ease his discomfort and it can't really be said that he was enjoying himself, but he did serve up three rounds of tea and untangled a heap of cable.

2014.044: Saturday, 13th September

Tony Audsley

More essential surface tasks - (entry included to keep numbering in line with manuscript logbook)

2014.043: Friday, 12th September

Tony Audsley

A few essential surface tasks - (entry included to keep numbering in line with manuscript logbook)

2014.042: Thursday, 11th September (1830 - forgot to check finish time, but not a long session)

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

An evening session to clear the end of the dig. Tony excused himself from going underground by claiming to have essential tasks to do on the surface.

Chris' report on the underground works follows:-

Paul, Caroline & Chris.
Mission to clear back the debris from last weekends pop. With Paul loading the skip at the sharp end, Caroline & Chris hauling back and stacking. Half a dozen skip loads were extracted and dumped at Soggy Bottom ready to be bagged.

A lingering odour of incense was encountered from the base of Annieversary, very little perceptible air movement noted. Probably due to the dominant high pressure weather system currently existing. Having cleared the debris, a game of sardines ensued at the end of the tube as we kept passing one another for a look at the end.

Time underground 1 hour approx.

A view from Soggy Bottom
The trench appears to be adopting a slightly steeper gradient, water from the muddy puddle washed along can be heard trickling downwards around the corner. The sound is somewhat like water running into a drain. It may be that the stream has exploited a weakness down to the next layer of strata. Don't hold your breath for a major breakthrough just yet.

Chris - his mark

2014.041: Sunday, 7th September (1100 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Anja Matthalm, Annie Audsley, Chris Batstone, Paula Matthalm, Rosie Audsley, Rupert (Free-Fall) Fear, Sam Batstone, Thomas Matthalm, Tony Audsley


A fine day and a fine group of diggers to go with it. All contributed in various ways to the cause, but only two actually went underground.

Thomas had not been underground since June and his ordeal in the 19.2Km long, 1148m deep Riesending-Schachthoehle and the subsequent twelve day rescue of Johann Westhauser.

Johann has made an outstanding recovery and is now back at work and Thomas enjoyed a gentle re-introduction in the form of a trip to the end of the tube and the quaint ritual activities that take place there, so all is right with the world.

Talking of accidents. During the week, Rupert fell out of his loft then bounced down a flight of stairs, to wake up at the bottom bloodied and with a couple of broken ribs [accounting error - it was actually four] . While he might not have been able to do a great deal at the dig, he earned double digging vouchers just for having turned up. What's more to the point, his obvious fragility provided good entertainment value for the more heartless and unsympathetic members of the team.

Chris has a report on the surface works which took place while Thomas and Tony were below ground:-

Chris and Sam assisted by a somewhat fragile Rupert "The Plummet" Fear, laid the blockwork to support the engine house ramp. The grid was cemented into position and laid on a bed of rubble and ballast. The second grid was treated similarly, and then pinned in position with two re-bar staples. Hopefully the reduced gradient will make it easier to move the heavyside kit in and out of the engine house, while making it less of a slip hazard.

chris his mark

All that having been done, Chris provided a LARGE pan full of chilli-con-carne, Alice produced flap-jacks and strawberries and Anja the cream to go with them. Now that is a fine ending to a day's digging.

No, hang on, there is one more thing. Paula pressed the button to inaugurate the creation of a new section of passage and Bella barked. There, that's better.

Finally, finally, the Audsleys and Matthalms returned to Cheddar, while the rest braved the rigours of the Queen Vic and met up with Paul and Caroline.

2014.041: Sunday, 31st August (1200 - 1838)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Suki

A fine, warm, sunny day and the lucky ones used it to so some essential surface fettling. Later, the unlucky ones went underground.

The huts were starting to show signs of serious deterioration and the ply panels were de-laminating in places. So, flaking paint was removed (by all) and Cuprinol shed paint was applied; largely by Alice and Caroline. This paint forms a waxy coating which is guaranteed for five years, so there is a chance that we might have reached the end of the tube before we need to paint the huts again.

Other valuable tasks also went on. Amongst other things we:- repaired the hinges on the tea cupboard flap-down table, fixed holes in the tea room floor and then laid some rubber matting and we started to relay the metal grid entrance ramp to the engine house to make it less steep and slippery.

A bit later, Chris and Rupert went underground and worked on completing the concreting at the base of the engine shaft. They removed the shuttering that had been left behind the blockwork wall and filled the resulting void with six buckets of rubble then capped it off with concrete. The wall was drilled and a re-bar step was fitted.

Later in the afternoon, Mike, Hilary (& Suki) visited and we drank tea and had a good old natter, while mixing more concrete to cast a new base for the metal entrance ramp.

We finished off with a glorious barbecue, burgers, sausages, kebabs, THEN strawberry and raspberry pie served with double cream.

Finally, we met up with Paul (who had to work today) at the QV for a shorter than usual re-hydration session - it had been a long day for all of us.

(Joint effort)

2014.040: Sunday 24th August (1200 - 1650)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Nick Hawkes, Tony Audsley

Bags: 30

It was a very wet day on the surface and became increasingly wet underground as the day progressed. The draught was variable but occasionally quite strong.

The original plan had been to get together for breakfast at the Priddy Good Farm Shop before going over to the dig. 1030hrs found a disconsolate group of Alice, Chris, Sam and Tony outside the firmly closed farm gate. A few minutes later, Caroline and Paul arrived and after some wailing and gnashing of teeth, we set off to Lillypool farm shop at Longbottom where we had a decent fried breakfast under rather crowded conditions.

Once fed, we went over to the hole where we were joined by Rupert and after a while, Nick.

Chris had injured his back during the week while rebuilding a collapsed stone wall, but he made it to the top of Annieversary. Alice and Caroline took over the digging face at the end of the tube and started clearing back while the rest of us lesser mortals chained the bags back in stages with the usual changes of positions and tasks. Thirty bags were hauled to grass, clearing the dig of all spoil.

We finished off with scotch eggs (Rupert) and Quiche (Caroline)

2014.039: Sunday, 17th August (1200 - 1630)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Mike Butcher, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Alan Butcher (Butch), John Williams (Tangent)

Bags: 38

A cloudy and cool day, which started for some of us (Caroline, Paul, Rupert & Tony) with yet another BREAKFAST at the Priddy Good Farm Shop.

Underground, the draught was somewhat intermittent and variable. The tube was relatively dry, but Soggy Bottom and the bottom of Annieversary were plagued with the usual heavy drip.

The digging followed the all too familiar routine of clearing the tube and chaining bags of spoil to the surface, while activities took place at the end with the intention of creating more.

Mike Butcher came over to help at the dig. He did a lot of hauling, then came to the end to examine the face. Having done so, he executed a neat somersault and came out of the tube head first - such is the flexibility of the young. Most of us have to come out backwards, which is extremely tedious. Despite this, we would like to see him at the dig again, he seemed to enjoy it anyway.

By the end of the day, thirty eight bags had been hauled to grass and we had been visited by Butch, who had come over to collect Mike and also by Tangent, who arrived just at feeding time - we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and call this a coincidence.

We finished off with lemon drizzle cake, quiche, tea and biscuits followed by a much needed rehydration session at the Queen Vic. Thanks to Mark Walton for two platefuls of cheesy chips and associated dips.

2014.038: Wednesday, 13th August (1430 - 1700)

Tony Audsley

Essential maintenance work on the telephone system too tedious to elaborate on publicly - but included to keep the numbering consistent with the manuscript log.

2014.037: Tuesday, 12th August (1900 - 2130)

Chris Batstone, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

A quick evening trip to change the pulley at the top of Annieversary and to make offerings to the Goddess at the (current) end of the tube. Surprisingly dry(ish) underground.

Out, quick cup of tea, then to Hunters'.

Apropos of nothing in particular, but it does fill a bit of space and this would be a particularly brief entry otherwise. So ...

Last week, 4th to 10th August (week 32), 'TheLog' had visitors from the following countries:-


Some stumbled in by accident, some were actually interested, a couple were looking for unlocked doors, one was looking for photographs of ... (it's best not to elaborate on that).

Just thought that you'd like to know.

OK - perhaps not, I won't do it again.

2014.036: Sunday, 10th August (1100 - 1730 or thereabouts)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Jeff Price, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Tia (Matthew Batstone's dog)

Bags: 54

A day of intermittent heavy rain and threats of thunder made for unpleasant conditions on the surface and underground. However, it started off well with a BREAKFAST for Alice, Caroline, Paul, Rupert & Tony at the Priddy Good Farm Shop. With one of those inside you you are proof against more or less anything.

Jeff made up a new flatter bottomed skip for use in the tube in the hope that it would prove more stable than the old one. (It did).

The rest of us took a bit of time to allow the BREAKFAST to settle, then went down and started work shifting the mountain of bags stacked at Soggy Bottom. These made their way to the surface via the usual intermediate dumps. It was the first time that the new concrete steps and shelf at the bottom of the Engine Shaft had been used - they were a great improvement.

At the face, the stream was 10-12 cm deep and there was a very strong (cooling) draught. Ahead the way continues too narrow, with what looks like a sharp bend to the right coming up. Nick tried hard to get a look at this but the raw, uncooked passage was just too small.

Out to tea, pork pie, biscuits and cake, then a pleasant re-hydration session.

2014.035: Thursday, 7th August (Evening session)

Caroline Allen, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear

Rupert's report:-

As for Thursday eve ...

Caroline, Paul and myself arrived at about 7 p.m. and straight to the face. LOTS of rock off in very big chunks, Lots of heaving and colourful language with me at the front kicking the rock back to Paul who loaded up the new skip which Caroline in turn hauled back to Soggy Bottom.

The skip wasn't the success we'd hoped, I think it being a little too rounded on the bottom, causing it to tip up during its journey. Paul will elaborate, I suspect. We should be able to get a couple more skips-worth off the face as it sounds very loose. Soggy Bottom now is a very easy climb due to the amount of spoil, which will require some bagging and quite a bit of rock breaking on Sunday.

We all emerged tired and extremely grubby just as it was getting dark, so a quick barrel wash and off to the Hunters' for a debrief. A hard, successful and enjoyable (for a masochist) evening.

Rupert Fear - his mark

Rupert - his mark.

2014.034: Sunday, 3rd August (1100 - 1815)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Fine and warm but cloudy with a few spots of rain later on at barbecue time as might be expected.

Alice was bell-ringing in Cheddar at mid-day for a World War One memorial service, so she missed most of the activity but arrived (just) in time to be counted as a digger rather than merely a visitor.

We had split into two groups, Paul and Tony descended to the depths to make the usual ritual offerings and also to replace the pulley at the top of Annieversary. This pulley had been squealing its complaints loudly for the past few weeks. It needed a good bath, followed by a bit of a clean and lots of oil. Hauling ropes were swapped over and the skip hauling system in the tube was improved. All tasks designed to make the Goddess of the dig happy and contented, in the hope that she might give us a bit of passage in return. Chris put in a special plea - "Please give me somewhere where I can stand up" - (fat chance of that).

While this appeasement of the Goddess was going on far below, Chris continued working on the Great Wall at the bottom of the Engine Shaft while Caroline worked the mixer and kept him supplied with muck and concrete blocks as required. Eventually we all came out and had a tidying up session on the surface.

Then we tried to light the barbecue.


BBQ#1 did not want to go despite liberal application of paraffin and a blowlamp, so the charge of charcoal was tipped onto the spoilheap, where it promptly woke up and started smouldering.

BBQ#2 was equally intransigent, but again with paraffin and the last of the gas in the blowlamp it eventually started. Meanwhile, the charcoal on the spoilheap was glowing merrily, so on top of these embers went the pan of onions and a frying pan of burgers.

Seeing the remains of BBQ#1 working so well must have encouraged BBQ#2, for it too was soon covered with sizzling sausages, burgers and lamb & mint lollipops on sticks. YUM !

Then later, a gentle re-hydration session with platefuls of cheesy chips topped off the day to perfection.

2014.033: Wednesday, 30th July (1300 - 1630)

Alice Audsley, Chris Batstone, Tony Audsley

John Williams (Tangent)

A pleasant warm and sunny afternoon trip to carry out some essential work underground. Chris and Tony went down with instruments long, sharp and thin. Alice remained on the surface on telephone duty. As she said; "They also serve who only sit and wait".

Tangent appeared mid-afternoon dressed in his Office Garb, to collect some of his caving kit and stayed for a chat.

Finished with well deserved feast - flap-jacks (Alice); sausage-rolls and scotch eggs (Chris).

Then a bit of essential re-hydration and that was that.

2014.032: Sunday, 27th July (1100 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

(Paul was working in London - which is much too far to the east of Frome to be good for his health or his sanity).

Bags: 24

A fine hot day, but mixed success.

The initial plan had been to haul out the twenty-odd bags of chisellings, fix the telephone which had failed two weeks ago, then drill some holes and perform time-honoured rituals.

To start with, the phone got fixed and twenty four bags set off on their way out to the surface, all very good. Then, however, the drill turned up its toes about 2mm into the first hole and refused to do any more.

So, that was rather that. We got two out of three; could have been worse. At least we got the spoil to the surface.

2014.031: Wednesday, 23 rd July (1300 - 1800)

Alice Audsley, Chris Batstone, Tony Audsley

Bags: 32

A scorching hot afternoon. Work continued on the shoring at the bottom of the Engine Shaft, cutting back the fill so that the old vertical grill could now be used to form a horizontal step. A concrete and rock foundation was cast to act as support for the rear of the grill. Temporary shoring was fixed in position to support a rather crumbly wall of fill.

Eight fully loaded kibbles, largely broken up Harptree Bed material with a smaller amount of glutinous clay were sent to grass. This was estimated as being the equivalent of rather more than 32 standard digging bags - hence the claim of 32 bags.

A considerable amount of post-digging rehydration was required.

2014.030: Sunday, 20th July (1215 - 1720)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Bags: 39

Alice, Caroline, Paul, Rupert and Tony started the day at 1030 with a leisurely fried breakfast at the Priddy Good Farm Shop. This is an excellent precursor to a day's digging.

Once at the site, Paul fixed a rope and pulley above the drop into Soggy Bottom to make the hauling easier. This done, the pile of bags left in Soggy Bottom on Wednesday night began moving slowly towards the surface in the usual three stages, with intermediate dumps at the bottom of the builders ladder and the bottom of the Engine Shaft.

Meanwhile, Paul and Rupert lurked in the tube and had a merry old time chiselling and clearing. They removed an estimated 20 bags of rock, which they stacked in Soggy Bottom.

2014.029: Wednesday, 16th July (1900 - 2100)

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear

Kibbles: 2

Paul, Caroline, & Rupert went down to clear back the debris generated on Sunday last to Soggy Bottom.

Paul reported that the debris at the end of the tube had formed a dam and the trickle of water had ponded, so that he had to lie in it to work! "Uncomfortable."

A lingering smell of incense, the remains of last weeks rituals, was reported by all three of the team. Quite surprising as a good airflow was present on Sunday.

Meanwhile Chris set to work preparing stage two of the Hindenburg Wall:-

  1. Trimmed off the excess ends of the MDPE pipes.
  2. Removed wooden bracing and metal grille.
  3. Started to cut back mud gravel & rock infill. Larger rocks were loaded directly into the kibble, whilst mud gravel etc went into bags.
  4. Ascend shaft start winching kibble.
  5. Empty kibble & lower it back down the shaft. (All while shouting obscenities at the dairy herd who seemed to be doing their interpretation of a hand car wash. I think we need a better fence strategy for keeping the cows away from the vehicles).
  6. Descend shaft.
  7. Repeat steps 3-5 until Pub o'Clock!

The metal grid fits quite tidily into the recess which does require a little more spoil removal to achieve the desired position. A number of larger rocks need to be removed carefully so as not to disturb the underpinning of the concrete shaft base. Once the wall is completed it should not be too difficult to cast a reinforced underpinning.

It was all over just after 21:00.

chris batstone - his mark

2014.028: Sunday, 13th July (1100 - 1715)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley.

Not much to say, really. A certain amount of wittering and tea drinking to start with followed by an excessive amount of crawling about in the interminable tube. The telephone refused to work; I suspect GCHQ might have had something to do with this.

Caroline and Paul, just back from holiday arrived somewhat later with edible goodies.

Ended up at the Queen Vic in the company of an overspill from the Priddy folk festival, hmmmm - and people say we are strange !

2014.027: Sunday, 6th July (1100 - 1715)

Alice Audsley, Chris Batstone, Mike Wilson, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Bags: 1

Hilary Wilson, Suki, Nick Hawkes

(Paul and Caroline were on Holiday)

More fettling at the base on the engine shaft. Chris and Rupert went down to continue work on the shoring. Alice and Tony acted as surface support; mixing muck and lowering stuff.

Chris' report follows:-

Continuing the previous weekends construction work. Rupert and Chris (aka Bodge it & Scarper), raised the supporting wall to the level of the top grid, in a series of stepped courses of block work.

22mm Blue MDPE pipes were inserted at intervals for drainage. Loose fill and gravel were inserted behind courses to aid drainage.

Unfortunately the mortar and concrete team (The Occasional Audsleys) had to mix up by hand, as the mixer seemed a little reluctant to co-operate, and refused to run.

Nick arrived and was promptly sent home for being too muddy [An infringement of the dig's strict dress-code (T.A.)]. We were later joined by Mike, Hilary & Suki, their dog.

The underground party would like to convey their appreciation of the two cups of tea that were sent down in the mortar skip.

With luck next weekend should see the completion of the project.

Chris Batstone Sig

The photograph shows the situation at the start of the days work and the mixed Harptree Bed and mud fill in the entrance rift. (The face is more or less vertical). The boots (and the feet inside them) belong to Chris.

We finished off with dhal bakes, flap-jacks and caramel slices. Washed down later with beer or cider according to taste.

2014.026: Sunday, 29th June (1200 - 1500)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Simon Meade-King, Tony Audsley

Bags: 3

A very necessary care and maintenance session on the surface and below ground.

On the surface all the moving tackle was checked over and oiled and greased to within an inch of its life. The winch was greased and had an oil change and a bit of a polish to show that we loved it.

Underground, Chris and Rupert fettled the "temporary shoring" at the bottom of the entrance shaft. This had been "temporary" since its installation on 12 November 2011. Chris' report on this is below:-

The floor beneath the bottom shoring grid was excavated to provide a footing for the start of a wall to replace the shoring grids and so prevent the washing out of the mud and gravel during the monsoons.

An initial concrete base was poured into the excavation, with two concrete blocks laid flat bedded on mortar. Four 22mm MDPE pipes were inserted through to provide drainage. A further batch of concrete was then inserted behind the base for stabilisation. Two pieces of 10mm rebar were drilled into the side wall to provide tie in for the next course of masonry.

A first class job was done by the surface team who hauled, lowered and mixed "bespoke" concrete and mortar promptly to order.

chris sig

(Sam and Simon mixed the concrete by hand - in Simon's case this was literally true).

At the end of the day Chris produced sausage rolls and pork pies, Simon produced mini chocolate rolls, Alice produced a Breton pastry (seemingly 95% butter & sugar) and Tony produced Breton cidre.

Paul went to sleep on the spoil heap.

2014.025: Sunday 22nd June

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Nick Hawkes, Paul (The Last of the Mohicans) Brock, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone

Bags: 70

(As the Audsley part-time diggers are still on holiday - this report is from Chris).

Another scorching day on the surface, with the usual complement of horseflies.

Putting on the caving kit was quite an effort in the heat. It was a relief to get into the cool of the entrance shaft.


Rupert positioned himself at "Soggy Bottom" and began bagging the spoil left on Wednesday night. Caroline hauled the bags up to Humbug and attached them to the drag-line for Chris to haul back to Annieversary.

Paul and Sam began hauling up Annieversary and stacking on the ledge. Nick arrived rather unexpectedly (Welcome back Nick) and soon the bags were being dragged through and piled on top of the load from the previous weekend around the builder's ladder. Forming a huge pile of bags.

Meanwhile, much hammering was heard from "Soggy Bottom", where Rupert was breaking up the last remaining rock - "Caroline's seat".

With the last bag being sent up from the bottom, the final haul out to the surface began. Paul manned the windlass at Tollens with Chris and Rupert stacking at the bottom of the entrance shaft. Caroline, Nick & Sam chained the bags up to Tollens.

The final haul out to grass was sixteen kibbles wound up, a total of SEVENTY bags transferred to the spoil heap.

Operations complete 16:00 p.m. Afternoon tea, biscuits & chickpea dhal were partaken on the veranda. Followed by the usual chill-out session at the QV. (www.queenvictoria.butcombe.com)


Sunday afternoon at the Queen Vic
A typical Sunday chill-out session at the Queen Vic

2014.000: Saturday, 21st June

A joint birthday party with a Cowboys & Indians theme for Mark, Will and Justine at the Queen Vic. Paul ran the closing disco. Thanks to Duncan Simey for this photograph. See http://www.wild-landscapes.co.uk for more.

2014.024: Wednesday 18th June

Caroline Allen, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear

As Tony and Alice are on holiday, again, it falls to me to produce a progress report. So, Ere Tis !

Evening trip to muck out the debris that had been created the previous Saturday.

Debris was hauled back to "Soggy Bottom" and left ready to be bagged up for hauling out next session.

The diggers then retired to the Hunters' for refreshment.

2014.023: Saturday, 14th June (1100 - 1715)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

A fine, hot day. The downside to this was the presence of hungry horseflies. Copious applications of DET reduced, but did not eliminate, their appetite.

For various reasons, the team arrived in dribs and drabs. Four early dribs were on site before the rest. Paul and Rupert went to the bottom to start clearing the face, while Chris and Tony took turns in fixing a clamp to the Tollens windlass handle and then screwing this to the windlass drum in an attempt to prevent further slippage of the handle (see entry 2014.022).

While they were faffing, Caroline went further down and started shifting bags from Humbug Hole to the bottom of Annieversary unaided, which was a bit beyond the call of duty.

Way down in the tube, Paul and Rupert were using the drag sled system first tried a couple of weeks ago and this made clearing the face much more efficient, but still not in the category of a "me please, me please, please let me do it" task.

Spoil was variously bagged at the face, or hauled back to be reduced in size and bagged in Soggy Bottom. Rather belatedly, Chris and Tony came down to help and bags were shifted to the top of Annieversary. From whence the chain-gang dragged them to the bottom of the builder's ladder, where a general knackeration factor of at least 90% decreed that they should remain until next time.

Meanwhile, Alice arrived just in time to miss the fun so she came down to get bruises on her elbows and inspect the face and the promising(?) voidette beyond.

The usual rites of passage were conducted at the bottom and barbecue lighting rites were being conducted on the surface when, by sheer co-incidence, Tangent arrived. Better late than never, so they say.

So, at the end, the sun was doing its duty and shining on the righteous, the barbecue and the shaft were smoking merrily and the diggers subsided into a genteel crumpled, well-fed heap.

2014.022: Sunday, 8th June (1100 - 1700)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Bags: 39

The day was rather overcast, but it did not rain and brightened somewhat in the afternoon. The water in the 'wishing well' was below the level of the blue drainage pipes and it was relatively dry underground.

Work started shifting the 44 bags left over from last weekend, but the handle of the Tollens' Shaft windlass came loose and so Alice/Paul/Caroline hand-hauled in turn; not easy.

Thirty nine bags were hauled to grass, by which time wafts of Ritual Incense had begun to arrive at the bottom of the engine shaft and we called it a day.

So all out for tea, flapjacks, sausage rolls and Chris' Chick Pea Dhal Loaf.

2014.021: Sunday, 1st June (1230 - 1630)

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Rupert Fear

Alice and Tony were on holiday (AGAIN), so this is Chris' account. Or as he put it in his email "What we did on your holiday".


Conditions at surface; dry and sunny. Contrary to the earlier met office forecasts.

While Paul was waxing lyrical on the delights of breakfast at Priddy Farm Shop, we managed to get kitted up and down t'ole at around 12:30 ish.

Caroline went in to the tube for a quick look-see. Then a drag sled system was hastily improvised by joining strops together to make a hauling rope for mucking out.

With Paul at the sharp end loading and Tangent in the tube on the apex of the bend to steer the sled around the bend, Caroline and I proceeded to fill the bags and stack them ready to haul up the climb.

With the arrival of Rupert, I took up position on the step [in Humbug Hall] and began hauling up to Rupert working the drag line at Annieversary. Once the final bag had reached Rupert the whole "Soggy Bottom Crew" moved up the cave and hauled a total of 44 bags to the bottom of the builder's ladder.

Back on surface; 16:00 for tea, biscuits, and Jaffa cakes.

I don't recall being so wet in dry conditions in this dig.

2014.020: Sunday, 25th May (1100 - 1715)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Bags: 54

Cloudy at the start, then sunny in the afternoon. Conditions underground possibly best described as 'damp'. The inlet stream into Soggy Bottom was low, but water was still falling in from above.

Chris' knee was still sore, but you can't keep a good man from going underground, so down he went.

Paul and Rupert cleared the residue from the tube and then the rest of us chained 54 bags out to grass.

At the dig face, the meandering trench had taken a turn left then right, leaving a large triangle of rock on the right-hand side of the passage which was ever so slightly in the way. There was a slight inward draught, rift barking produced a certain amount of resonance and there were faint sounds of falling water from ahead. Seems more hopeful, but nothing to get too excited about just yet.

The usual Rites of Passage were performed. Rupert's comment was, "we just get the dig nice and tidy, then it gets thoroughly messed up again."

We finished off with Caroline's home-made sausage rolls, Alice's flap-jacks, Chris' (star quality) home-made chickpea dhal loaf, followed by slices of lemon drizzle cake and mugs of tea.


Recipe for Chris' Chick Pea Dhal Loaf

2014.000 Sunday, 18th May ** NO DIGGING :-(

Only Caroline, Chris and Paul were available for digging and they not unreasonably decided that shifting the 40+ bags was a bit much for the three of them, it's supposed to be fun after all.

Chris went for a cycle ride instead, skidded to avoid a suicidal dog, fell off and landed on his (good) knee. Not such a good knee now; there must be a moral there somewhere.

2014.019: Sunday, 11th May

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Rupert Fear

This is based on Chris and Paul's accounts as Alice and Tony were on holiday on Bryher (Scilly).

Paul, Rupert and Tangent cleared the debris back out of the tube (this is getting increasingly difficult). The resulting bags were then chained back and stacked at the top of Annieversary. The total was estimated at something in the region of forty bags.

Meanwhile, Paul had a chiselling session in the tube and removed another ten bags-worth or thereabouts. These were left stacked at the Soggy Bottom.

It was wet underground and there was quite a strong draught. While the conditions at the bottom of Annieversary and at Soggy Bottom were particularly unpleasant, people got chilled wherever they happened to be working.

Back to the surface for the usual fare of tea, sausage rolls and flap jacks.

2014.018: Sunday, 4th May (1130 - 1730)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Mike Wilson, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Hilary Wilson, Suki

Bags: 38

A fine, cool day, cloudy early but sunny in the afternoon and thankfully relatively dry underground.

Last weeks magic words had been very effective and there was a large pile of broken rock blocking the route to the unknown. When this has been cleared we could get a better look at the tight bend ahead. This still wants some rearranging before we can get any further. In a long dragging session the spoil was chained back to the base of the engine shaft.

Mike and Hilary Wilson (with Suki) came over in the afternoon and Mike took on his old rôle as winchman; 38 bags were hauled to grass. It was good to see them both after Mike's overlong absence from the dig and good news that he is feeling better than of late.

Finally, in the afternoon sunshine Paul and Caroline produced the first barbecue of the season, burgers and hotdogs finishing off with helpings of Caroline's home made CHOCOLATE MOUSSE - true gourmet digging.

2014.017: Sunday, 27th April (1130 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Super Tangent), Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Claire Cohen sent in a sick-note: she has the snuffles.

Bags: 19

Very heavy rain, slackening somewhat as the day wore on. On arrival, the blue drainage pipes in the wishing well were submerged and sucking noisily. Underground, it was very wet, almost to the point of being unpleasant.

Nineteen bags left over from last weekend were chained to the surface, while strange enlarging rituals were performed at the digging face in the tube.

(The photograph above is representative of all views of the digging face since January; it's just that the approach crawl gets longer).

Thin members of the team can get about a body length further than this, but round the next bend it becomes too tight. So, it's on with the grind; clear the spoil, then make some more, then do the same next week. They say it's good to have something to look forward to.

We finished with the usual feast followed a bit later by small quantities of medicinal ale.


AN ASIDE: Seeking excitement, I was reading the blurb on a pack of 'Marigold' gloves (sad but true). Now, I never thought Marigolds were robust enough to be useful in a dig, but apparently they have other virtues - magical powers:-

"Marigold transforms the dullest chore into one with a sense of purpose, pride and deep satisfaction ... We've worked hard to make our gloves truly special. So, if, for any reason, they don't get you singing as you work, send them back to us ..."

So, we should all get them. They will bring joy and delight to the tedious tube and the dig will be filled with the sounds of an angelic choir.

O.K., so it might take a bit of mental effort to imagine our lot as angels - just close your eyes, take a deep breath and keep trying.

2014.016: Sunday, 20th April (1130 - 1730)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Claire Cohen, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Bags: 29

A day of moderately unpleasant weather, Mendip Mist interspersed with rain; torrential in the later afternoon. Tony had an attack of the snuffles and brought a sick note excusing him from underground duties.

Claire, Tangent and Rupert got volunteered to clear up the result of last weeks incantations; all 29 bags of it. When they had finished, Paul had a chiselling session in the tube which removed a further 20ish bags of rock from the walls and floor.

While Paul was having fun, the rest chained the 29 bags to the surface.

Then came a somewhat larger than usual feast. Quiche (Claire), hot-dogs (Caroline) and TWO birthday cakes - one with candles and smarties, (Chris and Alice).

Finally a debriefing session at the Queen Victoria; thanks to landlord Mark Walton for the chocolates and chips.


Very many thanks to Moles Brewery, Melksham for supplying a new batch of digging sacks.

2014.015: Saturday, 12th April (1100 - 1500)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Jeff Price, John Williams (Tangent), Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley

Bags: 61

A good team and we needed it for it was a hard session. Paul, Rupert and Tony went to the bottom to clear up the post-incantation offerings. One particularly large block needed dragging out of the tube using a rope hauled by Paul and Tony, while it was being guided by Rupert. From the tone of the muffled squawks, it seemed to keep colliding with his face; we just kept pulling on the rope.

A few spells were cast in the tube and the rest of the enlarged team ferried the bags towards the surface. Chris had a lucky escape when a jam-jar sized rock fell down Annieversary, whistled past his ear and landed on his (steel toe-cap protected) boot. Falling rocks have a wonderful way of concentrating the mind and we are revising our procedures for shifting spoil up this shaft.

Later, Chris drove the winch, Jeff worked the bank and Sam barrowed and tipped. We finished off with sausage rolls (Caroline), flap-jacks (Caroline and Alice), home-made pork pies (Chris) ; all very welcome.

Aprés dig feasting
Aprés dig feasting

LR: Nick, Caroline, Paul, Rupert, Tangent, Jeff, Sam, Chris, Alice

Dragging a tape along the tube revealed that the digging face is nearly 7½ metres from the entrance in Soggy Bottom. Strangely it appears to be heading in the general direction of the Engine Shaft - Ooooops !

Never mind, we have still got a good draught.

The PiCam time-lapse camera had been set up again. This time the lens cover was off and the video shows frantic activity, while hauling and tipping the spoil.

Click on THIS LINK to see it.

2014.014: Saturday, 5th April (1200 - 1715)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Claire Cohen, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

(Chris Batstone sent in a Doctor's note - he has a bad attack of the lurg).

On the surface, it was very misty first thing and this continued all throughout the day. Underground, at the start, the air was still and the dig face fugged up ; sufficiently to prevent photography, but not enough to be uncomfortable. The draught started up later in the afternoon and the atmosphere cleared.

Claire, Tangent and Rupert cleared the debris at the face and the rest chained the bags back to the bottom of the Engine Shaft. There they remained as a certain amount of chilth and knackeration had seeped into the souls of the diggers. So after a few enlarging spells had been cast, it was out to the tea-room for sausage rolls (Caroline), flap-jacks (Alice and Caroline) and caramel slices (Claire).

2014.013: Sunday, 30th March (1100 - 1500)

Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley

Bags: 56

All the loose spoil had been bagged last week, so it was a relatively straightforward shifting session. In a massive effort, 56 bags were hauled to grass and for good measure a couple of enlarging spells were cast at the digging face in the downstream tube.

Notably, Rupert ventured underground for the first time, he thought, in over five years. He seemed to enjoy it, so here's to the next time.

Chris gathered some more moving pixels underground. The initial results look good, actually the dig looks better on the screen than it does in reality. On the surface, Tony set up the Raspberry-Pi timelapse camera for another test run, but forgot to remove the lens cover ! The result was 11,484 perfectly blank frames.

Doh !

We finished on a high note with slices of home-made pork pie (Chris), sausage rolls (Caroline), cheese and chutney bakes (Sofia Hawkes), Danish pastries (Caroline), flap-jacks (Alice). Quite a blow-out, needed a bit of beer to mop it all up.

2014.012: Sunday 23rd March (1200 - 1500)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Last week's incantations and rituals had effectively removed the constricted corner at the entrance to the soggy bottom upstream tube and it was now possible to get about a body length inside. Beyond this, the passage continues too small, but there is an appreciable resonance indicating more open space somewhere as yet out of sight. Personally, I don't rate its prospects, but it's worth keeping in mind as a project for our declining years.

We cleared out the debris from the downstream tube (this is getting REALLY tedious) and had a good chiselling session, removing a good few bags-worth from the walls. The way on continues narrow - good draught though.

Finished off with bacon butties, sausage rolls, flap-jacks and the like.

2014.011: Sunday, 16th March (1100 - 1700)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

A bit of a sickly crew this time as Paul, Tony and especially Caroline were suffering from heavy colds ; lots of sneezing, snuffling and hacking coughs.

We set up the PiCam on the surface again and then Chris went down to the bottom with his camera to get some video of diggers hurtling down to land on top of him. After the initial faffing, Paul started clearing the face and kicking the spoil back to Alice, who dragged it back further and bagged it, thence via Tony to Chris at the bottom of Annieversary.

Then, as the bags were making their way up to the top ledge in Annieversary, simultaneous rites of passage were prepared at the entrance to the inlet tube and some 25 ft away at the digging face in the downstream tube. This involved knitting a wonderful tangle of wiring, some of it quite colourful.

Meanwhile, on the surface, Caroline did a huge amount of work building retaining walls for the spoil-heap, despite feeling under the weather.

We were revived with sausage rolls, pork pies and flapjacks. The invalids were grateful for the gas heater.

NOTE - (added 20MAR14) : Paul made the mistake of checking to see if the time-lapse PiCam was working - unfortunately, it was !

I found this while processing the resulting 7597 photographs from the PiCam - it is by far the worst of the lot.

2014.010: Sunday, 9th March (1100 - 1630)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Bags: 13

First off, set up a Raspberry Pi(†) camera with the intention of assessing its suitability for time lapse photography, to show the world how hard we work. Not altogether successful ; particularly so because the camera caught Tangent snoozing on the spoilheap when the rest of us were underground and he thought that no-one was watching.

The usual people performed their usual tasks of removing last week's spoil and then creating next week's. Tedious but it gives us a good excuse to go to the pub afterwards, which after all is the main point of the whole exercise.

Only two things were really worthy of mention about the session :-

  1. It didn't rain.
  2. The vast amount of food eaten in the late afternoon ; bacon & onion butties, hot-dogs, scotch eggs, flap-jacks, sausage rolls and yet more flap-jacks.

(†) W.T.F. is a Raspberry Pi?
See:- www.raspberrypi.org/help/what-is-a-raspberry-pi/

2014.009: Saturday, 1st March (1200 - 1545)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Bags: 10

Chris brought his camera again and did some filming of folks descending the Engine Shaft.

Thereafter digging continued with the usual round of shifting spoil out to grass and then creating some more down below to replace it; all of which has been reported many times before. The Soggy Bottom was as soggy as ever, as were ours at the end of the digging session ; nothing new there, either.

We finished off with tea, sausage rolls, sandwiches, pork pies, BUT NO FLAP-JACKS !

AN ASIDE : Annie and Roger reported that the Meghalaya expedition had mapped 12.8 Km of new cave.

We got about 2½ metres in the same time, but as Chris said ; "they FOUND theirs, we had to MAKE ours."

Some truth in that.

2014.008: Sunday, 23rd February (1100 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Bags: 48

To start with Chris took some more video footage (can one take digital footage ? surely, there ought to be another word for it). Then Paul and Tangent cleared eighteen bags worth of broken rock from the dig face and the rest pushed, shoved, hauled and dragged them and the thirty bags left over from last week before finally laying the contents out neatly on the surface.

The way on at the bottom continues stubbornly in need of enlargement so the inevitable ritual was observed, enlivened by a howling inward draught.

Out afterwards for sausage rolls, flapjacks and doughnuts. Then to the Queen Victoria for a debriefing session, during which Tangent spent some time trying to grasp the complexities of the spoil removal system. This required much thought and a small amount of diagram drawing.

2014.007: Sunday, 16th February (1200 - 1615)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

A fine, sunny day, with a touch of frost to start with. Tangent, Paul and Tony went to the bottom. Tangent cleared the dig face, Paul reduced the rock pile at the bottom of Annieversary and Tony spent some time knitting and unknitting cables.

Meanwhile, Alice and Caroline came down, followed by Chris with his new video camera and filming light. Despite the latter, we had a productive session ; the face was cleared and a heap of bags was stacked at the top of Annieversary and another at the bottom of the builder's ladder. Enlarging spells were cast at the (current) end of the tube. The way on can be seen to continue but because the digging team are all built like Greek Gods/Goddesses, it still needs a certain amount of enlarging.

Finished off with well deserved tea, flapjacks, sausage rolls, pork pies and more flapjacks.

2014.006: Sunday, 9thFebruary (1130 - 1600)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Bags: 29

Another very wet day with heavy rain and sleet to start with, but brightening in the afternoon. At 1130, there was a large pool of water in the bottom of the adjacent depression and the blue pipes in the wishing well were submerged and sucking noisily. Discouraging sounds of falling water came from the bottom of the engine shaft.

When we got underground it was certainly very wet but it could have been worse and it was not impossible to work. The bags stacked last week at the bottom of Tollens were chained to the surface along with a couple more chiselled out from the tube by Nick ; 29 bags in total.

Paul installed a new steel ladder at the bottom of Annieversary to replace the aluminium loft ladder which everybody hated so much and for good measure, a few enlarging spells were scattered into the tube.

We warmed up with tea, sausage rolls, chocolate cake and flapjacks, all very healthy.

2014.005: Saturday, 1st February (1130 - 1700)

Alice Audsley, Annie Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Paul Brock, Roger Galloway, Tony Audsley


Annie and Roger were down in Somerset, in preparation for going to India next weekend and this was their last chance to see what REAL caves feel like before being exposed to the Meghalayan monstrosities. Unfortunately, they didn't get to Cheddar until 0200 hrs Saturday and the four of us had a bit of a slow start in the morning.

However, Caroline, Chris, Paul and Tangent got to the dig on time and, having installed a length of conveyor belting in the (still nameless) drive at the bottom of Annieversary to make hauling easier, they cleared and hauled back the pile of rock from the downstream tube. The late arrivals then set to and chained the bags back and stacked them at the bottom of Tollens'.

By this time, Caroline, Chris and Paul were soaked and getting very cold, so we called it a day and retired to the surface to warm up and consume tea, sausage rolls, doughnuts, carrot cake and chocolate crunchies (made with Toblerone) - delicious. A rather lengthy de-briefing session at the Queen Vic followed.

At the digging face, the right-hand bend has been converted into a tasteful curve and the entrance has been improved, but it still needs to be enlarged to make spoil removal from the end easier. The tube continues, as ever...

P.S: Tangent's wounded shoulder survived a trip to the bottom and into the tube AND he got out again without injuring himself; seems he is on the mend.

2014.004: Sunday, 26th January (1100 - 1645)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Bags: 22

A VERY wet day. Over at the dig, the water in the 'wishing well' was above the level of the drainage pipes and they were sucking noisily; it was likely to be very wet underground. Tony pondered on this gloomily while waiting for Paul, who soon arrived looking disgustingly cheerful and collectively (80% Paul, 20% Tony) we decided to give it a go. Paul went to the bottom to enlarge the squeeze a bit more and Tony followed him down, laying telephone and other cables, drilling, plugging and securing them out of the way.

Eventually the cable laying reached the bottom of Black Hawkes and we fixed some 10mm rebar pins as a shelf for the phone into the wall of a miraculously dry alcove, then connected up and made contact with the surface; possibly GCHQ and NSA as well.

Then was started the next campaign of passage enlargement. We have had the last blissful couple of weeks off from this tedium, but now it's back to the grind. Meanwhile, Alice and Caroline and a fully recovered Chris had arrived and they started working the stack of bags to the surface.

We exited from the sodden hole to find that the sun was shining and that there were patches of blue in the sky ! But it was very cold. All went for a warm-up and dry off in the tea room, devouring flap jacks, sausage rolls, sandwiches, tea and buns. A good end to what had turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable day.

2014.003: Sunday, 19th January (1100 - 1715)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Unfortunately, Chris could not come out to play today; he sent in a doctor's note to say he had been struck down with grumbling guts and general distemper. In addition, Alice was going to be delayed until mid afternoon so we were a bit thin on the ground.

To start with Paul and Tony armed themselves drill and drilling kit as well as a sackfull of passage names. They scattered names about liberally as they descended; hopefully some of them will stick. So, the crawl between The Place Where The Slot Used To Be and the top of Annieversary is now Hilti Drive.The equivalent crawl at the bottom of Annieversary did have a name thrown at it but it didn't stick, slid slowly down the wall and got trampled into the mud. Better luck next time perhaps. The chamberette at the end of this, as yet, nameless way is Humbug Hall. 'Humbug' because of its close association with Christmas and 'Hall' because of its general air of magnificence. Finally, the 3.4 metre pitch gets the title Black Hawkes Down for reasons we won't go into, but which amuse us, which is all that matters.

Once in Humbug Hall, we started work on enlarging the elliptical squeeze, by the homely expedient of drilling 14mm holes and whacking a gad (small wedge) into each hole as has been done by miners since time immemorial. Slow, but effective.

Once done, Paul fixed a bolt and handline and we both dropped in to view the delights. The bottom of the pitch was roughly circular, slightly 'heart-shaped' and maybe 1½ish metres in diameter. There was a flat, fine-grained mudstone floor covered with about 10 - 12 cm of sandy gravel plus a few larger rocks which the diggers had carelessly let fall. The only features of note were two smallish tubes at floor level. The first, low down on the westish (I think) wall was too tight to enter and bent sharply northish almost immediately. A small stream (ca 15 cm wide 2-3 cm deep) flowed out of this tube.

The stream flowed across the floor, slightly augmented by water falling from the pitch-head above, then into the second tube, low on the eastish side of pitch bottom. This second tube looked distinctly more promising. It had a discernible draught and it was possible to get round the first right hand bend and see further. The tight passage continues, but as it is sub-any-of-us sized, let alone sub-Batstone, it needs to be a bit bigger. So it's back to the usual grind. Joy of joys.

Ok, fun over, back to business. Paul dug while Tony, Nick and Caroline chained the bags back to the bottom of Annieversary. While this was going on, Alice arrived so then she and Caroline popped down to the bottom to view the wondrous things that we had told them were to be seen there. This done, we chained the bags back a bit more before cold got the better of us, so we left the bags for another day and retired to the warmth of the tea-room for tea, Christmas cake, sausage rolls, shortbread, flap-jacks, cheese and spinach tarts and general witterage. Great fun.

Sketch plan showing pitch bottom
Sketch plan showing the Jan 11th extensions
and the 'soggy bottom' of the new pitch.

2014.002: Saturday, 11th January (1100 - 1700)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Jeff Price, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Bags: 44

Last week's incantations had been highly successful and we were met with a large pile of rock blocking the digging face. Black spaces were glimpsed between the rocks so, we were in this time ! Ahead lay a cross-rift and an enormous pitch.

Uh, Uh - wrong again.

Jeff got in first and found a small space, big enough to turn round in.

Lying face down and looking back to his right, he could see a narrow rift at an acute angle to the entrance crawl. Also to his right, in the floor, was a narrow elliptical hole with a 'balcony' just over one metre below. The balcony ended with a further drop of about 2½ metres to a more or less circular, rubble strewn floor (largely our rubble I guess). See diagram below.

OK, not quite what we had ordered, but we certainly weren't about to return it to the Breakthrough Fairy and ask for our money back. Given time, we'll learn to love it dearly.

The elliptical slot is a bit tight for comfort, about 500 Milli Batstones wide and so will need enlarging to standard digging passage size before too long. Meanwhile Nick (thinman) has had a preliminary look down and reports not a pitch, but instead a couple of narrow tubes. These lead off at floor level at opposite sides of the more or less circular pitch bottom. Nick thinks we just might be able to get along one of these, but with commendable restraint, he did not make the attempt.

Spoil was chained to the surface in the normal way, 44 bags in total. We finished off in the tea room with sandwiches (home-made bread), pies, flap-jacks and the like, while a hard frost outside froze up our abandoned oversuits. Finally to the Queen Vic, where a modest amount of celebratory beer was consumed.

Plan of 11 Jan extension
Sketch plan of the January 11th extension,
showing the developments at the bottom of Annieversary.

2014.001: Sunday, 5th January (1100 - 1700)

Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Tony Audsley

Wet underground, but not as bad as might have been expected considering the recent rains and storms. Rites of passage were performed while lying in a small, pleasantly cooling stream.

With any luck this watery ritual should be sufficient to get us into the space visible beyond the constriction; we might even be able to stand up in it. That would make a nice change.

The chain gang shifted the bags that had been stacked on the top ledge in Annieversary and stacked them below Tollens' before we all exited to feast off home-made quiche and sandwiches.

Despite the heavy rain, a surprisingly enjoyable start to 2014.

Created: Sat Jun 7 19:03:58 2014