Recent digging and breakthroughs.
by Tony Jarratt
Belfry Bulletin No. 371, March 1979
Since the breakthrough of 28th December 1977 (B.B. No.359) most of the work at the site has been in the nature of solidly shoring the entrance shaft by means of stone and mortar walls, and of constructing a secure concrete capping for safety reasons (see Stu Lindsay's article in B.B. No.368). The wisdom of this move has been amply demonstrated by Lord Waldegrave's delighted thanks to the team and his offer of any other digging sites on his estates. Thus, as a public relations exercise this has been more successful than we had hoped and it is essential that all visits and further digs in this area are continued in the same tradition. Incidentally, anyone wishing to visit Esker Hill and Buddles Wood mining areas should arrange permission first via the Estate Office at Chewton Mendip. A refusal is now doubtful, allowing for the shooting season.
Once the engineering section had been completed their noble edifice it was suddenly and sadly realised that we may had to go back underground! During the early part of the year various visits had been made to the end, including 'Wig', Graham W-J and Martin Grass's surveying trip and odd digging visits by Ross White, Claire Williams, Chris Batsone, Trev Hughes and others. These investigations had shown that water sinking at the far end of the terminal chamber could be heard flowing under the boulder floor in the far left hand corner. Partial removal of these boulders had been attempted but it was suggested that any further work would require a good dollop of 'Irish marzipan.'
On 14th October the writer went for a recce dig at this spot, accompanied by Chris Batstone, Chris Smart and John Turner. A vast quantity of mud and rocks was removed leaving a low black hole with a view into open passage and a sofa sized rock precarious balanced above said hole. A good draught could be felt (a peculiar thing about this dig is strangely that the normally 'four letter word' men, burst forth with amazingly long and intellectual words rarely heard before!
The following morning, accompanied by Alan Thomas, I went back to the offending boulder, which was duly demolished and an afternoon's work by Simon 'Woody' Woodman. Steve Plumley (the Apprentices) Chris Smart and myself enabled the debris cleared and a better look at the way on obtained. Unfortunately three more boulders just prevented access, though some ten feet of clean washed bedding could be seen.
On the 17th, the writer directed Wessex member, Rob Harper, from an Aggy trip and soon cleared more gravel from a bang arranged by Al Mills (also Wessex) during that morning. We soon squeezed into the inviting hole to gain some 30ft of low, rock strewn bedding crawl, identical to Christmas crawl further back in the cave. A collapsing roof bedding at the end prevented further progress and was a textbook illustration of passage formation by breakdown along small joints. Some clearing of this new crawl was started to enable more 'portly' (i.e. blood fat) diggers to reach the working face. The crawl was christened 'Pinks and Posies' as that was what the vocal duo were murdering at the time.
More clearing trips on 20th - 22nd drastically altered the height of the passage and amount of hairy roof and wall at the end. Diggers and sledge haulers were Stu Lindsey, Chris B., Trev, Tim Large, Kevin, Lorraine and the writer. Some eight feet of collapse were cleared and the low bedding plane continuing to draught strongly.
On the 28th November, Trev Hughes, 'Tuska' Morrison (WCC) Rich Maskell (hijacked matelot) and the writer cleared a further four feet of collapse to reveal an open section of tunnel. This was entered by the two B.E.C. men two days later after gardening the roof and walls. The crawl here is low but wide and after some twelve feet is obstructed by a large slab. Work continues-
WIGMORE - The formation of the cave.
The writer has a theory on the formation of this small but interesting cave which he would only be delighted to have further informed opinions on.
He suggests the initial development began with the local drainage following a weakness in the mineral vein down which the entrance shaft was excavated. This relatively major joint continues below the vein to the head of Christmas Crawl, being intersected in hesitation Chamber by several cross rifts, forming minor inlets from further along the vein.
Reaching the softer marl (?) bed of the crawl, the drainage gradually eroded this material, following the dip of this bed. Initially the passage was very low, though fairly wide in places. Weakening of the roof caused collapse into the passage as is at present happening in places.
A junction of small oxbows and inlet in the Santa's Grotto area created a much wider section, considerably enlarged by roof collapse to create a fairly roomy chamber. The combined drainage leaving this area once again is concentrated in a single conduit and the collapse in Pinks and Posies may be due to a continuation of the entrance joint again reaching the crawl.
It is suggested that the cave will continue its gentle dip along the bedding being still a low passage until it meets the limestone junction and then...who knows?
WIGMORE - notes on the survey
The survey was carried out on a single trip during April 19768 and the field notes gathered by Martin Grass, Dave Irwin and Graham Wilton-Jones using Suunto compass and clinometer and a 50ft fibron tape. Both the clinometer and compass were calibrated to conform with the BCRA Grade 5 requirements.
Due to the constricted nature of the lower passage (Christmas Crawl) the bearings were always forward through leap-frogging was carried out from the top of the climbs to the entrance shaft.
The extension from the chamber (Santa's Grotto) was surveyed by Tony Jarrett et al (Pinks and Posies) soon after it was opened up. The original is drawn at 1/120 and prints will be available through the Mendip Survey Scheme.
Total length 237ft; depth 78ft; BCRA grade 5c-d
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