As Mendip Digfest virgins this year we eagerly scanned the list of diggers looking for willing volunteers/ victims for their dig, to see which one seemed the most alluring.
Chris Binding’s looked most tempting; ‘Absolutely guaranteed to go’.
How could we pass by the opportunity to join a dig that promised so much? (Though ‘excellent picnic facilities’ was also a strong contender. )
We therefore met up with Chris on a lovely sunny morning to go and find miles of new , cavernous passage in Grebe Swallet.
On the way Chris gave us a potted history of the cave and pointed out how the landscape and geology of the area indicated that cave passage to rival Upper Flood was almost definitely waiting for us to just tap in and discover it.
In my mind’s eye I saw us emerging into huge chambers and having to be careful we didn’t get lost as we wandered past huge crystal white formations. ” Wow, like a parallel universe! “ I exclaimed.
The entrance was heavily guarded by an army of slugs, which nearly cut short my caving trip , but the lure of fame and fortune won and soon we were underground.
Chris gave us a guided tour of the known cave and mine which was thoroughly enjoyable. As a big Willie Stanton fan I fully appreciated how much of his engineering had gone into the cave and how well it had served to protect delicate areas and historical artefacts.
Our role was to clear and make good two areas where Chris and the rest of the team had been ‘teasing’ the rock to see what lay beyond.
At the first location Chris spent his time mostly throwing rocks at Mark, while I played with mud.
At Perdition the dig face and air space was limited, so I stayed back out of the way while the boys took turns prising away at the heavy mud and rocks. Once they had both worn themselves out, I was invited to ‘Have a Go’.
Easing away at the mud and brittle calcite was quite fun! I was just getting into the swing of it when the boys got bored and decided that we probably wouldn’t be able to make any further progress that day. rolling the last few bits of mud towards me, to leave it tidy, I found that my hand was now waving about freely on the other side of a calcited wall! A Void!
The next couple of hours passed in a flurry of activity as Chris and Mark sweated and cajoled the calcite wall and mud floor, revealing a tantalizing decorated rift passage beyond . More of the mud floor was pushed aside until Chris could wriggle forward into the passage to see where it led to . An exciting prospect lays ahead – the rift pinches in, but a dark void can be observed beyond it – a Parallel Universe? ?
A quick guestimate of the amount of passage gained was about 5 metres, which Chris thinks is possibly a Mendip Digfest record!
I certainly think there is about 5 tonnes of mud to be cleaned off the suits. ..
The rest of Digfest was really enjoyable too, lots of great people and plenty of fun and Potholer. Who can ask for more?
|The Dig Face On Arrival (Photo Christopher Binding)|
|Mark Furtles with a Crowbar (Photo Christopher Binding)|
|And Creates A Filthy Hole (Photo Christopher Binding)|
|And Keeps Creating Till He Fits! (Photo Christopher Binding)|
|Chris crawls over the pit to check out the newly discovered passage (Photo Mark Burkey)|
Trip report: Jess Burkey