Author Topic: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.  (Read 30522 times)

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #150 on: January 02, 2017, 08:02:54 pm »
Brian Prewer in a flooded Withyhill 1970's.



Withyhill main passage 1970's. Despite all the care they both got broken and are now half that size.



Me and the famous twisted stal in Withyhill early 1970's. We took a load of photos of this which is just as well as he is no more. His mortal remains were returned and laid to rest here at the end of last year.





The one I took with my brother.


Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #151 on: January 02, 2017, 08:38:29 pm »
Perhaps a bit of a treat then. A few of my favourites from recent years.

























That lot should clog a few phones up! ;D

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #152 on: January 04, 2017, 10:15:06 am »
A few more whilst I can find my albums in Photobucket.

A more subtly lit Withyhill for the person that thinks some of my images are " garish " whilst I think his are too dark. There is no right way really its down to taste and the time you have editing. He uses RAW whilst I spend less time on edits and set up.



From Pete Rose.

I think this is Oliver Lloyd. Mrodoc will know.



Me again c 1972.



A repeat of one of my favourites. My son Jonathan in Jonathan's Chamber which I found the same month that his first birthday occurred. The foot high tube into the chamber is proving to be a bit of a struggle now.



Kit to wash -- Bye

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #153 on: January 06, 2017, 06:18:23 pm »
The trouble with this sort of thread is that folk think that its exclusive so the poor old OP sits at home wondering if people like it or not. Still with over 19,000 views and 567 in the last couple of weeks somebody must care. Now if I were to argue some obscure point of caving I would get all and sundry here. Well I now have a few more historic photos from Brian Prewer but here are some of mine, unpublished , from Withyhill trips in the last few years.

Helectite Corner.



Through the window.



In the roof.



Lets Join Up.



The Crystal Edge.



Wiggly Worm.

I have not done him justice as with macro the depth of field suffers. Good thing is in the whole wide world only I know where he lives.



Mr Streaky.



Little Pool.


Offline Laurie

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #154 on: January 06, 2017, 06:50:17 pm »
I'm still watching.  :)
You haven't lost your number one fan, it's just that I've not been too well lately.
2015 - Green insurance card swapped for a red one :(

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #155 on: January 06, 2017, 07:20:56 pm »
Get well soon Laurie  :hug:

Something in common with all those images in the last post.

They have no people in. I prefer it that way for smaller formations stuff. Not a fan of a big hairy nose thrust up against helectites. Anyway if its a question of scale all cavers know how thick a straw is. No quite often I find folk in an image a distraction. Now one from the Brian Prewer/Mike Baker archive.

Maypole Pitch, Balch Cave. Early 1960's.


Offline tony from suffolk

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #156 on: January 06, 2017, 08:59:45 pm »
Another member of the OR fan club checking in. Keep going old bean, your postings are a pleasure.
"Aim low, achieve your goals, avoid disappointment"

Online Roger W

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #157 on: January 06, 2017, 10:11:22 pm »
Keep 'em coming, OR!    :thumbsup:

And, Laurie, sorry to hear you've not been so good.  Hope you' re fit again soon.
"That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves:  you don't know how far they go back, sometimes... or what is waiting for you inside."   JRR Tolkein: "The Hobbit"

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #158 on: January 07, 2017, 09:58:29 am »
I am truly honoured to have such loyal watchers I shall continue my work with much greater effort knowing that its so well appreciated.

Spent half a day at FCQ and thereabouts yesterday taking surface shots and mulling over my all embracing theory of everything at the quarry. I shall add some of that when the whole thing crystallizes into a pure nugget of clarity in my bends enfeebled brain.

More early 60's Balch Cave images from the Prewer/Baker archive.










Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #159 on: January 08, 2017, 12:43:31 pm »
More from the Prewer/Baker archive.

Cambridge Grotto, Hillier's Cave. Early 1950,s



The original Balch Cave entrance. Early 1960's.



Fernhill reopened.





The beginning of " The Concrete Cannon " c 2008.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #160 on: January 08, 2017, 06:45:59 pm »
So maybe its worth trying to untangle the history of cave development at Fairy Cave Quarry. For that, being an untrained geologist , I shall have to make assumptions. That plus the fact little in the way of research has been undertaken here.
The quarry is situated to one side of an ancient catchment feeding streams that sink underground and reappear at St Dunstan's Well. Shatter Cave is aligned ( though not necessarily within ) the Withybrook Fault which has thrown the bedding out of  alignment forming a break in the impervious beds along the escarpment allowing underground water to escape. These , in effect, have formed a dam to contain underground water within the catchment. In time base level has dropped caused either by the down cutting of the Mells valley or in response to sea level changes. ( depending on which timescale you adopt ). Originally all water in both Withyhill and Shatter Cave was slow moving phreatic flow with little in the way of hydraulic gradient. Water comes off the Beacon Hill pericline ( rather like an upturned boat with steeply folded limestone now sharply worn down to expose the impervious sandstone core ). We see this on Western Mendip but here things differ. Streams run off the pericline to sink near the limestone shales boundary ( GB Cave et al ). Sink to rising gradient is much greater too ). At Fairy Cave Quarry streams continue to flow across the shales and Black Rock Limestone to sink near a denuded valley running from beyond Withybrook Slocker to the escarpment. This is due to the fact that periglacial head ( a gravelly solufluction product ) overlies parts of the BRL to stop streams sinking. Its probable you see some of this as sediment deposits in the caves. Possibly also that there is a 5m plus depth of head within the Withybrook Slocker doline.

The Withybrook valley contained a surface stream in glacial conditions as the ground was frozen. In warmer interglacials a large amount of water from melt sank into the limestone. The head deposit may date back to a major glacial period 400,000 years ago. Shatter might be close to 400,000 years old ( fitting somewhere between the genesis of GB Cave and Reservoir Hole.) Initially water sank lower down the valley as head was stripped back. This formed the Shatter Cave conduit. In time water sank at points higher up the valley forming the Withyhill route as the head retreated. At some time water was captured from the Shatter route to enter Withyhill Cave via the scalloped rifts in Glistening Pool Series. Clearly there have been phases with sediment accumulation and subsequent erosion still ongoing today. Stream sink back towards the pericline continues with Midway Slocker sinking within the head itself though this route will probably be immature. ( Similiarly this is occurring West of the FCQ catchment with Swallets feeding a younger resurgance at Ashwick.) There could well be an ongoing capture from one catchment to the next.

Accepting all of this very tentative appraisal we ask where will we find more cave ? Probably not at the end of either Withyhill or Shatter Cave the latter being almost underneath the denuded valley bottom near the farm. ( There has been a lot of recent infill along here by the farmer ). Certainly we will find more cave between Shatter Cave and Withyhill Cave for this appraisal suggests that the Jonathan's Chamber area is indeed part of the old Shatter Conduit. Jonathan's Chamber extension will link with Shatter Cave either along strike to the most Southerly part of Shatter or follow the fault to Four Ways. Both allow for a distance of new cave around 50m in length though with  strike/dip alternative development up to 100m. There is also an outside possibility of a relict inlet running from the valley.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #161 on: January 08, 2017, 06:55:59 pm »
Sketch overview of Shatter and Withyhill Caves showing the fault and displaced limestone beds. The undefined current head boundary is shown as a hatched line to the south with Midway Slocker sinking through the head itself. The solid lines show the thalweg ( bottom of ) the denuded dry valley that contains Withybrook Slocker. The points at X are regressing possible stream sink areas.


Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #162 on: January 08, 2017, 07:21:49 pm »
Capture.

The Withyhill/Shatter relationship.

Most of Withyhill's Glistening Pool Series is ,in fact, the long abandoned Shatter Conduit. This eventually drained into the Withyhill route. ( Only in this part of Withyhill do you see the broken and recemented formations you see in Shatter Cave.)

The capture route is marked C and essentially comprises well scalloped narrow rifts with an abundance of stream sediments. The Shatter conduit continued through a route long blocked by stalagmite from Pearl Chamber to Jonathan's Chamber. A tube bypass takes you through to the latter. A boulder choke close to the fault follows to enter a dig comprised partly of stream sediment covered by stal through which a hole was cut to enter a large collapse chamber mostly devoid of formations except at the highest levels. Here a mostly outward draught emerges presumably originating somewhere in Shatter. Early smoke bomb tests suggested that the draught originated near the far end of the boulder chamber and to that end Chipchase and Price dug a narrow rift at the furthest point. This was continued by others at a much later date to enter a small sealed up grotto they named " Priceless Grotto ". ( For any one of three reasons you might care to believe ). The solid arrows denote the probable continuation to Shatter Cave whilst the circles denote existing or abandoned stream sinks. A reappraisal of all of this may be done in the future.



Testing by smoke in the final chokes of Shatter proved inconclusive with the possibility that the direction of the draught reversed during the test in the crawls below The Plughole.

Long profile of the Withyhill streamway with Glistening Pool Series beyond. The gradient from one to the other can be seen quite clearly. It appears that at sometime base level in Withyhill dropped fairly rapidly forming the aggressively scalloped solid floor passages we see in much of the cave. Above this can be seen the original sinuous phreatic coduit though at much smaller proportions than we see at Pisa an Shatter Cave.




Survey of same area.

C denotes capture and the other arrow onward development of the conduit.



No doubt I shall return to this sometime soon.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #163 on: January 09, 2017, 06:35:15 pm »
I am still not sure that this is the right place for this sort of meandering. Sketches, maps and the like. Its really here for my own convenience I suppose as I have no scientific background to warrant a " paper ". Weather the reader finds any of this of interest its impossible for me to know. Forums are for discussion and this is that. Personally I would like to see more caving " relevant " material. Makes a change from the usual argy bargy.

The disruption of the impervious quartzitic bed at St Dunstan's Well. ( X )



Fairy Cave. Known since early times and at a higher level then the other caves. Joins Hillier,s via that awful dig we laboured so long at many years ago.( Drop Out Rift ). Also connects through boulders to Fernhill Cave.( Impassable ).

A higher part of Hillier's ? An inlet in its own right originating in the valley or even continuing on the other side ?



Entrance to Fairy Cave. Mid right beyond the old tar plant. ( All inside the quarry boundary fence ).





Entrance to Hillier's Cave.



Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #164 on: January 09, 2017, 07:14:47 pm »
Withyhill Cave forms a lazy route alternating between localised fractures across the 60 degree bedding ( Higher rift passages ) and the strike ( usually crawls or 60 degree shuffles ). There is plenty of evidence of stream deposit and subsequent removal. ( Elephant's Trunk Chamber ). Dispersal and rearrangement of the sediments continue to this day and the lower cave has been affected by recent silt deposition. Nowadays flooding of the system appears to be fairly regular due mainly to the disruption of the route to Hillwithy and clearer access through the modifications at Withybrook. Certainly leaves and larger items have come in via Withybrook. A fairly new can of WD 40 being the latest. Whether this flooding has occurred in the decades prior to quarrying is unknown. I do know that in it's original found state there was no silt in the lower cave all. Most of the quarry is within The Clifton Down Beds the transition to Burrington Ooolite taking place near Broken Curtain Chamber with the furthest reaches of the cave being in the crinoid rich Vallis Limestone. Withybrook Slocker itself sits very close to the junction of The Vallis Limestone and The Black Rock Limestone. The Clifton Down Limestone contains excellent fossil Lithostrotion coral which is best seen in Balch Aven Chamber. ( Entrance unlocked but a 10m rope helpful ).

Steeply bedded Clifton Down Limestone adjacent to Withyhill.



Calcite filled fracture at and above Hillwithy entrance.



Another time. A look at Shatter geology and the Withybrook Fault.

Online Sam Richards

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #165 on: January 09, 2017, 08:51:43 pm »
Thank you, this is all interesting to peruse through. It's great that you're sharing your firsthand experience from the early days to present.
Particularly personally as I haven't been down any of the Fairy Quarry caves it's nice to know what's down there!

Offline rhychydwr1

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #166 on: January 09, 2017, 09:12:07 pm »
"His mortal remains were returned and laid to rest here at the end of last year."  I thought for a moment it was Nick we were talking about but a later photo showed it to be a stalactite.

Yes, it is OCL.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #167 on: January 10, 2017, 08:41:41 pm »
Hooray . Accolade of sorts.    :thumbsup:   I shall return. Not today as I am knackered through digging all day.

Oh go on then. One of mine and a couple from Pete Rose.



Before some T*at put mud on it !



With the " lost " curtain.


Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #168 on: January 11, 2017, 11:28:25 am »
Shatter Cave and The Withybrook Fault.

Accepting that Balch Cave, WL Cave and Shatter Cave are all the same system its interesting to see what relationship they all have with the fault. This survey of Balch Cave shows that the cave has been guided by the fault in some way but is not that closely associated with it. I have shown the fault roughly at Erratic Passage level and the only fracture now visible in the cliff face as the broken line. X shows where WL Cave joined the system but was blocked under stal flow in Crystal Chamber. ( Never to be found with Balch Cave
intact ). The survey suggests that the parts of Balch cave West of the fault were aligned along fractures running NNW. I have always thought that there was a zone of fractures associated with the fault but in fact can see little on evidence of that. There are no more fractures here than anywhere else in the quarry. Closer to Fernhill Cave the strata becomes more disturbed with lots of mud. In this region it seems the Balch chambers ended and the cave continued at deeper levels as Christmas Hole and Ducks Pot. I certainly dont remember any big chambers appearing here in the 1960@s. I remember the destruction of Christmas Hole close to the original Balch entrance and the draught that came out from the remains of the bisected shaft.



Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #169 on: January 11, 2017, 06:40:30 pm »
This is the fracture in which Balch Coral Grotto is formed. ( The broken line on the previous survey ).



So looking towards where Crystal Chamber used to be we have -

1 Withybrook Fault
2 Coral Grotto Fracture and remains of two chambers. ( Too tight for me ).
3 Balch Aven Chamber series entrance.
4 Conning Tower Cave.  The Balch stream way carrying water from below Shatter Cave ( Viagara Rift ) and originating at Withybrook Slocker .
5 WL Cave formerly sealed by stal below Crystal Chamber.
6 Remains of the stal slope in Crystal Chamber.



The exhumed Withybrook fault looking North.



Entrance to Erratic Passage, Withybrook Fault and dig debris from the Carpel Tunnel dig.



Carpel Tunnel Dig and some Balch historical detail here -

http://www.thrupelite.arcula.co.uk/balch01.htm

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #170 on: January 11, 2017, 07:00:28 pm »
Exhumed Withybrook Fault looking South with Aven Chamber Series and Coral Grotto entrances by the X.



Broken and muddy strata where the quarry crossed the Withybrook Fault. Balch Cave original entrance would have been far left. View towards quarry entrance. ( West ).



The East section of the quarry showing the mud mass.



T marked on a boulder where Balch Great Chamber used to be. I assume this where the end of the Carpel Tunnel Dig is directly below




Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #171 on: January 11, 2017, 08:01:44 pm »
Shatter Cave showing approximate relationship with the Withybrook Fault.



Like Withyhill Shatter Cave traverses the Clifton Down, Burrington Oolite and Vallis limestone beds. The cave is aligned with the fault but as with Balch Cave appears to be formed either side of it. My untrained eye has been unable to see any trace of the fault within the cave. Tor Chamber must lie very close and there has been major development along strike as with Withyhill. ( Erratic Rift , Diesel and Canopy Chamber. ) The original entrance to Shatter Cave is a quarry breach in the system at the point where the cave has a connection with the immature active stream route below. ( Viagara Rift ). Water flow is also heard at the bottom of a muddy hole at the end of Erratic Rift and it is assumed that this all forms a stream passage into Conning Tower Cave ( the dotted line ). Withybrook Slocker has tested positive to Conning Tower Cave though for some reason there is overflow into Withyhill Cave in flood conditions. I have not had a report of conditions in Conning Tower Cave during Withyhill flood. Being close to the Withyhill entrance level one can assume that back up occurs some way further upstream.
The original phreatic tube and its transition to vadose trench is best observed at Pisa Passage.( the phreatic tube is at least four times bigger than the downstream Withyhill tube though similiar in size to that at the end of GP Series, Withyhill ). Here The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a classic example of the many formations in the cave that have been broken and recemented. Whether this damage is seismic or cryogenic I cannot say. In any case cryogenic fracturing in caves is still being investigated and not all field results yet published ( Reservoir Hole ).
http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1093&context=ijs
The same authors have made visits to both Shatter and Withyhill as well as Reservoir Hole.
Shatter cave ends in a muddy area and chokes not far short of the valley bottom. Considerable digging was done here in the early days by myself and others and the discovery of a complete rodents skull at the very end suggested a surface link in times past. A strong draught issues through the crawl below Plughole Chamber but recent attempts to trace its origin in the final chokes proved inconclusive. Indeed to the consternation of the testers it seemed to reverse at times. ( Chipchase/Cox ). Further digging near the chokes would not be acceptable now as the final area is very muddy and chances of any great finds slim. Fourways offers a route to Withyhill more in line with the fault. The far end in here is off limits to trips but was investigated during the resurvey by Chipchase, Duncan Price and Naomi Sharp. The latter gamely stripping off to investigate the most minuscule areas. Nothing suggesting a further continuation was found. The draughty areas are beyond Plughole Chamber in Shatter Cave and Jonathan's Chamber in Withyhill suggesting a connection along strike. ( a distance of about 50m ). Although that sounds little to work toward there is an outside possibility of encountering a fossil inlet to the South.
The big terminal chamber at the end of Withyhill also ends near the valley bottom.( beyond Column Chamber ). I have a dim recollection of smelling farm muck spreading in here . A search of my log has failed to find a reference so now I cannot confirm it.
On the survey above 1 by the dotted line indicates the Shatter WL link.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #172 on: January 12, 2017, 11:37:40 am »
In the early 1970's we were digging in Manor Farm, Timber Hole , Withyhill and St Dunstan's Well Cave. Most of this involved " chemical " assistance but this was long before the days of battery drills. We could use up to eight pounds of legal " chemical " but the technique was to pile it in and cover it with tamping mud. Altogether a messy and uncertain business. WL cave was obviously an abandoned stream passage, an upstream part of Balch Cave, but buried in stal below Crystal Chamber. Before Shatter Cave was surveyed it seemed an ideal place to start a dig. The lovely Pink Pool Chamber terminated the WL stream passage in solid stal flows. A tiny section of scalloped passage continued beyond the chamber until it became a total blockage. Work started here in 1972 as it was obvious to us that this was really going to go somewhere. Bashing and banging continued until 1974 when a route into Shatter Cave was established. The initial breakthrough took everyone by surprise including the party that were passing by in Shatter at the time. ( And Willie Stanton if you look at his log ). So the original stream route was re established and had the quarry face stopped far shorter Shatter Cave ( though by another name ) would have been discovered. I suppose the existing entrance to Shatter Cave could have been back filled and the WL route used  thus making an original and longer trip. That would have meant Pink Pool Chamber being traversed and spoiled. ( It has taken years to fully recover from our digging trips ). Nowadays Pink Pool Chamber can be viewed but not crossed to the link passage. In any case the link is so tight at the Shatter end most people could not get through. Modern techniques would soon have alleviated that but to no point.

My sketch of the existing WL Shatter link.



From my log  1974.





The latter before the impassable slot to connect the caves was enlarged.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #173 on: January 12, 2017, 11:55:24 am »
Unspoiled stal flows in Pink Pool Chamber at the start of the link passage. c 1972.



Formations main WL passage c 1972.



Pink Pool Chamber.


Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Fairy Cave Quarry. The Last 45 Years.
« Reply #174 on: January 12, 2017, 12:40:52 pm »
During the early 1970's I made a point of looking at every nook and cranny in both Shatter, WL and Withyhill. Green Lake Grotto and Jonathan's Chamber were found that way. I suppose I could be immodest and say that I am the only person that has been to every single part of the three caves. Conservation would preclude some of that rambling today.

Anyway for the moment a few photos ( perhaps repeated ) to illustrate points in recent posts.

The phreatic tube at Pisa showing the transition to vadose trench and the " first generation " stal "The Leaning Tower of Pisa ".



Cryogenic or seismic stal fracturing below Plughole Chamber, Shatter.



Abandoned high level meander at The Ring Road, Shatter Cave. Here a large stal boss has been tipped up and broken with new stal forming alongside. The meander leads to on ging passage above the curtain chamber in Pisa but is now off route.



The wonderful Fernhill curtains.



The era of the selfie stick. Shatter.



The era of good compact macro. Lithostrotion, Hillwithy.



Waterproof compacts. Serendipity. The bubble within a bubble, Withyhill.