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Badger Hole, Stratton on the Fosse

On the 14th April 2007 a hole approximately 1.5 metres in diameter and 3 metres deep appeared in a field at Manor Farm between Stratton on the Fosse and Radstock.  Working locally at the time I was asked to investigate what the hole was as coal mining was known to have taken place in the area.  On the 29th April Henry Bennett, Bob Smith and myself arrived to take a look down the hole.  A rigid ladder was used to descend the hole as the sides belled out after a depth of 1 metre.  The base of the ladder was placed on the top of the sizable cone of collapsed soil debris. 

The farmer had alerted us to the possibility of a badger being alive and down the hole so it was with trepidation that I descended the hole to take a look around.  Once on the top of the debris cone I could see that the chamber was roughly 4 metres long running East to West and 2 metres wide North to South.  All around the entrance hole was evidence of claw marks on the hard clay soil.  This confirmed our suspicions that the badger was indeed down the hole. 

Whilst the amount of infill was large it was possible to crawl to the eastern and western ends of the chamber under the roof.  To the east was a large collection of boulders the size of footballs.  To the western end was a descending mud filled passage about 40cm high and over a metre wide.  The passage was a couple of metres long but length was difficult to determine as the passage narrowed through a boulder slot at which point lay a very dead badger! 

As the passage past the badger blew a slight draught, and knowing that the closer I got to the badger the smellier it was, I decided to be the first to enlarge the passage.  With myself digging, Henry and Bob took it in turns to haul a skip up the descending passage to dump the spoil at the eastern end of the main entrance chamber.  As my proximity with the badger increased I swapped places with the boys who spent much effort trying to widen the passage without having to get too close to the badger.  The mud dug out had a high clay content and contained grapefruit sized rocks.  After a couple of hours work it was possible to crawl down to a second slot, which had been unearthed to the right of the badger. 

The boys moved out of the way to let me have a look through the whole.  Whilst the smell was stomach wrenching the slot was promising.  Through the hole the passage opened up to 3 metres wide and went on for approximately 4 metres.  The floor was covered in football-sized boulders whilst the roof was made of very poor chert, which crumbled to the touch.  After a cigarette break discussion it was decided to abandon the hole as the roof was far too unstable to allow any sizable digging to take place at the end.

The hole was marked on a GPS as ST670520 (N51.26665, W2.47418).  The farmer planned to fill in the hole and informed us that other holes of a similar size had appeared in previous years in neighbouring fields.  The Radstock area is well known for its association with coal mining, with the last pit closing in the 1970s.  However after conducting research from Radstock Mining Museum it was determined that the coal seam did not extend to where the hole had appeared nor into the neighbouring fields where other holes were recorded by the farmer.  Continuing my research with a company of local construction engineers it appeared that stone from the surrounding fields had been extracted in the 18th and 19th Centuries to be used to make lime at a nearby kiln site located on the A367 opposite the junction with the B3355.  This location was only 600 metres from the site of the hole.  This led to the possibility that the hole was a ‘windypit’ and the result of stone extraction for lime production.  Only the examination of more holes, as they appear, will confirm this hypothesis.

By Hannah Bell