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Brownley Hill Mine, Brownley Hill Vein, Tatler's String and High Level (26/02/11).

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This I think was the first timely start to a days exploring we have ever had amongst ourselves. The night before, I put a challenge down to be on site ready to go for 09:00, whoever is late pays the others a tenner - worked a treat for Nenthead time orientated Karli! We kitted up and headed straight for the Brownley Hill Vein and the first rise into the stopes above.

After climbing up above the horse level, we had a choice of heading east or west into the stopes, we first explored the west side, and this involved more climbing up staggered deads, which made up a few large steps. Once up, we had a look along the stope to as far as we could go. Heading west a number of ore chutes pock marked the floor and we even came across a little sublevel that intersected an ore chute. Further on the stope floor began to rise up to the top of the Great Limestone and it terminated in a very large high chamber where the shale had peeled away from the roof at the top of the limestone. Looking into the chamber when illuminated gave the impression a large oyster shell. There was some impressive white calcite formations here that looked like bulbous fingers of mushrooms. Returning back to where we had climbed up to we headed south to have a look at the warren of flats that branched of from the stope. It looked like there had been a hive of activity here from the late 70's and early 80's judging by the dated newspapers left behind by mineral collectors. Crisp packets stuffed in shot holes, Top Deck shandy cans and plastic bottles under waste rock - why bother burying it when you can still see it, it would have been less trouble to carry it out - a bit like dog owners who pick up their dog chocolate truffles in a bag and then throw it in the bushes. Anyway the pack walls were nice.

Climbing back down we now had a look at the east end of the stopes. Again we had to climb up a series of stacked deads, probably 6m in all. On this side we encountered almost a mirror image of the stopes in the western section. A set of flats to the south and then the stope ending in a floor collapse. At the far end there was heavy calcification and the floor had dropped away and it was possible to see sections of the horse level below. The stope continued on, with many stemples still in place - minus the floor. We returned back down to the horse level and carried on, taking the dogleg back on ourselves to have a look at the blue pool. This may be obvious to other explorers, but it has only just dawned on us that the blue pool sump may have been a main connection between the horse level below the Great Limestone and the horse level higher in the horizon? Anyway after messing around taking some photo's we made out way to Tatler's String and set about finding a good spot for lunch.

I'm cursing myself for not taking a compass, as it would have solved a lot head scratching in the string as to what side we explored. Once in you can go east and west, and there are two parallel stopes. I think we went east, judging by what we found and the features on a plan it was the south stope. We climbed up a slope past the rise that give access to the string and then made our way along the thin stope going up and down along the rubble floor, passing a few crosscuts to the north stope and one rise. Eventually we reached a split in the stope. Looking quickly in the left hand one, this seemed to parallel the right hand branch and then lead up another rubble slope. We took the right hand one and ended up climbing up a really steep slope. At the top there was a crosscut that looked like it went to the left hand split, but more importantly there was a rise in the crosscut that went up to the High Level. Ignoring that at the moment we carried on along the stope to the forehead, where we could see the end vein that the old man had been chasing. Returning back to the crosscut we climbed up into the High Level, to find it in a rather pleasant condition - no fallen shale roof and low crawling.

Not knowing exactly where we had popped up from on the plan, out of the rise there was a short crosscut and we took the right turn from it onto the main level. Shortly, Pete and Karli starting whooping, pointing out the numerous clog prints on the sides of the level. It is worth to point out that the level walls were coated with a slightly calcified mud, as if it had been flooded at some point, and that the clog prints were not actually in between the rails, but to the side of them on a higher ledge, either side. Shortly, we passed another sump on the right, which had some graffiti around it dated from 1806. A quick look at the plan - and we concluded we could be in a number of places. Finding a crosscut on the left would help narrow things down. Carrying on, woe and behold a crosscut on the left was found, coming back out and continuing we came across more sumps on the right that should not have been there - oversight on the plan or we can't read? This put a spanner in the works to finding our position. We went further along and then found another crosscut on the left, the entrance to which was partially blocked with sludge from a rise. Two crosscuts, bingo we knew where we were. According to the plan we should encounter another sump, but this time on the left, ha, no chance, we found a few more on the right, one of which had a wooden collar - Karli thought that he recognised this from one of the rises in the stopes below- we dropped a marker. We had a better idea now of where we thought we where, moving on the level should curve to the left and we should eventually hit a tee junction of sorts. Left, would be the way on and right would go to a forehead, we did come to these features and then carried on along the level. After a short while we entered a large bell chamber. Taking stock, we did not want to go further as we still had not finished exploring Tatler's String and you could just go on for ever in the High Level. So just to confirm out position 100%, Pete carried on further along to see if there was a dogleg on the left hand side. There was, and he came back saying it was a mess - that would be the branch on the plan that says "Old Level now Run Close". We retraced our route to the rise and dropped back down to the stopes. Taking the crosscut that we felt connected with the left hand stope branch we descended a very steep deads slope, which did indeed connect with the branch. We then took another crosscut, which took us to the north parallel stope. From here we carried along until we reached an area of stoping that had pack walling forming a ledge around a large drop to one side - a very impressive area. Here we were almost back to our lunch spot and could see through holes in the limestone some of the gear we had left behind. Finally we dropped back down, packed up and made our way out.

An early start for once and a non rushed exit, plenty of time left to cook a relaxed meal, with a sensible start time in the pub. Only problem was we ended up with too much time in the pub, what can you do?