After almost 10 years since the last round trip, first done by me
and Charlie and with Helen Wilkinson guiding us I thought that it would be good
to have a closer look at what there is to see at the extreme far end of
Brownley Hill mine. At the time it had been as a whistle stop tour with no time
for any exploration. The night before we had a quick look at the complete plan
of Brownley Hill as the one I was taking was only the eastern part. Yes,
everything fell together on the lay of the land.
We headed for Brownley
Hill Middle North Vein and climbed up the deads to get into the Great
Limestone, carrying on we reached Guddamgill Burn Cross Vein, took a swing to
the left crossing over a sump that has some rail tracks over it. Climbing up a
bit higher we entered workings right at the top of the Great Limestone. From
here we prusseked up a rise, with brought us into the Brownley High Level.
Heading south, we took the first left junction and the start of the crawls
began. After around 20 minutes or so Karli shouted back to me that he thought
he knew where we were. 'Impossible, you're getting confused' I shouted to him.
When I had a look at what he was looking at, doubts came into my head. It was a
large shale chamber with a blocked sump and a way on. Just like the one we came
to about three years ago when exploring Tatter's String. We knew what was
coming next in the continuation of the passage and after 10m it was confirmed.
I had taken the wrong left, Arrrhhhhh. Karli then proceeded to take the mickey
about having looked at maps and saying that I knew the way - yeah yeah. At
least we now know this link is open.
A quick reverse and up of pace saw
us back at the junction we had taken wrongly and we then took the second left.
The air draft in this was howling past and was obviously the right one this
time. More crawling with a few stand up sections and after 550m we finally came
to a roped sump heading down. Before going down, I had a quick look past the
sump to see how far the level went on. After a short while the water started to
get deeper and going past a fall looking up the level the water was approaching
to the roof. I came back to Karli and we abseiled down the first pitch to the
dog leg. At the dog leg I had a quick crawl through some back filled deads and
that opened out into a stope, but the way on was over a sump that would have
needed rigging. I crawled back and we abseiled the rest of the sump and landed
in a level on Jug Vein in the Great Limestone. The way on for the round trip
was north, but we wanted to have a look at the southern end of Jug Vein so
headed south. We soon came to a dogleg in the level that had rail tracks in it.
There was a lot of rotten timber on the floor that looked to have come from
boxes. Past the dogleg the level carried on until we reached a partially built
or dismantled wall. Climbing over this we progressed further south and soon the
air started to feel thick. Wanting to see the forehead and knowing it was not
far along we carried on. Shortly coming to it, nothing of major interest was
seen and we turned back. Taking a breath in this section felt as if you just
couldn't get a good lung full, and we were glad to be back past the wall and
fresher climes. We sat down at the dogleg and had a welcome lunch.
being replenished, we started south and saw a few rises back up into the
stopes. Karli managed to climb up one and reported back that it was quite
spacious up there, but I had no mind to climb up - something for next time.
Whilst waiting for him to come down I noticed 2½ sticks of dynamite in a
small cavity. Once back down, we moved on along the level and looking up at the
roof we saw stone stemples, something we have never seen before in Nenthead.
Had some Derbyshire miners been on a visit? A short walk further along and we
came to Graham's sump, the way on. Climbing down it, we dropped to right below
the Great Limestone. The horse level beckoned us on to the north east, but I
saw a way up into the stopes again and we had a detour to the north end of Jug
Vein. This part almost seemed cave like, as we had to climb up through the
Great Limestone in a tight stope that ended in a small hole you had to bend
round and up. Once through this we got higher still and found ourselves right
at the top of the Great Limestone. The working here had lots of stacked deads
and had been obviously stripped bare for the Brownley Hill yellow fluorite by
mineral collectors. In a little side working we saw an old cosmetics box,
wondering what was inside (a mineral stash perhaps?) we opened it up to find it
empty. The owner had not even bothered to fill in the name tag and return
address if lost. Annoyingly we got no photographs of this area as I had left my
camera at the horse level.
Returning back down to the horse level we
ended up dropping into knee deep water, which up on looking back to the 2004
trip was around 30-40cm higher now. Immediately to the left was a flooded sump
with a pair of clogs, partially submerged in water. In the horse level, which
was driven in shale the water became deeper reaching our never regions, but it
did not last and coming to a large chamber it more or less disappeared. The
chamber had rails and a set of points and on the left there was a major looking
rise. Climbing up it we gained entry into stopes and a sublevel, from here it
was possible to climb higher. This was just a quick look around, and we got the
impression that the whole stope had been back filled and was intersected with
levels. Back on the horse level we headed north until we reached a four way
junction. On the plan the way on was to head east to pick up the Brownley Hill
High Cross Vein, taking it we hit a dead end. Errr, what's up doc? Returning to
the junction we took the north branch, which was following the Brownley Hill
West High Cross Vein. On the plan this apparently petered out and went to
another horizon, hence not taking it. Second take, heading along it, it soon
became apparent that this was the way on, and we needed to pick up the Brownley
Hill High Cross Vein via a crosscut. Bearing slowly to the east we eventually
came to a major four way junction with a sump in the middle. Looking at the
plan there were a number of such junctions, however all had the same thing in
common, to turn left was to head to the Brownley Hill Vein and familiar
territory. After a while we ended up at a tee junction and I recognised it,
finally on the way home.
Turning west at the junction we shortly passed
the entrance to the Brownley Hill West High Cross Vein, and carrying on we came
at last to the Brownley Hill Moss Cross Vein. Heading away from this passing
through a short section of arching, on exiting it I caught a loose key stone.
About 0.5m of arching came down on me. My gut reaction was to just keep on
going out of it. Karli had turned round at this point after hearing the noise
and grabbed my arms to speed up exit. Thankfully I was not hurt. The tackle bag
on my back reduced the height that anything had to fall and protected it as
well! Karli was surprised that I had not been hurt as he saw big chunks of
arching coming down on my helmet and neck. The worse thing that happened was
that I got grit in my eye and loads of small loose shale between my helmet and
head that needed washing out. Whilst I composed myself, Karli tried to rebuild
part of the arching to stop any further run in and to keep back the shale.
Please watch this area if you're going to be going through it. On our way out
when we hit the really bad shale falls there seemed to be one bit which was far
worse than I could remember from last time coming this way. You had to get on
your hands and knees in the water in a short section of arching to avoid
brushing against a under hang that was coming in from the top of the arching.
On exiting this, you had to sort of shimmy up out of the arching at right
angles and up into shale. Karli seemed to think that it was always like this
and that my encounter before had made me jittery. I'm not sure. The rest of the
way along the Brownley Hill Vein until we hit the Guddamgill Burn Cross Vein
was full of fresh shale falls and tight squeezes that you had to pass through
hoping nothing would move. Not a nice section of the mine. Once past all this,
it was a straight dash for the exit along Wellgill Cross Vein, oh and how nice
it was to be able to walk upright.
Having the benefit of studying a
couple of different plans after the trip, it was apparent that the false
connection between the West High and High Cross Veins did not exit on one copy.
It looked like good old VM had assumed to draw a connection on the passage that
died a death for us. The proper details should have been a rise and a
connection via workings above.