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Brownley Hill Mine, West High Cross Vein (29/04/11)

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Getting to the West Cross Veins in Brownley Hill is now not funny, first time - OK, second time - why do we do this? Up and down shale falls - in and out of water. When we came to the Brownley Hill Moss Cross Vein we had a quick look at the north section. Alistair and Pete crawled into the back filled level, which gives access to it. After a while they came back complaining of rotting eggs and since they had been in a confined space thought better of pushing on. I had wanted to see if any of the rises were open to gain access to the Great Limestone and the rest of the vein - something for another day. Moving on along we finally reached the West High Cross Vein junction.

I crawled through the entrance and went on to see the lay of the land - all in shale and duck walking territory. After a short distance I came a junction, straight on and right. Looking back, I saw that the others had joined me; they can share the shale fun as well. Alistair and Pete went to have a look at the straight on section, reporting that it came to a forehead and a rise. Meanwhile I took the right hand level passing one sump with what looked to have a sublevel below it, then a roped rise and after that another sump that was partially flooded. Past this there was some arching made from shale blocks, and then the ground became worse and ended in a fall. Returning back to the roped rise, I saw Alistair coming towards me and I mentioned that after the not very hopeful looking level we had found the way on. It's worth while to note that this rise must have been a hopper and manway, as it had the remains on a stone dividing wall about 2m high in it. Everyone nominated me to go up first much to my protests that, that was a bad idea - not being very graceful at getting on and off pitch heads and all - but still - no no you go. I climbed up and surprise surprise could not get of in to the level that was up there, back down and Alistair went up. He of course would have to get of straight away with no issues. A short while passed and he shouted down saying that he had stuck his head into the opening at the end of the level and there was a very big echo - a very large stope. So the cruddy shale torture was worth it then. We all climbed up the rise with various degrees of elegance.

On entering the stope, the first thing that struck us is that it was indeed massive, it was the biggest we had seen. Varying around 2-3m in width and probably the full height of the Great Limestone. We knew that the main area to explore would be east, so we first headed west to have a look. The stope floor dropped downwards and we came to a sump, which had a rail across it and on the far side the stope twisted a bit and we reached a steeply sloping face. This looked to be a step on a fault. Climbing up, the stope continued for a short distance ending at the forehead. We returned to the rise that we had come from and had lunch there.

Heading east, we reached an area where the stope was back filled with deads and the obvious way on was a slightly inclined downwards level through them. In we went and after 20m or so we came back out in a full sized stope again. Here there was a four-way junction and we surmised that we must now be back on the West High Cross Vein. Splitting up we had a good ratch around. Northwards the stopes took us to some more stopes running parallel with the main one and a deep shaft that had a roof of deads on it. We had a feeling that this connected with the rise from the horse level that Alistair and Pete had scouted. It was possible to get past and this gave access to a level carrying on northwards. At the end, the level bore up and right leading to a rise and sump. Judging by the timbers in it, the sump looked like the rise we saw from the bottom at the entrance to the vein. A marker stone was dropped down - later to be found on the way out. This rise is simply labelled as 'Rise to Great Limestone' on one of the old plans I have. There was another rise going up here as well and that gave access to a warren of passageways higher in the Great Limestone.

Returning back to the junction we took the south route by climbing up a stack of deads. The way carried on and we entered a level that was right at the top of the Great Limestone with a flat shale roof. A deep stone lined hopper was seen on the left hand side with two rails across it. Straight on the level continued on to a fall. We crossed the hopper, which led to a crosscut. At the end of the crosscut it was possible to enter another level (past the very large slab of roof on the floor). This level was a connection to the High Cross Vein. We carried on straight, bypassing a right fork until we came to another junction, which went back on its self. The junction led to a deep sump, which we think was J. Walton's Rise from the horse level. Scouting out the rest of the way we came to a forehead and rise as well as a sump on the right; these features pinpointed our location. Returning back to the first junction, we explored that. This was a crosscut back to the West High Cross Vein, were upon reaching it we found ourselves in shattered stopes. Southwards the stopes went on for a while, but eventually gave way to full on falls. It was also possible to go north from here for a 100m or so. The northern side here if it had been open would have connected to the level past the dual railed hopper we had crossed. The stopes here were littered with discarded specimens of calcite and quartz - a mineral collectors paradise.

As always and at the risk of sounding like a jumping record (what the hell are those?), time was against us and we had to retrace our steps back to the horse level and back out. It took about 50 minutes to get to the portal - not bad going. We need to come back again to finish of exploring the east part of the first stopes, and to drop some of the hoppers we found in the southern part of the West Cross Vein. A great day was had, finding those stopes.

Note that just past the Guddamgill Burn Cross Vein junction with Brownley Hill Vein we had noticed that there had been a fresh fall of large pool table sized shale - food for thought.