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.
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
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
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.