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Brownley Hill Mine, Brownley Hill Vein Forehead, Tatler's String and High Level (26/03/11).

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The forth trip of the year into Brownley Hill now and already some parties have voiced concern that it is going to turn in to another Smallcleugh like obsession, yes, but how else are we going to see every nook and cranny? Small minded people.

We headed straight for Tatler's String and climbed up out of the horse level. This time we explored the west side from the entrance, south stope as far as we could go. Heading west the stope at first was the same sort of width as its eastern counterpart, but soon it started to narrow and grow very high. We passed through sections that were almost cave like and dropped down an number of rubble slopes along. Finally we reached as far as we could go. Standing at the top of a rubble slope, we looked down and across to see a stacked dead wall from top to bottom filling the stope - very impressive work. Pete made his way down the slope to the wall and noticed that there was a crosscut on the left hand side some 4-5m up. He started to climb it and managed to get into it, calling for us to follow. Alistair went down and climbed up, followed by myself. The crosscut gave a connection to the 'expected' parallel north stope. Once in you could go left and right. We took the right first, which entailed climbing up some deads and stemples - however it was a dead end. Returning to the crosscut we then looked into the left hand branch, but that also came to an end. It looked like you could go further at a higher level, but there was no way to get to it. We climbed back down and came back to the rise that give entry to Tatler's String, where we had lunch by the light of Pete's smelly carbide lamp. Why does he have to bring it out on an outing every so often?

Afterwards we quickly made our way to the rise into the High Level and this time we went the other way, wondering how far it was open for. Eastwards the High Level was not in as good as state as the west side from the rise and we had to do duck walking and crawling over fallen areas. Eventually we came to sump on the left and a right hand continuation of the level. We could not have a good look at the sump as it had a shaley rubble slope down towards it, so was too risky. Pete had left his bag and rope in the stopes so a no goer. Moving on in the level, now heading at right angles to the passage that we had come from we pretty much hit a fall on the level some 20m on - the end. So much for thinking about getting to the Brownley Hill Moss Cross Vein section of the High Level.

We dropped back down to Tatler's String and made our way to the rise that would drop us back into the horse level with a view to carrying on in eastwards. I've only been in this part of the mine once before on the round trip and so it was as if it was the fist time for me. Alistair may have been once before a long time ago and that was it. We followed the level along, whilst keeping an eye on the plan, so that we could see how accurately it followed the lay of the land. It did and it didn't is the short answer to that one. Whilst being able to corollate some features for sure as we went along, others were guess work and maybes. The level after a while became hard going with lots of shale falls from the roof and sides - up and down, in and out of water. Finally we came to a junction that we reckoned must have been the Brownley Hill Moss Cross Vein intersection. The north branch here was through a crawl into a fallen level, however poking your head in, it soon became apparent that there was a really strong air draft coming through, so there must be some link in with the north end of this vein. Judging by the plan there is a link in to the south end by a south east branch from the horse level, but that looked like it was a no brainer with the state of the entrance to it - we almost missed it due to it being half buried by fallen shale. Looking at the plan and trying to make sense of the branches we had gone by we carried on, our objective now being to identify the junctions for Brownley Hill West High Cross Vein and the High Cross Vein. At last the level started to get better and we entered a region where we had nice stone lined passage - ah to stand up straight.

After a while we reached a main junction with a branch on the right, that you had to crawl through. The junction was also marked with the remains of a shovel. This we assumed to be the West High Cross Vein. Sticking your head in the crawl space, there was a draft present. Moving on eastwards we knew that we should shortly come to another right hand branch for the next cross vein, which we indeed did. Here the branch was marked by a pair of wheels and axles, this must be the High Cross Vein junction. The level continued past this and Alistair went to have a look, according to the plan it should go for roughly the same distance as the spacing between the West and High Cross Veins and then hit a forehead. When Alistair came back he was complaining of feeling funny and that the air was bad down the continuation of the level. Time wise we could not really go further now and had to exit the mine, a bit like getting up to do that paracute jump and then saying na, next time. So much to see and do.