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Caplecleugh Mine, Dowgang Branch and Ore Truck Workings (03/12/16).

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Last year when we did a surface shaft to Smallcleugh trip we tagged onto that a quick detour to the ore tub sublevel in the flats on Caplecleugh Vein, however we did not have a proper look around due to time. Wanting a bit of a watery trip we thought that we would go there again via the Caplecleugh adit and do away with SRT gear, oh and to add a bit of something new - take a look at the Dowgang Branch Level, which we only partially ever went down before.

A very early start saw us at the adit for around 08:45 (only beaten by a half 8 at the gate for a long Rampgill trip). I've not been in Caplecleugh via the adit since 2009 and Karli was last in around 2013, it was almost like going down a new mine. Soon we reached the Dowgang Level junction and headed along this until we came to the Dowgang Vein. We had only been down here once on our first through trip to Smallcleugh and always ignored it since, but this time we thought to have a proper look. The level only went on for some 75m and then we came to a collapsed oil drum dig. Looking at plans the dig may well coincide with a rise that has fallen in. Prior to the dig there was an open rise that looked to go into a stope above, Karli had a go a climbing it, but would have had to chimney against some stacked deads to get higher - the thought of disturbing them did not appeal and he came back down.

Returning back to the main level we carried on in, coming to the start of the incline, reaching the top and then getting to the shale falls - until this point the level is actually in amazing condition all things considering. We came to the first major shale fall that had been cleaned up about a year ago and yet again more material from the roof had come in. We passed through it, trying to avoid a large nasty piece of shale that was cantilevered from the roof. Karli had a go at clearing and stacking some of the fallen slabs here. Hearts calming down we continued in, only soon to hear another choice expression from Pete… the second big fall. This one looked to be a run of about 8m and was fresh. We climbed into the fall through the opening and just kept our heads and backsides as low as possible. When Karli passed through, he took a few snaps, much to our horror when viewed later on. Thankfully, no more fresh falls after this one and it was 'easy' going to the Caplecleugh Vein and toilet junction. Here we turned east and then climbed up the rise / manway that leads up to the Caplecleugh Vein Flats.

The working with the ore tub is a sublevel below the main flats and we had to climb into this before reaching the top of the rise. This sublevel has the ore tub that is filled with ore that never reached the surface - a nice thing to see. Around the area, there are a number of artefacts and some good examples of pack walling. Passing the tub, we climbed up a short hopper which gave us access to a very high stope working. In here we came across the remains of air drill and explosive boxes as well as some dynamite and barrow wheels. Near the forehead there was a 2m drop to another sublevel via a twin hopper arrangement. This sublevel led us to another manway, climbing up a ladder we soon found out that we were back in the main flats, but further east. Returning back to the tub, we had lunch and afterwards we climbed back down to the horse level and decided that rather than going through the shale falls (really did not relish going through them again) we would exit via Smallcleugh. Setting off to do this a few moments later I realised that this option was not part of the route left with the callout person - too much of a deviation of the main plan. Shale falls it was then.

We got out un-flattened and the beauty of getting underground early was that we got out around 15:30, had a leisurely clean up, with still lots of time left before going for our Christmas meal. So it was a quick trip to Alston for a nice pint at the Cumberland.