MinesMine PlansLinksContactLinksHome

Caplecleugh Firestone Level Pump Out (11/01/08)

Back to Caplecleugh Firestone Level Trip Index

After November's find of this 'unknown' level Pete had been harping on about using a pump to drain it to see if it was a goer, rather than messing up the embankment with digging (and a lot of hard work), especially if it ended in a collapse. Pete sorted out the said pump and the rest is drainage, as they say.

By the time the pump was set up and plumbed into the level it was 13:30. Priming it took a while, and finally at 13:45, we started to pump. At first nothing much seemed to be happening with the water level, but after 1/2 an hour or so, the water had dropped noticeably and we got our first view in. Where the water hit the roof was actually a slight sag in the roof line and it looked like the level went on. It was cold so we retreated to the car for some lunch up top, whilst watching the water fountain that had formed from the pump. After lunch we went back to have a look and Pete was able to get into the level without getting too wet. At this point the inlet got disturbed and we had to prime the pump again. When the water a dropped a bit more Pete went to as far as the end of the arching inside the level and was able to confirm that it was open. All in all we pumped for 2 hours, before going fully in. One more important note, whilst the water level was dropping and a air way was made, the level started to draft out.

Pete kept the inlet pipe below the water to finish draining the level and I went in along the arched section to have a look. Coming out of the arching a prehistoric scene greeted me, lots of silt and the rotted stumps of pillars with intact knots looking like burnt trees. A fair amount of rock had come down from the roof, but in general the level looked good to go. I took a few photographs and made my way in. Having two lamps, tripod and camera to hold made the going difficult as everything was very slick and slippy from the silt. I noticed that between the pillars the remains of rotten planking could be seen, which was holding back material - possible evidence that this was a drainage level? I called Pete in and we had a look around and took more photographs. By one of the more intact pillars was a left branch of the level, and further in, the level went on but was heavily silted up. Some iron stained formations could also be seen ahead. Pete attempted the silt, but it was much too hard going and if further progress was to be made it would have to be shifted. Getting worried that the pump had run dry we retraced our steps to see the arching section at its low water mark, which made us realise that a large amount of water had been shifted. Roughly speaking, a depth of 1.5m, some 35m in length, varying from 1 to 4m width.

As usual, hind sight is a wonderful thing, I had started to rush as I had wanted to get down Smallcleugh that same afternoon to retrieve a spanner. Rather than doing that we should have spent more time in the level! We dismantled the pump and whilst Pete ferried it to the car, I sealed up the entrance to the level. On the way past the next day we showed it to some others and the water level had not really gone up significantly, so you could probably get 3 or so days exploring out of a pump out. However if this is to be pushed further a proper drainage channel needs to be dug along the collapsed section of arching, around 10m at 1.5m depth. If you do visit for a look please leave the entrance as you found it.

It would be good to hear from anyone who has more information on this level, or can remember it when it was still open.