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Rake Level, Groverake Mine, (17/10/09).

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From the number of new photographs that have appeared on the Aditnow forum, it was clear that someone had opened up the Rake Level again at Groverake Mine, we could not miss out on the chance of seeing something new for us and the opportunity to take some photographs, well actually a lot of photographs...

We entered the adit and at 10m in or so we came to the fall, it was open and there was a very strong draft heading into the mine. Crawling carefully through the opening, making sure no rocks got disturbed we slid through and in to waste deep water that was very cold. It was nice being in a modern working that was so spacious. Taking our time, looking at the level construction and how it was failing in so many places after a relatively short space of time we concluded that the materials used weren't that clever. I think we would settle every time for stone arching and good quality timber that is still standing the test of time many 100's of years on in old mines. It took about 15 minutes to get to the first junction and we headed straight on, then we passed another, which was a dogleg to our left, we still carried straight on. This took us into a long a straight level driven in solid rock with support arches only in the odd place. Eventually we came to some flexible ventilation pipe and a series of air doors. The ventilation pipe headed into a laddered shaft that was taking a lot of water and air. Leaving this behind with the intention of looking at it on the way back we made our way further in. Shortly another junction was reached and the right fork was taken, this beared round in a curve and ultimately brought us to a tee junction, the left was blocked with a fall, but the right was open and gave access to a large stope that had been worked for spar.

The stope was quite high and went on for some 50m before ending in a fall. On the floor there were old rails, timber and the odd drill steel. At the far end of the stope we came across some old Quarridex explosives in a shot hole. Returning back to where we had come in from we climbed up a ladder that took us through via a short crosscut into another smaller parallel stope. This stope seemed a lot older and was in a far poorer condition with large slabs of material on the floor that had peeled away from the walls. The stope only went on for around 20m, ending in a fall. Returning back to the main stope we climbed back down and stopped for a bite to eat - in other words: lunch.

Once refuelled, we made our way back to the main level and carried on along the straight passage. The level here was steel arched and along the way a number of passing places could be seen. Eventually we came to the Rake Level decline, just before it in an gantry above the level there was a control room for the winder for the decline. In the gantry there were a number of arifacts, oil drums, grease tins, switch gear and the signal signs. An interesting point to note was, that the last working miners here thought nothing of leaving lots of rubbish around the place, old cigarette packets, crisp and chocolate bar wrappers and so on - these seemed to be stuffed in every crevice, are they on there way to becoming artifacts? Back in the level, just before the decline, there was another right fork which ended in a dramatic fall, where the floor had sunk, the roof and sides had twisted the steel arching. It looked like some attempt had been made to stabalise it, as there was a large number of rails driven in over the arches - but to no avail. Making our way down the incline we passed a number of refuge alcoves, a rise with ladder and after a short while a large fall, just in front of a dib. At the fall there was some sort of hydraulic fitting, which along with the iron stained calcification made it look like the inside of the alien wrecked ship in the film Alien.

Returning to the laddered rise, we climbed up it, some 6-8m or so and I think we entered what looked like a firestone level? At the top was some crushed ventilation trunking. After a few metres the level came to a junction, to the right there was a fall and we could see some steel arching coming out of it - we wondered if this connected to the right junction passage just before the decline? Left the passage continued and we passed few small workings, until another junction. Straight on was blocked by a fall and left the level reached a blind, however there were two rises along this section, one with a ladder that gained entry into a level above, however in both directions it was blocked. Past this upper level the rise carried on up, but it was not possible to climb easily. We returned back to the decline and made our way back to the area with the ventilation trunking and air doors to look at the laddered shaft heading downwards. After rigging up a 20m rope to the steel arches (great anchor points), and after much protest from Karli that he was going to get wet - (what's up with todays younger generation?) Karli climbed down the ladders. In a short while he shouted up that the rope was too short and there still was a number of ladder stages to go - something for the next visit. I am sure that I have read somewhere that this connected to the Firestone incline, however if it did, surely there would not be an air draft as the incline is flooded?

We de-rigged and returned back to the dogleg junction, taking this, it led us to another junction with some switch gear at its entrance and what looked to be a small dam. Climbing over it, we went along the passage passing some disguarded ventilation trunking and eventually we came to the forehead of a blind drive. Retracing our route we followed the continuation of the dogleg level and came to the first junction that we passed on our way in. There was still one more thing to look at, one our way in we had passed a sealed off section of level which looked like very old workings. Climbing into this we went along the level for a short while, but then gave up as it did not look like it went anywhere and probably pinched in - bad exploring really! One point in this level that struck us was that some of the timber in here (easily dating back to a couple of 100 years of age), seemed to be in better condition than the 'new' timber in the modern workings. Dropping back in the main level we made our way out to the sound of voices at the fall, humm, landowners, police? No, two very surprised C2C cyclists that had come down to the mine site to look around.