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Photo Trip, Hudgill Burn Mine (01/12/13)

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We have been meaning to visit Hudgill Burn mine for some time and a recent article in the CAT journal about the surveying of the limestone caverns spurred me to contact CAT and get access for our visit.

Ten o'clock saw us all arrive at the caravan site; we parked up near the toilet block and made our way to the mine entrance. Finally, after years of talking about it, we were at last going in for a visit. It was the first time for us all, apart from Pete who had been in around 2001.

A short walk brought us out above the caravan site and into a field where we could see the mine shop in the distance. Heading for this, we came to the mine entrance, which was flooded and we had to drop into knee to thigh deep water to get to the gate. The first section was in partly restored arch way and then this gave way to a chamber with a steel door. Looking around the chamber, we could see behind us the original oil drum dig attempt in the roof. Unlocking and opening the door presented us with a little workshop area that CAT must have used during their digging, and shortly past this the North Waggon Way greeted us on the right. Ignoring this we decided to head straight in for the Limestone Caverns. We headed south along the Hudgill Burn Waggon Way Level for some 700m, passing a number of crosscuts. The level bore left, taking a south east direction until around 300m later, when we reached Thomas Shield's rise into the Great Limestone and the Caverns.

One by one, we climbed up the laddered rise, which had been dug out by CAT and entered a passage way that looked very natural. Cave passage. Looking around we spotted the first signs of Victorian graffiti, and then more of it, and then even more. There was a survey line on the floor and we followed this weaving in and out of fissures. Eventually we entered a large cavern that was originally described by Thomas Sopwith in his book, 'An Account of the Mining District of Alston Moor'. It was pretty amazing to be in here at last, thanks to the efforts of CAT. It was an odd feeling to have got to a cave via a mine here on Alston Moor, but thinking about it, it is common enough in the Peak District. We had a good look around and with just pottering about in the fissures you could easily loop back into the cavern via a number of routes. Many photographs were taken and after a while it was decided that we best make our way back to the mine workings, or otherwise we would just end up staying in the caves and not see anything else. Climbing back down Thomas Shield's rise we headed back to the Three Way Junction and took the crosscut to the start of the East Waggon Way Level.

Along the crosscut we came to the junction with the East Waggon Way Level and the continuation of the crosscut that connects with the Sun Vein. This was the site of a major dig, and we soon saw stacked animal feed bags containing spoil and the inevitable CAT trade mark of steel and timber supports. Passing through the digs on the crosscut we came to the end of the level, terminating in the original fall that has yet to be cleared. I have since found out that the digging was stopped due to high levels of radon gas in the mine, and without ventilation is was not possible to continue.

Returning to the Three Way Junction we took the southwest branch and entered the West Level. On the right we came across some workings and a way up into stopes, a quick look around and we then continued along the level. A number of rises were seen on the level and we eventually came to a crosscut to the North Vein some 30m long, which ended with a forehead. Back on the main level, we carried on noticing a section of the roof with a sea bed impression. Reaching an area that looked like a digging site, a ladder was seen and past this there was a small fall with water backed up behind it. Entering the water we carried on for a little while, noticing a fossilised tree truck sticking out of the wall, a Stigmaria root of giant Lycopd Lepidodendron. Near this towards the floor was an interesting calcite formation. We did not go further as from plans we knew the level ended some 100m a head. We returned to the first workings and had lunch.

Back on the main drive in, we looked at the crosscut to the main workings. Mark and I stopped short of the first fall, whilst the others carried on. Instead of waiting around we headed out with the intention of looking at the North Waggon Way Level near the main door. As soon as we entered the level, thick sticky mud started to pull at our wellies and soon we reached a large fall. Turning back we headed out and waited for the others. Half an hour later they finally came out and reported that the crosscut to the main workings had a number of falls that were passable. However, the crosscut fell short of connecting with the main veins due to a fall right at the end. A few more meters and it would have been bingo. The crosscut was driven in the shale and through beds of clay and mud which looked like big slabs of soft chocolate.

This was our last mine exploration trip for 2013, and a great potter day in a new mine that we have not been down before. Many thanks to Shelia Barker from CATMHS for letting us have the key to the mine, and arranging access. Please note if you wish to visit this mine, it is on private property and locked, access can be arranged via CATMHS.