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Middlecleugh Mine - First Explore, (19/05/07)

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We have been meaning to visit Middlecleugh since the end of last year and finally we have been able to get a look inside this mine which only recently has been opened up by the hard work of CATMHS. The mine is locked, but access can be obtained by asking the HPHT or CATMHS.

Once past the entrance arching the level gives way to an unsupported shale passage, in a few places there have been some minor collapses. After some 300m we came to the first junction with the Middlecleugh North Vein, to the west the branch was backfilled and we headed east. The east branch had numerous falls and we found ourselves crawling avoiding contact with the roof. Eventually the passage opened up in to sounder strata and we came to a sump on the right hand side. This sump was heavily graffitted with dates and initials, but the most striking feature was the chiseled image of a single humped camel. From here we carried on and eventually we reached the junction with the Smallcleugh Cross Vein. We carried on past this to see how far the passage was open. After crawling along for a while and encountering deepish water we came to a large fall. We passed this and very deep water stopped us from continuing. Karli and Peter started to do some rock removal to try and lower the water level. This soon produced results, and much to our surprise the water level dropped by around 30cm. The water did not come through to the other side that we had come from and it looked like it might have been draining down a choked sump below the collapse judging by the plan?

We returned to the Smallcleugh Cross Vein junction and explored this. Along this passage we found wooden rails set into the floor and some 100m in, a walled sump could be seen on the left hand side. Past this a branch to the right took us to a hopper and manway rise which was partially collapsed. Alistair had a climb up, but his progress was halted by the risk of more debris coming down on him. Back in the main passage we carried on passing another sump on the right which again had many carvings of initials and dates. Eventually we reached the forehead and returned back to the rise junction to have lunch.

We retraced our route to the main drive in, and carried along. Soon we picked up the large diameter water pipe and walking on this helped to keep the chill away. At the branch with the Middlecleugh Second Sun Vein, a deep flooded sump could be seen on the left. The right side headed into MCSSV, this carried on for a while but the ground became very unstable and it was not pursued - the 1984 Critchley report states that the branch ends in a collapse not far in. Moving on, we finally reached the junction with Longcleugh Vein, here we were some 700m in, and the light from the adit could still be seen! At this junction there was a rise footed by a wall of heavy calcification, looking up the rise a winch and chain could be seen. At this junction, a right took us to a short passage that ended after 50m. The next right was the western continuation of the Longcleugh Vein, however this ended in a collapse. Only myself and Alistair went to the end and we thought the air here was not that great.

Returning to the rise junction, three of the party went in to look at the east side of Longcleugh Vein whilst I stayed behind with Karl to take more photographs. Up on the others return reports of flooded deep blue sumps were given, with the branch ultimately ending is a collapse just past the left kinks.

The Middlecleugh Level when compared to other mines was relatively barren of features, however the find of the graffiti in many places more than compensated for this. The only avenues left for further exploration are the numerous sumps and possible digs on the Longcleugh, Middlecleugh North, and Middlecleugh Second Sun Veins.