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Adit Collapse Dig, Nentsberry Haggs Mine, (25/05/08 - 23/05/09)

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Having visited Nentberry Haggs mine for the first time last month, we decided to try to open up the collapse just inside the adit with a view to opening that great Nenthead trip, The Greater Nenthead Traverse - a multi mine (5), multi level (8), 9km through trip. Not having done any proper digging before, this looked like a good starter project for us. Click on the thumbnails for a full picture and description.

1st Dig, Quick Progress. (Karli and Mike) - 25/05/08: The ground work that Aubrey, John and Karli had laid down a few years ago gave us a real head start and made things that much easier. They had cleared some of the level and installed drainage pipes to keep the water level down. Also at the collapse forehead a pipe had been knocked through for draining the water from the other side of the collapse, as well as one scaffold pole - the start of a roof support, things could not be better.

Our first attempt at digging was after a trip down Wellgill Shaft, so it was late in the afternoon by the time we got down and we only ended up being underground for an hour, including a lunch stop. We're not part timers, honest. With Karli at the forehead, picking away at the rubble and mud, I was behind taking his spoil out of the way and down the passage in an attempt at not letting the floor to roof height decrease. After maybe 20 minutes or so we had removed about a metre of rubble, and obtained a flat face. The water that was coming out of the drainage pipe at roof level was a real bonus, it helped in shifting material down the level.

With time pressing on (its a pain living in Manchester) we put another 20 minutes in and gained another metre. Then a little break through, it looked like we had broken through to the other side of the fall, admittedly at roof level only, this produced a large torrent of water which started to clear our spoil for us. Not bad. At this point we left it as things needed to settle a bit. We had done the easy bit, as the material had been dug out against the right hand side, which was the solid rock wall. When the left hand side is tackled we will need to put in supports. We exited shouting out loud at the very much deeper water as it chilled certain parts of our bodies. Already dreaming of the traverse!

2nd Dig, Good Progress, Destroyed in Seconds. (Karli, Mike and Peter) - 21/06/08:

After last months digging we were full of hope in getting through this weekend. Armed with scrounged scaffold pole offcuts, clamps and some fantastic timber that Pete managed to get from work (3" x 6" x 5') we dragged all this in to the fall. Reaching it, not surprisingly it had come in again. Karli digged at the forehead (the boy does like digging) and myself and Pete removed his spoil down the passage, at the same time lowering the floor level as well.

Things where looking really good and we put up 2 support sections of scaffold frame up, on top of this 5 sections of the timber went up. it looked pretty good, we where all pretty pleased. More digging and the water flow started to increase, great stuff, this really helped shifting spoil down the passage.

Problems started occurring now. The water flow started to undermine the scaffold pole supports, one sank as we were looking at it - we got a bit of a hot flush at this point. We took a break for lunch and rethink, ah yes, hindsight, some footing for the poles would have gone down quite well! We returned to the dig, do see the frame looking all skewed, not good. Some material had landed on top of it and coupled with the water flow doing its work in the wrong area things did not look good. It was decided to take the frame apart and rethink. We managed this with no problems despite some of the material that had come down.

It was annoying, what had happened, a result of rushing and not thinking. Anyway we just sat there for a while wondering, every so often looking at the cavity, and the splats of material coming down. There was a big chock stone wedged up there and it looked like it was going to come down as some point, better to assist it rather than smashing down on the frame, Karli did assist it with one of the longer poles. This was the last nail in the coffin. The stone came down, it also started some deep rumbling above, a rapid tactical retreat was made as this point. Debris started to come down, more retreat, more debris, lots of deep rumbling. Nooooooo. All going to pot. Finally when it finished, there was no water flow anymore and not only the excavated area had been filled in, but around 2m of debris had spilled into the 'clear' passage. All the scaffold poles, clamps and Karli's new lump hammer where gone. On the bright side it was none of us at least.

We attempted to do some digging of the debris, but we where just not in the mood after all that, and we shortly packed it in for the day.

3rd Dig, Almost Back to Square One. (Karli and Peter) - 01/07/08:

After much thinking for two weeks it was decided that there was nothing for it but to get back at the dig. With no drain of water now, we felt it could not be left like that. So I made arrangements with Karli for a night time digging mission. Our aim was to at least retrieve all the stuff that was buried from the last effort. Armed with a spade and half barrel we headed for Haggs. On arrival at the blockage it was evident that thankfully it had not budged since last time.

With Karli taking the first shift at the face we started to move the sticky, wet mud and large rocks in the half barrel to the deep water back down the passage for dumping. Things progressed quickly and within 30 minutes we had started to uncover the scaffold poles. The hardest part was dragging and tipping the barrel. After an hour it was time for a change around so I swapped with Karli. With some new energy at the face, things moved quickly again and in no time the buried poles, clamps and more importantly Karli's new hammer were liberated. All remarkably untouched. After another 30 minutes of digging we noticed that there was water flow around the sides of the muck and from the bottom. Also by this time every thing lost last time was recovered.

Working along the right hand side of the level, the water flow continued to increase. After 2 hours of digging it was time to stop, before leaving we hammered in one of the long scaffolding poles do see if we could get some drainage flow going. We got it though to the other site after about 1m, wiggling it about created a small flow of water.

With this small victory we decided to call it a day and headed out, only to be eaten alive by miggies! Good progress made to about the point that we started on last time. We shifted approximately 10 to 15 very full half barrels, which equated roughly to a 5' advance. Report by Pete.

4th Dig, Day of the Flood. (Karli and Peter) - 09/07/08:

Strike while the iron is hot, I thought, so after last weeks success we organised another night time dig. Finishing work, I headed for Nenthead and Karli's house. On arrival at Haggs we discovered a good flow of water coming out of the gate. Once we got to the fall we could be see that the water had worked its way through the fall and cleared a small channel. We decided that the first priority was to remove a large rock from the floor, which was causing a real obstruction to the smooth running of the barrel. After 15mins of digging the rock was found to be somewhat larger than first anticipated! Another 15mins and it was out and turned out to be the size of a small wheel barrow.

The rock removed, we turned our attention to the fall. This time we used the water flow, to help with shifting rocks instead of the half-barrel as we moved the mud and rocks back to the deep water in stages - a bit of mini hushing. We cleared some large rocks away from the fall and worked in along the right hand rock wall. After about an hour the water flow really increased to the point that rocks the size of footballs were just washing past us. At its peak, the flow was about 60cm deep. After some 10mins or so it subsided to a constant depth of around 20cm. We continued for another 40mins shifting muck.

We could clearly see the crown of the level on the other side of the fall so we decided to give it a poke with the scaffolding pole. It was at this point it was discovered that although this was the crown, it sloped down. Leading us to the conclusion that there is much more digging to be done. We also need to shore up the work we are doing, so the next task is to drop the floor level and get some substantial timbering in place. Report by Pete

5th Dig, Timbering. (Karli and Peter) - xx/xx/08:

A re-think is needed for the whole concept. For now we just put in some timbers to try and stop the shaft material from stopping the water flow. Report by Pete.

6th Dig, Muck Shifting. (Karli, Mike and Peter) - 14/12/08:

Not much to report apart from shifting muck and rocks from the fall face and floor level.

7th Dig, First Steel and Spiling. (Ian, Karl, Mike, Dog Pete, and Student Pete.) - 25/04/09:

As the diggers amongst you will have noticed, we are new to this game, and as a result a lot of time has been wasted so far with not getting anywhere. Having had a few trips with Dog Pete, I mentioned the project to him. After looking at the fall, according to him, no problem, this is how to do it, this is what you need....

A month of so later, things had been set in motion, namely more volunteers to help and the gathering of materials. A sharp start at 10:00 had us all going to the fall to have a look and see if anything had changed - no. A plan of action was made and between us, we started to; move some of the rocks that were blocking the water flow nearer the adit, bring materials in, lower the floor level at the fall and clear some of the shaft material to get a bit closer to its lip. Once this was done the holes in the sides of the walls for the first piece of steel 'I' beam were started on. The idea was to knock out some of the rock to make slots for the beam to sit in, this took forever, with Dog Pete being the main driller, chiseller and plug and feather user. Whilst this was going on, the rest of us just shifted rocks and rubble. Finally, deep enough slots got cut out and a measurement was called out for the first piece of steel - all got very excited - do we need to get lives? No way. The measurement was relayed to Ian who did the business with the grinder. Soon the steel was ready to be put in. However, I and Pete had to spend another half hour or so removing rock so that it could be pivoted (that is a too nice a word, banged more like) into place. At last it was hammered in - large grins from everyone.

Ian started knocking in rail lines over the beam, and then we took turns in doing the hammering as well, however Ian ended doing most of it, if you saw the size of him you would understand! After the rails went in we added another 6 scaffold poles, everyone taking turns in hammering them. The spiling looked impressive and made us all feel a lot safer from the material in the shaft that seemed always ready to come down. With the poles and rails in, a bit of tidying was done around the steel, wood and rocks was put in to tighten things up.

Now it was time to do some muck and rock shifting, all hands to deck and a barrel train was started to take out material from the fall. We stopped at an appropriate point, so that we had enough room to work on the next steel sockets without removing a dangerous amount of material from the shaft pile. Towards the end of the day we got the water flowing at a nice fast rate - why does everyone like fast flowing water around a dig site?

8th Dig, Second Steel, lots of Rocks and Muck. (Ian, Karli, Mike, Dog Pete, and Student Pete.) - 26/04/09:

All were very keen after yesterday and a 9:30 start was arranged. The water was still flowing at its usual rate, which was a promising sign. First thing was to get to the fall face and see if anything had changed, thankfully not. Dog Pete started on the first slot for the second 'I' beam, it was going to be hard work. Whilst I worked on lowering the floor level approaching the fall. Ian and student Pete cleared out an alcove where we had been storing gear and proceeded to stack large rocks in there along with making a channel in the finer material for water flow. Karli joined us a little bit later and installed himself with Dog Pete for the slot chiselling, taking turns to do it. The rest of us carried on doing the glamourous job of rock and muck shifting.

Time was getting on and I was wondering if we where going to get another steel in today, as the rock being worked was so hard. Not sure when, but a long time after starting and some time around 13:00 a measurement was called out, time for Ian to cut another length of steel. It went in like a hand into a glove! It got packed out with some timbers on top to take up the space between it and the rails and poles. After a bit of a break, Karli and Student Pete hammered in some more scaffold poles over the second beam, then the two Pete's started to dig at the fall, generating lots of rocks and muck for us to take away, including another course of water management. As the water poured out from the fall, suddenly something changed, a draft started up and the mist disappeared, we had air flow, and it was drafting in to the mine. Amazing how such a simple thing can bring so much pleasure. By the end of the day the alcove was starting to look rather full, and the deep water before the approach to the fall was getting shallower due to the amount of rubble dumped in it. A lot of barrel loads were taken away from the face - if the barrels could be considered as ore trucks, then Ian was the loco on a lot of them!

It was starting to get to the time of day when we were going to have to call it in, gathering under the steel we all had a bit of chat and look at it all. Looking at the rock that was supporting the first steel it was decided to put in some stemples across the left and right walls to stop any potential peeling away of rock. We took some fence posts out (taking the opportunity to take some tools out as well) and Ian got cutting with the chain saw, with a last moment suggestion of cutting some wedges. These were hammered into place, and the wedges all got used up. De-ja-vu, another stemple needed, back out for another bout of chain sawing, back in.

We all made our way out, and felt good for the day and the whole weekend. Thoughts of through trips percolated in our minds. An excellent weekend push by everyone! A week or so later, Student Pete popped down to have a look at the state of things. The pile of muck under the spiling had slumped down, and it was possible to see the other side of the shaft wall and the spiling supporting the contents of the shaft - all doing its job.

9th Dig, Third Steel and the Break Through (Ian, Karli, Pete, Dog Pete, and Student Pete.) - 23/05/09:

After a few weeks break since the last visit another digging session was planned, with the hope of breaking through and finishing the project. Mr. Mike suggested meeting at 10am at Haggs, though he himself was busy running a photography course for NPHT that day; we were too keen and all arrived at around 9am instead. Ian was the first to arrive and had already cleared a lot of large boulders from the first collapse by the time I got there, improving drainage and making it a little easier to pass. Karli was next to arrive, with a trailer full of timber; as we were unloading this, Dog Pete turned up too.

At the dig face, things had moved somewhat since our last session; the pile of muck had slumped down, exposing the whole of the shaft. Everything above was now totally supported by our steelwork and the muck could be cleared from underneath without the worry of destabilising it all. Dog Pete, Ian and I began the task of clearing the muck pile; digging the slurry into blue barrels and dragging it back down the level to be dumped. Once a channel had been dug through, the water behind began to do a lot of our work for us; we dug the rock out and let the water carry the muck away. As we were digging, the third Pete arrived, speeding the operation; shortly afterwards, Karli returned from dropping the trailer back home.

With the full team now on site, discussion began about where to place the final steel beam; a suitable arrangement was planned and Dog Pete began to chisel out a ledge for it. I think most people had a bit of a go at the hammering at one point or another, while the others continued shifting muck and digging a channel to lower the water level beyond. A few bits of rock dropped out of the roof, and we heard movement higher up, so fearing another possible collapse, we quickly laid down tubes in the channel, so drainage would continue if anything were to happen. Fortunately, nothing more did come down.

With the pile of rock and muck cleared, and the drainage tube in place, it was time to measure up for the final steel; this would have been easier if the tape measure hadn't been washed away! While the others cut the beam and got it into place, Dog Pete and I headed up the level as far as the junction to Brownley, to check it was clear all the way; it was. On the way back down, we spent some time clearing a few collapses to lower the water level in a couple of the deeper stretches.

While we were gone, Ian, Pete and Karli had been busy and had got the final steel into place as well as putting in timber braces. They had done a fantastic job, leaving the dig finished* and looking very professional. (*There are still two scaffy poles that need trimming off at some point - watch your eyes). All that was left was to remove all the spare steel and timber, as well as the digging tools. All in all a very productive and satisfying day, made all the better by the anticipation of the big through trip the next day! Report by Student Pete.


Having started this dig with the goal of opening and doing the Greater Nenthead Traverse, we soon realised that help was needed as we had ended up messing around. Having shown Dog Pete the fall, he came up was a plan of action for the dig. A call for help on a Adit Now materialised it in the form of Ian and Student Pete both of which, provided much needed man power, with Ian also kindly providing tools and lots of steel - a thank you to all who helped.