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Rampgill Mine, Hopper 29 - Revisited (08/11/14)

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It has been 11 months since we had a look at Hopper 29 and it was time to finish off that last little bit we had wanted to investigate. On our last visit the level we had looked at, at the top of the Great Limestone had two ore chutes in it and we just did a quick assumption that they went to the horse level, but on reflection, they were no way deep enough and that is what we wanted to look at. Thankfully we had stashed the maypole nearby, so there was no heavy lumping to be done on the way in. We met Pete in the car park outside the portal and once kitted up, set off for the back end. On the way in past the Brewery Shaft corner, when we reached the start of the deeper water, we were surprised to see that the shale fall here had been dug out and all the spoil put into plastic bags. This for the first time accounted for dry feet and less hydrotherapy. Not sure if that is good or bad?

Finally after an hour or so we reached the bottom on Hopper 29 and started to take out the hidden maypole sections, but something was looking wrong. There were only two couplers. Accusations of 'it's another fine MES' started flying about… Karli doubled checked the hiding place for any couplers that may have slipped off, no joy. Pete even checked, no joy. Arrrhhhhh. This was reminiscent of the time at the very back end of Smallcleugh when someone had forgotten to bring a drill bit. Thankfully after a bit of thinking, we concluded there was no way we would have taken them out and then surprises of all surprises Pete reckons they were hidden somewhere else and proceeded to go back down the level and find them. This was unprecedented for him (renowned for a really bad memory). The day was saved.

With all the pieces present, the maypole was assembled in the hopper bottom and Karli (being the lightest, well that's our excuse) was sent up. We had forgotten as well that at 10m, the pole did have a tendency to banana a bit, and to skid around - Karli's shouts confirmed this phenomenon. Anyway, he got to the top safely, managed to put some hanger plates on the bolts we had put in last time and transfer over to them. The rest of the pitch was rigged and I climbed almost to the top, stopping a little short so that I could haul up two lengths of maypole to use as an anchor for the ore chutes. Once I was up I started to place the pole sections across the first chute whilst Pete and Sal came up. A bit of gardening was need around the top as well and some bits of rail were put in to try and secure some of the deads right at the edge. Job done, it was rigged with 9mm rope and away we went. (It's always nice to have a little abseil on 9mm from time to time, you forget how fast it is.) When I landed in the sublevel, Karli pointed out that there was some old air hose round the corner, looking at the corner, thoughts popped into my head and a sinking feeling. We had been here before, and via an easier way! This was the sublevel between the top of the Great Limestone and main horse level, that is accessed via the NORPEX rail ladder when you carry on past Hardshin's Vein junction. Looking on the bright side, there is now a work around via this and Hopper 29, if ever any of the falls run in along this section of the level. OK, a bit of a disappointment not having found the lost gardens of Babylon and all that. Only one thing you can do, have lunch.

We concluded that all was not lost, further along the sublevel there was a rise, Karli and Pete had been up it around 4-5 years ago and I did not manage to get up it, however since then someone had put in a hand line and some sections of NORPEX rail ladder. No excuse now, Pete went up, I followed and then Karli. Sal stayed down. It all made sense now. This gave access to the same level that we got into from Hopper 29, but was stopped by a fall. Looking around, at first it was not that impressive, but soon enough we found a parallel stope running next to it that gave access to a little crosscut and in that we found a wheel barrow. From here you could carry on heading south west, but you needed to get over the top of a recessed large ore chute. By this time Karli had got Sal to join us and we all went across the chute. The level here was low due to a lot of falls and we ended up having to squeeze through the last one. This however, gained dividends. Passing through the squeeze we ended up at a sort of crossroads and heading north took us through into a railed level in the Great Limestone in the high flat. We were somewhere new! The level had stacked deads on either side and looked like Incline Flats in Smallcleugh. We came across a number of artefacts including shot hole scrappers, tallow candle stubs, detonator tins, dynamite and some explosive boxes, oh and not forgetting the tub. The level was some 90m long and railed all the way to the forehead. All the stacked deads where in a good condition, nice and vertical, nothing pulled down, apart from some natural decay in places. In one place there was an obvious dressing floor and where the explosive box was this could have been a bait area. Not too far away from the entrance to the flat there was an interesting iron item that we had never seen before, it looked like some sort of clamp and we wondered if it was part of an engine bed, but a strange location - answers on a postcard please: 1st prise, a 10 hour surveying trip.

We retraced our route through the falls and then climbed back down to the sublevel, where we ended up splitting up to minimise the de-rigging of Hopper 29. Once back together, we made our way back out, burdened up with maypole kit - how pleasant after a day underground. Once out and having had the chance to look at a plan of the area we had been to, an interesting thing came to light. The junction that we had come to that had the entrance to the high flat, opposite it heading south there looked to be a level that was backfilled and boarded up. This looked like it might be the level that is shown to head to Moor's String on the VM abandonment plan? Also the level all along the top of the Great Limestone must be the Galloway Level.