MinesMine PlansLinksContactLinksHome

Smallcleugh Mine - First and Second Sun Veins and Grotto, (20/01/06)

Back to Smallcleugh Trip Index

Continuing our theme of visiting places that we have bypassed over the years we explored the east side of Smallcleugh and then returned to finally see a sublevel which was virtually a Santas Grotto.

The first part we had a look at was the First Sun Vein, this is the passage that you come to after passing George Hetherington's misery from Wheel Flats. Turning right takes you to the Ballroom and the deeper parts of the mine, left takes you to the east side of Smallcleugh. After 10m or so you come to a shaft on the left, which we suspect may connect with Rampgill and flats underneath Smallcleugh, past this is Harrison's Sump, here the ground gets very shaley and there is a lot of debris on the floor with partial roof collapses. Once through the shaley ground we reached Wharton's Sump, this is a rise from the horse level. There was a fair volume of water coming down the rise and we could smell fresh air - though this may be created by the water falling. From plans that we have it looks like it could connect up to the Middlecleugh Level. From here we went straight into waist deep water. A large diameter air pipe could be seen along the passage. Just a few metres in, there is a fork to the right which takes you to the Second Sun Vein. Continuing striaght on takes you to the forehead of the east side of the First Sun Vein - in one of the branches there was a deep blue pool.

Returning back we went along the right fork into unlined limestone passage for some 70m, before bearing left. There was a flooded sump on the left and two collapsed rises on the right. The limestone gave way to arched stone passage, this was the Second Sun Vein which continues for some 50m. Along it there was a rise which went up into a stope and a blocked hopper. At the end we reached a collapse. Just before the collapse there was a left branch which ended in a large shaft with the air pipe going down it. This leads to the Rampgill level, and more importantly there seems to be a draft going down it. The Rampgill level at this point should connect with the same part that goes past at the bottom of the Hydraulic Shafts on Elliott's String. The collapse was due to the roof falling in, but it was possible to see the other side and the continuation of the passage, however the water was backed up making it deep, definitely over 1.5m.

We then headed for the Middlecleugh Second Sun Vein, stopping at Gypsum corner for a bit of lunch. We reached Carr's Vein and checked out the new collapse immediately past the dig here. It was possible to enter the cavity formed and you could see the other side (still good air flow), but attempting to dig it with no shoring would have been folly as it was all in shale - this needs to be cleared and made safe as the access to the Bogg Shaft area is now 'blocked'. We extracted ourselves from the collapse and headed in search of the Grotto Jim had told us about. Eventually we found the sump that leads to the sublevel and rigged it up for decent, some 8m. At the bottom the air was very still and the remains of a badly decomposed ladder could be seen. Heading south we started to see epsomite crystals on the wall, at this point our chests started to feel tight - air still, no flow, down a sump equals bad air, we carried on for a few metres and found the grotto, one of the most amazing sights we had ever seen in Smallcleugh. The epsomite crystals in places were over 60cm long! A quick attempt at some photographs and we were out of there. Whilst waiting to climb the sump, I developed a bad headache - a possibe effect of the bad air?