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New Year's Eve Afternoon Party in the Ballroom, Smallcleugh Mine (31/12/15)

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It's been two and half years since I took my daughter down Carr's Show Mine, and I've been going on about taking her to a 'wild' mine since then. Staying over New Years at Neathead with my family, what better chance was there for a trip? Hannah is used to doing a lot of hill walking with treats and a picnic (you always need a carrot), so the plan was to try and do it like that. Talking with Karli and Sal we decided a trip to the Ballroom and back would be a good route, with a picnic at the Ballroom - a very good way to spend the afternoon. We set of underground at around 14:30, and it was a pleasure to get into the mine and into the relative warmth - the weather was dire - wind and rain, about 3°C.

We all passed through the gate and then came out of the arching at the start of the drive in. Hannah was looking at everything and was concerned that the water ahead was really deep; step in Karli and a piggy back through it - squeals of delight - alright for some. Passing the Waterblast Shaft, she took a liking to the orange ochre formation there and wanted a photograph of it for Nana. Nana might spit her teeth out with the Danger Shaft sign near it. Past the shaft, the first mine obstacle was encountered, the slippery slope. We explained to Hannah that the mud here was really slippy and that she had to balance against the walls and to use her hands on the floor as well - 'I don't need to use my hands' came the reply, but after a few woes and shrieks four limb traction was engaged. Sliding down on your bum was also discovered which equalled big smiles. At the crawl she followed me through and was quite bemused by the sloppy mud in the low bit, it was also interesting to see that see carried on crawling because we all were - it had to be pointed out that she could actually almost stand up. In the Hard Crosscut she really started to motor and had to be reined in to stop running, when the fallen in hopper appeared, more squeals and a 'yessss' with the prospect of another crawl. In the flat area we had a look at some minerals and then made our way through Northend Flats and back into the horse level heading for Smallcleugh Flats.

At the branch for Gullyback Crosscut we took some photos and then Sal showed Hannah the pony prints in the crosscut, when they came back it was time for a few sweets and a drink of water. We climbed up above the crosscut and then dropped back down into the level through the flats. Here we got Hannah to climb down a shallow ore chute and then pop out of the hopper, great fun. Moving on to Wheel Flats and George Hetherington's, I watched Hannah go through the crosscut with great envy - oh to be only that tall (for those that don't know, the crosscut is on average around 1m high and 50m long). Hands and knees mostly for me with my currently stiff back. Once all out, we headed for the Ballroom, on arrival the first few minutes were spent rediscovering the echo properties of the large flat with raspberries, shouting, growling and generally making as much noise as possible. Time for lunch and courtesy of Sal and Karli a cooker was produced and a hot lunch of spaghetti hoops was served, followed by a cup cake, chocolate bar and fudge sweets that were shared out. Sal had an extra surprise of LED fairy lights, her wireless speaker and ipod - we then had a dance to Madonna. It is me, or do the young not know they're born? I wonder if Hannah thinks now it is all normal and will expect this sort of thing every time? A signing of the guest book in the Ballroom saw us all pack up and head back out the same way we came in. In Northend Flats we had a look for some bits of galena and other sparklies for souvenirs.

On the way out past the Waterblast Shaft we got the formation photo for Nana and then had a round of face painting with mud. I had told Hannah that it was the done thing to get muddied on your first proper mine trip. Back to base, a quick clean up and then over the hill to Garrigill for a nice pint of spiced winter ale at the George and Dragon, then back to base again and a New Year's Eve meal and lots of drinkies - living the dream. Oh and yes, I was a very proud dad.

I am really pleased that Hannah liked the trip, as it did have the potential for being a nightmare as you never know. She does a lot of walking and scrambling about so that was a good grounding. If anyone else is wanting to take their kids underground I found this combination worked very well as I had most of it already as part of our walking gear: wellies with two sets of fleece socks, ski pants with braces (great for cushioning), waterproof jacket with fleece and a skate board helmet (£8.00) from Decathlon coupled with a Fenix HL55 head light.