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Smallcleugh Mine - Beyond Bogg Shaft 2 - Sublevels and Big Stopes, (11/09/06)

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A bit of a split occurred this trip, Charlie and Karli went down Rampgill to have a potter around Rampgill Shaft area, whilst the rest of us went into Smallcleugh to finish off exploration of the sublevels and stopes at the forehead we had started last year. We entered Smallcleugh via the surface shaft route and made our way down to the stopes above Smallcleugh on the west side of Bogg Shaft. After dropping down back into the horse level we headed west to the forehead of this area. After climbing a rise that Karli had previously explored we entered a stope which according to plans should have only been a 100m or so with no links to anywhere. On the climb up a strong draft could be felt. We explored the east side of the stope finding a few artifacts and an ore truck. After about 30m the stope ended in backfill. Returning back to the rise we turned our attentions to the west side.

Proceeding along, the stope had level flooring and was partially railed. We encountered many artifacts, wheel barrows, ore trucks, shot hole scrapers, old air pipe gaskets and the occasional stick of dynamite. Whilst taking photographs of the area Phil had scarpered off along the main passage, to come back with news that the stope did not end but was intersected by a shaft heading up and down and that it had been bolted not that long ago by the look of the anchors. We all went to have a look and it was decided to to rig up and pop down. I was slowly realising that yet again Smallcleugh was not going to be concluded that easily - all I had really wanted was to survey this stope 'that did not go anywhere' and to check out a sublevel below the horse level, things never work out like you want them to.

Phil rigged up and abseiled down the shaft, some 8m down he had to rebelay and then swing into another stope 6m or so further down. One by one we all followed him. The first thing that hit you was that the air was very fresh - indicating a possible link to the surface. We went further into the stope passing an ore truck and small artifacts. After a short while we came to a small junction and here some explosive boxes where found containing excellent examples of dynamite. Whilst photographing them I noticed a dead insect attached to the wall - could there be a surface link here close by for sure?

We carried on past the junction further into the stope and the area virtually became an Aladdin's cave. The amount of artifacts lying around was unprecedented - multiple ore trucks, wheel barrows, boxes, kibbles, spades, general tools and air hosing - if it was not for the corrosion and decay you could easily expect the miners to be returning for the next shift.

Eventually we entered an area of flats which did not lead anywhere but again revealed many artifacts. Whilst I and Ambrose carried on with photography Rich and Phil descended a laddered manway. Upon their return, they estimated the manway to be some 30m deep with the bottom in waist deep water, this could only be one thing - the Caplecleugh Horse Level. We did a bit more exploring and found out that the stope did still continue into the distance - for how far we could not tell. Time was really starting to run short now and we needed to make a speedy exit. We retraced our route and eventually landed on the east side of Bogg Shaft and the Smallcleugh Horse Level, a bit of a speed march saw us exit out of Smallcleugh an hour or so later.

Questions, questions. We need to come back and explore the area we had discovered with a big time allocation, as it was a real rush job due to not having anticipated this sort of find. It would be good to hear from the group who had placed the anchors so that we could exchange some information. From what we saw I would say that this could have been some of the last working areas of Smallcleugh that the Vieille Montagne Zinc Company had carried out.