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Smallcleugh Mine - Middlecleugh Second Sun and Longcleugh Sun Vein Stopes - Part 1, (09/12/06)

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Alistair, John and Colin had a look around the stopes above Middlecleugh Second Sun vein (MCSSV) a few months ago and had reported some amazing finds along with the link to the Longcleugh vein right up to what sounded like the Cowhill Cross Vein. We have been meaning to follow in their foot steps and finally we got to this warren of stopes.

In preparation for what they described we took a 6m maypole kit with us, split between 3 people this wasn't such a hardship as we thought it might have been. Speed marching to Pickering's Rise we arrived inside the hour from the portal. The first thing that greeted us was a pile of debris underneath the no so 'hidden' rise. Part of the platform in the roof of the horse level seems to have been taken out by a rather large rock. Not trusting the rest of the platform and ladder we may poled up this - maybe a bit on the soft side, but we did not want more rocks down on us. Once up in the stope some 6m above we could see where the rock had come from - nasty business.

The whole stope was heavily calcified and we found a few artifacts including a tin teapot. To the north was a little blind with wheels and to the east the continuation of the stope. The root on was obvious and we took this which led to a small ore shoot. From what we had been told there where two ways to go here, either the more difficult way which lead to warren of rises and stopes or the easier way to the Longcleugh Vein. For now our target was Longcleugh. Climbing up the ore shoot and back tracking above ourselves we climbed yet another small shoot into a stope and then into a practically back filled cross cut with shortly put us onto the Longcleugh Sun Vein. At last we had arrived.

From the crosscut we went west and shortly the passage ended in a rise. We assembled the maypole and up we went into a stope. Here we found a few artifacts including another teapot, this time ceramic - someone must have liked their elevensies. The stope carried on for 30-40m and then we reached the forehead. We found a very interesting formation that looked like a fried egg and also a cavity which seemed to go on for some distance. The air in the stope was fresh which made us wonder about a surface shaft. We returned back to the level and then took the east passage. This was in good condition, with the only obstructions being debris that had fallen down the large rises intersecting it. Eventually we reached the crosscut which was the split in the Longcleugh and LOngcleugh Sun Veins, the cross cut led back to the stopes above MCSSV.

Past the split we then came to Luke Hall's cross cut, which also led back to the stopes on MCSSV. Carrying along Longcleugh Vein we crossed a sump by carefully walking on rail lines above it, we did not go down, but from other explorers we knew that this led to a sublevel and a further shaft. Past the sump we reach yet another junction, this one was with Graham's Vein, we entered this dog leg and had lunch. Afterwards we returned to the main passage and carried on heading for the blockage which we think will coincide with the Cowhill Cross vein. Karli had a poke at some of the deads and managed to get some rocks to roll.

Whilst retracing our steps towards Luke Hall's Cross Cut we found a fair few artefacts including wooden pegs, nails, detonator boxes and candles. In Luke Hall's Cross Cut we passed across a large stope. Carrying on, we carefully crawled through a collapse and entered a hellish stope back on the MCSSV. Then moving through the stope we found our exit point that would take us back into the Smallcleugh Horse Level.

This was an amazing area and after years of looking at it on plans it finally had started to make sense. The whole place is a warren of levels and stopes. The parts on the Longcleugh Veins seem stable, but the MCSSV parts are in poor condition and not areas to hang around in. I estimate that we explored half of what there is, and as always (yawn) there is still more to see. We took the opportunity to survey parts of the area and have found that the blockage on the east end of the Longcleugh Vein does indeed coincide with the Cowhill Cross Vein. Super imposing and scaling our survey on to an LLC plan the collapse came to being 7.9m from the junction, and on the VM plan this came to 7.55m, not too bad. However at 8m, this is a large amount of material that would have to be moved. From the look of things it seems that the arching has given way and the deads from above have come through. There could well be major volume up there and it does not look like it would be an easy dig if it was attempted.