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West End of Middlecleugh Second Sun Vein - Part 2, Smallcleugh Mine (17/01/09)

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The all too rushed look at stopes on the west end of the Middlecleugh Second Sun vein last month required us to have another look this month. Steaming in, it took us just under an hour to get down the incline and to the Longcleugh Vein junction. Carrying on in along the Sun Vein we approached the first item of interest - a blocked hopper that was pouring out lots of water. Back tracking we found a manway which via two sets of ladders got us into the stopes above. Once in the stope, it was possible to head west and east. Taking the west route we soon saw the source the water - there was a platform across the stope with a ladder going up into higher workings and the water was coming from those. Whilst I started to take some photos Pete carried on and soon I could see his light coming down from above the ladder (a very pleasing lighting effect which of course, did get photographed). He scarpered of and then ended coming up behind me from the east as it was possible to go along a level and then drop back into the stope. Both of us went up into the higher workings and then dropped back down on the east side. Carrying on, heading east I had a gut feeling that we where going to reach the large stopes that I had found with Charlie and Karli a few years ago. We went up and down a few large mounds of debris and finally we reached the stopes I had expected. Looking around in more details we saw some amazing stone arching high above that I had missed last time. To exit the stope we dropped down an ore chute via 2 ladders, to end up further east along the horse level. A quick walk and we arrived to where we had started - a nice little stope circular.

Back in the horse level we made our way along to the forehead of the vein passing a cross cut junction. At the end of the Sun Vein, the level takes a turn north along the New Cross Vein. Here we where at the most western part of the Smallcleugh complex. Looking around the New Cross Vein, very little mineralisation could be seen and we wondered how the old miners had felt that this new drive was a bit of a no starter. Retracing our route back, I climbed up into a very low stope just at the end of the Sun Vein. Not much height or width in it, but we did find some old fuse, a colourful tin, a scrapper, a cuddly toy and the wrapper of some dynamite. The stope did not go further due to falls. We carried on along the horse level until we reached the cross cut junction. Here we first went north until a tee junction was reached. Left ended in a fall, but right was open and we headed this way. The roof of the level here was concrete arched. Close to the tee junction there was a large pile of timber. Looking up, a rise could be seen with a airpipe going up. One side of the rise had walling and the other was perfectly flat. The flat side had been an ore chute, which had been filled in. The timber divide had then fallen away leaving the precariously balanced waste material. Passing under this (with a muttering) we carried long the level passing more sections of concrete arched roof. At one point I stopped to take some photographs and whilst setting up Pete happened to look up - exclamations. On the concrete arching where some perfectly preserved newspapers which had calcified. These would have been used to fill in the gaps between the shuttering when the arching was being cast. We spent a while reading them, and then carried on. After passing another fall we entered a section of level that was stone arched and here we found a low sided ore truck. On the right there was a large diameter air pipe which must have been a branch from the horse level. Past the ore truck the level starting to bend to the right and shortly ended in a fall. If it had been open it would have taken us back to the main horse level. We made our way back to the cross cut junction and had a quick look down the south passage - nothing, it was a blind after some 25m. Back again to the junction and time for lunch.

Having finished lunch we made our way back to the junction with Longcleugh Vein with a view to looking at the rehashed route through Bogg Shaft and beyond. Along the way to the rise leading up to the link to Bogg Shaft it dawned on me that we had never been up any of the hoppers along the route. Easily climbing up one we found ourselves in a large stope. On the east side of it, there was some amazing arching spanning the stope walls. Higher still, more arching could be seen and a further rise to what looked to be a higher level. I was wondering if the level could be a short branch of Caplecleugh High Level? In the stope itself there was plenty of debris, and we noticed some sticky dynamite in one shot hole as well as a pair of discarded plastic trouser bottoms. This will no doubt become an artifact in its own right, providing there still is access to this area in 100 years or so.

Dropping back down, we reached the roped rise and climbed up into the stopes which take you to the east side of Bogg Shaft. Reaching the final mound we saw the new route. The original ladder had now been taken away from the old route between the pipes as this was fully blocked with a major fall and it had been repositioned so that access higher up could be gained. At the top of the ladder you climb over a small mound and then enter a large chamber, formed I presume from debris that has come down the shaft and the sides. The floor of the chamber is some 4m below the Caplecleugh High Level, which needs to be climbed up to, to gain access to the other side of the shaft. Pretty much in the middle of the chamber there are 2 large diameter pipes coming down from the roof, which sink into the floor. A very impressive view. We also noticed that the continuation of the Caplecleugh High Level could be seen in an opening on the east wall of the chamber, to get up there would need a maypole. We returned back to the horse level and made our way back out. When we reached the Cow Hill Cross Vein, I could not help myself and took some more shots of the large stope that branches out from it on the south side.