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Smallcleugh Mine - Wheel Flat and Hydraulic Shaft Sub Levels, (21/01/06)

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From plans we have seen, there are a number of flats underneath Smallcleugh namely under Elliott's String and Wheel Flats extending all the way to the Ballroom.

For our first port of call we headed for Wheel Flats and entered the side passage that parallels the flats, the first sump we came to was blind, maybe choked, the second one was the one that led to the sublevel some 15m below. We rigged it up and enjoyed a pleasant abseil down a well preserved wooden clad ore shoot. Emerging at the bottom the sublevel greeted us. Its condition was very good apart from one section where the roof had collapsed and deads had fallen in - we passed this VERY CAREFULLY, a certain game called Kerplunk came to mind. In the passage there where many artifacts, including a large amount of well persevered timbers and parts of ventilation trunking. The passage also had 2 ventilation doors - judging by the air flow here they must have been needed. Shortly past the collapse we emerged into a large high rise which was lined with the most amazing stone arched roof, levels could be seen above us - at this point we realized that we were in the flats below Smallcleugh and that they were massive. The passage that parallels Wheel Flats on the Smallcleugh horizon was blocked further on, but the ores shoots and levels in the rise must connect to it past the blockages - a case of getting up there some how.

Past the rise we entered unlined passage which was a mixture of shale orch and rock, round a little bend a badly decomposed ore truck came into view and past this a shaft going up and down with an air pipe down it, bells rang - was this the shaft just past George Hetherington's heading to the east end of the First Sun Vein? We needed to find an anchor here so Charlie and Karli went back to get some rails which where stacked in the sublevel - at the same time shouting up to Mark to go to the top of the shaft that we thought it was. I was left alone to take photographs in peace for once. Shortly they returned and we started rigging, the drop was under 10m Karli abseiled down and landed on a choke which seems to have collected on a platform. We heard Marks voice calling from above - confirmation! We returned back up to Smallcleugh Level and had lunch.

Next on the agenda was to see the flat under Elliott's String, at George Hetherington's. I headed for the Hydraulic Shaft whilst Charlie took Karli and Mark for a quick look see of the First and Second Sun Veins that we had seen the day before. I rigged the shaft up and waited for the rest of the group. The actual depth here is around the 8m mark. I abseiled down with Karli and we where both amazed at the size of the flat and its fantastic colours staining the walls. The flat extended all the way back to the main passage heading for the Ballroom, it had a few chambers and a drift some 30m heading northwest at the far end. We took the obligatory photographs and climbed back out. As we where preparing to climb back up we noticed a number of spits in the rock. Another trip was forming in our minds - doing a through trip here via Rampgill Hangingshaw Branch...