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Smallcleugh Mine - Barron's Sup Sublevel, (03/11/07)

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Not having managed to get down Atkinson's Sump on the through trip from Frog Shaft last month it had started to bug me about whether it was open and if it connected with the second sublevel we had found on a trip in March, see: Middlecleugh Second Sun and Longcleugh Sun Vein Stopes - Part 3. Just before coming up to Nent I had spoken with another explorer that mentioned this level, and that it did link in as well as going to Barron's Sump - the appetite was wetted. After a late start (because of Karli - trouble with the young on's again, especially when they have new girlfriends...) we express marched to Barron's Sump, it took just under an hour.

On arrival, we rigged up Atkinson's Sump with rails that were loose on the floor. Rather than going straight down, we popped up into the Low Flats for lunch - it was nice and dry up there and we got a chance to have another look around. Once fed and watered we dropped down to the horse level and headed back to the sump. It was difficult to see which side was open as they both looked a bit on the chokey side. The left hand side was chosen as it looked deepest. Karli abseiled down, and very quickly called back up, that it was choked. He managed to look into the other side of the wooden divider and that was the one to have gone for. Climbing back up to the start of the divide he abseiled down again, noticing rope marks on the stemples - definitely the one to use. Some gardening work was needed on the way down and a bit of un-blocking at the bottom. After 5 minutes or so, he landed in the sublevel 22m below, I joined him.

The passage was in excellent condition, open and heading both west and east. The floor was silted up with quite a course mud, crispy with calcification, just deep enought to seep into your wellies. From the colour you could tell that the bottom part of your legs were going to get a very black glow tan treatment. We set off down the west passage and through the silt we could feel wooden planking in very solid conditon, occasionally our feet would slip off, and sink deeper to the floor. It felt like a raised walk / barrow way, and come to think of it, there were no rails. Shortly Karli called back to me that we have been here before - the pipes going down into a walled sump could be seen - the connection was confirmed. We crossed the sumps and carried on to the calcified rise we had been down some 6 months ago. Once here we retraced our route back to Atkinson's Sump surveying the way.

From the sump bottom we went east whilst carrying on the survey. The silt on this side was much deeper and harder to get through - thigh depth. Again the level was in perfect condition and we pasted a few rises and an number of walled up hoppers. At one point a junction for a siding could be seen, here the silt was so deep and thankfully very hard that you had to get on your hand and knees to pass. Past this we came to a little cross cut with an open rise at the end of it. Whilst I recorded the distances and bearings Karli headed further along the level - suddenly his voice developed an echo, and I heard shouts of 'we've reached it'. I joined him taking the last bearings and coming round a bend saw the intersection with Barron's Sump, one word - impressive!

You could see the circular sump itself passing through, to the left there was a large alcove with slots for a timber framework. On the right hand side another smaller alcove led round to the back of the larger one. The whole structure was on a massive scale and so deep in the mine. The stone work was all mortared and round the back on the alcoves you could see where the shale at this horizon had been removed to accommodate all this masonry. Long straws could be seen hanging from the alcove roof and in the slots large nuts and bolts. Come to think of it, could the sublevel have been some sort of water level, the large pipes into the sumps further on and the raised planking? Could the the sumps again connect with the bottom of Barron's Sump? On LLC plan crossections there is no indicator, anyone for mine diving?

We returned to the bottom of Atkinson's Sump and climbed out, covered in slimey mud. A quick derig and steam out, as yet again time was running out. We managed to get out even quicker that coming in, 50 minutes in total.