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Wellgill Shaft, Nenthead, (25/05/08)

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Alistair, John and Karli had looked at Wellgill Shaft a few times before and Karli had descended to the platform some 40m down to carry out extensive gardening work. The shaft after this was left alone for a year or so. Discussing what we should do on the Sunday, Karli suggested Wellgill, and so we had a look see. I had a report from 1983 about some explorers which had gone down the shaft so with a quick look at that I got the full depth details - just over 59m.

We rigged the shaft top up, and since there was only two of us we ended up going down one at a time. With children playing around the river it was a too risky to leave the top open with no one to look after it. Karli descended down the shaft and soon his light was very dim in the distance. He landed on the bottom, and reported all was well. He could see the level and with a little bit of clearing was able to get into it relatively easily. He disappeared for a while and then shouted back up, that he could see an ore truck, a concrete lined level heading up stream and a chamber with a pool in it. He disappeared again and then after some more time shouted up again informing me that had had managed to drain the water in the chamber (the lad is obsessed about water management). Karli then proceeded to prusik back up. The area of the pool and chamber is the continuation of the upper Nentforce Level down stream. From a cross section that we have, it looks like the level from here drops at a gentle angle to Nentsberry Haggs Shaft.

When Karli got back up (very quickly, about 5 minutes), I descended down into the depths. A couple of metres below the surface there was a little walled up alcove, and approximately 35m further down there was a chamber in the shaft wall, with a level going off - needs looking at again. Eventually I reached the area where the platform had been and I could see the bottom. A few seconds more and I landed on the debris strewn bottom. A short climb down and I was in the level with a wooden ore truck greeting me, its contents were a bottle of Newcastle Brown ale and a load of shale. Turning right I went a couple of metres to the chamber were Karli had drained the pool, the level dropped down about 1m, and here you could see concrete bricks, a wooden beam across the chamber, pipe debris, and a stack of steel arch formers. To the right of the chamber the shaft bottom debris was spilling in.

Returning to the ore truck I noted various artefacts, such as light bulbs, nuts, washers and a tar drum. With time getting eaten up, I decided to have a wonder up stream along the concrete arched passage way. Along the way I saw tangles of thin electrical wires and every 10m or so there was a break in the arching exposing the shale strata. In these little sections you could find nails and in one I saw a shovel. Carrying on for some 20 minutes I then started getting a bit paranoid, was the air OK, I was getting a headache, was it imagination, breathing seemed OK... Looking at my watch, I had been down now for some 45 minutes, should have told Karli what I was up too. I decided to head back, immediately I could smell bad eggs, I had disturbed hydrogen sulphide gas making my way upstream.

Finally I returned to the shaft bottom, to find Karli shouting down as soon as he saw my light. He had been planning to come down again - a lesson here. Not looking forward to prusiking back up, I coiled the excess rope up, clipped my tackle bag on and started to climb ever so slowly up. It was painfully slow, and in all took me 20 minutes, loosing some weight and getting more SRT practice came to mind. A very interesting trip to see a bit of the Nentforce Level, with more scope of further exploration.