Over the last year we have been looking into the link between
Rampgill and Brownley Hill, but have always been put off by the possibility of
sumping. However with the weather being much drier we decided to give it a go.
On a previous trip to Rampgill we found the two sumps that link to the Brownley
Hill level (see
Scaleburn Vein and Top Sill's, Rampgill Mine).
We headed for the
last sump (Barron's) in the Top Sill's level which parallels the Brownley Hill
Level and that was rigged up with a 20m rope. This dropped down some 10m into a
sub level that we briefly explored. The sublevel ran in the same direction as
the Top Sill's - north, north west and had many sumps along its course. Some
150m was explored, until we came to a fall, climbing up it, it looked like it
went on but it was decided that the main objective was being deviated from, so
we returned to the 35m sump that would drop us into the Brownley Hill Level.
The second sump which links with Brownley Hill is in a cramped wet side passage
some 60cm high, it was rigged with a Y hang, followed by a back up to a
scaffold pole at the entrance to the side passage, Karli abseiled down first
and I followed. The sump turned into a large thin worked stope with a number of
levels. There was a lot of loose material and it is a good idea to keep clear
of the bottom. Finally arriving on the Brownley Hill Level we had lunch and
were happy to note that there was a good air flow - no sumping or suffocating
from bad air!
The bottom of the sump / stope exits at a 3 way junction
with deep water, the left seemed to head back towards Scaleburn Vein, straight
on we did not check (but after thinking about it, it may have headed back to
Scaleburn and the left may have been a side passage) and after confirming with
the compass, right was heading in a northern direction towards Brownley Hill. A
brief venture up the left passage found some amazing stalactites which where
just a few centimeters short of making the full top to bottom connection - the
longest we have ever seen in Nenthead. Entering this passage caused a fair
amount of gas to come up from the floor and it was starting to smell bad, so we
returned to the junction and waited for a few minutes for the air to clear.
Then we took the right passage and headed out hopefully to the exit, the water
was crystal clear, very cold and reached our mid rifts.
The first part
of the passage was driven in shaley rock, and there was a lot of calcification.
After a while this turned into limestone, just like the Hard Cross Cut passage
in Smallcleugh Mine. It was here that we noticed a high water mark, some 60cm
above us, but thankfully it looked like it had not been to this level for some
time. Whilst passing the limestone section there where many stopes of different
sizes above us, some very large. In this section the water depth in places made
us walk on our toes, with us both being over 6', this equated to the water
being some 1.8m deep. After the limestone sections, there where a fair few
collapses, were orche layers had dropped down from the roof, this tended to
back the the water up. Eventually the level gave way to stone arched passage,
the bottom of which was covered in a sticky thick orange mud, with seeing this
we believed that we were near the Guddamgill Horse Level
Finally we came to a large junction, with passages going to
the left, right, ahead left and ahead right, this was the Guddamgill Horse
Level Junction. On the right was the bottom of a shaft and the passage
underneath it was blocked up with more of the orange mud and calcified rocks.
The way on was ahead right, which also backed back to bypass the blocked right
hand passage. We were well on the way now to reach Brownley Hill along the
Guddamgill Burn Cross Vein. After a while we reached the main level in Brownley
Hill, and we headed out past the flooded engine shaft. A lot of time was spent
on taking photographs and the whole trip had taken 6 hours. The trip was
tiring, the water was very cold and there was a large amount of gas - hydrogen
sulphide (rotting eggs) which came from the rail tracks under the water. We did
not do a pull through as the lay of the land was unknown to us, so we had to go
back into Rampgill to retrieve the rope, not particularly pleasant, this added
another 1½ hours to the total time.