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Surface Shaft to Smallcleugh Portal, (25/08/06)

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For the last few years Aubrey and John have been exploring the stopes to the west of Bogg Shaft from the Smallcleugh Horse Level, they have entered into Caplecleugh High Level and from there managed to climb up into 2 more levels eventually leading them to the bottom of a fairly deep shaft where a small peek of daylight could be seen - last month both of them along with Alistair managed a surface through trip after locating the shaft on the surface. Having heard this news, I was keen to do this trip and to survey it so that we could get a better fix of the levels and corresponding surface shafts. I joined Alistair to do the survey and to be shown the route.

We rigged up the surface shaft and proceeded down 35.5m, landing in a level (1st) which headed roughly west and east. West was blocked and the route was in the eastern direction. About 5m from the shaft bottom was another shaft, where it went to we had no idea and any future attempts at going down it looked very risky as it had timber supports piled high with shale ready to drop. Past this the passage was in reasonable condition and we carried along it for some 73m, eventually coming to an ore shoot which was the way on.

Past the ore shoot there was an ore truck in remarkable condition, from the ore shoot the passage carried on another 34m ending in a collapse. We dropped 8m down the ore shoot into another level (2nd). This level was driven in shale and low. Pretty much immediately some graffiti from 1854 was visible, that had been carved into a slab of shale. Along this passage we came across clog prints and two shafts. After some 90m a laddered manway rising up was reached, and then just past that a rise which was rigged up, the state of which we could not determine. Another 10m and the level ended in a shaft, here we had a 15m descent which took us to the stope above the Caplecleugh High Level. Now I knew where I was, Aubrey had took us to this part of the mine 2 years ago (see: Bogg Shaft, Smallcleugh Mine).

We had a quick look around the stope, to the west it was possible to drop down into Caplecleugh High Level, however the continuation was blocked, and at some point a dig had been started. We returned to the east side of the stope and dropped down back into the Caplecleugh High Level following the large pipe that greeted us. At 22m we reached the sump that connected to the stopes above Smallcleugh and past Bogg Shaft. To finish off the survey Alistair crossed the sump and continued on along the level to see how far it went - a total of 43m, soon I heard shouts and I joined him, the level was open all the way to Bogg Shaft, however near the end it was in very unstable shale and you had to be careful not to disturb the walls and roof. At the end we could see Bogg Shaft and where the pipes came in from the roof at this level. The hole that they came in through was rather small and just big enough for the pipes - we had always thought that the shaft was big all the way. Another item which dawned on us was that at first impression it looked like the level opened out into a large chamber, however it looks like the chamber is a result of shale coming away from the walls, hence all the rubble and rocks below.

Retracing out steps we descended another 8m into the stope above Smallcleugh and then dropped a further 6m to the stope floor level, we where now 13m above Smallcleugh. We passed under Bogg Shaft having an excellent view up it now since all the rubble had fallen and proceeded to descend the final manway into Smallcleugh. We had lunch at the junction of Middlecleugh Second Sun and Longcleugh Vein. Finally we arrived at the portal after a fantastic through trip with a total decent of 91m to Smallcleugh from the surface via 5 pitches.

Many questions spring to mind after this trip, the first and second levels correspond with where Middlecleugh Level should be in terms of horizontal elevation, are they both classed as it or are they unconnected? Super imposing one of our mine plans of Smallcleugh and Middlecleugh onto an OS map, it is possible to align the surface shaft we descended along with Bogg, Frog Shafts, and Perry's Dam. This shows that the surface shaft is on the Middlecleugh Second Sun Vein (MSSV), however the levels that we think are Middlecleugh do not align with the Middlecleugh Level shown on the mine plan. The mine plan is based on the VM abandonment plans, which are known to be inaccurate as far as bearings go, and so it is possible that the Middlecleugh Level shown may be incorrect, if the Middlecleugh Level on the plan is moved up in a northern direction then it aligns with part of our survey and surface shafts shown on the OS map. It would be interesting to find out if the Middlecleugh Level actually followed the MSSV above Smallcleugh, because on the VM plan it shows it being in between MSSV and Longcleugh Vein??