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Wapping Mine and Cumberland Cavern (03/01/09)

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Wapping was the first mine that I ever went down, I had just started college and made friends with Karl, who soon had a group of us going underground in Matlock Bath. The first trip down was a sleep under. We had a night of drinking in the Fish Pool pub, then it was to the car, get changed and a trek up the path to the Cumberland Cavern entrance. Except for Karl, non of us had been underground before and it was all a new experience. We spent many trips and nights sleeping underground here and an obsession was forged. Subsequently I met his father (Don) and he introduced me into the delights of Smallcleugh.

After picking Don up, we arrived and parked up in Matlock Bath, getting changed invoked a similar sense of excitement that I got the first time coming here. Calculating how long it had been since I last visited this mine, I worked it out to be around 19 years. All changed and we made our way to the Wapping Mine entrance, which I had never actually seen before - entrance was always via Cumberland Cavern. A climb over the wall at the adit soon had us inside and in the First Stope. We made our way along the vein passing the Second, Third and Forth stopes. There was a big difference on how I was reacting to the ground we were covering, back when I was 16 years old and here for the first time, the feeling was one of danger and high adventure exploration. Seeing the structure of a mine for the first time with its stemples, large fallen rocks and high roof was something out of a film, a Jules Verne Journey to the Centre of the Earth in real life. This time it was routine, automatically accessing the surroundings, making my way quickly over rocks and small ledges without a second thought, noting the finer details - shot holes, minerals, geology and artefacts.

Anyway, enough of philosophical reflections, back to business. From the Forth Stope we entered the Wapping Maze and soon reached Calcite Junction. A quick evaluation, and we decided to retrace our route to climb up into Cumberland Cavern via the Funnel Cave, with a view to climbing down to the maze via Devil's Pit. A short climb past very large rocks brought us up into the cave section of the complex. Making our way along 4 chambers we finally entered the last section of the show cave. This is the spot that we slept in many times. A quick look around and we climbed up the 1st spiral staircase into the show cave proper. In this second section of show cave Don pointed out an interesting geological feature. The flat limestone roof here had a layer of volcanic ash underneath it, a band some 25cm thick. Soon we reached the 2nd spiral staircase and we made our way to the Wishing Well, the pool chamber and the 3rd spiral staircase leading to the now collapsed show cave entrance. Retracing our route we had another look at the features before stopping for lunch in a little chamber just out of the last section of show cave. After lunch we headed for Devils Pit and climbed down it, into the Wapping Maze.

The last time I had climbed Devil's Pit, it seemed to be a big deep climb down, not really, only 6-8m or so. Maybe when your younger everything seems bigger? On entering the maze we headed south, passing a few large calcite outcrops, a wooden pillar with a section of air hose and then we exited into the maze proper via the Steam Passage. Here a rotting piece of timber greeted us with the most amazing fungus growing on it, which looked like big hairy spiders legs. Near this there was a crushed metal barrow. From here we made our way around the Wooden Props chamber, passing an old paraffin road lantern (is this an artefact?). Just past the lantern, someone must have had too much time on their hands - as there was a trio of rude little clay figures. Past the figures we made a beeline for the Main Stope and the Selenite Deposit chamber.

Once in the Main Stope we climbed up into the chamber which has the secondary selenite deposit. White compact fluffy crystals intermingled with graffiti from the 1960's. Nice. Back in the Main Stope we had a bit of look around and came across some shot holes and more large dogs tooth calcite deposits. From here we headed for the Calcite Junction, where we met up with some other explorers. A bit of a chat, a snap shot by them of our plan and then we left them to their exploration. We walked back along the 4 stopes to the walled portal. A fantastic trip bringing back many memories.