A record of trips undertaken by the Mining Section in 1999 was published in "The Pegasus Club Occasional Publication No. 8 for the year 2000."
Information taken from the above and thanks to Pete Forster submitting an outline of trips recorded in his diary we are able to piece together a record of some exploration; and a detailed record of drinking for the year. Some extra information has been added where known.
Pub Locations - Derbyshire
The Bowling Green, Winster.
Miners Standard, Winster.
The Duke, Elton.
The George Hotel, Youlgreave.
The Cock & Pullet, Sheldon.
Spoons = Wetherspoons, Matlock.
Where possible photographs to accompany logs have been added and credited to the photographer. ©
January 9th Elton, Gratton Dale, Derbyshire
PF, SRF, CC & DG
Prospecting trip around Elton & Gratton Dale. Drink in The Bowling Green, Winster then walked to Youlgreave. Drink in The George Hotel, Fish & Chips. Stayed at Carson's cottage project and drink in The Duke.
January 10th Haddon Estate. Investigating shafts near to Pickory Corner..
January 31st Brown Bank Shaft, Birchover, Derbyshire
CC, PT, DG & NB
Video inspection of Brown Bank Shaft on HIllcar Sough revealed the level used to carry water from Ivy Bar Brook for use as a means of ventilation whilst driving the sough.
Site of Brown Bank Shaft at the side of the B5056 with the video setup.
Photo: Nigel Burns
The above three images are taken from the video looking into the level from Ivy Bar Brook
You can view the video but it may remind you of the whirling pits after over indulgence
February 20th Elton, Mouldridge Mine and Gratton Dale, Derbyshire
PF, DG, CC & MBR
Mouldridge Mine and several other smaller workings in Gratton Dale. (Remember the locked Lid)
Drink in The Bowling Green, Winster. Walked to Youlgreave Chippy with drink in The George then back to Elton to drink in The Duke.
The entrance to Mouldridge Mine. Photo: David Gough
Prospecting in Gratton Dale. Photo: David Gough
March 13th Pegasus AGM, Nottingham
Pub Crawl. Vat & Fiddle, (AGM venue) then The Bell, The Limelight, Trip to Jerusalem. Stayed at Chegs.
March 14th Tour of Wollaton Hall then home.
April 2nd Ladder Shaft, Haddon Estate, Bakewell, Derbyshire
PF, CC, DHI, DG & NB
Camped at Lead Mines Farm. Investigation of shaft on Haddon Estates land adjacent to Dark Lane, Youlgreave. This was an inspection using a video camera belonging to Dave Gough which unfortunately got stuck on an obstruction in the shaft and had to be recovered by Dave using SRT. Now referred to as 'Ladder Shaft', real name unknown.
Video inspection of Ladder Shaft with Cheg Chester, Simon Redfern, Paul Thompson, Pete Forster & David Gough. Photo: Nigel Burns
April 3rd Fishers Portaway Shaft, Elton, Derbyshire
PF, DHI, NB, PT, DG & CC
Digging out of silted up coffin level.
Darren and Pete winching. Drinking in The Duke when Barry & Ceily Sudell turned up.
April 4th Fishers Portaway Shaft
April 5th Broke camp.
April 24th Shaft, Haddon Estate, Bakewell, Derbyshire
PC, NB, CC, PF, BH, PT & DG
Camped at Leadmines Farm. SRT descent of 'Ladder Shaft' being the first full exploration.
Shaft at SK2236-6527 descended by Pete Forster using SRT.
Drinking in The Duke.
The calcreted remains of the ladder at the foot of the shaft. Photo: Nigel Burns
April 30th to 3rd May Northern Ireland, Counties Down & Antrim
NB & CC
A short three day break to Ulster, to see what could be found in the way of mining remains in the North East corner of northern Ireland. Arriving in Dun Laoghaire at 06:20 on the Friday morning, we had a quick trip down to Bray to drop off Aileen at the Mother-in-laws and we were soon heading North towards Belfast. By 11:00 we were on the outskirts of Belfast and parked up at the extensive site of the Conlig & Whitespots Mines situated just off the A21 between Newtownards and Bangor. Quite why these remains have survived in such close proximity to urban habitation is a mystery. The site covers an area of approximately twenty seven acres and is now a sort of park cum motor cycle scrambling circuit. But what matters is that many of the Mine structures remain, albeit in various states of collapse. The site had engine houses at Bog Shaft, South Engine Shaft, North Engine Shaft and Conlig Shaft. Only the engine house at Bog shaft has substantial remains but the stack has survived intact here and also at South engine and North engine Shafts. In the centre of the site there is the skeletal remains of a large windmill which was used as the prime mover for the surface machinery such as crushers etc. There did not appear to be any open workings on the site except a shallow flooded stope securely covered with a galvanised iron grill.
Stack and Engine House remains at Bog Shaft, Conlig and Whitespots Mine. Photo: Nigel Burns
From here we headed north again, through Bangor, Belfast and Ballymena to a camp site at Glegariff Forest Park on the A43 between McGregor’s Corner and Cushendall. A quick look at the site and the charge of nine pounds a night, plus the absence of a pub within many miles caused us to press on. Cushendall is a small town on the coast and provided us with an excellent campsite (£5 per tent) next to the sea, with a choice of pubs within walking distance and the price of the pint affordable.
Saturday morning was fine so we decided to visit the Ardclinis Mine, worked in the 1870’s and situated on the Garron Plateau, 850 ft above sea level. (NGR D273240). Having parked up on the shoreline the walk up to this mine with all your gear soon burned off any remaining beer from the previous evening. The entrance is on the right hand side of Ardclinis burn at the foot of a waterfall. A quick look at the entrance revealed that it was sumped due to a large build up of debris washed in by the falls. Having no digging gear to lower the water level we retreated, following the old tramway to the head of the inclined plane. This incline (NGR D26924 to D270245). known locally as “The Drum”, climbed straight up the face of the basalt escarpment for a quarter of a mile, in places embanked and in-cut and having a vertical rise of 500ft. The ore was taken from the foot of the incline and dispatched to the small pier at Fallowvee (NGR D283254), built in 1870 but washed away during a storm 1901.
Traversing North round the escarpment you soon find yourself on the side of Cushenilt Burn where the entrance to Carrivemurphy Trial Adit can be entered for a few yards to where it was abandoned. Gaining access to this trial is definitely not for the faint hearted with the burn running several hundred feet below. On a clear day the view from this plateau is staggering. (Not due to the Guinness). After a liquid lunch we visited the site of Dungonnell Mine (NGR D182171). Not a lot to see at this site, or if there is we couldn’t find it.
Sunday. Still further North in search of the Ballycastle collieries. Coal outcrops for a distance of two miles along the coast between Ballycastle and Fair Head with the seams varying from a few inches to a maximum of four feet. The coal is said to vary from poor quality slack to high grade bituminous lump. Over a dozen collieries existed along this cost, namely Salt Pans, White Mine, Falbane, Doon, North Star, West Mine, Lagglass, Goldnamuck, Pollard, Griffin, Gobb, Portngree, Carrickmore, and Portnaloub. The coal was mined by driving adits inland from the coast but we could only locate two which were still open, one of them being North Star (NGR D148419). The entrance to North Star Colliery is a roadside adit, arched with dressed stone, 5ft. wide by 6ft. high having a new locked iron grille gate. We did not enter this but a few minutes digging in the silt and water would allow you to squeeze under the gate. You could try and find out who has the key but it is known to be blocked a short distance from the portal. The name of the other open adit is not known but it is situated in the base of the cliffs about 150yds past the remains of the old Ballyvoy Jetty (NGR D154421). The entrance had been closed off to create a dam but this is no longer effective and a few minutes digging in boulders and clay gave access to the partially flooded level. Several hundred feet of passage are accessible starting as a beautifully dressed level in good ground and slowly deteriorating as you pass through the coal seams. It ends in a collapse with water entering from above which has caused a thick rubbery scum to form which gives you the creeps. A tallow candle, pressed into a ball of clay and attached to the wall may indicate that these working are quite old. Blackband ironstone (iron carbonate) was also mined along this coast in the late 1800’s. The ore was burnt to convert it to iron oxide and then exported from the Ballyvoy Jetty to Scottish iron works. Although several spoil heaps can be seen below the cliffs a close inspection revealed no open adits.
The strange rubbery scum in the coal level East of Ballyvoy Jetty.
Photo: Nigel Burns
Our final port of call was Murlough Bay to visit the Arched Mine (NGR D188431). As you follow the track from the lower car park down to the coast you pass a large open adit below the cliffs (NGR D190427). This adit is spectacular along its full length of several hundred feet, being hand picked out of the solid rock. It terminates in a fall which has been partially cleared to form a small area above the blockage, but no way on exists. There is a rise a few yards from the end which may give access to workings above, a maypole would be useful. Limonite abounds here. The Arched Mine is situated at the end of the track and gets its name from the twin arched entrances. The left hand entrance is sumped after a short distance, but the other enters a maze of low half collapsed pillar and stall workings, most of them are of a unstable nature. We did not push this coal mine to it limits, more like it pushed us to ours. Much “Sheepsh” in the entrance and poor air quality further into the workings convinced us it was time for a well deserved pint.
The twin entrances of Arched Mine. Photo: Nigel Burns
Limonite formations at the end of the upper level at Murlough Bay. Photo: Nigel Burns
We left Cushendall early on Monday morning to catch the 14:15 ferry back to Holyhead, only to hear on the radio that the boat had caught fire on arrival at Dun Laoghaire. The boat did sail, albeit slowly, and we arrived back in Nottingham around Midnight. Leaving Nigel to travel onwards to Bristol and work on Tuesday morning. Summing up, the accessible parts of the mines we visited could be described as small but interesting and well worth the effort.
Nigel Burns & Cheg Chester
May 22nd Portaway Fire Engine Shaft, Elton, Derbyshire
PF, CC, NB & DG
Camped at Lead Mines. Fitted the Platform to enable easier and safer access to the coffin level heading towards Portaway Mine. Drinking in The Bowling Green and The Duke.
Winching Portaway Fire Engine Shaft showing the huge dimensions of the shaft which is close on four hundred feet deep. Photo: David Gough
In October 1997 the above shaft was descended to ascertain if a route could be found into Coast Rake. Although the shaft depth is nearly 400ft. it is necessary to leave the winch chair at 240ft. from the surface to gain access to a coffin level, the only passage intersecting the shaft, there being no known way on at the bottom.
At 240ft. from the surface the chair is in the middle of a 10ft. diameter shaft, enlargement having taken place here to fit a large cistern (no longer in situ) which collected water from the pumps and directed it into the sough. To make life easier to leave the chair a scaffold pole was fitted horizontally across the shaft, resting, after two attempts, in cut outs made when the pumps were installed. To this horizontal pole a further pole, complete with electron ladder, was attached, pointing into the level.
When the chair arrived at the pole, one took on the antics of a ballerina, balancing on the horizontal pole and trying to reach for the ladder yet still clipped onto the chair. On the return journey a branch (tree) that had been sent down the shaft, was used to pull the chair from the centre of the shaft into the coffin level, thus permitting a degree of safety when getting onto the chair.
When the last man (Cheg) exited he tried to recover all the poles and ladder in one lift. This was found to be impossible and the horizontal pole was left in situ. In hindsight this turned out to be a good starting point for the construction of a platform.
The next trip took place in May 1999. Whilst Cheg languished in hospital having had a fight with the surgeon’s knife, a small project was required to keep the remainder of the team fit. The project was to fit a platform in the shaft 240ft. from surface so that access to the coffin level could be gained in safety. The team consisted of Pete Forster, winch operator and gofer, Nigel Burns and Dave Gough working in the shaft.
Prior to meeting at Elton I had searched through my wood stock for suitable ‘platform’ material. Three lengths of good quality 4 inch by 4 inch spars where found. At one end of each of these spars, two pieces of 2 inch by 2 inch where attached, spaced 2 inches apart to allow them to sit on a scaffold pole. Decking was also located and some nails. A scaffold tube (12ft.) and scaffold clips were also required.
The team arrived at Elton on a dry Saturday morning, collected the winch and drove through the village and up onto the mound at the side of the shaft. Concrete beams where removed from the shaft top to permit access and the winch assembled.
Dave Gough rode first. On arriving at the pole left from the previous visit an inspection was made before attempting to gain a foothold on the ledge in the shaft side. All was in order. The ledge hopefully could be used to rest the platform on as well as the pole in the shaft but first of all it was necessary to clear the ledge of all the waste rock piled upon it. The shovel stared to make progress on the waste, it being sent on it way to the bottom of the shaft.
Constructing the platform in Portaway Fire Engine Shaft
Photo: Nigel Burns
Soon a larger area was available to stand on and the site was beginning to show promise but by now my arms where aching so Nigel was sent for. Nigel carried on with clearing the ledge whilst I spoke to Pete about what hardware needed to be sent down the shaft. When clearing of the ledge had been completed; Nigel found a safe place in the coffin level before removing the safety line from the chair. Pete then wound the chair up the shaft ready for sending down the construction materials.
On examination of the construction site the existing pole was found to be below the level of the ledge. It was necessary to have a pole at the same level as the ledge, so a second pole was clamped to the existing one by two short lengths of tube and braced in such a way that it did not swing below it. When the spars arrived these where positioned from the top pole and onto the ledge, being spaced equidistant apart. (See plate 5) The decking arrived and was laid across the spars, fitting perfectly. All ideas of size were guesswork based on observations on the ’98’ visit and only minor adjustments were required.
Having nailed the decking to the spars and cleaned out a step found in the rock face below the coffin level we now had safe easy access to the coffin level. Further exploration could now continue in relative safety, well as far as the coffin level. I returned to the surface first, leaving Nigel to take some photographs as I ascended the shaft. What a wonderful easy ascent it was from the platform.
When Nigel arrived at the surface, all that remained was to secure the shaft top, dismantle the winch and put it to bed, get something to eat and retire to the pub and reflect on a successful day.
May 29th Rhayader, Radnorshire, Wales
PF, MBR & NB
A fifteen mile walk around the Elan Valley area finishing with a pub crawl in Rhayader.
May 30th Level Fawr
June 12th & 13th P.D.M.H.S. 40th Anniversary, Monyash, Derbyshire
NB & DG
June 26th Fisher Portaway Shaft, Elton, Derbyshire
PF, CC, NB, AS, PT & BH
Camped at Lead Mines Farm. Further digging of the silted up coffin level (one hour) gave access to previously explored working.
Fisher's Portaway Shaft with the winch set up under the remains of the old headgear. Photo: David Gough
July 3rd Rhayader, Radnorshire, Wales
PF & NB
Walking and examining mines adjacent to Pant Mawr off the A44, turn towards Goginan. Drink in The Druid Inn, Goginan. Explored New Level near Goginan, general look around. Drinking in Rhayader.
July 4th Nant-y-Moch Area, Wales
PF & NB
Explored Level of Henfwlch Mine & examined Camdwrbach Mine which has open adit and shaft.
Drink in Dyfred Castle.
July 6th Elton, Derbyshire
PF & CC
Contacted Derek Carson for permission to descend Lickpenny No. 2. Also Roy Moseley of Back Lane Elton.
Drink in The Miners.
July 17th Lickpenny Mine No. 2, Winster, Derbyshire
PF, NB, CC, DHI, SRF & DG
Descent of Lickpenny Mine, Shaft 210ft. deep. Excellent trip with intact wooden buddle.
Drink at The Duke.
The amost complete remains of the wooden buddle in Lickpenny Mine.
Photo: David Gough
August 7th Portway Fire Engine Shaft, Elton, Derbyshire
PF, AS, CC, DG, PT, SRF, MBR & NB
Explored the workings at the base of the shaft, circa 380ft deep which consists of a massive breakdown area. Also digging in the spillway.
Chippy at Darley Dale then drink at The Bowling Green and The Miners Standard.
August 21st Cae-Coch Sulphur Mine, Llanrwst
The mine is situated in the conwy valley, high up on a wooded valley side, the nearest location being Trefriw. The party consisted of Nigel Burns, Melv Bratt, Darren Hind, Jim Smart and myself (Pete Forster). No tackle was required for the trip, only a good set of lungs to scale the steep valley sides. Melv and myself first visited the mine several years ago as guests of the Llandudno Mining Club lads, as without their knowledge of locating the mine, I don’t think we would have found it.
There are numerous entrances, and the first one we came across was a low adit, knee- deep in blood red ochreous water. This one was ignored and eventually we came across a huge cavernous entrance to the mine, with long
trailing vines and vegetation hanging from above, looking something akin to a Borneo jungle scene. On entering it was noticed that the extracted vein cavity was developed on a steeply sloping bedding plane, trending down hill. Average height being eight to fifteen feet.
Once inside we split up into two groups, Nigel, Jim and Darren went of exploring and taking photographs whilst Melv and myself went on some unfinished business from our first visit here. The last time we came, a line of iron pipes were seen trending down the stopes and disappearing down a winze. The winze is about thirty feet deep, and at the top there were some strange looking stal’s, that wobbled on touching them. These were known technically as “SNOTOLITES” to the explorers. According to the boffins, they are created by a complex bacterial action. On descending the winze, a sizeable passage went off left and right from the bottom. This passage carried a small stream. The left-hand passage was followed downstream for three hundred metres, where it came to day in the previously mentioned adit. Upstream from the winze was to be the exiting bit!?
We were now fired with enthusiasm, by a pissed up member of the Llandudno club who we were drinking with one-night years ago, who told me that the passage went for miles and exited on the other side of the valley. Like other Welsh myths it came to a forefield after a few hundred metres. Ah well, it satisfied our curiosity.
Shortly after we met up with the others and exited downstream via the low adit. All in all a good trip was had by those concerned. Drinking at New Inn and Three Eagles.
August 22nd Pandora Mine
MBR, DHI, PF, NB & DG
August 28th Elton Bank Holiday Weekend
PF, CC, MBR, NB & DG
Drinking in the Miners Standard. (Must have been a shite day weatherwise!)
August 29th Cowclose Mine, Elton, Derbyshire
NB, DHI, MBR, PT, BH, SRF, PF, CC & DG
Descended Elton Shaft with Paul Thompson winching. Down to the lower working via the winze at the end of the coffin level just before reaching Stephens Shaft.
Had a barbecue at Leadmines Farm and then to The Duke.
August 30th Coast Rake, Elton, Debyshire
DHI,MBR, PF, NB & DG
Surface walk along the line of Coast Rake, East of Elton Village.
September 11th & 12th Porthmadog
NB & CC
Welsh Mines Society Meet at Drws-y-Coed, Visted Sygun, Llwyn Ddu & Cwm Buchan mines.
September 24th to 26th NAMHO Forest of Dean
PF, CC, PC, NB, JS & DG
Camped at White Mead Forest Park site at Parkend. Whittington Stone and Robin Hood Iron Mine Mine. Drinking in The Fountain Inn.
Robin Hood Iron Mine
NB & CC
Situated near Coleford, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. N.G.R. SO 560119.
This was one of the NAMHO 99 trips. Attended by Nigel Burns and Cheg Chester from the Pegasus, plus numerous other characters from around the planet. Access to the workings is via a 212 ft deep, 11 ft diameter, red brick lined shaft. The descent was by winch, (not ours) and care was needed not to touch the timbers set across the shaft at regular intervals; these supported the timber guides for the original cage. The workings are a maze of walking size passages, inclines, worked out flats, and one rather large cavern, where most of the original roof appears to be on the floor in the shape of a 3ft. thick slab. One very interesting place, is the blockage at the bottom of the down dip incline from the main shaft (see “DIG” marked on survey). No work appears to have been done on this, even though the workings beyond are known to be quite extensive. Very few artefacts are to be seen, but if offered a trip it is well worth the effort.
The trip took about 3 hours, and for once, for an iron mine, you did not emerge wondering whether to chuck your red stained gear into the skip. On exiting the shaft it became apparent that the winch only had two speeds: stop and go. You were halted just below the manhole in the lid, told to tuck everything into the smallest size possible and when ready, were yanked through to daylight.
Whittington Stone Mine
DG, PF, NB, MBR & CC
Situated near Cheltenham. N.G.R. SP005216.
A quick look at the map and you will see that this is not the area where you would expect to get underground. Organised by NAMHO 99 this trip saw Dave Gough, Pete Forster, Nigel Burns, Mel Bratt and Cheg Chester complete the one hour forty five minute drive from the heart of The Forest of Dean to just outside Cheltenham. Permission to enter the mine is controlled by the owner of Whalley Farm whose land it is situated on. The mines or underground quarries were worked from c.1800 and closed in 1864. They were re-entered in 1984.
After meeting up with several other people and changing at the farm, a ten minute walk across fields and along the old mine track brings you to the entrance marked number four on the survey. The original dig to gain access to the working, was I believe, marked as “Collapsed Chamber” but due to it’s unstable nature it was decided to re-open number four. This is now a low concrete lined tunnel with kerbstone lintels overhead and steps, which is a monument to the people who constructed it.
The workings are in effect split into two distinct parts, organised and disorganised. Referring to the survey, every-thing to the right hand side of “Puzzle Crawl” is neatly packed, with large open passages of a uniform size, where you can still see the marks on the floor made by mine wagons (not on rails) and horseshoes. Apart from the occasional grand piano sized block which has disgorged itself from the roof, the whole of this section is pristine. In contrast, once through puzzle crawl the passages are strewn with waste, large collapses have formed high chambers, some of it being in a most unstable state.
Quite recently a chap who had been taken into the mine suffered a heart attack and died. There is now a brass plaque to his memory affixed to the passage wall, near to the collapsed number 7 entrance. A really interesting trip if you are in the area and the pubs are closed.
The above four photos taken in Whittington Stone Mine By David Gough
The following information and survey are taken from the NAMHO 99 information pack.
More properly called Dodwell Hill Quarry, a series of 13 quarries, 9 of which connect underground. The site covers 25acres with 2miles of main haulage roads. They were worked from circa 1800 to 1846. Another quarry nearby was worked from circa 1890/1900, intermittently, until 1925 when the last stone was quarried for local housing. The stone quarried was Lower Freestone an inferior oolite limestone known locally as Cheltenham Stone. It supplied stone for churches and other buildings in the local area. It was supposedly sent to the Houses of Parliament in 1840. The quarries were leased from the Whittington Sandywell Estate to local masons and quarry men amongst whom the Denley were the most prominent. Closure was brought about because of competition from cheaper Bath Stone.
The Pegasus Club acknowledges the copyright of the survey and hope that A.J. Price will agree with it's reproduction here. Many Thanks.
October 27th to October 1st Kelynack, St Just, Cornwall
After an interesting N.A.M.H.O. weekend in the Forest of Dean, Cheg and Myself headed South to spend the following week in Cornwall. Our base was to be the campsite at Kelynack near St.Just and from here we planned to visit and explore the local Mines.
For our first full day here we decided to do a circular walk from the campsite, following the footpath down the Cot Valley towards the coast at Nanven Cove. The weather from the start didn’t look too good and before long we were caught in the first of many heavy showers, though we also had some nice spells of warm sunshine. When we reached the coast we followed the support pillars that carried a water pipe to supply a Pelton Wheel in the valley bottom. From here we walked up valley along the road noting an arched level just below road level, this was blocked within a few feet. The coast path takes a sharp left off the road and skirts around the headland passing the surface workings and levels concerned with Bellan Mine. On reaching the top a line of shafts were seen, all were fenced and with drystone collars, some were open with a mist billowing from them.
From here we continued along the path towards Cape Cornwall, passing the chimney of a Whim Engine House on our right and also the Bronze Age Barrow of Carn Gloose. From here the path drops down to Priest’s Cove, just south of the Cape Cornwall peninsula. A number of the buildings on either side of the path are part of what was St.Just United Mine, though little survives of the engine houses. In Priest’s Cove there are several open levels and above the beach a fenced shaft was also noted. After a quick look at a few of the levels we continued our walk around the coast and up to the chimney on top of Cape Cornwall, this was originally for an Engine House built just above sea level, the boiler house of which still survives as a dwelling. Walking over the headland at this point brought us down to Porthledden Cove. After a bit of searching around here we discovered the main drainage adit for the Trelewack section of St.Just United Mine, situated about 10 feet above the beach and with a fair stream of water issuing from it.
Continuing along the shore we noticed a large diameter (2 feet) iron pipe coming down the cliff side, this terminated about 20 feet from the sea shore, and on closer inspection this was seen to have three outlets. Timber and stone machinery foundations could be seen just above the High Tide Mark and amongst the seaweed and pebbles some heavy castings were found. After some excavation we found the remains of a Pelton wheel, valves and nozzle, this originally provided power for California Stamps. To the left of the large pipe and slightly higher up is the collapsed entrance of the 1902 adit for Porthledden Mine, through an opening above this, it is possible to do a through trip to Priest’s Cove, this we aimed to do later in the week. Following the coast around at shoreline towards Kenidjack Valley we noticed in the cliffs what appeared to be the remains of a leat, actually driven through the rock in a series of now disconnected tunnels.
Remains of the pelton wheel at Porthledden Cove.
Photo: Nigel Burns
Arriving at the bottom of Kenidjack Valley the first feature that we noticed were the large tips of Wheal Call above the beach. Looking up valley from here, the massive Wheal Call wheelpit dominates the site, this housed a 52ft. waterwheel that pumped two shafts via flatrods, it is still in very fine condition, built above ground level and containing some massive blocks of masonry in its construction. Just below the wheelpit are the remains of an old pumping station that provided water for domestic use, it was powered by Pelton Wheel and Diesel Engine, the pump itself is an inverted twin cylinder type. Across the stream at this point a Circular Buddle can be made out, probably one of several and apparently also powered by the same waterwheel from the arched tunnel in the side. At this point on our walk the weather started to turn pretty foul, and after a brief look at the Stamps Engine House and the remains of the Calciners we headed on up the valley and on towards St.Just for a well earned pint before returning to camp.
The impressive wheel pit of Wheal Call with the remains of the domestic water pumping machinery in the foreground. Photo: Nigel Burns
Our plan for today was first to visit Levant Mine, as the Whim Engine was being steamed up. The engine itself is a 27” Beam Engine built in about 1840 by Harvey’s of Hayle and raised 1 ton skips alternately from a depth of 278 fathoms to surface. It is the oldest surviving beam engine in Cornwall. After being shown the working operations of the engine, we were taken to look at the skip shaft itself and were also shown the fan shaft. From here we continued on foot towards Geevor Mine, past several other engine houses concerned with Levant Mine and also dressing floors, circular buddles and Arsenic Calciners. On reaching the lower section of Geevor Mine we went down to the shoreline where we discovered the Geevor Deep Adit, this was open though unfortunately we didn’t have any lamps with us. Just above the adit are the remains of a stamps house.
Returning to Levant we continued on along the coast towards Botallack Mine following the leat that provided water for the engines. This is quite spectacular in places, passing through narrow cuttings and following the cliff edge; it eventually comes to a natural spring still producing a good flow. Carrying on past here we came to the main shaft of Wheal Cock, this is absolutely massive and is sunk right on the cliff edge. It is open to the sea at the bottom and traces of ‘old man’ can be seen in the open Gunnis. Continuing on around the headland we eventually arrived at Botallack Mine and while being battered by rain and wind walked down the tramway track to the Crowns Engine Houses.
We only looked briefly at the site today as the weather was starting to get rough and we were planning to get underground here later in the week. Returning back up to the top of the track we had a quick look at the Arsenic Calciner labyrinth before heading back to Levant. Near the car park can be seen the floor of the Man Engine Miners Dry, this is interesting in that it had four concrete baths cast into it in each corner, a spiral staircase and tunnel connected from here directly to the Man Engine shaft. The shaft itself can be seen across the track and is in a very dangerous state. The weather was not improving so from here we drove back to the campsite. Between Levant and the main road the engine house of Higher Bal Mine can be seen, it is probably one of the finest examples in Cornwall and in a very good state of repair. The massive wall beside the road has two ore chutes built into it for loading into wagons.
Today we returned to Priest’s Cove to explore the St.Just United adit located on our previous walk. After changing in the car park we headed along the beach to the entrance, unfortunately this ended in a fall after a short distance so we tried to gain access via the drainage adit in Porthledden Cove on the Northern side of Cape Cornwall. This looked more favourable and continued for about 400 feet to a rise with many hanging boulders and climbing it looked too dangerous. The level contains many ochre stal formations.
Formations in the main drainage adit of St. Just United Mine. Only enter this adit on a falling tide! Photo: Nigel Burns
Next we decided to try the opening above the collapsed 1902 adit, this involves a tricky climb from the beach, then a drop down a foxhole sized opening. Once inside we found ourselves in a very large level, this we followed in deep water and after a short distance came to a dam, near here we also found an old candle holder. A crosscut branches off to the left here but soon ends in a collapse. Continuing along the main drive we came to a short climb and from here we could see a branch level below us though a ladder would be needed for access. We continued on along the main level to a crossroads, the passage on the right led to the top of the rise that we saw in the drainage adit. The left–hand passage continued to very deep water. Rejoining the main level we carried on until we came to the top of a climb leading down about 30 feet, a rope had been left here for a handline, at the bottom we found ourselves in another level which we followed. In places this was stoped out below us and we had to traverse around. Eventually we started to sense a warm draught, followed by the sound of crashing waves and then daylight, before emerging from the cliffs in Priest’s Cove. I had identified the wrong entrance earlier, this one is partially hidden from view and has a dam at the entrance. This was a very interesting trip and probably the most extensive open mine in the area.
Underground again, this time we returned to Botallack. If the tide was low enough we were hoping to get into Wheal Hazard. While climbing down to the lower Crowns engine house we noticed the entrance to the famous Boscowan diagonal shaft, an incline that originally went down to the 250 fathom level. As the tide was out we decided to climb up to it, this was quite tricky, especially as the occasional waves were breaking over us. The incline only goes about 30 feet, but was worth the climb if only for the view of the engine houses. To get to the Wheal Hazard adit meant climbing down past the lower Crowns engine house and then following the cliffs along to where we eventually found a handline.
A 10 foot climb led us to the adit entrance which was a short flat out crawl leading to a small chamber with the adit continuing on. This we followed through several collapses that had been dug open to a left–hand branch that leads to Allen Shaft, the modern headgear of this stands near the counthouse at Botallack. The shaft is absolutely massive with a bridge crossing it. Ladders go up to the now capped shaft top. Cheg briefly explored the far side of the shaft and then we returned to the main level that eventually ended in a collapse.
Timbered passage in Wheal Hazard, on the way to Allen Shaft. Photo: Nigel Burns
As Cheg was going through the entrance crawl, I was slightly surprised to say the least to hear voices behind me, it turned out to be two locals who had been digging on the other side of the bridge. The mine has been their project for many years and they had obviously put a lot of work into it. On returning back along the shore we noticed that below the lower engine house fresh water was running out of a blocked adit, this was the spillway for the pumping engine. After a look around the engine houses we headed back up the tramway track to the car, exploring a couple of trial levels on the way.
This was to be our last day and as severe winds were expected we decided to pack up first thing then visit Geevor Mine. This is now a Mining Museum with all the surface remains preserved . After looking at the indoor exhibits we looked around the rest of the site which includes the Compressor House, Winding House complete with the original steam winder as well as the later electric one, and the Mill complex. From here we had a guided tour underground in Wheal Mexico, a small mine on the Geevor site. A cup of tea and a pasty completed a very interesting visit.
From here we drove to Pool near Camborne to look at the preserved engine houses. The first one that we visited was the 30-inch winding engine, originally built in 1887, it has been nicely restored and is now electrically powered. From here we drove to the nearby Taylor’s Shaft engine. This is the largest engine that I have ever seen, with a massive 90-inch cylinder and a beam weighing 52 tons. After a guided tour of the engine we were also shown the balance box, set at right–angles to the beam above the shaft collar, this is also massive. The visit also included a film show on Cornish Mining history and the museum also has many interesting exhibits. After a last look at the site, we began our journey home after a very successful and enjoyable week.
October 15th Llanwrst, Wales
PF, NB, DHI, CC & MBR
Boozing around the town.
October 16th Pandora Mine
Boozing around the town.
October 17th Parc Mine
Parc No. 2 level - Trip to Endeans Shaft to see the remains of the pump rods and angle bobs. Then down to No. 3 Level.
November 6th Cowclose Mine, Elton, Derbyshire
PF, CC, NB, BH & MBR
Elton Shaft. Surveyed between Elton Shaft and Stephens Shaft and partway up Cowclose Sough. Also a surface survey between Shafts to check on accuracy.
Bus down to Matlock, drinking in Spoons and two other pubs. Bus back but the driver got lost, took wrong turning.
November 18th Elton, Derbyshire
Walk from Lead Mines Farm - Gratton Dale - Middleton - Bradford Dale - Youlgreave - Mawstone Farm - Anthony Hill - back to Elton.
November 20th & 21st Nenthead, Cumbria
John Coopers climbers weekend.
December 4th Elton Wiskey Run
PF, CC & NB
Bottles of whiskey for Ben Yates, Slaters, Carson's & Broadmeadow.
Drink in the Bowling Green then stayed at Magpie Cottage with a meal in The Cock and Pullet.