During the NAMHO 2011 Conference 2 delegates on a trip to the 90 yard level found a way down to the 112 yard level beyond the large roof fall that has blocked previous explorations. This route was only possible because of the “low” water levels.
On the 2nd October 2011, 5 Club members (Andy Harris, Neal Rushton, Stuart Tyrer, Andy Kennelly and Kelvin Lake) ventured down the rather unstable slope from the 90 yard level to the 112 yard level. There was some doubt about this slope - chunks were dropping off while we looked at it! Eventually a lifeline was rigged over the lip of this unstable area and we descended to the 112 yard level, trying not too look to hard at the large boulders poised about our heads!
To actually drop onto the 112 yard level, we had to squeeze under a suspended ‘flake’ (with remnants of a baryte vein visible in the lower edge) and into the flooded level. The depth of water was a little surprising, more than chest deep, with our heads wedged against the roof!
Andy Harris and Neal Rushton looking at the ‘flake’ just before the drop into the 112 yard level.
Picture: Kelvin Lake - I.A.Recordings
Kelvin Lake carrying his camera gear along the level - trying to keep it out the water!
Picture: Andy Kennelly
Wading along the level we were effectively moving out-bye, following the level towards the drainage tunnel that emerges at Waterwheel/Wagbeach in the Hope Valley. A rough compass and tape survey was carried out as we progressed. Stuart Tyrer and Andy Kennelly taking pictures and video as we went. Due to the depth of water Kelvin wasn’t able to unpack his camera gear until a roof fall which acted as an island was reached.
Andy Kennelly surveying by the 'island'.
Picture: Kelvin Lake
This ‘island’ had been created by the collapse of large timbers which had originally had stacked deads on top of them. Some timbers (and deads) were still in place, with a small stope above.
From the sanctuary of this island we made steady progress along the level, surveying as we went. A crosscut, flooded winze, and small overhand stopes being noted.
Eventually a T-junction was reached. The right-hand branch lead past, what appeared to be a collapsed gate, to a chamber where 2 shafts seemed to pass through - although they were both filled. As we approached this area progress was very difficult as the level seemed to have a considerable amount of silt in it.
Looking at the walls the normal water level could be seen above our heads and the walls were covered in a fine grey silt. Due to the silt on the walls and the depth of silt in the chamber around the shafts, we deduced that the silt was grout that had been pumped down the shafts and run out into the level and water.
It’s believed that one of the shafts passing through the chamber was Old or George’s Shaft. However, as mine plans indicate that the "ladder" shaft didn't go below the 40 yard level could there be a third shaft in the George’s shaft area, possibly by the old pumping engine house beside the blacksmith shop?
Before we left this area Andy Harris fitted two tags to the wall marking our exploration (see 112 yard level photogallery).
Andy Harris surveying near the 'island'
Picture: Kelvin Lake
View out-bye along the main level, the crosscut to George's shaft on the right.
Picture: Stuart Tyrer
Moving back to the T-junction, the way on appeared to be flooded, although a tantalising arch could be seen just above the water. Kelvin decided to wade along to the arch, however as he moved forward there didn’t seem to be a solid floor. Rails could be felt under the water and silt and it was necessary to shimmy along these. However after a few feet these started to ‘bounce’!
At this point it was realised that the level was effectively the top of a stope. The foot-wall continued on the hade of the vein under the rails and it was necessary to wedge a foot against this wall, while using a hand to brace against the opposite one. For safety Andy Harris lifelined Kelvin until he reached the arch - the tape measure was also tied to him, so if he sank into the stope we’d have some idea of the depth.
At the arch, it was just possible by resting your chin on the water surface to look along the level, which continued in a straight line for some distance. Bubbles of gas could be seen breaking the water surface, probably disturbed while moving through the water (not due to nerves on Kelvin’s part!).
The group then made it’s way back to surface, finally completing a 9 hour trip.