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Caving

High Mark Mine

At the caving club on Thursday, John talked me into going on a trip to an abandoned lead mine that supposedly breaks through into a natural cave. I found out on the way up there today that Pete Hartley found it thirty years ago, nobody's been down it since, and we don't know exactly where it is.


The trip was Jack's idea, so he agreed to give me a lift up there. Jack picked John up, then came for me, and we drove up to Grassington. There we met up with Stuart and his son Nick in their SWB Land Rover van, and two other members who I've forgotten the names of, due to my never having met them before today and my uselessness at remembering names. We had tea and coffee in a pub (none of the cafes had opened yet). As we were leaving, Will arrived and went off to have a cup of tea of his own. We drove up as close as you can get to the mines, to discover there was a large Hippie peace-camp already in progress there. About 15 minutes later Will caught up and we could finally get ready to head up to the mine.


Looking from the peace-gathering up to the hill with the mines on the top of it.

Cave entrances are generally at the top of a hill (it's to do with the way they form), but mine entrances usually aren't. This one was an exception. We slogged our way up to the top of a big hill loaded down with caving gear (I also had a rope and a shovel on top of my own kit), and straight away John rigged up a rope into the first shaft we came to and went in to have a look. There was the sound of quite a few rocks falling, then he came back out again looking a bit pale, and pronounced the large boulder spanning the top of the shaft "hanging death." He reckons it's all set to fall in of its own accord at any time, hence far to dangerous to descend.

On to the next shaft. This one went down about 60 feet, but didn't go anywhere at the bottom (the passageways that were originally there have all collapsed). When we shifted the stone slab back over the top (farmers put them there to stop sheep falling down them), the bloody thing split in half. It looked solid, but it really wasn't - centuries of frosts and weathering had made it soft and crumbly. If anybody had jumped on it not knowing what was underneath, they could easily have fallen through. Very nasty. We shored it up as best we could, and then laid a circle of stones around it to hopefully indicate that there's something there and it's not just a random pile (of course that may just encourage people to come and have a closer look...).


John going down the 60 foot shaft.

After several hours of wandering around the hill-top and looking down shafts that didn't go anywhere (I think there were eight in total), we found one that might possibly be the one we were looking for. Ironically, it was the last one we looked at and also the only one you can see from the bottom of the hill, because it has a cairn next to it made from the spoil-heap. We're not sure if it was the right one because apparently the details don't match up to the old survey once you get underground. I say apparently because in the end I didn't go down it myself. The shaft-head was very loose and shaky, and there was one loose boulder in particular hanging precariously out of the wall at the top of the shaft that I couldn't squeeze past without pushing against it, and I really didn't want to risk doing that so I came back out.


The last mine shaft we looked into - you can just about see this "double bump" shape from the bottom of the hill.

At some point during all this traipsing up and down, Jack said "I'm off" and went back down the hill. It was only when we went down later that we discovered he'd left our things behind Stuart's Land Rover and simply gone home. Luckily Stuart offered to give us a lift back to Burnley, but it meant sitting in the back of his Land Rover with John and loads of caving gear, perched uncomfortably on top of a scaffolding pole.

It wasn't until I got home that I realised I've got sunburned for the first time in years. The back of my neck is quite sore. The sun didn't even seem all that hot and there were a lot of clouds about, but we did spend quite a few hours wandering around outside.
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Comments

I'm glad I don't do caving. Sounds bloody lethal!
Old mines can be lethal indeed. I think I'm going to stick to natural caves in the future - far less risk of something collapsing on top of you.