Very colourful mine with long steep incline access, with a twist
So we arrived at the designated spot and parked next to the road. There was an MPV parked a little way up the road with someone in it who seemed interested in us. We got changed, the vehicle drove away past us slowly. We finished changing and the vehicle returned with two people and parked up the road as before. We set off into a field to get to the mine and the two people had gone through a gate into the adjoining field and when we had gone a few yards, they shouted at us.
Timmy, who had organised the trip went over to talk to them and we stayed where we were. We had been given permission for access by the landowner some time before, so when the couple challenged him, this is what he told them. Sadly, the landowner had since died and this was now their land, where they had horses. They were apparently not happy to start with, however, Timmy explained that we were a proper underground exploration club, and that we each have insurance from the British Caving Association to cover liability to landowners etc. Additionally, Timmy and several other members of our party were also Devon Cave Rescue members and it was standard for them to explore underground spaces incase they were ever called to rescue someone from there, or to know the space if anyone (or pets…) went missing – a major part of their work! They turned from dissatisfied to interested and supportive and happily gave us permission to access and explore. They all said their goodbyes and they tended to their horses while Timmy returned to us.
It is important to understand that nearly all sites that we visit are on private land and an important part of the work of the Devon and Cornwall Underground Council, of which PCG ia a member, is to negotiate access to these sites. Also our insurance covers our individual liability to landowners and also to each other.
Anyway, twist over and on with the trip
So the next challenge was the 6 foot high fence around the top of the incline shaft. It was not practical for all of us to climb both in and out, so we wanted to undo the binding between the panels in a way that they could be properly secured again afterwards. A sufficient gap was made and we got ourselves and our equipment inside.
Next was rigging a rope to get down the incline. It was about 50 or 60 degrees from horizontal and about 100 feet deep, going North. We didn’t need full SRT gear to get down, as we could walk down carefully holding the rope and use a hand jammer or similar for safety. One at a time, slowly and carefully, we got down to a ledge on the West side near the bottom, which was choked with rubbish.
A short crawl down a twisty, steep, narrow passage, found us further down the incline, which was then flooded below. From here, several passages opened up, going further North and going West.
We explored West first, where a thick layer of red sediment indicated that this was an overflow route for water at the base of the incline. It opened into a small chamber with short passages off to the North and continued West in knee high water, and then South West, getting deeper, until I myself turned back once it was chest high. This may have been a drainage adit, leading to lower ground with water still flowing down it, but was now restricted, hence getting deeper and deeper. However, parts of this passage had some of the most vivid colouring I have seen so far in a mine.
Next, we returned to the base of the incline and explored North. After a while, there was a short, steep passage heading down East, which opened up to a ledge on the edge of an 8 or 10 foot diameter tunnel, probably originally a tramway, which ran from the North and away curving to the East. It was waist deep in water below our ledge and a couple of brave souls got down into it to head East, but didn’t go far, as the rest of us were not keen for more water. It apparently leads to the bottom of another shaft or incline a couple of hundred yards away.
We then turned back, as we knew it would take a while to get us all carefully back up the incline, de-rig and secure the fence properly.
I would love to visit this site again, probably with a wetsuit, so as to explore the flooded bits further without getting too cold.