West Cumbria Mines Research Group
preserving heritage for future generations

charity number: 1118458

 


Exploration


Starting with small fell mines in the western Lakes, we have since grown into an organisation well-known for opening up new mine sites, and with pushing further, the unexplored areas of many mines, mainly in West Cumbria and the North Pennines.

Mine "Firsts" have included Pennington Drift, Ennerdale; Gutterby Mine, Bigrigg, Florence shaft, Eskett; Kelton 25fm Level, Ennerdale, Dosey Level, Garrigill, and numerous levels on Knockmurton.

Underground, we were the first to pass the Bog Shaft in Smallcleugh; to enter High Raise from Nentsbury Haggs; a Capelcleugh to Nentbury Haggs through-trip; Brownley Hill Jug Vein from the Horse Level; Roughside Shaft to BH Horse Level through-trip.

New ground has been explored in Scar Crag Cobalt Mine, Smallcleugh, Rampgill, Brownley Hill, Nentsbury Haggs, Carrs Level and Crossgill, both by digging and by vertical ascents and descents using caving technology.A taste of some of these activities is provided by the images and sketches included on this site.

Although not as active in this field as we once were, we continue to use research to identify new sites to investigate and record.

Smallcleugh Mine, Nenthead
The most visited of all mines in the area, but by digging, ascents and descents, we have been able to access many  previously unvisited areas (see plans and sections).
middlecleugh vein section A descent near Gypsum Corner (see plan and section) gave access through Carr's Level horizon down To Rampgill, with forespiled workings in stored deads between them (see image).
middlecleugh vein plan The most notable success was in the furthest reaches of the 2nd Sun Vein, where a collapsed surface shaft (Bog Shaft) had prevented further progress.
beyond bogg shaft, nenthead We were able to access above the blockage from an adjacent stope, and open up the area as far as the foreheads.
nenthead bog shaft The images show the Horse Level beyond the collapse, and workings beyond.
plan of gypsum corner area, smallcleugh mine By persistance, two routes were found into the Longcleugh Vein system.
section of plan (gypsum corner area) smallcleugh mine Also giving access to Barron's Sump, a deep internal shaft, originally equipped with an underground engine in an 80ft high stone-lined chamber (see image).
gutterby mine

Gutterby Mine, Bigrigg
Gutterby, on Bigrigg Moor, north of Egremont, was one of our early "firsts" in that, following research, we dug a 25ft deep crater in the farmer's field to gain access to an inclined drift into the mine.

gutterby mine This mine was originally driven from a number of shafts in two mine royalties working for about 100 years. The images show the manholed shaft entrance we constructed, and pillars in one of the main orebody flats.
dave at kelton ennerdale

Kelton 25fm Level, Ennerdale
This was another dig, trying to access the Kelton Mines, worked from shafts on the hill above, with a view to possibly also reaching a crosscut into areas of neighbouring Knockmurton mine also.

kelton mine, plan After gating the level, many months were spent trying to dig through loose material in the stoped vein, only to be beaten in our efforts. The image shows the first entry after breaching the flooded level.
crossgill survey

Crossgill Survey
This was one of a number of wide-ranging surface surveys we conducted, although this was possibly the most remote of them. The most interesting find, was a surface shaft in the gill, spanned by rails covered in rock, but with the remains of a pump-engine linkage still in situ beneath (see image).

rampgill mine nenthead

Rampgill Mine, Nenthead
Again, much visited, but a very ambitious dig by members, gained access to the Scaleburn Vein, where a horse gin was found (see image). Of interest also, images show an example of the many miner's grafitti left in the High Level, and the Pelton Wheel generator at the foot of the Brewery Shaft.

Brownley hill mine, nenthead

Brownley Hill Mine, Nenthead
Possibly the largest mine in extent, this too had been well visited by others, but our pushing the limits of previous explorations, uncovered a hand-driven ventilation fan (see image) in workings at the far end of BH Vein, and nearby an internal dig gave us access to the Jug Vein system, only partially visited by mineral collectors via the BH High Level. Again, further digs gave us access to previously unexplored areas. The stope illustrated being around 150 yards long by 80ft high and 20ft across.

nentsbury haggs, nenthead

Nentsbury Haggs, Nenthead
Originally not much to explore, the main interest being scarce minerals up a dangerous internal (Bowman's) rise to Admiralty Flats. Later, a connection was found via Gin Foot Sump into Brownley Hill Mine, above which we found an Engine Room (see image). Later still, beyond Bowman's, on the blocked connection with Wellhope Shaft, we gained access to very old and constricted workings in the High Raise mine.

carrs level, nenthead

Carr's Level, Nenthead
This mine, whose entrance was collapsed for many years, was accessed and explored by more persistent groups, revealing some nice undisturbed calcified wet-rot (see image). Later efforts by NPHT led to the entrance being developed into a show mine. We were instrumental in insisting that the original stone arching was reinstated as part of this.

buttermere, coffin level

Buttermere Coffin Level
This level was dug by two guys prior to their joining us, but shows a very constricted hand-cut level dating from 1604, driven by German miners in the south side of the valley. Its location is secret to preserve its integrity.

knockmurton entrance

Knockmurton
This was our first major mine exploration project, but was well visited by others, until, having gained experience elsewhere, new level were opened and explored by ourselves. Images show a typical adit entrance, a dismantled ore bogie, and Low Bottom Level (a first).

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