Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Michael's Account of a Day In Smallcleugh Mine, Nenthead

Last Saturday I was up at Nenthead mines near Alston in order to take a group around Smallcleugh. Michael was with us, he writes a blog, and this is what he had to say about his first journey into the underworld:


Going underground? Yeah. Down down to goblin town. No? Ok… Nenthead mines in Cumbria.

Do I have pictures? No. It’s a mine. It was dark and wet in places and my phone was safe a dry in a car. But Miguel took some photos on his GoPro and the instructor Mal Tabb took some photos which are on his facebook group here.

Rocked up in a car park on a very rainy day in Cumbria. It’s a bit of an odd place, it’s pretty(ish) but quite devoid of features which I guess gives it it’s charm. Hey? I’m from the Fens where there is a flat lot of nothing, so a lumpy scenic view always nice.
Mal provided all the gear we needed – heavy duty overalls, a pair of wellies, helmet and head torch. Thank you Mal! I didn’t really know what to expect going mining; I figured I’d wear shorts, old shoes and carry a torch and that would be ok. Error.
We must’ve spent about 3.5 hours down the mine, just wandering around cramped mine passages (cramped! being tall is not best), squeezing through collapsed sections of the mine, wading through trenches of water, and crawling through tunnels. Why? Why indeed. But the incredible thing throughout was that I was in an actual mine that dated back over 300 years ago, and I was walking through history. That is most definitely a worthwhile experience.

There was plenty to see. So much to take in. There’s a ridiculous amount of potential tunnels to explore, well over 50+ miles of passageways to explore! The creation of the mines, carving in the rock and the debris left behind is something to look out for. So are the crystal formations, the mineral deposits, stalagmites and stalactites, old tools, abandoned equipment, cave-ins, potentially lethal sumps (huge holes in the ground), wooden supporting structures, mine rails, stone structures and vast chambers. It really was a superb experience – certainly will be going again to explore more areas and get roped up to get down further into the mine.

My friend Clare (also on the ITP course) is the youngest female certified mining/caving person – I’ll have to ask her what the qualification is. Clare is very enthusiastic about mining and caving and was utterly thrilled to catch up with Mal again to go mining. The reason why I say this is Clare spoke about a few caving things that I now understand (having been mining for a few hours) – being underground is somehow calming, you’re in a different world as the actual outside world disappears. There is no internet, there is no mobile phone signal, there is no daylight, there is no world any more. It’s you, the people you’re with, the equipment you have and the cave/mine that you’re in. That is your new world. It’s wonderful.

So that’s how I spent my Saturday, how did you spend yours?

Thanks for this Michael!!


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ray Mears: Open Canoes & Wilderness Journeys

One of the blogs I try to keep up to date with is Ray Mears' - I confess to being quite a fan  having been to one of his lectures in Darlington last year; owning most of his books & trying to keep an eye out for him on the very limited amount of time spent watching TV. Just a few days ago he posted on:

"Wabakimi Adventures" an article written about a Canadian canoe journey in Northern Ontario with Becky Mason (daughter of Bill). In my opinion its an excellent piece of writing, it begins:

"Canadian canoe journeys are always special; they have a unique ability to purge the spirit of the unwanted static that accumulates in our technological lives. I am not sure why, whether it is the simplicity of life as a canoeist, or the pristine quietude of the wilderness; perhaps it is the honest labour of muscles propelling you through the lakes and waterways. Whatever it is, the effect is to cleanse and rejuvenate the soul. So when I was asked if I could squeeze a late September reconnaissance expedition to Northwest Ontario into my schedule, I took a crowbar to the fixtures in my diary."

Says it all really!

You can link through to the full article here it really is well worth a read


Wow! Logging on this morning the blog's Google "stat counter" sat at exactly 50,000 views. Its almost four years ago to the day that I wrote the first ever entry on these pages & I can assure you with absolute honesty that 50,000 views in four years was never on my radar as to the potential readership. What amazes me even more is that a year ago the same counter sat at just over 25,000 so the last year has seen it double.

So...... A massive THANK YOU (!!) to everybody who takes the time to view & read these pages. Its a privilege to know that there are so many of you & that you come from every continent of the globe. We'll keep writing, please keep reading!

Mal & Marion

Monday, 20 October 2014

Underground Over the Weekend

The rain has been lashing down in Cumbria this morning and with weather warnings "pinging" in as Atlantic lows spiral towards us the week ahead has a distinctly changeable and autumnal feel to it. There's a pile of caving gear just outside the back door which I'm putting off giving some attention to cleaning & sorting out - for now updating social media from the warmth and comfort of the office is a little more appealing!

However, given the present weather outlook I guess we were blessed to be able to get underground this weekend, especially on Friday evening when a good forecast meant we were able to visit a natural cave in the Yorkshire Dales rather than the mines of the North Pennines. A group of four, with two complete newcomers, allowed us to incorporate an element of the vertical into a visit to Valley Entrance in West Kingsdale - I always feel that the inclusion of this short ladder pitch transforms the whole "Valley experience" enabling the transition from the fossil passages of the entrance itself to the clean washed classic Yorkshire Dales"canyonway" to be savoured. The endeavour then associated with ascending the ladder to exit the system makes for a satisfying short outing.

Saturday, by contrast, was a very different underground experience. The rain that fell in squally torrents as we prepared ourselves on the former Nenthead Heritage Centre car park mattered little to our day other than for its temporary interruption to the groups transformation into underground explorers. There were twelve of us, which for me is a large group. We trudged up the familiar track alongside the beck to the Smallcleugh portal from where we made a lengthy tour of the more popular parts of this old lead mine stopping often to consider its geology; its features and the social history of those that lived and worked in the area. Smallcleugh Flats; Wheel Flats; "The Ballroom"; Gulley Back Cross Cut and more we spent a good four hours wandering the passages of this extensive system eventually emerging into welcome bright sunlight for the walk back down to our vehicles.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Photo Round Up

There have been loads of great photos posted on social media of an excellent Canoes, Mountains & Caves "Community" day out in Stoneycroft Ghyll on Saturday. We'd planned to do the full ghyll from top to bottom but the water levels were clearly too high to attempt the lower sections so we just did the normal "group run" but in 10 years it was the highest level I'd ever attempted it at - very exhilarating & adventurous day out!

Thanks to Sara & Andy who I think took most of these photos.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Rainy Day

After a very busy passage of time we had decided a few days ago that today, Thursday, would be a full day off. Unfortunately the weatherman's showers turned into several hours of torrential rain in the Lake District. Still the drive through the Lakes was as stunning as ever & The Fish Inn at Buttermere proved to be a good spot to stop off in the dry at for a couple of hours.

Mist on the mountains; a very still day; flat calm conditions on the water & ghylls full of water made for one or two good pictures, hope you enjoy them:

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Waterfall Jump At Ash Ghyll Beck

Here's a couple of minutes of video from Sunday's family gorge walk in Ash Ghyll Beck in the North Pennines. It shows the group jumping at the main waterfall - it was a great time!

 You can view the video here

Monday, 6 October 2014


After a late August and September in which high pressure seemed to last forever and we were blessed with blue skies, warm temperatures and light winds its been a stark reminder across the weekend and especially this morning to wake up to heavy rain; blustery winds; car headlights and an overcast gloom. Autumn has arrived in Cumbria! I'm not looking forward to the point later today when it will be necessary to brave the wind & rain to sort out the kit from yesterday's gorge walk!

With the change in season comes the change in work pattern. We are so thankful for being  much more busy through July, August & September than we could ever have envisaged and its interesting to note now that in the present and over the coming few months this "busyness" simply alters in character as weekends and evenings begin to bear the brunt of the work load.

We have just had a great weekend when on Saturday we spoke at a Cumbrian conference of Church & Family workers on how they might consider using the outdoors in their work - the seminar brought much positive discussion and we anticipate with optimism & eagerness what may develop. On Sunday we "hosted" a family gorge walk at Ash Ghyll Beck in the North Pennines, we've spent much time there this summer and on Sunday it dawned on me that I've been taking groups to Ash Ghyll for 20 years now!! The weather was extremely kind to us: the rains had ceased about 24 hours prior to our visit as such water levels had returned to a very "acceptable" level for a fun afternoon for the two families & the couple that joined us. For our first hour in the gorge the sun shone & the air temperature was mild it wasn't until the final minutes that the cold started to become a significant factor and by this time: wading, scrambling, jumping & sliding had been enjoyed by everybody.

Sadly, unless the autumn turns out to be much milder than usual this could well have been our last visit to Ash Ghyll in 2014 but God willing we'll be back next year. Lying ahead this week are a big day of mine exploration and what is likely to be another wet day in a Lake District ghyll with our friends from the Canoes, Mountains & Caves "Community" this coming weekend - we are looking forward to this.
There is some video of the jumping at the main waterfall in Ash Ghyll that we will hope to post separately in the next day or two on our YouTube channel, keep an eye out for it!!