Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
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Friday, 13 March 2015

Brownley Hills Mine - Going Further

Its been a little while since we've done any personal mine exploration and whilst most of our group work of late has been in Smallcleugh the mine at Nenthead which has been of most non-group interest over the last year has been Brownley Hills.


After an extended day in Brownley last year with Dave Baines, Graham Derbyshire & Paul Richardson in which we discovered what for us was a new circular route from the entrance and back via the Blue Pool and an evening in there in December with Mykie Jenkinson and Andy Hoe where we confirmed a few key reference points it was time to return. On Thursday night Andy & myself set off via the Bloomsberry Adit in search of Tatlers String and the further reaches of the mine in the Brownley Hills North Vein / Brownley Hills Moss Cross Veins.

We made swift progress along the horse level and took a left onto Welgill and headed straight for the junction to the Blue Pool. At this point we briefly left our bags and continued along Welgill in search of two parallel passages on the right hand side which the survey indicates to go deep into the far reaches of the mine. Across a makeshift bridge and then over a sump using a pre-rigged traverse the two passages duly appeared. We didn't push them on this occasion - that's for next time (amongst other things). Instead we returned to the Blue Pool passage and followed it, stopping briefly to gaze at the false floors high above us, to the first junction. The later part of this passage instantly reminded me of earlier trips to this area, the mine is in very poor condition in places with many roof collapses and areas of wall from which shale is de-laminating. At the junction we were immediately confronted with what others have reported - its very difficult to match the survey with what can be seen on the ground.

We took the only option available to us, a passage running in a NNW direction, it was in places in appalling condition (this is not a mine for those of nervous disposition!). A flat out crawl through a collapse led to an impressive stone arched junction (see below)


There were two clear ways on (each of the above arches) and possibly a third to our right, which potentially gave us a fix with where we were on the survey. We first took the left branch of the stone arching which led us quickly to a fine "stoned out" rise with an old ladder at its foot (below). The rise was rigged with SRT ropes and has a passage off to the left before rising further to access Tatlers String. We climbed to the first passage which doesn't go very far. We'll return for a proper look in Tatlers String on a future trip (shortly)



We returned to the stone arched junction and this time took the other obvious passage quickly entering deep water (see photo at the top of this post) and began to push this route which clearly goes for some distance, after about ten minutes of very mixed going we called a halt to the evenings exploration (our call in time was beckoning). Our own analysis of surveys and post trip discussion with Alistair Myers led us to conclude that we were en route to Brownley Hills Moss Cross Vein. This was a great nights work and we'll be back next week to try to tie up some of the loose ends before what will undoubtedly be another couple of big pushes into the more remote regions of the mine.

Returning to the surface we were greeted by one of those completely awe inspiring North Pennine clear nights. We briefly turned our lamps off and the more we gazed upward the more stars we could see. The big constellations were clear, it felt as though Orion and the Plough were touchable - incredible and equally worthwhile as anything we'd seen underground,

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