Force Crag Mine.

Finding that Cumbria Amenity Trust had a trip down this mine, and that one entered it at the top and walked out the bottom, it seemed a good idea to venture underground. Gary and I arrived in Braithwaite, Borrowdale, early one Sunday morning in March. We found the mine without trouble, driving up to its lower entrance; here we found a couple of souls all ready for the off. In fact they were so keen that they set off while we were still changing, saying that somebody else would soon turn up that knew the route.
And so they did over the next hour or so, turn up that is. Eventually a few of us set off up the fell sides nobody knew exactly where the entrance was, we were nearly at the top of the fell when an entrance came into view, plus a couple of shake holes. We pushed Gary into the entrance, he must have left his eyes behind, as he was soon out saying it didn’t go. So we examined the shake holes with no success, then rested on the fell side admiring the view, and waiting for the laggards, and information. The later was not forthcoming. After a considerable wait irate shouts came up the hillside and a body was seen toiling up towards us. Exchanges of pleasantries took place; “What the hell are you doing?”; “Well it would bloody well help if somebody knew where the hell we are going.”

We were led to the entrance that Gary had entered and were on our way. A body disappeared down the first pitch, then it was my turn. I could see a slope with a string of mud hanging down it. One bolt, no belay loop, gingerly I attached myself to the mud, and off down,—soon I was entangled with ancient wooden ladders as the pitch meandered to its foot. At the bottom a worked out area showed its black depths as the way on went up and down a smooth rock pile. The way on seemed to be that obligatory crutch deep, cold, water. Soon a light was seen and there was a climb up a slope. An item of interest to be seen here was a massive timbered ore shoot and ladder way climbing upwards. On the floor a piece of timber proved to be as sound as any bathroom sponge.
Onwards down another slope accompanied, by the thankfully small detritus, of its body. Some more passage with a vague instruction as to directions. I approached a short pitch with wooden ladders, there was no sign of the person in front of me, so, a careful decent, then a short slide to a passage, others arrived and a short interlude of ‘Its that way,’ ‘no its over here’, passed. We moved off, it was pleasant to have somebody who seemed to know where we were going.

We continued along a passage, good solid looking rock, Then; ‘We’re coming to the thousand foot incline”; we were informed. This hill within a hill ended at a wooden platform, thankfully in good condition, capping a 200ft. shaft. Giving this a miss, we continued down an incline, eventually meeting more level passage, a short rope drop to a lower level and we were led out into daylight for a smoke break. Back in and down again then confusion took over once again a first we started down more wooden ladders, heading for the area of the mine that is still being worked in a small way. Being down one ladder and starting on the next I was called back up. Cursing I re-climbed the ladder, fighting the air line that was sharing- the shaft. Sliding down again through the nearest thing to a squeeze that we had met, we soon exited through the level 0 portal.

The minerals mined at this site were Barytes, Lead, and Zinc. Although all the areas that we passed through had been previously explored, this had been the first through trip from the possibly 200 yr. old level five to the bottom level 0. An enjoyable day out that allowed me to say at least that I have been underground this year.

Dick Wade.

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