RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 38 Number 3 Article 9
October 2001

Nenthead : Smallcleugh to Capplecleugh

Saturday 26 May 2001

Present : Duncan Jones, Pete Dale, Andy Whitney, Jim Whitney, Ian Eeles, Martin Critchley

Having visited Nenthead four weeks earlier we had decided to go back and do the Brewery Shaft and explore Rampgill mine, but things didn’t quite go to plan.

Andy had brought his dad along and Ian Eeles was coming as well, so they had decided they wanted an easy trip and had planned to do Smallcleugh to Ballroom Flats again. Pete and I had other ideas and decided we would try and find the route for the through trip to Capplecleugh. As we set about getting changed someone appeared and asked where we were going and if he could join us. We said yes and then we found out that this was the guy that had written the Nenthead journal/book (lucky meeting!)

We strolled up to Smallcleugh and, once inside, marched along reasonably easy passage for quite some distance, passing numerous collapses and run-ins, the type that you run past and don’t breathe on the walls. It wasn’t until visiting this mine that I realised that shale is a pretty crap rock; there’s not many rocks you can pull chunks off walls and watch it crumble in your hand.

Eventually we reached a junction where Andy, Jim & Ian left us to go in search of the Ballroom Flats, and Pete, Martin and I continued on with wetter things in mind.

Varied going followed for a while, passing numerous flooded shafts. At one point we took a wrong turn and ended up at a nice looking collapse, retracing our steps we found the right way on and eventually reached a large passage and a hole at the far end with the ‘ladders’ disappearing down. We had heard about these calcited ladders and were interested to see what they looked like. It turns out that the entire shaft has a calcite flow down it, (would put some caves to shame), some of which has flowed onto the ladders making descent a bit more interesting.

Arriving at the last ladder we looked at this sorry thing; two rungs at the top then nothing as it goes into the water of Capplecleugh Level. We knew this was the start of the wet bit we had heard about. After a brief rest I was told to get down there by Pete. It would appear he wanted me to test the depth of the water. I reluctantly stood on the ladder and levitated my way down the imaginary rungs and into the water, which turned out to be only waist deep. Not too bad, I thought, but this was just the start of it all.

The next section is fairly blurred, my mind being numbed by the cold water. Well OK maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it is a fair distance along the level with lots of wet sections. The wettest parts got to neck deep which wasn’t too bad, but in places the floor was silty and awkward to walk on and it filled your boots making it feel grotty, a couple of times we stopped to empty our wellies.


"We soon realised Capplecleugh was wet"

Some distance along the passage we came across some shafts going up with the usual accompanying iffy ladders. One of these Martin climbed up, showering us with rock along the way. (It went nowhere). After we had passed some more shafts we came across one that looked similar to the others but this one also had a compressed air pipe going up it. Pete managed to hold or catch the pipe which didn’t seem to be a problem until we heard a rattling noise from above, suddenly a piece of pipe about 7 foot long appeared at great speed and nearly skewered Martin. His face was certainly a picture. (Note to Pete: Mines can be loose and dangerous in places.)

Mixed going continued for quite some distance, which basically means long wet sections of varying depth interspersed with short dry sections. The dry sections are collapses that have to be climbed over and create the dams holding back the water. We finally saw daylight and exited about 4 hours after we had entered. Emerging into the sun, we ditched our plan to go down Brewery and decided to save that for next time, (third time lucky?).

Duncan Jones

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