Volume 40 Number 1 Article 6
Red Rake Mine, Silverdale
Once upon a time, Eric Holland, a caver with the Red Rose, moved to the Furness area and founded his own club. Apart from organising mining trips and good parties at the Oddfellows Hall in Ulverston, we didn't hear much from him until he produced a book, "Underground in Furness", a guide to caves and mines in NW England in 1960. I bought my obligatory copy and turned to caving further afield.
Years later I started to tick off the sea caves around Morecombe Bay with my grandchildren. However, there was one I couldn't find, Red Rake Mine, even with Eric's "Bells & Braces" method of finding an entrance. e.g. "Haverbrack Bank Pot - 7 paces from stile take path on left and follow for 64 paces to junction." Amazingly, this method brought me to that cave immediately.
However, back to the story. Another old member of the Red Rose, Max Moseley, had returned to England after 25 years in Canada and was writing a thesis of the area. He and I went for a walk round the sea shore looking at various caves. I mentioned the fact that I had never found Red Rake Mine and he said he would show me where it was.
We walked up a deep rift in the sea cliff and he pointed to a pile of pebbles at the end. "There it is" he said. Disbelievingly, I started raking back the pebbles and a V-notch appeared with an inviting black hole beyond. As Max wanted to include this iron mine in his thesis, we started clearing, but the sea had done a good job since he last visited the hole, and we realised a second trip was needed. He returned with Lionel Rice later in the week, and entered the cave.
He phoned and told me it was open and they had surveyed it, but he had been unable to get down a rift in the final chamber. The sea was supposed to enter the rift at high tide, but this had never been proved. He wanted a ladder to get down this rift and asked if I fancied a trip. I jumped at the chance and went with him and Lionel to prove the story.
It was a stormy day with a 60 mph gale blowing when we finally returned to Red Rake Cave at high tide. I had been in the iron mines of Morecombe Bay before and knew of the dreaded "red gunge" that marked anyone entering, so we were in full caving gear, even for an 80ft long passage. After a low entrance crawl it was standing all the way to a final chamber with a roof of hanging boulders. This was where the pitch went off from, and after rigging the ladder, Lionel squeezed in. He could get no further than 12ft down, even though the rift continued.
There was neither sight nor wound of sea water invading the passage below, but Max insisted on a water sample from a pool we could hear below when Lionel dropped a rock down. After several trials with a bottle on a string, Lionel emerged triumphant with a half bottle of muddy water,, which we didn't feel like tasting to see if it was salty. However, Max said he would do a salinity test on it later.
I found it very interesting exploring the old 18th century iron mine, with the triangular shaped drill holes about 9 inches deep, that had been hammered into the walls to extract the ore. He exited to turn the sea red by washing our caving gear in it.
We were later warned not to leave the entrance open by the R.S.P.B. who own the land overhanging the mine. We got the impression we were being observed by the "twitchers" so we religiously covered up the entrance.