Red Rose Trip to Alderley Edge West Mine




Andy Hall, Slug, Pete Llewellyn, Steve Gray, Dave Ottewell, Emma Key, Carmel Ramwell, Stu. Bennett, Edvin Deadman.

The Alderley Edge mines in Cheshire were mined from the Bronze Age (c. 4000 years ago) until the early 20th century.

Most of the mines are still accessible although many surface features have been obscured by vegetation over the years.

Many of the mines are owned by the National Trust and have been leased from them by the Derbyshire Caving Club which maintains access and continues to explore and search for areas of mining that have been closed for centuries.

I had been meaning to arrange a club trip down here for some years and was prompted to get it organised when I met up with Nigel Dibben, an old caving friend from university days at the Hidden Earth in Burnley. He has been a DCC member for many years and has been closely associated with the mines for some time.

We decided on West Mine as it offers the best option for a sporting trip, so everyone was asked to bring a sit harness and cows tails. We met at the main car park at Alderley edge near the Wizard pub. The meeting time of 11 o’clock came and went and Nigel, our guide had not arrived. The club members now started to give me some grief. I was now getting anxious so after a couple of phone calls and a chat to the local park ranger I spoke to Nigel who had lost track of time and would be arriving late!

We got changed and set off. By the way do not wear a PVC oversuit, you get too hot! A boiler suit will do. The mine is mainly dry and sandy as it is in Triassic sandstone. The locked entrance shaft is in a field about 15 mins walk through the woods from the car


park West Mine is the largest mine on the Edge and was worked between 1858 and 1878. However, some parts appear to be a bit earlier and others later with clear signs of twentieth century workings.

West Mine consists of a series of large tunnels on three levels following the dip down towards the WSW and then turning NW on the strike towards the end of the mine. During the main working period from 1857 to 1877, West Mine was probably known as the Western Mine and was worked in two sections divided by a fault or Great Slide. Ore was extracted by a railway hauled from the surface using a rope. Ventilation was achieved by the use of two air shafts at the middle and far end of the mine. 

A short ladder leads down to an adit, which opens out to larger passage, The Roman Galleries. This lead past a shaft rigged with a fixed SRT rope from above and you head back underneath to immerge in the roof of the Main Chamber at the start of a well rigged traverse rope. This proved a bit of entertainment and was followed by a fixed rope descent to the floor of the large chamber. This I a large stope that used to lead directly out to the surface. We followed this downhill through a series of large passages to Sphinx Chamber. The Sphinx rock itself has been damaged in the 1950’s. Here the first part of the mine ends at a fault. A short climb (fixed ladder and chain) leads to a steep incline up to a bridge across the infamous Plank Shaft. This bridge is an impressive structure put in to make the route across the shaft safe.

The second part of the mine proved more sporting with a number of different interconnection routes via passages on three levels running in a NW direction.


Nigel sent the more energetic younger members on various alternative routes up some awkward chimneys and crawls, all of which could be bypassed via walking passage. Several routes lead via Chain Shaft and joins the old railway level after a gentle slope down. Just after joining the railway level is a prominent rock known as The Dog or The Lion. From here, access is possible by some easy climbs and devious routes to the Middle and Top levels at the far end of the mine.

On the return trip we returned to Sphinx Chamber and a passage leads N into Twisted Pillar Cavern. The pillar has now collapsed. Above this route is another large stope reached from the Cavern of the Twisted Pillar and ending in a covered shaft to surface above Sphinx Chamber. We made our way out via the same entrance we came in and I was completely confused by then!

We spent about four hours underground on a thoroughly enjoyable trip and it was great to have a guide who knew the mine and its history well. We plan to do another trip in the spring of 2013 involving a through trip along the Rough Level from Brynlow Mine to Wood Mine that involves a boat.

Andy Hall


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