Moorfurlong Mine Post-AGM Trip - Phil Wolstenholme

Saturday, 4 February, 2017

Present: Luke Brownbridge, Alex Crow, Alastair Gott, Irene Healy, Adam Henry, Lizzie Kinge, Jo Li, Patrick Roche, Jess Stirrups, Ian Weeks, Phil Wolstenholme.

This trip was a 'something for everyone' visit to an easy-ish venue post-AGM, and with a fixed ladder entrance in the 12m shaft, no need for SRT or other fancy aids. As a 12m drop is still significant though, we brought a lifeline along for those who wanted it. It was a lovely sunny afternoon with no wind, so for once our start was pleasant - we had a few cars to sort out, with more on the way, so we visited the farm to drop off some cash, but there was no-one home, so we left it in the porch, all parked 'nearby' and got changed. As we came back to the field we bumped into the farmer, who was fine about us going in, so off we went to the shaft lid. Several scooted down immediately for a quick look round, and the rest of us proceeded to get Irene down the shaft safely, which we did.

The fun began in the passage connecting the shaft bottom to the 3m internal shaft, whereupon Irene, still a little flustered from her successful descent, declared that she couldn't go any further. I'd been stood at the top of the internal shaft for some 15 minutes waiting, having rigged another lifeline on an Italian hitch over a krab, and so another 15 mins was spent convincing her that not only could she easily do it, but she was free to stand or sit on me as she did it, and that the lifeline, now firmly held by Adam, would hold her up, if only she would attempt the first foothold. There is an iron ladder that covers the bottom 1.5m, and several good footholds enable an easy climb down, but you do have to commit somewhat to see those, and obviously she wasn't convinced. Eventually though, the sound of Jo and Patrick arriving down the shaft made up her mind for her, as there was now a substantial queue of people backing up, and with me holding her up via 'le derrière', we slowly made our way downwards to the ladder, where she could then climb down unaided. Needless to say much moaning and groaning ensued, thankfully mostly directed at Alan, who wasn't there to hear it, though I'm sure he must have felt the earth rumble slightly wherever he was. Luckily Irene also failed to notice the floor of stacked deads she'd been sat on, but I knew that she might possibly notice these on the way back up!

Anyway, once that fun was over, we assembled in the main buddling chamber and had a quick look around, with me attempting to explain what had happened in there before folks ran off into the smaller sections. Alastair, Luke and Ian had already had a quick scoot around here and there, and so once we were all assembled, Lizzie and Alex took some 'team photos' (which hopefully came out OK). After that it was time to tackle the crawls, which I was understandably wary of, knowing what could happen, and the number of people likely to be involved. Apart from Alex and Jess, I was the only one who knew the way. That situation was averted as Irene decided that she wasn't going to venture into a horizontal world just yet, and said she'd stay in the main chamber. Alastair, Alex and Jess agreed to stay with her and have a look at the other large chambers, whilst I took the rest of the team into the wriggly world of the flats and pipe workings.

This section of the mine can be somewhat intimidating on a first visit, as there's very few sections higher than crawling, and several short branches off the main line mean route-finding can be confusing at first, but it's actually quite easy (apart from the tight phreatic tube where Richard Shaw got stuck a few trips back and briefly blocked us in), and they all loop back in or fizzle out, and so eventually we all assembled in the 'large' chamber with roof breakdown and piled-up deads, where at least one can sit up for a minute and get a breather. We marvelled at how the miners must have managed to work in these conditions every day, and then plodded on, through the slot at the far end and into the larger-section passage that leads to the two short internal stepped shafts to the lower bedding passages, holding the 'quasi-Blue John' deposits. These are entered via 'Zorro Chamber', so called because of the two dark blue rings of fluorite on the wall, and then follows a section of tube-like crawls leading to the 'Eldon Extension' - a branch passage dug out several years ago that leads to another section of workings featuring a drystone wall 'air-duct', designed to carry ventilation from a small (now blocked) internal shaft, and sealed throughout with clay, with miners' thumbprints embedded in it. This passage leads to the current end of the system, and as the air was getting a bit tight for some, we were slowly stringing out, and only myself, Luke and Patrick got right to the end.

Realising time was getting tight for the callout, and that we may have another shaft-scenario looming, we all began the trip back to the main chamber and up the climbs to the predictable noisy scene at the bottom of the shaft, as Jess and Lizzie were attempting to get Irene onto the bottom rung of the ladder, which is a bit high off the ground without using the ledges. My presence seemed to pick things up, and within a minute she was off up the ladder, again, absolutely fine in reality, just conquering that mind over matter problem. Once she was out (still cursing Alan not me, I'm relieved to state) we all came up after her and toddled back to the cars in a very pretty but rather chilly twilight, but buoyed up by the prospect of some hot food soon.