The JH West project, begun July 2012, aims at pushing any westward leads available in the James Hall Over Engine mine system, as exploration/documentation of anything beyond the current survey is non-existent. Several leads are currently being explored in a variety of locations, with a view to finding safe routes through the existing workings, with minimal archaeological impact. All workings explored will be thoroughly documented in order to determine conservation measures as appropriate. As surface drainage downwards beyond Main Rising is also unknown, any natural development will also be explored and thoroughly documented, with a view to developing more conclusive theories on water-routes from the swallets and any fossil cave at higher levels. Further undocumented drainage or workings below cartgate level may also be explored if possible.
As of July 15 2015, 25m of new upward pitches have been explored beyond the original survey, to gain small natural chambers heavily modified by mining, between 5.6m and 10m below surface and developed along two wayboards; followed downwards again by 40m of vertical and very narrow stope (now named Butch Pitch), regaining the main cartgate level for a short distance, before it is blocked by a fall of deads from presently-unknown workings above. All of this section has now been accurately surveyed and will be added to the main Castleton Survex model.
Lisa Wootton in Shinbone Chamber high in JH West. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.
Time has also been spent attempting to clear the 'ledge level' of debris at the extreme west of the original survey, with a view to potentially opening up a way through to the base of Butch Pitch. The formerly-flooded section of cartgate nearest the shaft has been completely drained by re-arranging a significant blockage of miner's spoil, and its former sumped condition was explained by a water inlet at floor-level, which still empties down its original sink via a buried miner's drainage channel. This section of cartgate is presently blocked at the west end by a large unstable choke from above, but the Butch Pitch route described above allows access to the other side of the blockage.
At present, all areas are quite unstable and potentially dangerous if you don't know what's where. All of the current rigging is of a temporary 'exploration' nature and must not be used without first contacting Glyn Roberts, Wayne Sheldon or Phil Wolstenholme. Please observe this request to avoid any unnecessary problems at the site, as rescue from the wrong side of the new workings would be extremely difficult and time-consuming, if indeed possible - Butch Pitch is very constricted for the first ten metres.
Alastair Gott and the mystery inlet in the formerly-flooded west cartgate. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.