Intake Dale Mine - Phil Wolstenholme

Wednesday, 27 July, 2016

Present: Trip 1: Adam Russell, Sam Townsend, Phil Wolstenholme. Trip 2: Phil Wolstenholme, Lisa Wootton.

Intake Dale Mine is relatively unknown to mine historians and explorers, and the only published info on the site are two short articles by Dave Arveschoug and Keith Bentham in 1994 in Caves and Caving and Descent, respectively. In the second, the article describes a very loose and dangerous mine, with natural passage entered at the lower levels. That was pretty much it, as my enquiries to visits by PDMHS members had revealed nothing. It was brought back to life at the Bradwell Symposium, when Sam suggested that we have another look, not least as his explorations with the Eldon at the southern end of Bagshaw suggested further development upstream toward Windmill quite likely.

So the first trip was Adam, Sam and myself, to check whether the place was enterable, and if so, just how dangerous it might be. Quite a bit, it turned out. The entrance itself is a narrow opencut, partially backfilled from above, and to get in you have to slide sideways feet-first into the rift, and get your feet onto a tiny ledge to prevent falling to your death. Not too bad on ropes, but obviously on the first trip there weren't any! Sam did a sterling job of bolting a Y-hang without dying, and with several tons of rocks floating above his head, set off down the slot, with me following. The descent is through some truly terrifying packs of backfilled rock - expertly done and very neat, but everything is supported on four-inch wooden stemples, and so a collapse anywhere will block the mine permanently. So any travel through the gap must be careful and steady.

The pitch is 30m, and lands on a pile of rubble. To the right (west), a set of ledges lead to a passage completely supported on timber - uprights and cross-poles, holding back a truly massive stack of rock, and given the bend in the timbers, no-one was prepared to enter. This passage is likely to lead to a (now backfilled) hauling shaft situated in the dale floor, with a terraced gin-circle platform above it. To the east, a series of short pitches and traverses on ledges leads to another pitch more or less below the first, separated by the usual several tons of waste rock. On the first trip, Sam was bolting all this as he went. The next pitch would be about 15m to the base, but the way on is onto a false-floor about 10m down, heading west again. After a few metres, solid vein briefly provides a more solid floor. However, a hole in this floor is the way on, and another 10m of free-climbing down on tiny ledges is required to gain a nasty but fairly stable boulder-choke.

Heading east again reveals a large natural joint-passage on the right, and a further thrutch in a narrow vein stope leads into a very large natural 'cubic' cavern, about 6m high and 8m wide and long, with the vein distinctly faulted in the totally flat roof to almost the full width of the chamber. A long natural joint-passage at left, past a stack of sorted miner's waste, leads to a tiny pool, with no way on. The vein-stoping resumes again, and the natural passages after that are widenings on the vein. Sam climbed down much of this passage on the first trip, with Adam and I stationed some way back at 'safe' points in case it all went tits-up - he stated that it still went further, but would need further rigging, so we decided to leave at that point.

I missed the next couple of trips, but Sam did a fantastic solo trip to add planking above the top belay, directly below the floating rocks, to make the entrance and exit somewhat more relaxing. Rob Eavis and friends also made two further visits to take in some scaffolding to support the boulder choke at the base whilst they followed the draught to another joint-oriented passage which also sadly died out, leaving them somewhat perplexed as to where the draught actually was! Fast-forward a bit to yesterday, and as I fancied a return trip, and Lisa hadn't seen it, we made another foray into the place. They've added a rebelay halfway down the first pitch - which is great, except that I didn't realise as it was behind me, and I only found out when I hit the bottom of the loop! In a tight slot, that took some time to rectify, but once down Lisa followed me, marvelling at the huge amount of waste stacked down there.

I took my can of disco-smoke to try and work out what's blowing where, and air was definitely blowing eastwards from the timbered passage at that horizon. However, as we got deeper, it kept changing direction, as it did the first time. Once at the bottom, it was clear that CO2 levels were quite high, as were panting constantly, for no great effort really. We had an exploratory poke at an undercut floor section in the large chamber, but it wasn't really a digging trip, and the air didn't feel fresh enough to really exert ourselves, so we just had a bimble around and did a few more smoke-tests, but still inconclusive - I think much is just circulatory, driven partially by warm bodies! The other odd thing about the large natural chamber is that it has obviously flooded in the past, owing to a 2m-high muddy tide-mark on everything, but there's no obvious inlet, and the place is very dry, suggesting it may have filled from the bottom up in one of the occasional Bradwell Dale floods.

After a somewhat strenuous climb, we finally exited to fresh air and rolled down the slope in relief to have a look at the ruins. I climbed up onto the top of the dale following the vein eastwards, and immediately found a concealed climbing shaft, covered by a large stone slab, but open - this is probably the source of some of the draught at the top end, and may be worth having a look at as it may provide an easier route into the eastern end of the stopes. Anyway, a very interesting place, with enough natural to keep head-scratching going a bit longer. Also it's nice to have an open-club project, with at least some members of TSG, EPC and PDMHS (so far) all working together on a project, if not all at the same time. Hopefully this can continue on the Bradwell project, as it will definitely benefit from us all being open with info, instead of trying to beat each other.