Team photo including diminutive snowman
My plans for walks are in somewhat of a mess due to deep soft snow which is lying very deeply and softly just about everywhere I’d planned to walk. So I was really pleased to receive an invitation from Brian at Nenthead to join this annual underground breakfast scoffing session. This annual tomfoolery being a bit of a get-together for the Cumbrian Mines Rescue Organisation. A mine may well smell of sausages for quite a while after one of these trips.
I squitterred the knipemobile up Weardale and over to Nenthead, passing two police signs that said the road was closed – but it seemed OK, if a bit quiet – and I arrived safely at Nenthead only to forgo the impossible drive up the steep cobbles to Chez Brian. I walked up the hill. It was very slippery.
Gilda and Brian (before picture…)
Here, Brian distributed helmets and caving suits for me and his partner, Gilda, and we loaded up packs with essential underground stuff such as stoves and gas, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomato ketchup and, generally stuff needed for a short but happy life of soaring cholesterol and cardiac nurses going (Tut!)
After a period of driving around on slippery snow, and a bit of kerfuffle about which hole we were going down, the Nenthead Chapel party were loaded into a land rover for a short and sobering drive over moors deep in snow to arrive a few nano-seconds later at the entrance to Smallcleuch Mine.
Gilda cooks up a storm
And we entered and paddled along, sometimes crawling, sometimes getting a bit dislocated, but finally ending up in a large cavern known as “The Small Ballroom” This is not named after tight underwear such as you might get as a present on Christmas Day, but is the smaller version of “The Ballroom” – a much bigger cavern in which, it is said, a dinner for the local masonic lodge was once held. (around 1906,,,,?)
Jamie Oliver eat your heart out.
Brian unloaded the snowman that he’d smuggled in and it was duly decorated in a festive kind of manner. – And we celebrated to season by cooking and scoffing large quantities of fried breakfast, all of which was really very nice.
Warming the snowman
And so, after a few team photos, we were lead out by an easier way than the one we came in by – which took about an hour, I suppose – it all seemed impossibly complicated to me but we finally emerged blinking into a blinking blizzard.
There is much of interest in the holes – but one of the really interesting buts we came across was the hoof marks of (presumably) the last ponies in the mine for a short section between some rails. The area had been taped off but this had not prevented some prune from walking through the marks in his wellies.
Me and Gilda full of Full English
Once out, our manic landrover chauffuer made short work of the impossible drive back to Nenthead and after a short coffee break at Brian’s, I attempted to get the car back over Killhope Cross – and failed, partly due to the car in front coming to a slithering stop. One of the keys to success is not to stop, y’see….. The headlights/windscreen thing looked like that star wars screen saver thingy…
I ended up driving around by Hexham and Corbridge, which is quite a long way home. I doubt if the car would have made it down the other side of the pass anyway. But all’s well that, well,….ends, I suppose.
But what fun.
We lit a small fire for the snowman, to keep it warm as we abandoned it to it’s dark, damp and lonely fate. Its a hard life, being a snowman.