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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Plodging in Harehope Gill Mine

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Various pieblog walks have passed the entrance to Harehope Gill Mine over the last few months and so when Brian suggested having a look inside I was quite chuffed to go along with the idea. He did warn me that there was a lot of water inside and that we’d need wetsuits.

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The lady from White Kirkley Farm suggested that if we parked in the lane outside her house, our vehicles would probably be written off in shot order by all the haymaking traffic. So she said to park in the field. This wa sthe field with all the chickens. remember the chickens?  They’re still very friendly and soon, the wheels of the piemobile were surrounded by hens settling into the dust on all sides.

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Changing into wetsuits was interesting. They don’t go on easily. And it was a hot day, so the rubbery struggles soon had me dripping with sweat, as did the walk to the mine entrance through the clouds of friendly blackfly. Zipping up the wetsuits over beer bellies was even more interesting, and quite hard work. I was exhausted and dripping before we’d done anything.

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So, it was with some relief that we eventually entered the cool confines of Harehope Gill Mine. The water was soon quite deep. We plodged along. Then we waded to  junction. Then , after a bit of awkward crawling, the easiest progress was made by walking on the knees in the deep water. This water soon deepened to chest depth and, by using a waterproof canister as a float, it became much easier. We came to a dead end. The passage had collapsed and there was no way through.

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We returned to the junction and followed the other passage. The water was soon much deeper – chin deep, in fact and we eventually came to a place where the gap between the water and the ceiling was just a few inches. A few bubbles were blown. I was floating at this point, having lost contact with the floor.  We pushed on a bit, through a slight easing, but , as the ceiling lowered once again we decided that maybe we’d gone as far as we could.

So we came out.

Somewhere beyond all these difficulties there is a waterwheel but unfortunately, we couldn’t get to it. Still interesting, though.

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We were underground for a couple of hours.

As an aperitif, I had a brief crawl through the culvert which used to take water from a wheel pit to the river. It was dry inside and there were sheep bones and some nettles at an exit where there had been a collapse. The passage continues but I didn’t.

We repaired to the Black Bull after fighting our way out of the wetsuits again.

There are no pictures of the places with the deep water cos we didn’t want to trash our cameras which were safe inside waterproof boxes. Other pictures are misty, mainly, I think, due to our breath.

Don’t try this at home, folks.


Tykelad said...

I like the word plodge Mike, I've just decided!

You don't half end up in some strange old 'oles !!

John J said...

You've trimmed your beard!


Meanqueen said...

Rather you than me, give me wide open spaces any day.

Anonymous said...

The waterwheel is quite a way in but very impressive, going back there tonight.