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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A Descent of Brewery Shaft at Nenthead

Its been a while since I had a lead-mine trip and so I was gruntled to bits to get an invitation from Brian to descend into the depths of the North Pennines at Nenthead. Brian’s pal Hugo came along too and might have contributed a few pictures , as has Brian. My pics weren’t very good at all since I knew there’s be lots of water down there, and so, took a cheapo camera inside an aquapac bag… so they were a bit dark. The spirit was willing but the flash was weak.
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The occasion was the 120th anniversary of Vieille Montagne’s involvement in the Nenthead mines, including the development of the Brewery Shaft for compressing air and generating electricity.  The name comes from the Alston Brewery Company who owened the land before the London Lead Company bought it for the driving of the shaft.
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The shaft itself is in a small and nonedescript stone hut with a small shed attached and has been capped with a steel grid and equipped with a series of lights which, when an appropriate button will light up one-by one at the speed of a falling Pieman but without the screaming. Thus the 100 metre depth (this is huge by the way) of the shaft will be revealed.
On this occasion, a winch had been installed and a small trapdoor opened in the grid over one side of this huge (3 metre diameter) and yawning pit and, on the cable of the winch was a small seat into which the petrified might be clipped with carabiners and cowstails and sent off slowly down into the normally dark, but now well-lit  and dripping hole.
brewery shaft 009
The descent took three minutes. This is a long time. I had been advised that if the seat began to sway I should fend off the walls of the shaft very very gently so that any swaying might be dampened and not increased. I’m afraid I didn't do this very well at all and soon I was bashing off the walls of the shaft, with all it’s huge pipes and ironwork and spinning as well. And it was still a long way down.
But I arrived without huge drama and was extricated from the ropework and chains and stuff by a lass in a waterproof cape. I had to climb down a bit of aluminium ladder and some loose rubble to get into the bottom of the shaft.
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Here’s where I waited, resisting the beckoning attentions of a dark and shadowy figure who said he was a guide as I had to wait for Brian and Hugo. I did have a look in the underground workshop nearby and looked at the Pelton turbine, compressors and the pelton electricity generator – and the anvil and other untidynesses.
Brian arrived, followed six minutes later by Hugo and we all splashed off to find the waterwheel. This was located along a walking passage which was flooded roughly up to the hips. Luckily, my recent plunges into the North Sea had acclimatised my naughty parts to cold water, so it wasn’t so bad for me. The lad who went before us did a lot of gasping and whingeing, though. The waterwheel is huge and intact and quite impressive. We returned whence we’d come. And it was time to get back on to the little chair on the wire and go back up.
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There was a little wait whilst more visitors arrived. The ascent, though, I have to say was just as scary as the descent. This was mainly because whilst I did assure the Lady In The Cape that I was comfy and ready to go, in point of fact, after a few feet, I discovered that I was actually teetering on the edge of the chair and reluctant to move much in case I set the bloody thing swaying again. So I clung on and developed various cramps. It’s a long way up. It takes ages.
Good though. And I got to wear the Not-A-Onesie I bought at Bernie’s in Ingleton for the purpose for which it was made. It kept me toasty.
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Thanks to Brian for fixing this up – we do like to scare ourselves witless every now and then, even if we are much too old for this kind of thing, and to young Hugo for the company. And to Brian for the oxtail soup and dumplings afterwards. And to Mrs Pieman for the transport and the Indian takeway (I had Kashmiri Chicken) whilst the knipemobile is on a waiting list…

Click the link below for a scary video

Here’s a link to lots of faxaninfo about the Brewery Shaft info about the brewery shaft



Dawn Linney said...

Awesome stuff, scary but fascinating, well done.

Chrissie Crowther said...

Amazing photos, bet it was really interesting. Would love to see something like that, but unfortunately stuff underground is definitely Geoff's domain, not mine. He only ever took me caving once and I came out in tears after just 10 minutes....

AlanR said...

Fantastic. Like the comment, "The flash was weak"

Louise said...