EASY UNDERGROUND –
A short level walk from the road soon brought us all to the main entrance of the mine.
The “dry” haulage level had a small amount of water flowing out of it and a rather inconveniently placed tree in front of the entrance, however everybody managed to crawl under the low branches of the tree and negotiate the “up and under” gate just inside entrance, doing their upmost to stay dry.
Unfortunately over the next few hundred feet of passage the small flow of water had ponded up to about knee-deep, so everyone had wet feet right at the beginning of the trip.
Once beyond the arching the rock-cut passage is quite wide and high and from the evidence we assumed that it was following the Windshaw Bridge vein, which is the main cross vein in this part of the mine. Soon we came upon a side passage branching off to the right along the northern most string of the Dryburn Washpool vein which is the principal vein in the area. This passage, the source of the water we encountered earlier, led us to a flooded sump in a raised alcove and then just beyond a forehead.
Back in the haulage-way we pressed on to the junction with the Dryburn Washpool vein proper, having noted the remains of wooden rails in places en route. Some of the more enthusiastic explorers crawled over a couple small rock-falls to follow the passage to the point where it becomes totally waterlogged.
At the junction it is possible to climb up into the “flat” workings, a couple of intrepid souls were dispatched to investigate the western end of these flats while we awaited the return of those in the haulage level. Apparently it is not possible to progress very far in that direction, the main route into the mine being in the opposite direction. Having gathered the party back together we set off east from the junction, the workings quickly swing to the south east, being associated with the Windshaw Bridge vein and can be followed to a climb back down into another haulage level. As this passage goes back under the flats it is totally flooded and it was suggested that it could, in fact, be the continuation of the initial haulage- way. However from this point the workings veer off in a more easterly direction, following the disseminated mineralisation of the Dryburn Washpool vein and its strings.
The way forward is through large “brokendown” flat workings, scrambling over piles of waste rocks, with sections of an un-roofed haulage-way visible lower down on the left side. Within in these workings there is considerable secondary mineralisation and we were all able to appreciate the deposits of purple & pink cobalt minerals and the blue colouration from copper minerals.
Eventually the accompanying haulage-way becomes arched and the continuing flat workings rather more choked with waste rock, so we descended into the haulage-way, noting lengths of iron rails in this section. A left branch of this passage leads to a climb up into further flats on the north side of the vein and our ardent explorers were not satisfied until every corner had been investigated. The main passage continues eastward until it meets a junction with the drainage adit and our way out. While a couple of the team could not resist the lure of the outside world and sunshine, the majority followed the adit passage as it swings east onto the vein heading towards the point where the mine went under the South Tyne river.
There are still parallel workings to the south of this passage and they must be bringing in a considerable amount of percolation water from the river because for some distance the right wall of the passage has large volumes of water pouring out between the base of the arching and a raised rock sill. Progress was halted at a “Y” junction with both ways blocked by “run-ins”. The right-hand branch has been dug through and an oil-drum inserted, however this has been squeezed down by the collapsed material to about half its original height and the percolation water has deposited a couple of inches of glutinous grey clay inside it. Even our most intrepid explorer decided to call it a day at this point and we all splashed our way down the adit to the exit right alongside the river.