Mark R, Simon B, Chris A
I arrived at Rowter farm at 0730 after a last minute change of plan from Chris and Simon- they were half an hour late! Because of this, I was in a mind to make sure they made up for it by ensuring I got the most out of both of them down the dig!
As soon as the entrance lid came off, I could tell that it was going to be wet down there, I could hear the rush of the water from Hypothermia very clearly.
I went down first and went straight to the dig face to find water gushing out of the pipe and down the gravel filled level at a terrific speed. All thoughts of Simon and Chris toiling away at the dig face quickly vanished- this water jet looked far too much fun to miss out on!
The 1 ½” pipe was shooting a jet of water easily a metre and it was completely impossible to stop, or even very very hard to partially cut off the flow by hand. The next 5 minutes was a bit like a Laurel and Hardy sketch as the other two arrived and the jet of water was ‘accidentally’ directed at everyone in the confined space. We tried to reduce the diameter of the pipe by forcing a smaller diameter pipe down the end but this resulted in us all getting absolutely soaked by the torrent so we gave up and stuck with what we had.
To start with we tried using the jet to create a channel for the pool of water in the low point to drain away through, it quickly became apparent though that we were simply (but very effectively) moving gravel down the passage and creating a high point at the furthest reach. Chris then suggested we use the jet, pointing backwards to drag spoil out of the level, ready for hauling. We started with this technique and found that although we were kneeling in several inches of water and couldn’t see what we were digging in the floor, the jet did a fantastic job of loosening the compacted gravel and boulders and pushing them along. We formed a chain in the level with me at the furthest point, Simon in the middle and Chris at the back and started jetting and pulling gravel out of the floor and back to the start of the level. Within about 20 minutes I was kneeling in 10” of water and the floor kept dropping!
By about 9:00, we were all suffering from the cold (although not so much Chris as he didn’t really get very wet sitting around at the back of the line)! Wishing I had a wetsuit, we reluctantly (Chris wasn’t reluctant, even though he was still pretty dry) decided to leave, Chris departed and because Simon and I were enjoying it so much we carried on for a little longer to give Chris a head start out of the shaft. Unable to feel my feet or knees, I gave up the jetting and Simon pushed the pipe back down the level as far as possible where we left it.
There is a huge amount of water going down the level and disappearing with great rumbling gurgles somewhere off ahead. I think that we will always find ourselves kneeling in water at the dig face as it will always remain the deepest part of the floor. Perhaps we should start hunting around for some sort of hand operated pump??
All of the spoil we removed from the level was left at the bottom of the winching rope, ready to be hauled up on the next trip- at least this can be done whilst keeping dry!
A very interesting and sort of enjoyable trip but the water now covering the floor to a depth of about a foot may now be there until the bitter end, still we mnaged to lower the floor by about a foot over a couple of metres.
Thanks to Chris and Simon for putting up with the cold and (very) wet without complaint…. Well, Simon anyway! ;)