Mark Richardson, Chris Haigh and Bob Toogood.
3rd November 2012
The day started like many others, blearily getting up and shuffling around preparing kit and our minds for a days caving. As usual we had no idea what mine we were doing and so threw together various lengths of rope. After a quick bowl of Sugar Puffs we headed out the door to meet the third person in our Team at the Yondermann cafe near Wardlow for a more substantial breakfast. We arrived at the cafe to find Bob Toogood already sat with a mug of tea. We ordered and sat down with him to find out what it was we were doing today.
Raddle Pits was the answer. An old mine last worked in the 70's formerly known as Long Rake mine. It was one Bob had visited a couple of times before and had on his hit list to do this year to find out if it went any further than he had been previously with Martin Grayson.
After a nice breakfast (one of the nicest Mark had eaten apparently) we set off for the mine. We donned our kit and wandered over to the shaft. Bob had come equipped with some pliers and some mole-grips to undo the bolts on the lid. The shaft below was beautifully constructed and looked pretty deep with ferns growing out from the gaps between the bricks. Mark rigged the first section to the re-belay which already had some rope in-place.
Down we went to a level with some scaffolding bars and a rotten looking plank. Here we got off the rope and wandered along the passage. We came to an opening with a stone spiral staircase built into it. At the top was an old mining cart in a tipping position. Down the stairs ended in a collapse. We continued along the passage to the next shorter pitch. After a brief crawl and a short walk we climbed up pitch and then down another. We then came to another level with some intact cart tracks and sleepers. We followed this for a short distance till we reached another shaft in the floor. After rigging this up Mark descended to take a look. Rapidly disappearing from sight down the hole he called back that 'it went' and continued to take a look at where it went. Bob and I hung around at the top. I took a few photos of the cart tracks and tinkered with flash guns in the tunnels but struggled to get a good shot along the tunnels because of a faulty flash (only underground). After a while I called to Bob to see if he had heard anything from Mark. We called and called but heard nothing back so decided to wait another 10-15mins before one us was to go down to see if he was still alive.
After 10mins a faint voice was heard beckoning us down. The walls of the shaft seemed to absorb every noise making it difficult to communicate, even Bob's message to 'bring the camera' down were received as "…amera". We followed on and once down the long tight shaft (a slight rope shortage required a bit of a free climb at the bottom) were presented by a beautifully constructed sub-vertical D-shaped tube. Down this we free climbed and then down another shaft until we hit the base level which contained another complete cart track disappearing to the left and right. We followed it to the right over a hole in the floor, past a complete though slightly rotten windlass to a point where there appeared to be another collapse. Bob gingerly made his way forward but didn’t like the look of it so retreated. We turned tail and took a look at the hole in the floor we had passed a few minutes before. Mark stuck in a bolt and rigged a line for Bob to descend on. It went down some distance but didn’t appear to come to anything or at least nothing Bob wanted to explore any further. We wandered along the passage taking in the various pieces of mine equipment lying around in various states of decay. Plenty of hand-made nails, lots of metal rings from wooden barrels some of which had wooden remains and of course the carvings made by the miners themselves. Some were intelligible other not so. Walking around this place was like stepping back in time though at the same time we were being incredibly careful not to touch walls, roofs, and the assortment of metal, wooden and in more cases than I like to think about phantom stemples that held everything up in a screw you physics manner.
We started making our way out up the various climbs and shafts. On one I’d dropped behind Bob and arrived at the rope to see him crawling off along the level 6 or 7m above and to hear the call of rope free from him. I started the prusik upwards and at about half way a fist sized rock fell from the deads above and whizzed past me. Thinking nothing of it I continued another couple of prusiks at which point there was a bit of a rumble, gravity woke up and the rumble continued along with several tons of loose rock ploughing its way past me giving my wellies and the tackle bag beside me a good tickle. The rock crashed to the floor below with dust billowing up from it. There was a moment of pause in which I could hear Bob and Mark saying things above the din of settling rocks and then another rumble and a second volume of rocks crashed their way downward. Obviously worried, Mark and Bob called out. Keen to reassure them I took a quick look at my situation. Hanging on a rope, with a traverse line about 2m in length going out to a bolt in front of me, beneath which was nowan airy space. The way on, about 3m beyond the traverse was traversable but not protected and the remaining deads upon which i'd need to crawl to exit were precariously overhanging by a metre or so.
"I'm alright but might need some assistance getting off the rope" I called. I could now see Mark shuffling his way towards me. I told him to stay put as the overhang looked pretty unstable. He took a look at the predicament and laughed. A quick call to Bob and he was passed the bolting kit and set about putting a bolt in where he was to secure his position and to allow us to extend the traverse line to something moderately more stable.
Feeling very lucky that both Mark and Bob had safely crawled along what was now empty void just minutes before and that it had collapsed whilst I had been in a relatively safe position I couldn't help but laugh at the situation and proceeded to get my camera out while Mark tapped out a hole for a new bolt. It took my mind off the adrenaline pumping round my body. So much so that while unpacking the camera I dropped a flash receiver down the pitch. Doh! I took some pictures and then decided to retrieve said receiver.
Trying to pull the rope to rig my descender I discovered it was well buried beneath the rock fall. I was probably lucky that the fall hadn't either snapped the rope or pulled out the bolt holding it in place.
I tied the rope Mark threw me into the bolt I was hanging on and once secured Mark shuffled toward me to dislodge some of the looser material from the stacked deads. A couple of kicks and another chunk of material dropped out of sight below us. With the overhang somewhat lessened I made my way along the new traverse. We continued out and up the main shaft, changed and then headed to the Cheshire Cheese for a pint and a bucket of peanuts.
Bob had promised us an ’interesting’ trip whilst sat in the café over breakfast. Quite how interesting we hadn’t realized.
A very exciting days mine exploration and my first time caving with the legend that is Bob Toogood. Hopefully to be repeated sometime soon, well at least the caving with Bob part…