Ben E, Chris H, Mark R.
2nd February 2013
For quite a while, Chris and Ben had tickets booked to come up to Manchester to see Mr Scruff DJ at Band On the Wall. In order to make the most of the long journey up from London, Ben and Chris decided to head to Sheffield on Friday night and do a spot of caving during the day on Saturday.
They both arrived at mine around 9 and once I had finished kicking arse in my badminton match and got home we started flicking through the guide books to find something to do. A rather interesting survey caught our eye... It was Holme Bank Chert Mine at Bakewell. We got up on Saturday morning bright and early and set off to find some underground fun. The mine is about 2.2 miles long and has 8 entrances! After a little bit of looking around we eventually found entrance 8 and headed in through the oil drum. We weren't in caving kit which was just as we'll because it was unusually warm. Before we could start our exploration Chris suffered a Stenlight failure only a few metres in. As we sat there fiddling with wires and swapping batteries around, two other cavers appeared, said hello and vanished into the labyrinth of tunnels. Eventually we gave up on Chris' torch and he legged it back to the car to get a backup. Whilst he was gone, Ben and I had a quick look around and realised that forgetting the guidebook was a terrible mistake.. luckily Chris was still at the car and re-appeared 10 minutes or so later with the book and all important survey. There are something like 80 junctions in the mine, making navigation difficult!
We spent a couple of hours looking around and snapping a few photos on Chris' camera. There is a large section of the mine under water which is (or at least was) popular with the cave diving group, several sections of roof which were in a pretty horrible state of collapse and lots and lots of bits and bobs lying around. Bits are the things the old man used to use for making the mine and bobs are the pieces he used to keep it from collapsing and just generally make it more comfortable. Amongst the bits and bobs was a fully working, operational windlass (minus rope) and a weird pile of old shoes. Eventually we had see all the bits and bobs we could handle and headed out.
The day was still young and so we headed off to the Stoney Middleton area to 'negotiate access' into another old mine that I had been to a couple of years ago. It was a particularly large old mine with a particularly difficult 'negotiation process' to gain entry but after a short while we were in and stomped off down the large open levels. We arrived at a couple of obstacles which I was sure hadn't been there last time I was there. the first was easily passed but the second meant wading in up to our knackers (or in my case mid thigh) in walking boots and trousers. This would have been worth it had the continuation been wide open and inviting but it wasnt... so it wasnt. There were a few interesting bits in the mine though and we spent a short time walking round before starting the long cold walk back to the car and towards a night out in Manchester.
Mr Scruff was brilliant, the Metaxa was horrible but the Sambuca was nice... the next morning was awful and the drive home was OK. We spent what little of Sunday was left planning a cave for next Saturday before the Titan trip and washing and soaking 200m of brand new rope.
Bring on next weekend!