Saturday 20 November 2010

20th November 2010 - Coniston Copper Mines

Friday night. Caving season. Heading AWAY from the Dales and its cave riddled limestone.
They say though that variety is the spice of life and we were heading towards Coniston and its historical copper mines. John had arranged for the TNC to meet up with some friends who actually do cave on a Thursday and a member of CATMHS to be given an intro (or refresher for some) to the possibilities for trips in the workings.

The first level we looked into gave us the chance to look down into a shaft flooded by crystal clear, blue green water. The level was terminated at a set of workings. While the ladders looked sound their exposure to air and decades of dripping water excluded further exploration for us. On returning to the surface we headed up hill again and into the higher entrance of Hospital level.

Dick in the entrance passage

Before long the nature of the workings became apparent as a collapse in the false floor allowed a view down onto further false floors and the remains of their stemple supports. Fortunately the volunteers who have done so much to gain and maintain access to the mines had provided us with a secure bridge over the collapse.

Looking down towards Deep level

Further passage and chambers led to a tunnel, complete with railway lines that followed the miners optimism towards further deposits. These never materialised and the tunnel finished at a dead end.

Stemples high in the stope
Returning back to the entrance gave us another opportunity to admire the green and blue formations, a change from the pristine white of calcite that we are used to. Before returning to the entrance a quick detour took us to a Temple of Doomesque passage with railway lines finishing in mid air over a huge void.

Phil admiring the green formations

Our thanks go to Mal and Brian for their company, Mark for being a superb guide and John of Barrow Mountaineering and Ski club for the post trip cup of tea in such comfortable surroundings.

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