11 March 2013

South Bedford

"Do you have permission for this?" We had, actually. The man that asked didn't quite believe us, but when he was told the name of the actual person who had granted us that permission, he looked disappointed and slid away into the darkness again. We were gathering on a small parking lot south of Devon Great Consols; we would visit a modest mine today. I had not been there before.

We started with an 18th Century copper level. These old levels are just big enough for some 18th Century miner to pass through! And they might have silted up a bit since then. It was narrow and winding, but pretty. And there was some archaeology left. And a tiny little stope; they'd mined away an ore body of about half a meter thick and 3 meters high. Quite a contrast with the 4 meter by bloody far in every other direction, of the DGC trip just 2 days before. And we had to stop when we met a shaft. I threw a rock in: that thing was deep! we were frustrated we hadn't brought ropes and harnesses.

Lionel in the copper adit. Notice the very small timbering above his head! That's the lode.

Rick indicates what some rusty brackets would have been for

The shaft! Evidently used for garbage dumping. We wanted to get to the other side!

When we came out we headed straight uphill; looking for some not very successful tunnel from the 1940s. In the war, the British government got desperate for metals, and a small burst in mining ensued. It was yet another contrast; this tunnel was high, broad, and very short.

 The tunnel from the 1940s

we decided not to go back yet; somewhere, at the bottom of the hill, Rick knew yet another entrance. A badger-sized hole appeared at the side of the path. I didn't expect much; maybe 5 to 10 meters of crawling? But after the belly-crawling I was soon properly crawling, and soon after that I was wading through such deep water I regretted not having brought dry underwear. At some point I even encountered an obstacle; there was a flooded winze in the floor. I traversed across. Then I reached the end. And I could hear people behind me; I wasn't sure if everybody would be up for such a rat-hole, but they evidently were!

The bonus tunnel

The winze turned out to have claimed a victim: one of the guys had slipped while traversing he was wet to the collarbone... but it didn't spoil his mood.

After that adventure it was pub time. It took us a while to extract all our cars that were parked tetris-wise in the tiny area, but then we made it, yet again, to the Queen's Head. A good caving week!

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