Like any Club exploring underground, a point is eventually reached where it is necessary to dig through a roof fall or boulder choke.
In such cases, you dig a hole and use what ever materials are handy to make it safe, then hope for the best and press on.
On long-term digs, a lot of effort goes into transporting props and supports underground, while desperately trying to find nooks and crannies to stuff the spoil into - anything to reduce the distance you have to drag or shovel it!!
Not all digs are like this. One fine spring day at Pimhill in Shropshire, a certain Club Member took a fancy to a spot on the hillside and started digging into the soft sandy ground....
Two metres later he hit the top of a tunnel entrance, which gave access to several metres of nice hand cut passages in white and red sandstone.
This passage linked to a rubbish filled shaft that the rest of us had been attempting to explore (!)
A bonus was the discovery in the level of a previously unknown colony of Natterers and Lesser Horseshoe bats, how they got in there without a shovel no one knows!
Steve Rodenhurst, digging a'random' hole!
Pymhill Mine Tunnel
A more disappointing dig, was one undertaken at Ritton Castle Mine, a very promising level was discovered, which ran in a direction that suggested a connection with nearby workings.
A long term dig was started, through a shaft collapse in the level. It was one of those digs, that seemed to have filled-up every time you return to it! A dedicated group of members typically made 2 visits a week for several months.
After several months of hard work, the shifting of loads of sand and rubble, numerous bent and broken props later, the blockage was cleared, only to find the passage was a blind heading a few yards past the fall!
Oh, well you can't win them all!!
Steve Holding digging at Ritton Castle
Club members wading along Yew Tree level to reach the dig site - the water is not quite so deep when you get there!
For a number of years the Club has had a long term, very wet, dig at Yew Tree level (Snailbeach Mine). Progress has been slow due to the amount of water in the level and the fact that we only seem to dig there in the winter when the temperatures are sub-zero!
About 30m into the level is a dam, which has now been passed, but beyond it the digging is quite serious and we are currently held up by the need to acquire some steelwork to secure the roof and sides. Due to the amount of old mine waste outside the level it is believed that it is much more extensive than the section we can currently access.
The wooden, partially collapsed, dam 30m into Yew Tree level
Detail of the dam - note the plateway sleeper leaning on it.
We support the Midlands Cave Rescue Organisation (MCRO)
The site of these digs are all on private land and the Club would like to thank the landowners at Pymhill, Ritton Castle and Snailbeach for allowing us access to their property.
Pymhill - Peter Eggleston-I.A.Recordings.
Ritton Castle - Mike Worsfold.
Yew Tree - Kelvin Lake.