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James Hall over Engine, Eyres Grove Mine, Speedwell.

Sunday 26 November 2023 - Oliver King - SK 13500 82001

James Hall Over Engine, Eyres Grove through to Speedwell.

Trip was planned by Rob, numbers had to be limited due to the nature of the trip, being a return up through the workings and out of JH shaft.

Rob, Pete, Alex Bradley, Yvonne, Sally, myself all gathered at Rowter Farm and got kitted up on a reasonable Derbyshire Saturday morning.

I think Alex rigged the main pitch into JH, and I was first down with the rope for BP (Bitch Pitch). My memories of the long slog down the Cartage betrayed me, although my fitness being down for a while made things even worse than the poor memories of this part of the trip! Bags getting caught in the open stops full of water, slowly soaking the ropes and multiplying the weight being hauled… “Why do we do this” is a thought that occasionally pops into your head, a thought that is prompting you to turn around and head to the pub!
I remember getting to within a stone’s throw of BP, the really crawly bits and turned round to notice the rope that had been carefully packed into my bag had decided to let itself get caught somewhere beyond, and this left me with a trail of rope to follow back from where I had come… I had not felt my bag get lighter, remarkable given the fact there was a good length of rope neatly laid out along the a lot of the route!

Luckily Alex, following up behind came to my rescue, which meant I did not have to retrace my steps far, quite a relief, given the sweat running from my brow at this point!

It was my turn to rig (I think myself and Alex were playing tag on this trip) and so I continued on and down through BP. This is actually a point where it is worth mentioning that we left JH some time ago, and according to old records, here we find ourselves in Eyres Grove Mine. Fascinating area, and as you make your way down through the wide, yet narrow stope (if that makes sense!?) you notice the potential for digs and other passages heading off at various levels. It’s a fun challenge with rope too, there are very narrow sections, some wider, which would make a straight descent impossible, so rebelays and deviations are encountered, and used to help guide you down without becoming a permanently wedged fixture within the mine stope themselves.

Water is heard flowing as you approach the lower section of BP, and this indicates we are close to the workshop. This is a flat area that has some old miners’ remnants from times gone, along with a stone lead ore washing station and some tools. There are two ways on from here, we had a choice of both, but for the first time for me, we headed down toward the Tea Rooms. This made the trip much easier. The natural aven of the other route is for sure mightily impressive, but if you are doing a trip in and out, it’s a long wait at the bottom waiting for a team of people to ascend!

This way down would have been the miner’s choice originally, as it is a drier route, and not so vertical. In fact, I’d suggest it can mostly be done without rope, apart from the one pitch that skits into the aven itself.

Landing at the base, through a couple more holes and I emerged into the “Tea Rooms”.

Another thing that I couldn’t believe; I have been through this mine on at least 5 previous occasions, and not once had I actually been to the tea rooms! I mean, literately a minute from the final pitch of Leviathan, you’d think someone would have said “pop your head up there” but nope, never happened. What I was greeted with was IMO quite amazing!

On a flat section, the rotten remains of an old barrow, almost a shadow as if hit by an atomic bomb, disintegrated and sat perfectly resembling the classic barrow shape, perfectly preserved for a millennia…. But then something quickly takes your eye…. In dis-belief at first, but the strangeness sinks in… Rising from this flattened shadow, the barrows iron wheel still stands, unsupported, as if about to roll away. There are even remains of the wooden wheel outer, along with spokes! What an amazing thing to see!

This is where we join Leviathan proper. A large pipe carries water away from the pitch. Installed by “Moose” many years ago, carefully threaded through the wooden timbers that still span the huge cavern. Working out how the miners firstly got those timbers down there, and then fixed them into place boggles the mind. The fact they are still holding themselves up 200 years later just results in a mental shut down. Crazy!

Upon landing on the lower floor of Eyres Grove, there are two ways on from here. Our planned route is Speedwell, Main Rising, so off we plod, up the slope and open the lid to reveal the only route through to Speedwell. See, the bottom of JH is full of rocks, rocks that have come from above and built up over thousands of years. Moose and co had to literately dig through boulders to get through to JH from Speedwell. What they left behind is a shaft of varying proportions and angles, with ladders that run along one side, then the next, back again. Long legs help here for sure!

Finally you emerge into the bottom of Speedwell, and find yourself in the streamway proper.

We went against the current… the other way leads to Peak via treasury, that’s a route out, (not treasury itself, unless you like holding your breath and coming out in a body bag).

Along the streamway we went, in awe of the lovely Vadose streamway that is Speedwell/Peak… The sand was very ‘quick’ in some places, so we had to navigate a route snaking between one bank and another to make progress. Eventually we came to the first shrine, as I’ll call it. Hidden in a small passage, off the stream is a wall full of graffiti. Amongst initials and names etc.. is what is perhaps the single best-preserved piece of mining imagery left by the old man. A simple image of a goblet stands out from the wall, with an angled bottle pouring a liquid into it. To the side of the image, a statement reads “To all miners and mentainers[sic] of mines” and a date above, 1786. Wow, was there no where under these hills the miners had not been to? I certainly think they had previously covered much of the Peak system, and with the equipment they had to hand, it made me feel quite thankful, and inadequate at the same time!

Our next stop was main Rising, one of the main sumps that feeds the Peak-Speedwell systems with water, largely from the upper Castleton Catchment area, toward Sparrowpit.
You can see the sudden change in colour of water, that this is no paddling pool, and you’d be right to note that. The sump has been dived to approximate 70m, where it forms an impossible squeeze. No one really understands the hydrology beyond this point, and to this day, there remain various mysteries that are too long to go into here.

Well, time was pressing on, we had left a couple of folks at the Workshop who felt they didn’t want to continue on this trip, so we felt the urge to miss out on Whirlpool rising and head back up. We had a fair amount of gear to haul up!

My lack of fitness really showed in BP… I struggled, and insisting that Alex went on and got himself out soon became a regretful decision. I elected to rest on the rope for a while and ponder how the miners managed, before pulling myself together and continuing on.
Finally, getting to the top was quite the relief, I packed what was left of the carabiners and rope, and made my way along the Cartgate… I then remembered one bit I struggle with, and that is a small drop into a mined area, still narrow, with an iron rail the only assistance you have to continue on. I say assistance, if you are of narrow figure, you’re ok, and can largely walk up, but if wider than the folks who installed it, it is of absolutely no use whatsoever! As you ascend the slippery rail, the walls move in and pin you dead.
It was about 5 attempts before I managed to come up with an alternative plan and navigate myself vertically up and across, missing the rail entirely!
I figured a fall here could be quite serious, so carefully I managed it on my 6th attempt!

The way out was fairly straightforward now. Rope in tow, I moved along the Cartgate and finally made the base of JH again, a small dot of light above shining down. 50m later, I hit the fresh air and we could all wrap up and go home.

Still one of my favourite trips, and I think this has motivated me to take my fitness a little more seriously now! It is however, a trip I fully recommend!

Below 1: Alex, Yvonne and Olly admiring the miners graffiti   Below 2: Spanning some of the flooded stopes in the cartgate can be interesting!   Below 3: Closer look at the "miners toast"   Below 4: Looking down a freeclimb from The Workshop which eventually leads to the Tea Rooms.   

Picture 1: Alex, Yvonne and Olly admiring the miners graffitiPicture 2: Spanning some of the flooded stopes in the cartgate can be interesting!Picture 3: Closer look at the "miners toast"Picture 4: Looking down a freeclimb from The Workshop which eventually leads to the Tea Rooms.

Type of entry: Caving Mining

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