Shafts on New Rake - Phil Wolstenholme

Sunday, 7 June, 2015

9th June 2013

Present: Alastair Gott, Wayne Sheldon, Phil Wolstenholme

Wayne and I have been looking at the remaining open (but capped) shafts on New Rake and Horsepit Rake, which runs closely parallel for much of its length, in the enclosure between the summit and Hurdlow Stile. We've identified some as being 'promising', but knowing that these will have been explored before and presumably found to be 'unpromising', we didn't want to waste time repeating work done 40 years ago.

So we've been through old logbooks and found a few entries that could relate to these shafts - however the grid refs don't always tie-up and are not accurate enough to definitively say which one is which. Also shafts open 40 years ago may not be now - scheduling wasn't in place then, and the farmer in decades past may have filled some in, etc. So we decided to try and at least look at them all, and tick them off as worth further investigation - or not. Alastair kindly agreed to join us, making the haul over with all the gear (including a farm jack) much easier.

This shaft lies approx. halfway down the main eastern enclosure - about 60 metres up from Hurdlow Stile (grid ref to follow). It has concrete sleepers over, but subsidence (and possibly past poking) has created a very loose gravelly hole at one side, just big enough to slip through. Threading a sling through the tiny gap between the centre sleepers and attaching a scaff bar, we were able to suspend a rope from underneath, with a backup belay on another scaff bar jammed across. Sounds dodgy, but it was pretty good in reality, as you could hang straight down the centre of the shaft without touching the sides, which were mostly collapsed ginging, soil and spar-gravel. Wayne went down, electing to kick a lot down first, with spectacular audio results.

After descending a few metres, he came back up for the drill, electing to add a rebelay 9 metres down to try and mitigate the horrendous rope-rub. The 'shaft' only really qualifies for that name for the first two metres, and then it drops straight into the vein cavity, which is not plumb vertical by any stretch, and no more than a foot wide for most of the drop! Wayne found a 'luxurious' 2 foot-wide section to fit a Y-hang in, and carried on down. After a while he came back up with feedback that it was not very nice, but I should probably have a look. So after changing, I got on the rope and descended.

The slot was muddy and very tight, with horrible rope-rub after a few metres - the rebelay helped to some degree, but it never became comfortable in any way. Luckily we were using 11mm, so it wasn't really that worrying, just a bit unnerving. I went past the depth-record knot Wayne had tied in the rope, hoping that things would improve, but it was tight all the way down. I could see the rope was curled on something below me - either a ledge, or the floor, but an overhang to the west made it very difficult to see below that. Additionally, a stack of deads I was alongside was not stable, and at that point, a rock fell out of this just by looking at it, so the prospect of going underneath that lot was not inspiring me. So I decided to come back up after tying a new distance knot.

Climbing back up was arduous and even the Pantin didn't help much, as I kept kicking it off due to the angle, and constantly having to look up to find the widest part to go through - it was like the Narrows in Nettle, but for the whole climb, and far dirtier and more dangerous, due to the crumbling rubble either sides. I'd managed 19m depth when we measured the rope - whether we'll return is a matter for conjecture, but rescue would be daunting to say the least, as there's no room for a stretcher, and very little to do but pull upwards if someone got stuck! So we'll see - but still worth doing, nevertheless. And so on to the next one on the list...

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7th June 2015

Present: Alastair Gott, Wayne Sheldon, Phil Wolstenholme

Well, almost two years has gone by since this trip, and it was high time we got to work on some more shafts, so having borrowed the farm jack from Martyn, we set off once again in glorious sunshine (and the usual strong wind) to New Rake, or more properly, Horsepit Rake, to try the two sleepered shafts at the bottom end of the enclosure, near Hurdlow Stile, and roughly above and just west of Pit Props. Sadly, a hole at the very end near the wall, which I'd been hoping to pull some rocks from, was now the grave of at least two lambs which presumably the farmer has stuffed down there. Nice.

The first shaft we tried at SK 13854 82046 was sadly blocked at 2m with rubble - probably recent, as we believe this to be the shaft Nigel B descended twenty years ago. Additionally, a fairly fresh wooden prop was holding up some loose ginging/stone stemples across the gap. Nevertheless, we photographed and measured it, for the record. But it was square, and had a very small vein exposure to one side. In many ways it was the same as the Hurdlow shaft in the triangular field. It's a shame, as we believe this to be one of the three Hurdlow Stile Mine shafts. The next shaft west along the rake at SK 13769 82034 was blocked almost to the surface.

So in desperation, we decided to look at the JH founder shaft, which lies about 40m east of the dividing wall halfway along the enclosure at SK 13632 82025. This shaft is a slot, and only a foot wide for much of its depth. I elected to go down, as the ginging is fairly stable, and I've wanted to see it for ages. Once I was nicely jammed in the gap, at about 5m down, I was able to have a 'look around' - or rather, slowly turn my head from side to side. The yellow/cream/pink and mostly baryte vein was uncut in both directions in places, and mostly backfilled for the remainder. One small 'level' to the east was noted about 10m down, but it was far too tight and unstable to risk getting in without bolting, and even then the lack of room would be tricky.

Shotholes increased as I got further down, and I decided it was probably best to descend to what looked like a rubble floor, as the stope was slightly wider down there, and would make it easier to change over to my prussicking gear - I'd had my Pantin on from the outset, just in case. The floor was rubble, at 15m down, and had a piece of rusty angle-iron thrust into it, which wouldn't move when I yanked it - possibly an earlier digging attempt? Another 4m piece of square steel tube was leaning against the wall down there, along with some steel sheet. The air was fine, and I thought I could detect a slight draught, but there wasn't enough room to really have a good poke around, and without more backups in place, I didn't want to get too vigorous. Rope grooves were visible on the north wall, so it was definitely used for hauling as well as access.

No other way on being apparent (it was obviously beneath me!), and knowing that I was still a good way above the cartgate, on top of what would probably be a hanging choke when viewed from below, I decided to 'climb' back up - this being the same technique of taking tiny outward steps on the Pantin/footloop like a penguin, slowly pushing the hand jammer ahead of me through the really tight bits. I was relieved to regain the sunshine eventually, but still disappointed at the general lack of results, though at least we know now. Incidentally, this shaft is roughly above Choke 6 in the cartgate, nearby to the traverse line across the large wide hole.