Day Shaft to Ringing Rake Sough (Youd's Level) - Alan Brentnall

Tuesday, 28 June, 2016

Not strictly speaking a TSG mid-week trip, but I thought it was worth posting a record of this on the forum as this shaft (also known as Deep Shaft) isn't recorded too well in current caving publications, and it is worth letting people know the details of access and location. Please ask Mr or Mrs Wardman at Greenhills Farm for permission to park there, and to cross their land to the mine. They were both very friendly when I rang and Gordon Wardman was well aware of the popularity of the shaft, and the through trip it leads to. I have telephone numbers if you need them.

Seven of us met at Artist's Corner on the very wet night of 28/06/16. Pete was only there to deliver our rope, as he had another engagement elsewhere, but the remaining six were intent on descending Day Shaft, exploring Old Jant Mine and doing the through trip to Youd's Level, AKA Ringing Rake Sough. We changed into caving togs and took two of the cars up to Greenhills Farm, where I had sought permission to park and enter the mine via a phone call the previous day. It was still raining as we arrived, so it was preferable that we should find the entrance as quickly as possible - previous trips had always resulted in a prolonged search to determine which particular clump of shrubbery was hiding the mine, and I was keen to note down its location for future visits. After a short (ish) search, we soon found our lidded shaft at NGR: SK 29210 59588, just above the obvious wall corner.

Parking near the house of Greenhills Farm, we walked south west, passing to the right of, and then between large farm buildings, and, finally through a stile by a 5-barred gate into a field. The bushy trees uphill and slightly to your right (along the right hand wall) conceal the location of two shafts. You want the one with the lid! And to open the lid, you WILL need a spanner. Err ... we didn't actually have one, and so Chris had to beg and borrow one from the farmer's wife, but future cavers probably should be better prepared than we were!

Day shaft is pretty deep (hence its other name); just under 100m from the surface to sough level. There is a Crewe CPC stainless angle steel stake near to the lidded cap (although you may need to search through leaves etc to find it) which will provide a good backup, and lifting the lid reveals a safety grill beneath which is an in-situ scaffold pole for your main belay. The shaft is a neat oblong with ginging down as far as the bedrock, which stretches the full length of the drop. Roughly 3m x 2m, the pickwork and mineralisation is very noticeable all the way down, and a small inlet stream appears some 10m below the surface to either skim the walls, or drench you, depending upon your luck.

I made the mistake of dropping the rope down the shaft before I made the first descent. The back-filled lower portion of the shaft (below sough level) is also home to a variety of old iron-mongery which have been thrown down the shaft, and the rope tends to wrap itself tenuously around these articles. It's not such a big problem when the shaft is very wet from the inlet and the "sump" at the foot is water-filled, but on this occasion it was very dry, and I had to spend some time unthreading Pete's rope. Soon we were all ensconced at the foot of the rope where two very nice examples of coffin level lead off. The one to the south west leads to a back-filled winze, while the other leads to a junction with the main sough.

Having never done the through trip from Gentlewoman's Shaft to Youd's Level, and having spent two trips with Keith Joule trying to find the way through upstream, I was quite keen to see if tonight might bring more success as we stooped our way through towards Old Jant Mine. Soon the thin coffin levels gave way to the first of several old buddling dams, and a steeply rising streamway through a rough floor of tailings and spar crystals. Although the brisk little stream made the passage seem very much like a natural cave, the occasional "standing-up" section in the buddling chambers reminded us that we were still in a mine; in fact this is Masson Sough.

Soon we came to a section where there was a choice between a climb up on the right over a bank of toadstone, or a low hands-and-knees crawl at stream level. Both routes can lead to the same place (at stream level) but the higher route can also take you further, bringing you out into a buddling chamber complete with an old jigging box. Unfortunately, this latter option lands you further upstream than the turn off needed to get to Gentlewoman's, and that was the mistake which Keith and I had made in our previous forays. Luckily, we had Katie with us, and she guided us along the stream-level route to a point where there is an easy climb up on the left.

This led us to a series of low crawls in a smaller stream, past a couple of junctions to the right, and, eventually to a very low, wet crawl - just beyond a significant set of digging and raking tools. This was the first of the two connection squeezes. We were in luck; somebody had obviously scraped the squeeze quite recently, and pretty soon I was through the wet crawl and into a short drier bit which led me to a low rocky arch over a second squeeze, and a slightly deeper pool. Quickly through, I spotted yet more digging gear and realised that I had passed through both the squeezes - and Katie confirmed this.

This was as far as we were going on this trip - further than I expected, and, with the clock getting quite late, we knew it was time to turn around and head out. So off we went downstream, taking the odd moment to look at some of the old graffiti, and the miners' tools which are still there where they were left when this mine was last worked many years ago. Eventually, we re-entered the coffin levels and the novelty of travelling through these monuments to the perseverance of "t'owd mon" soon wore off as we travelled through the seemingly endless procession of narrow passages to suddenly meet a right turn into a totally different passage; a slabbed level beneath the A6 and a ladder climb up to the exit in Artist's Corner where we had all met up earlier in the evening.

It was quite late by the time we emerged, and even later once we'd changed and driven back to Greenhills Farm, retrieved the rope and returned the spanner. But a great trip none-the-less, and an appetiser for the longer trip from Gentlewoman's all the way through - hopefully some time soon.