Gentlewoman’s Shaft to Youd’s Level - Emma Key

Saturday, 7 December, 2013

Lisa Wootton, Phil Wolstenholme, Mickey Campbell, Paul Trower & Emma Key

To build up an appetite for the TSG Christmas Dinner a group of us decided to head over to Matlock to do the Gentlewoman’s Shaft to Youd’s Level through trip. Lisa & Phil had done it a few times before but it was a first for the rest of us. Phil arrived at the Chapel with the news that DCC had reported raw sewage in Youd’s Level a few days before so we ummed and ahhed for a while about what to do, after a bit of consideration we decided to go for it anyway.

As we were dropping the car off at the bottom we had a quick look at the outlet pipe and there didn’t seem to be anything to sinister coming out, so we zoomed off towards Gentlewoman’s shaft only to be turned back by a large fallen tree across the road. After a diversion through Winster and a bit of faffing we set off to the shaft which Lisa quickly rigged. A very distant sounding shout of rope free and we all descended the slightly snug 50ish metre shaft, SRT kits were packed in to the tackle sack to be hauled up later when we derigged. I was a bit nervous about this trip as I’m not a fan of traversing and free climbs and every trip report I’d read had described them as rather scary so I warned my companions I may be in need of some gentle coaxing at times!

We made our way through the mine admiring the pick work and impressive crystals which adorn the walls and soon arrived at the scary climby bits. As it turned out they weren’t that bad, a couple of moves to make you concentrate but most of the time you could firmly wedge yourself in quite securely – no wailing and gnashing of teeth at all. The next section contained some of the miners’ graffiti; pictures, initials and dates going back to the 1700’s, we stopped for a chocolate bar and admired their handy work.

After this it was hands and knees for a while until we came to the infamous tight bit, with the useful rake we scraped out some of the silt, following Lisa I wiggled through on my back and ended up with cold water down my back which cooled me off, up until then it had been a nice warm, dry trip. The second squeeze seemed to have been dug out as the next bit was just a flat out scrawl with no gardening necessary. We dropped into the stream way and took a diversion up to see the well preserved jigging box and look a bit further up the passage, Phil had a clamber up Clay Shaft and we headed back to the main passage way.

A fair bit more crawling and we arrived at the start of the coffin level, as is always the case it was just a little bit too narrow and low to walk normally so we shuffled off bent over and twisted to one side to varying degrees depending on height and width! With increasingly aching backs and legs it seemed like a very long way to the end but with much relief we finally got there. Just before crossing under the road we found the source of the sewage leak which was unpleasant but not too bad. Lisa took some photos to report back to DCA and then sent me off to open the manhole cover and see if I could surprise any unsuspecting tourists. After a short battle I finally managed to raise the heavy lid and poked my head out to an empty playground – nobody to scare!

An excellent and enjoyable trip, I’m sure we could have spent hours exploring all of the side passages but Christmas Dinner was calling so we took the direct route. Thanks to everyone for a grand day out!