Moorfurlong Mine, Bradwell - Phil Wolstenholme

Sunday, 6 January, 2013

Present - Ann Soulsby, Collum Walsh, Phil Wolstenholme

After several cancellations recently due to the plague of colds going round humanity recently (except me, of course), I was pretty desperate for a trip, and having ascertained that Ann and Collum at least would be going 'somewhere', I made my way over to the chapel. After musing over where to go, and deciding that most of the local SRT venues were a bit too familiar, I pulled out COPD for the Bradwell section and soon came across Moorfurlong. I've never been, and not knowing exactly where the entrance is made it unlikely I'd be doing any solo trips soon. Ann and Collum said it was literally years since they'd been, so it was fixed.

We drove over to the farm and asked the farmer if it was OK, and almost as an afterthought, he asked us for £2 each, so it seems like that's likely from now on. After a short time looking for the trapdoor, we found that the traditional 'dodgy iron ladder' has been rebolted to the wall, and extended at the bottom with a new painted work ladder, so getting in and out is a breeze. We were all intrigued at a short level heading east a few metres down the shaft, as I've never seen any info on that - maybe it deads out shortly?

The 13m shaft has a very short passage at the base leading to an internal shaft about 3 metres deep (I have a photo from 1906 of an explorer - one of Puttrell's mates - dropping this shaft) and then a small crosscut leads into the main pipe workings - far bigger than I expected, and well above walking height in the two main chambers. Theese two chambers are mostly natural, enlarged by the miners and used as dressing floors, with the remains of buddle dams and sorting platforms all around. Piles of gravel look as though they have been swept up to keep the place tiday, and they probably have been. Many areas of the pipe workings are backfilled with deads, and one can imagine the miners endlessly moving these piles around to enable access to the next part of the pipe. Crawls lead off in every direction, and small ore-chutes and shafts lead down to lower workings under the backfill - though obviously some of these involve some risk in entering them.

The upper chamber leads eventually to a steep slope of sand and gravel, and more chambers lead off at the top via crawls. This slope is probably under the hillocks seen NW from the shaft top. Great slide back down the gravel slope. Some interesting clay sculptures were noted - one of (presumably) a miner, and a few simple 'snowman' types, presumably made by a bored (or lost) caver named Steve! The lower chamber is larger still, about 30m along its longest dimension, with a buddle dam and small shafts leading down other pipe workings. At the far end, a crawl leads to a series of mined out natural voids and small tubes, which meander about, occasionally leading to larger chambers where you can sit up. Miners debris is still everywhere, and it's likely that these chambers were far bigger originally, and the crawls are now within the voids left at the top of the piles.

A dig at the far end was noted, and Sam T of the Eldon has confirmed that it's one of his old projects, so I'm hopefully going to revisit with him soon and take some quality photos in there, as there's very little visual documentation of Moorfurlong that I've seen. On the way back out I managed to give myself the bigest dead-leg in years, hitting a rock too fast with my thigh, making the rest of the crawling a tad painful, and it still feels like I've been shot, but I'll get over it. But a great venue for cavers and mine-explorers alike, with plenty of natural and man-made to keep everyone interested, much free-climbing and crawling in relative safety, and lots of interesting mineralisation to look at. Highly recommended - by me at least.


Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:29 pm

I saw Jim Rieuwerts today and he was really chuffed we'd been, as it's one of the first mines he ever went to, at the ripe old age of 16, and he's now 76. In fact, there's a very old photo on AditNow by his old mate Peter Tottle (now in South Africa), and given they did all their exploring together, it's likely this is a trip Jim was on - or possibly even him in the photo (link below). He asked if the crawls and workings beneath the Upper Chamber were still open, and was pleased when I confirmed they were. That's the first bit we went in where the orange drink and pilchard cans were. ... age-63747/

I'm hopefully going back next Monday with Sam T and Andy Tickle to try and get some photos - should be easier now I know the layout, and that large chamber will look really good I reckon. I didn't see that dig that Collum did, but Sam said they found original miner's candles down there.

Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:10 am
Had a return trip to Moorfurlong last night with Sam Townsend, and got some great photos of the main chambers using lights, etc. On the way in we tested his thermal imaging camera on the entrance shaft with the lid open and closed, with excellent results, which are posted here:

We also went for a crawl down the bottom end again, and Sam showed me the Eldon dig that opened up a substantial new section of workings, with pickwork aplenty, veins of what I claim without doubt to be Blue John, clay mortaring with miner's fingerprints all over it and a candle stub. Sam told me there was a clay pipe down there too, but that's clearly been pilfered, as it ain't there no more. There was a strong draught in the bottom chamber, with a wall of deads the only possible culprit, so it could probably be extended further if anyone could be bothered. There's so much backfill in there it probably would go all the way to Bagshaw if it could be removed.