Spinney Level - Alan Brentnall
Eight cavers met on the Hopton road up from Nimble Jack Corner for an evening trip into Spinney Level, a very interested and well-decorated lead mine which was given the name "Anglo Saxon Mine" by early explorers. A basic survey and some notes can be found in TDF's paper Some-Adits-in-the-Via-Gellia.pdf, down-loadable from the PDMHS website. On a bend in the road there is a small clearing with an old mine/quarry building, and this gives space for 3-4 cars. The entrance itself is hidden behind a hillock, but, when I arrived, Pete had already discovered the lower watery sough, and announced with much glee that the water was only six inches deep. This made me smile - Pete was in for a big surprise!
The low entrance is a little off-putting (especially with six inches of water!) but a short, stoopy crawl soon leads to larger stuff, and two foot deep water, and already the presence of quite beautiful (and recent!) mineralisation is becoming obvious. Startling white mineralisation features throughout the mine. A lower passage follows, with slabbed stones forming the roof, and, further on, a roof fall appears to bar the way, but this is passable to more impressive passage, with waist deep water. Soon the water diminishes as the passage rises above the water table, and the floor gives way to tiny gour pools and cave pearls. These can be carefully avoided, and TDF noted that these were being trashed back in his 1971 paper, although some natural restoration (and I'm not entirely sure how that works) must have taken since.
For most of last night's party, this was a first visit, and there was much surprise at the beauty of the place; not just the mineralisation and speleothems, but also the miners' pickwork, the coffin levels and other evidence of the miners' skills. At the end of the main passage, there is a fork, with the left hand branch leading to a well-decorated dead end and the right hand branch taking us to a short low crawl into a raise which was in fact one of two major pipe veins, which must have been the main reason for building this adit. There was also a winze into lower workings, but this was not explored last night.
The other pipe working was back before the branch. Just above adit-level, a low crawl leads to a larger passage which loops back to the main adit, but the main pipe working goes upwards as a sloping raise, equipped with a dubious and vintage hawser-laid rope attached to an even more dubious belay 15m above. At the top of the climb a passage off to the left leads beneath dodgy wooden stemples and deads to a pretty section which we also managed to get to via a climb from the very top of the raise. This involved bridging up a calcited packwall and needed quite a bit of care - we had brought a rope and slings to assist with this.
At the top a low passage went forward, and lights from one of our party exploring the lower side passage confirmed a connection. Above this, standing water was already showing signs of "calcite ice" forming on its surface, and, again there was much mineralisation on the walls. Descending to the main adit, we made our way back to the surface noting a stope above a false floor held up by stone stemples, and two raises on the way out. There is also a back-filled side passage nearer the entrance