Speedwell Mine - Pilkington's Series - Wayne Sheldon

Saturday, 4 July, 2009

Present: Kevin Francis, John Highfield, Glyn Roberts, Angus Sawyer and Wayne Sheldon

I have recently been undertaking a re-survey of Mud Hall, Watricle Cavern and the associated passages and mine veins for Dave (Moose) Nixon's 3D Survex model of the Castleton Caves. This has been undertaken over the course of three trips, but while in the area we have noticed a few promising digs. One dig is at the end of the ascending phreatic passage that heads west from Mud Hall. This is a very pretty passage in places and eventually leads into the base of a choke. From the nature of the passage you would think that it must continue. It has been dug before to its current state but it now requires you to play with rocks above your head.

I arranged a trip for us to access the series via the Speedwell level so we could undertake some digging at here and complete some more surveying. We entered and made our way up the fixed ropes of the Pilkington's Series, carrying two 3ft scaffolding bars (these ropes and bolts are fixed and these are starting to show their age so use them at your own risk). The pitches are very pretty in places and soon you arrive in the impressive Mud Hall. From here, we went straight to the digging site.

Digging involved one member of the team getting as sheltered as possible then prodding the choke with the scaffolding bar resulting in rocks, and mining debris falling out of it. The other members of team cleared the spoil down the passage out of the way. This went on in rotation, some members of the team more daring than others. Eventually, people got more daring as the climbed up into the choke, again got into a sheltered position and prodded at it. The choke began to fight back, drawing blood, somebody was hit on the forehead with a small rock and another casualty was hit on the calf, ripping the suit and resulting in a dead leg. Because of the time required to get back to the Bottomless Pit, the difficulty of digging and luck running out, we made a retreat out of the cave.

Some of the team concluded that the rocks in the choke have been placed there by miners from above, allowing them to put backfill on, hence blocking the route. The type of rocks and material removed is very much like miners' backfill, so is this just a way into another part of the mined passages of Pilkington or another mine all together? Does it relate to Rowter Hole, as they are at a similar vertical level and direction, both are on Faucet Rake?
A description of the Pilkington Series can be found here. The Castleton 3D model, prepared in Survex can be found here.