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Present: Al, Jenny

In which Al and Jenny are brave and surprise themselves by discovering a hitherto unknown (to them) round trip in Smallcleugh, learn about a thoroughly exciting trip to do which crosses valleys and sums up lots of mines, and come by considerable amounts of wild rhubarb, and still get back to Durham before midnight.

We decided to try and survey the mine ourselves, in the absence of any apparent plans, and set off up the valley armed with pencil and paper, (well, who needs grade 5 surveys anyway?). Went in with the intention of finding the wheel flats, and took the left hand passage and followed it to the first of the ‘flats’. Ignored the obvious way on, and clambered up to the opening on the right, went through and turned right. Followed the ‘flats’, passing along loads of stacked deads, over lower passages, through a doorway, under rock bridges and to a point where passages started joining up forking differently. Turned left into the wheel flats, wandered about up the ‘not this way’ signed passage, and discovered, much to our surprise, that it quite clearly wasn’t that way, as an exciting part -collapsed shaft was that way. Went back out of the wheel flats the same way, but turned left, following ‘out’ signs pointing the wrong way. Scrambled around a shaft in the floor, which went down, as if it had gone up, it would have been in the roof. Got to a junction, turned right again, and went quite a long way in wet bits, and scarily collapsed bits, with shafts to either side of the passage, til we got to a bit with a square shaft and an old railway carriage box type thingy. Not being in America this railway carriage/box thingy didn’t get buried years ago, and wasn’t full of human/alien cross breeds which had been tested on. Anyway, I sort of recognised the place, which was odd. So we carried on along the passage to find ourselves at the first junction, and went back out to be sure we did know where we were.

After getting back to the car, we met a bloke who had just soloed a round trip to the ballroom the dry way and back the wet way. Probably the way we went! He gave us some exciting copies of old mining company plans and a survey of the whole valley and told us off an exciting thru’ trip which surfaces the other side of Nenthead village. One for a bit later on, when we know our way around a bit more, but apparently you can’t get lost! Bet we can.