Intake Dale Mine

Discussions following on from the Bradwell Catchment Symposium and after reading reports from the 80's of natural rift and chambers, EPC members have re-descended Intake Dale Mine and embarked on exploring it further.

 Intake Dale Main Chamber


Just the two of us this evening (Rob and I) with a plan to;

a.) Survey the loop from the bottom of the entrance pitches to the Black Jack Choke to determine the distance between the two.

b.) Continue to survey through the dig and on to the loose pitches that Rob had descended into last week before finding the Engine Shaft and de-rig afterward.

c.) Descend and explore the Engine Shaft and continue with survey.

We opted for an early start of 6:30pm which'd give us plenty of time to hopefully make a good call so we could make the pub. We ran into a slight glitch when Rob's DistoX decided not to work. Luckily we managed to borrow one from Moose who we conveniently met in the Red'n which proved to be a perfect place to calibrate said disto whilst having a proper pre-beer by the warmth of the fire! 

Rob Calibrating the DistoX in style, Photo by JonP

Not long after calibration success we made our way over to IDM parking and quickly got kitted up. Luckily we didn't have much to carry in, just one bag containing the dinky toy drill, a 40m rope and the survey gear so easy going. We made quick progress as Team 2some surveying the loop around to the Black Jack Choke noting that we should really check out the level running of East at the top of the 2nd pitch. Once at the Black Jack Choke we took a moment for Rob to make sure the survey was correct, which it was - Great! Turns out the choke above is only 2m above and to the left hence why the vocal connection was crystal clear.

Right... time to survey through the choke. As we were back shooting Rob headed into the choke feet first for the first time, unnerving as it means you'd have to thumble about blind in the choke. When we say the choke is dodgy we do really mean it, the choke is pretty damn terrifying. There's an obvious reason why it all collapsed in the first place obstructing these two sections of the mine. Like Jeff kept saying, "It must've been a bad day in the office when this first collapsed!" - Yup. As Rob had now been through the choke a handful of times he was quite comfortable doing this so we surveyed through enough for him to be able to continue by himself to the top level beyond. He kindly offered to take the bag from me whilst I made my first pass through the choke.

I'd been dreading this for weeks now! ever since the initial fall had happened to Rob at the start of the choke. I also opted for the feet first method as I really didn't fancy keeping my head high in the unshored void beyond the scaff tunnel which'd give me plenty of chance to look around at how unsafe it really was! So... feet first, looking at the floor. Unfortunately I cocked up and got stuck the far side of the backed up rope. I made my way out of the scaffolding tunnel and kept super low, slithering down into the funnel of boulders with the hanging death teetering inches above my head. At this point you clip in to said back up rope, mainly as a placebo because of the 25m drop below you and the fact that it is anchored to the scaffolding which is only there as another placebo to make you think that you're safe in the void - which you're not. Realistically if you were to weight this back up line you'd most definitely bring down the whole choke.

Once clipped in, still looking down, I down climbed on the small but sort of solid ledges to the single bolt rebelay but now with a solid roof over my head and finally took my first breath after entering the choke. Cool, i'm still alive and just one more pass before the trip was over. I continued on the rope whilst Rob surveyed down the three pitches from last week in some very unstable mine workings with some lovely natural features. Once we reached the bottom of these pitches we built a cairn in the window to the Engine shaft so we could create a loop in the survey.

It wasn't until we wanted to de-rig that we realised we'd left the bolting hammer on the safe side of the choke! - Dang. Luckily for us all the nuts on the through bolts were loose so we could de-rig by hand which I did on my way up. Unluckily for us was that any bolts we were now to place would have to be bashed in with a rock and tightened by hand. It's a known fact that most exploratory cavers have done this at least once - right?

"I'm ready for the Rock..." 


"You're a Bad Rock!"

So we made our way to the Engine Shaft. This was so nearly plan A if we didn't have a disto but i'm glad it turned out to be plan C and we'd managed to accomplish everything so far with relative ease and unscathed. Rob made an excellent job of drilling the bolt holes with his toy drill whilst I had a little glance up the climber a few feet back. Rob also made an exceedingly shit job of smashing the bolts into their new homes totalling one in the process whilst getting cramp in his leg and wanker's cramp in his forearm.

He rigged an awesome Y-hang which would get us all the way to the bottom some -30m below. He abseiled down shouting up to me what he was seeing in real time. The rift passage opposite the cairn chamber looked very good and very natural and would add to the lead list. As he approached the bottom it sounded like it was maybe gonna crap out and the Engine Shaft seemed to be getting smaller as it got deeper. He YELPED up with excitement saying it goes and once in a safe spot he shouted, "Rope free & bring your camera." 

Rob abseiling the Engine Shaft, Photo by JonP

I wasted no time and jumped on to the rope which was pleasant to descend compared to the 11mm stuff in the entrance series. I took a good look in the 2nd potential lead and turned around to spot a large initials carved into the wall just above the Cairn Chamber reading, "J.F." with "II" directly underneath. Now exploration fever had set in as Rob shouted up that he thought that we'd maybe hit the main cartgate! I took a quick snap of the initials and headed to the bottom to reach Rob. 


Engravings on the Engine Shaft wall, Photo by JonP

The floor of the shaft was lined with boulders but a short crawl through boulders led both East and West, West closing down within metres whilst East headed back to the choke after a short down climb. This I only looked into but looked to continue some 10m and maybe still going? A noticed here a rusted tin can holding up a stemple, holding up loads of deads - Crazy!

A short climb from the boulder floor led to the level where Rob was hiding. Rob had dug through a collapse to reach a continuation containing a railway footing hence why he got excited. Also that there appeared to be a slight but present inward draught and the shot holes had been made from the beyond the passage back to the Engine Shaft. A short way past the collapse another potential lead climbs off above in between stacking. The level ends in a natural boulder choke where the water seems to emerge from. The miners have obviously tried to pass this choke at this level but unsuccessful in their attempts. Could this be the source of the water in the east natural extensions which we saw a few weeks prior? on the way back out we found a nail and a perfect example of a clay smoking pipe just wedged in the stacking and preserved for 200+ years. This was an awesome spot and super happy to have noticed it.

Old clay pipe hidden in the deads, Photo by JonP

Once we were back at the bottom of the Engine Shaft we decided it'd be a good time to call it a day as it was getting late. At this point we'd definitely missed the pub too so we decided to tie in the survey and make our way to surface. This was all relatively smooth and Rob still missed the big carved initials above the Cairn Chamber - Idiot! The choke didn't seem as bad going back through as long as you don't look at it when you're in there its fine, nearly bomber. We regained surface some 4 hours after entering feeling accomplished and happy that there's still lots of things to go at.

We had a couple of Brucey tinnies shoved in the car too which should have been plan A's pre beer but luckily became plan C's post beer so all in all ended on a high. A memorable one for sure.

9th January - Jon, Jeff, Rob

We knew this would be a memorable trip, we just didn’t know if it was going to be for good or bad reasons! Pre-beers helped lighten the mood and the three of us set off with drill, camera gear, and 4 scaffold poles.

Pre-beers definitely help in Intake Dale

Rather than think too much about it I went straight to the end with the drill and 25m of rope and got to work, trying as hard as possible not to look at anything, let alone touch it. A lack of solid walls meant my first belay was the last scaffold pole (which is only there for aesthetics anyway) and the funnel at the pitch head proved tricky to turn around in with all the bolting gear on. Once I’d carefully lowered myself down into the rift the view back up was pretty horrifying and I was keen to get going. However I’d unfortunately talked Jeff “award winning” Wade into getting some photos of the dig for the next Descent so I had to hang around for a short while. Job done (very professionally I must say) I got back to putting in some very unprofessionally placed bolts into relatively loose boulders and started to abseil down. The rift opened up to a nice pitch which felt unreasonably safe from the horrendous boulder pile directly above.

Looking up from the pitch head towards the dig

At 6m down a level headed off west. This looked very nice, solid walls and roof (!) and looked like it continued. Conversely below looked deep but awful, with big boulders and broken stemples on all sides. I decided the level was the easy option so I’d best get on with exploring down whilst I’m still fired up. I landed on a loose slope 10m further down, after having put in a rebelay to prevent the rope veering into danger zones, and put in another bolt to get me down the next pitch.

The rift is larger here and had more of a natural feel to it, with phreatic pockets and a predominant bedding plane. It was obvious the next pitch was too deep for my rope to I untied the knot off the end to get what little extra I could and headed down. Thankfully the last 4m was freeclimable and finally I’d reached the bottom of this awful pitch. I headed off west in an enlarged natural passage, over cleanwashed boulders and under a phreatic roof, to where the floor climbed up to meet the roof, nearly. Two black holes either side of the passage enticed me to dig it more open and poke my head through, and it was worth it! It opened out to roughly 4m wide with a funnel in the floor sloping down to another shaft down, confirmed by thrown rocks to be about 10m deep, and the shaft continued up too. I did not expect this place to go this deep, now easily deeper than the rest of the mine downstream.

I returned to the pitch and carefully climbed the two hangs to the upper level seen before. Here I had voice connection with Jon and Jeff. They’d got a load of good photos and were keen not to miss the pub. I agreed and ran off down the level for a quick look. Sure enough it soon reached the shaft seen below, but this time in a very (relatively) safe manner. A lovely sight. From here it is obviously the main engine shaft for quite a significant venture. Carefully leaning out I couldn’t see the bottom or top, and we were out of rope and time. What a way to leave a lead!

Looking down the 2m diameter engine shaft

I ran back to the others and then quickly put my “careful” head back on to climb back up this last rope to the dig. Again from below this bit looks bad and the funnel is harder to move up through without risking dislodging anything important. The feeling of safety when reaching the (rubbish) scaffolded dig was much needed and the thirst for more beer grew strong.

The prussiking up the rest of the mine felt safer and quicker than normal and we were soon at the surface. We had a quick gander around the dale where we guessed the engine shaft might be and there’s certainly a few things to look at. The main confusion of the place is that the draught was not as strong as in the “old” mine. Also we gone deeper than the rest of the mine, but there was no obvious signs of flooding. We’ve still got lots more to learn….


Intake Dale Mine - 02/01/2020 - Rob & Jon

Pre-club meet so the pre-beers were drunk quickly and we headed off into the cold night. I was unsure really what to do this trip, as the last trip ended with such a dangerous area but no actual obstacle as such. So should we plan to shore and dig more to make it easier and (hopefully) safer? Or should we carefully risk a gander down the pitch first to see if there’s any reason to continue with the project? Maybe we could even lower a camera to look for any dangers below? I figured safety first, but take a rope just in case…

Nothing had fallen in since the last trip which is always a great sign. Whilst Jon did a cracking job improving some of the shoring near the start of the dig, I went straight to the end and dug out the floor more to make more space. It’s easy digging when most of the spoil can just be chucked down the huge hole ahead, saving only the largest rocks in case they dislodged anything on their way down. Soon it was positively roomy at the end and I could think about more scaffold. The roof still looks horrendous!

One big boulder was unearthed from the floor which we can pin to but no sight of solid wall anywhere yet, so the scaffold frame is going to be a bit rubbish, at least for now. I sent back measurements and Jon got on with cutting. Laying on my back fixing scaffold between my face and the underside of many loose boulders was not comfortable, and my helmet kept falling off and nearly rolling down the pitch behind me! What a silly game.


Rob inside the dig

By the time three new scaf tubes were installed (badly) it was 21:00 and we were going to be late for the pub meet. It’s a shame as I was nearly feeling comfortable enough to risk the descent. That will have to wait until next time….

Stags for pints, whisky, mince pies and Katie's Xmas cake :-)

Intake Dale Mine - 19/12/2019 - Rob & Jon

An early start allowed for a relaxed pre-beer. Compared to the mammoth carrying session last week I made easy (and very delicate) progress to the dig. Meanwhile Jon went for a gander in a boulder chamber above the Blackjack Choke. We had clear voice connection through the choke although it was hard to know exactly where from. That might one day provide another option to attack the choke from, especially as digging down in boulder choke is generally the easiest and safest option, but for now we must continue as planned.

Jon did a sterling job of cutting some scaf bars whilst I did a pretty poor job of getting a “vertical” pole in. Obviously forgot my spirit level, again! I then spent some time digging the face to make more room for more scaf. At first this involved pulling spoil back for Jon to sort but soon it was easier to just push it forwards and left, down into the big hole. The sound of some of the rocks falling was very encouraging, if not a little foreboding. The draft is noticeably increasing too now. The last rock was probably too large to safely drop down the hole so I pulled it all the way back then headed in to see if I could get through. Very carefully I quietly moved beyond the scaf, being very aware of the horrendous looking choke now all around me. A small funnel lay beyond with a hole in the middle leading down out of sight. I lean out to get a better vantage and see a pitch down heading off West into a tall rift. Solid wall on each side, the first seen in the whole dig, we’ve made it through the choke! It looks to be at least 12m deep and too wide to safely freeclimb down.

Any jovial feelings are quickly thrown away as I contemplate the challenges that we must overcome to abseil down this pitch and explore what’s below. The relative safety of the existing scaffolded section stops ~2m before the pitch and the hanging death is totally surrounding. Any structural integrity gained from solid walls will have to wait at first, so the rough plan for now is just to fill it with any remaining scaf and see if we can fit through the Kerplunk that’s left!

Squirming beyond the "safety" of the scaffold

We do a bit of tidying of the scaffold frame and head off to the Anchor to contemplate further. Lots of options, none very appealing. I’m hoping time will heal both the dig and my worries….


Just Rob, Jeff and myself tonight with a mission to transport six rather large scaffolding bars down to the Black Jack Choke. We took 2 pieces of scaff down each all ranging between 5-6ft. which made moving through the Mine hazardous, slow and stupid. I went down first mainly to get out of the bitter chill upon surface and made a fine job of not really knocking anything down. I waited at the de-kit point for Rob who was next and was showered with multiple scree falls and the occasional large rock.

We ferried the scaff through in pairs and then I headed back to help Jeff with his bar. Once all at the dig Rob put on his big boy bravado and managed to remove the shattered bits of rock from the choke which were left over from last week. After inserting some more scaffolding we all took a good look in to a rather nice looking void which had appeared straight in front. It's hard to tell from this point but it looks like we may be looking at a solid back wall but don't quote me on it!

We headed out and was turned away from The Anchor so we made a B-line for The Red'n for some AWESOME pork scratchings. Deffo worth it and the choke looks promising too. More shorter bars required for next week so we'll be holding a "Scaffolding Cutting Within A Confined Space Workshop" or S.C.W.C.S.W for short. Anyone interested please feel free to hit us up on any of our Social Media outlets or contact Rob Eavis directly. Location; Black Jack Choke, IDM, Bradwell. Time; 19:30 ish.


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