On the morning of Sunday, the 19th January 2020 Larry, James, Dennis (+Christine), Dave, Peter, Sam and myself met at Grindleford Station Café for a tasty breakfast and brief from Larry about today’s trip down Hope Shaft, Level 7. Larry suggested to add Merlin’s Mine to allow us to experience another mine nearby.
Once parked, we headed up the hillside through brambles and up slippery slopes to reach our destination, the mine shaft leading down into Level 7 of the Middleton Dale Mines.
Larry had pre-rigged the day before allowing us to quickly get organised and start heading down the rope and get exploring.
Dennis went first making sure we passed the re-belay correctly before landing approximately 25m below the shaft entrance on solid ground and being able to start exploring followed by another quick 10.5m abseil to land on the final level. Sam and I tried to explore further into the hillside which lead to a dead end, so we turned around and followed the passageway out into the open and waited for the rest of the group to emerge.
As this journey didn’t take very long Larry and Dennis decided to rig a further abseil at the Merlin’s Top Entrance allowing us to get more SRT exposure down a 10m shaft followed by a small crawl back out the Main Entrance of Merlin’s Mine.
Larry took us through every possible path and cavern in Merlin’s Mine showing us artefacts of mine workings which felt like a step back in time. Knowing that we were entering areas which were excavated my miners using just candlelight was mind-boggling.
After navigating over some exposed drops and abseiling down a little shaft at the end of a passage we decided to push on through a little squeeze and see where that leads. James and Larry tried to push on, but their path seemed to close up making it difficult to reach any further.
Larry jokingly asked me to explore a further level which was just down from where they were stood which involved a little slide down your back side into a tiny room which had two exits, a crawl on your front through some standing water or a crawl on your knees down a little passage… wait! Is that a stream I can hear?
“This could be Merlin’s Streamway!” Larry shouts from above. “It looks like this passage could be passed” I shouted back but noticed that the rest of the team was ready to ascend back up the rope to exit the Mine, so I decided to get out of the squeeze and join the rest of the group.
After what felt like hours we emerged from the main entrance of the mine into the open and were allowed to have a rest on the hillside before descending down the slopes back to the cars.
This was a great SRT trip followed by an exploration of a nearby mine which had so many little surprises on offer. I certainly want to return to Merlin’s Mine to explore the streamway and find “Gimli’s Dream” which supposedly leads into Carlswark Cavern, but this is a trip for another day.