Old Ash Mine 29/12/19

Trip Report – Old Ash Mine, Wensley nr. Matlock  Sunday 29th December

Members present:

Larry, Chas, Sean, James C, David R, Dennis, Ian, Dan H, Andy H, Peter W

A crisp, cold day with the promise of sun was just what we all wanted for our trip today, not that we would see much sun underground – but there is walking across fields and to tea rooms afterwards to consider!

Most of us enjoyed a marvellous ‘full English’ at the shack cafe by the Cromford traffic lights[Tor Cafe], before going on to meet the rest in Wensley .

We quickly got changed and sorted into two groups, those who were going to descend the shaft from the surface and those walking into the adit entrance.

The adit requires a key (and permission) from the nearby farm, which Larry had already collected.

After a very pleasant and scenic ramble across a few fields and up a very interesting limestone ‘gorge’, Larry led off into the adit with Ian, Dan, Andy and Peter.

Chas took myself, Dave, Sean and James up the short, but steep, climb above the adit to find the shaft. This was supposedly fitted with a latch lock of the type fitted to Youds and should have needed a hook-type key – so we were rather perplexed as we did not have one! However, a maillon was jammed in the small slot and we found that the lid lifted! Someone had hack-sawed slots in the frame where the catches are meant to lock. Problem sorted, and Chas soon capably rigged the shaft for our descent.

The descent [40m] seemed entirely disproportionate to the height we had climbed up the hill! It went on and on, passing a large cavity and side chamber – which alarmed more than one as they found themselves suddenly in ‘empty space’

The new rope was rather slippy too, but everyone descended competently and safely and met the others at the bottom.

The two groups went our separate ways to explore. First impressions are of a complex labyrinth, and this is not too far wrong!

Lots to explore and if you are a slim ‘racing snake’ looking for a challenge in a “walking and at most hands and knees crawling cave”, there are plenty of nasty small holes to dive into and investigate!

We all enjoyed a “bit of excitement” crossing the shaft in the floor beneath our original descent – a narrow bridge made of mud and deads allows you to teeter (safety rope available) across and climb a slippery slab up, to explore further passages.

All too soon, we were looking for our way out. Larry’s group had already left, but our stalwart leader had given us instructions on how to get out – “Easy!.. Down the passage, turn LEFT and then RIGHT….”

We went down the passage.

And then, someone said  “Larry said Right then Left didn’t he…”

All good fun, and we were soon back out in the open air where the others were waiting.

A most enjoyable trip. Nothing hard, which was exactly what I needed personally having been horribly inactive for a long time. There was plenty to see and although we spent four hours underground, we still didn’t do it all.

Many thanks to Larry for organising this trip, and to everyone else for attending!