8th - 9th November 2008 - Nigel Dibben
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Nigel Dibben, members of Shropshire Caving and Mining Club and the Wealden Cave and Mine Society.
As a distant member of the WCMS, I was invited to join them on a trip to Shropshire to be hosted by the SCMC. As it turned out, only two Wealden members turned up so with three from the SCMC, we made six cavers on each trip with two novices added for Clive Mine.
After we met on the Saturday, Steve and Kelvin from the SCMC showed us around the surface features of Snailbeach before we changed to go underground.
The usual entrance to Snailbeach Mine is through the Perkins Level which is at about + 20 yards above the datum for the mine which is Old Shaft. Hence, although we were only going down to the 40 yard level, the actual trip was nearer to 70 yards deep. Inside, the first part is an easy walk that is used for public trips but soon you climb down a fixed ladder and start to drop down quickly in the stopes. The pitches are not difficult but they are a bit messy being on steep slopes and in some cases it is easier to use the rope as a handline.
On the way down, you switch over to a parallel stope for a section before dropping onto the obvious 40 yard level which still has rails in place. The mine was last worked above adit in the 1950s when barite was extracted on a relatively small scale. Along the level, we turned off to visit Chapel Shaft, one of several shafts on the sett, still open to the surface although grilled for bats. On the main level, we came to two trucks (see photo) and a stopping point with several tools and other items. The junction appeared to be a messing area because there were the remains of a wooden bench. After a short break, we headed down the side passage and across a precarious bridge towards Black Tom's Shaft. The bridge is made of two rails but the SCMC have installed fixed traverse lines over these obstacles.
We did not go as far as the shaft as there is a blockage but we turned back and started out. Getting up the pitches was not difficult and most of them could be climbed with the rope as a handline. Finally, we emerged in darkness after a trip of about six hours.
That evening, we visited the local Stiperstones Inn (good simple food and beer) and the Horseshoes in Minsterley.
On Sunday, we met our hosts again at Clive Mine north of Shrewsbury and went in through a manhole entrance, very like Alderley. The mine is dry and sandy so only a cotton boiler suit is needed. The whole of the Clive Mine is developed along a pair of faults in Triassic sandstone that come together in a V. The ore deposit is very similar to Alderley Edge although not as dense and with more cobalt. The striking feature of Clive Mine is the banding of iron and copper in the rock, as can be seen in the photograph. We went to the far north east end of the mine in a more or less straight line looking in a couple of side passages on the way. At one point, the mine has been filled with concrete, except for an access tunnel, where it passes under the road. Turning back, it did not take long to reach the entrance and we were out within three hours or so.
Both mines are well worth the effort and the SCMC are very hospitable.
Below 1: Taking a break in Snailbeach Mine on the 40 yard level Below 2: In the main stope in Clive Mine Below 3: Copper and iron streaking in the sandstone in Clive Mine