29th-30th November 2008 - Paul Stubbs
Paul Stubbs, Ed Coghlan, Dennis Mayer and John Capper
We set off on Friday 28th November in what can only be described as pea soup, the fog was terrible and very patchy. We left camp Manchester at 7 pm and arrived at Corsham at 10.30 pm, unlike our last trip we had to Nenthead this camp site was quite civilised. Edward Coghlan, Dennis Mayer, John Capper and myself settled down in a very frosty night at the caravan park, refreshed next morning we had a good breakfast and set off to meet our guide for the weekend.
Chris the founder of Dark Places met us at the Quarry Man pub and took us to Box mine, firstly the shear scale of the place is awesome. The main mine is divided into 3 main areas, and the amount of artefacts is astounding tools are just left where the miners left them. Saws for cutting up stone are found all over the place, and the files used to sharpen them are still present, as are the benches made of stone on which to cut up the blocks. The most outstanding feature has to be the wooden cranes used to move the blocks of stone, we saw at least a 10 of them and they varied in condition from perfect to in pieces. When walking round Chris pointed to the ceiling and you could see a black band running along the entire length of the mine, it turns out they had steam trains going direct in the mine to remove the large blocks of stone. We came to one section of the mine known as the drying room, this is where the stone blocks are stacked up to allow drying out before removing them from the mine, and how sick they must have been when the roof collapsed trapping a large quantity of blocks. After 4 hours or so we came to a passage that is full of barbed wire, this is the entrance to the M.O.D. part of the mine, in the last war the mines had been used to store Munitions and this part of the mine is still used. After passing through a large hole you can look round the parts no longer used by the M.O.D. but a large door prevents access to the part still in use, we then came back into box mine and spent another 3 hours or so looking at more cranes and plenty of 19th century art work done by the miners. Saturday night we took in the local beer and had another cold night, next morning after the usual breakfast we set of to meet our guide again.
This time we went to Browns Folly mine, this was by far more interesting to us as it had been worked into bigger chambers, although it did not have any of the cranes and tools we saw the day before. After 2 hours or so we came to what seemed like a blank end, in the very corner our guide pointed out a little hole which we had to crawl through. This had taken us into Monkton Farleigh, now this is the biggest M.O.D. site in that area and we felt disappointed to hear we could only get into area 19 and 20. Well let me tell you we started at area 19 holding pen 1 and finished at holding pen 500!, the shear size of the place is amazing and we still had area 20 to check out. We went round the switch rooms and the air conditioning plant, the whole of the place has conveyor belts to move Ammunition around, but alas the vandals have smashed the whole place to pieces to remove any copper wire they could find. We even came to a shower room and if you see the pictures we took, yes that's me in the shower! well it's a laugh. Parts of the old M.O.D. site have been taken over by other companies and we had been warned that trouble awaited if we got caught, some lads had tried to dig into a secure area and are still on bail after 7 months! I can say that we will be going back next year for another trip into a different mine that promises even more adventures.
(PS The pictures shown are by Nigel Dibben from a separate trip.)
Below 1: In B12 route Below 2: Stacked blocks near B12 route. There is a saw sharpening bench behind Below 3: Roof supports in the ex-MOD area Below 4: One of the abandoned cranes