The Downers (3), Neil & Annette, Steve Murray and myself
Staying at my house, I arranged with Mole to take us from Lambski Iron mine through to and of Old Ham Mine, a distance of about a mile which took us about four hours on a roundabout route. The Lambski entrance is in a tree- lined collapse (or possibly former entrance ) in the middle of a crop field. The iron deposit is believed to be speleogenetic in origin i.e. it has been either deposited in an ancient (carboniferous ) palaeokarst or more likely voids were dissolved out by acidic solutions which were later filled with iron minerals deposited from high temperature hydrothermal fluids.
The mining almost certainly started in prehistoric times as surface ‘bell’ pits and was continued by the Romans and later Medievals over a period of many hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Iron ore extraction continued into the 20th C in the lower, now flooded, levels of Old Ham and only ceased after the last war.
As the miners had effectively cleaned out the old caves in many areas, the mines are remarkably cave-like . In the ancient near- surface areas there are many convoluted routes with complex interconnected chambers involving crawling and wriggling through connections, so having a leader present is very much an essential if you want to make the connection with Old ham from Lambski.
Mole has spent many years exploring the system and therefore knew where to find interesting artefacts, old graphity and, in a couple places, nests of ‘nellies’ . For those of you who don`t know a nellie is a lump of plastic clay into which you push a stick and then the base of your candle - you hold the stick in you mouth so you have both hands free to work .Supposedly this is where the phrase, ‘not on my nellie ! comes from.
The actual connecting route is quite complicated with a few climbs and crawls and eventually emerges into the large Railway churn in Old Ham - the exit is then a stiff upwards climb out of Old Ham entrance.
Actually, we only did a small part of the system, although the lower levels are currently off limits due to high CO2.
After changing we went and had tea and cake in the Clearwell Caves Café. Thanks to John Hine for being leader and Clearwell Caves for letting us in.
On Saturday night we went to a local pub to eat, but some of the party made up for copping out of the underground trip by getting lost coming back from the pub!
On Sunday we did the Coldwell walks along by the Wye and than up to Symonds Yat.