Spending the working week and Eldon pub socials together not being enough, Devious Reavis set out the enticing bait of a plan to assess "the best lead in Derbyshire" for its digabilty and measure it's psyche-generation capability for the wider Eldonship. This Saturday gone we strode under the sleepy and unsuspecting excursion of Eyam village to begin work.

A prompt meeting at 6 (pm that is, a slightly earlier than usual but not before breakfast) had us changed and ready in no time, I'd scored a free neofleece that had been passed around the generations in SUSS, Rob opted for no neoprene again, and bouncing up the track we were.

Cliff Stile shaft exhaled a beautiful draft, this tested the fortitude of one enterprising but foolish spider's web as we lifted the lid. Pre-rigged rope made for a simplified start, except that I hadn't used a rack to descend for a couple of years so spent time fannying about when I should have been (c)racking on. I kicked some loose stuff down onto Rob below at one of the rebelays to really hammer the point home of how unenthusiastic I currently felt (whinging about being cold to start with, and mocking the size of the crow bar we were equipped with were other such contributions to the cause).

But that all changed once we hit the sough, what a great bit of the underground to explore, the sense of history, the neat construction craft dished out in yards along it's length. There are a few sections of roof that appear to not take advantage of the natural strength of the arch geometry, opting instead for absolute brick on brick shear friction. Never mind; the rest was perfection to behold.

A score of minutes slipped by as the water enriched our evening via the mechanism of rapid cooling from the waist down, we now found ourselves in more modern developments. Two unconvincing and vitiated ladders later and we were prospecting the natural.

Rob set about totally removing the final ladder from the support of it's accompanying wall to instead suspend it from some 6mm tat tied straight round a hanger plate, he said it wasn't wobbly enough before or something. While he was doing this, I was shuffling my way down to look at the dig face with a drag tray and the aforementioned crowbar. The most notable point of this moment in time was the fragrance of hammer-action pulverised limestone screaming its way into and past my nostrils; the draft in this flat-out tube was phenomenal! We later learned that this is is likely caused by or contributed to by forced ventilation some distance away.

The rope for the drag tray was too short to reach the full length of the tube so Rob cleared what he could halfway down while I made the ladder head more suitable for sitting and towing the drag tray out. Digging here is relatively straightforward, given that the mud delaminates very willingly...too willingly in fact, makes me think that whatever is beyond the dry sump wants to be found. Somewhere between lifting up turf rolls and skinning an animal it makes for a novel experience and should be sampled by all who proclaim their dislike for digging. That's the top two inches anyway and is certainly the name of the game for progress in the dig tube and at the face. However, at the ladder head, it was possible to efficiently cut away large bricks which made a very satisfying thudding sound when tossed down the ladder hole - stacking space is the last thing to worry about on this one.

Deciding we'd had enough and deeming the dig "a goer" (quick access, drafty-drafty, unique digability characteristics, decent sized natural passage, and no need to hire a skip) we set off to quench our thirst.

The trip out isn't bad at all, Rob complained for not donning any neoprene, I have to say my comfort level could only be described as "sublime", we flew up the shaft, I was grateful for post-exped fitness...

As we'd parked outside the Miners' it was probably quite a sensible choice for a debrief over beer and scratchings. The timing works out for a decent digging trip and still making the pub, no excuses.

Who's coming next time?

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