Intake Dale Mine

Discussions following on from the Bradwell Catchment Symposium and after reading reports from the 80's of natural rift and chambers, EPC members have re-descended Intake Dale Mine and embarked on exploring it further.

 Intake Dale Main Chamber


It’s been over three months since me and Jon walked into Lockdown and both our minds are very much still there. However due to the government’s restrictions on playtime plus the extra spicy nature of the hanging death at the far end of IDM (well, all of it actually) we’ve felt it best not to return yet as rescue implications at the moment would be very regrettable embarrassing.

In the meantime we’ve located the engine shaft on the surface and spent a couple evenings digging it open. What was first sold as a 1.4m deep project soon became a +5m deep dig, but now Derbyshire has itself another fine 70m freehanging mineshaft to add to the portfolio. Since then over a few weeks the DCA have done some mighty fine pointing up of the top 5m or so of the engine shaft walls, making it look far too appealing a place for the average caver!


In the meantime aspirant members Hal and Dylan have been working out ways of securing their place in the legend filled halls of the mighty EPC and so have put their metal fabrication skills to use with making up a lid. Last night the first part of this was expertly welded into place and they only have to finish the top part (and pay their subs next year) before they are welcomed in as equals.


A massive advantage of the engine shaft entrance is that it cuts out ~40 minutes of loose and tiresome caving in each direction, including the dodgy Blackjack Choke. Hopefully this alone will be enough to allow the team to feel it ok to keep pushing west in hope of glory and medals? Watch this space…

With the increasing spread of Covid 19 activities underground have finished for the foreseeable. This is additionally frustrating with leaving such a wide open lead at the bottom of Intake Dale Mine, but at least that gives the team something to be dreaming about whilst stuck at home

This break has given the team the chance to update the drawn survey, albeit it still very much work in progress with large parts awaiting being surveyed including a large section of the cartgate and the impressive Isolation. The survey so far can be downloaded from the Club's open survey page:

Again only Rob and I on tonight’s exploits and what a trip to miss!

You know when something snowballs or spirals out of control? That’s what we’re kind of dealing with on the exploration side at the moment in Intake Dale Mine. Each week just keeps getting longer, more technical, harder work, loads more “fuck-whittery” & definitely more dangerous… and silly. So here’s what happened this week…

We supped our usual pre-beers at the normal time and again after deciding on what gear we’d be taking down we made quick work of kitting up and the walk down the dale. The evening was warm in comparison to previous weeks and no gloves, balaclava or strategically placing of vehicle were required to keep warm whilst kitting up. Knowing from last week that prospects at the bottom were pretty slim with the continuation of the Cartgate ending at a collapse we had already planned to attack the obvious traverse in the roof just below The Tap Room. Having been given  some shiny new 60m of 9mm to destroy (thanks to Roy Rodgers) we decided this would be perfect to tackle the project along with the dinky Bosch Uneo drill and a few more bolts and anchors we were well equipped for an adventure.

We reached Tap Room after 30 min from the entrance then after sorting gear Rob took the lead and we both dropped down to the small ledge just below the funnel of deads.  Rob started edging west whilst I belayed him from my makeshift belay, turns out we had fewer bolts than we thought so we spared the one at the bottom of the funnel and tied into the rope hanging down from The Tap Room.

Rob edged west for about 6m to where the rift widened to about 1m wide which made jamming oneself in this space rather awkward. He placed a bolt for mild protection then made his way into the unknown. He shouted back in amazement with his now crystal clear view of the 20+ stemple ladder we gawped at from below last week. He proclaimed that he needed to ascend between stemples to what he thought was a safe ledge to proceed forward. After a bit of moaning and groaning he got himself to the ledge, placed a bolt and was ready to belay me across.

Obviously I had the harder task in seconding the traverse loaded with the survey gear on my side… I started across and once at the bolt re-tied it so we could have a fixed traverse on the way back. At this point we were now free-hanging some 100ft above where we had walked the previous week at the bottom of The Big Rift. Now I was at the tricky part, where the rift widened. The surveying gear made it hard work with it bunching up on one side, I dropped into the rift proper and the sides were slicked with mud. Rob had actually made a half decent job of pushing this on very sparse runners but he didn’t have the surveying gear… After making a meal of the job I listened to Rob’s advice and just let myself fall on the rope. Here I now pulled myself across the traverse like a sloth on a branch and soon found myself at The “Stemple Highway” now named “TAP Traverse”. Rob told me off for wanting to try the stemples and see if they’d hold my weight.

Rob returning along TAP Traverse, By Jon P

Here we were now comfortably standing with a solid roof above our heads. Rob was WHOOPING away telling me to look forward. In front of us, still heading west was a perfect ledge system on both sides with a perfectly placed row of six stemples. It’s safe to say the next section of traverse was easy pickings. I belayed Rob on the off chance he’d slip trying to dodge the T’owd Man’s clog prints along these ledges. They’d obviously done the exact same thing we were now doing some 200 years before us. After a further 10m we reached a point where the ledges ran out and after another easy bridge where some water ran in from above Rob placed another one of our precious bolts and shouted me across after he hard-rigged the traverse.


T'Owd Man's Clog Print, By Jon P

Where the ledge ran out the roof stepped up for 5m to two higher levels heading East and West, East looked very inviting, walking height and quite wide with a small stream emerging from it but was the obvious harder option to reach (avoiding stemples) whilst West was an easy bridge, also with a small trickle of water flowing out and the lead I thought carried the draught!

Ok what do we do now?

We had two options based on our limited gear. We had about 30m of rope left but only 2 more bolts. We could either head upwards here and check out these two leads (most likely continuing upwards and to surface) or proceed on the traverse west and see how far we get. We chose West as it looked easy going for the time being and we’d be able to make good progress and extend the survey to yet another sheet of paper. After the bolt a tight, awkward traverse led to a false calcited floor which took weight. After another thrutch and some more stemple dodging Rob placed our second to last bolt just before a large opening which began to appear in front of us.

Here the rift opened up all around it looks like a large section of the north wall had collapsed leaving some large bonnet sized pieces of rock jammed down below us and further in front which left a large open space at our height. Rob was excited as he thought we were still with the draught. Upwards continued out of sight, West continued after a wide traverse and below was a large drop but we were unsure if we’d advanced from last week’s limit. Rob checked out the traverse and after a quick inspection he thought it was doable without much protection. He bridged the wide gap and after 5m and a bit more fuck-whittery he found himself safely on the other side. What was now coming back didn’t sound great. The continuation west tightened up and it looks like our efforts to proceed west had finished for tonight!

We obviously couldn’t progress up here with our last remaining bolt so our next option was to descend from the last bolt as far as the rope would take us as we’d nearly ran out and then see where abouts we were in comparison to last week then survey back out to The Tap Room. Rob re-rigged the hang and slowly descended dodging the false floor and stemples around him. He laughed at what I was standing on as he could see from below how thick the floor was or wasn’t! Good job I was safely clipped in. Rob reached the floor and once clear gave me a big, “ROPE FREE!” I wasted no time in following him down the rope which now made for a quick descent I had to use a cow’s tail as a braking crab to give me a bit more friction on the new 9mm. About halfway down looked a good spot to continue our traverse west but this would have to wait for more bolts (now on 4 leads and counting).

Rob descending the new pitch, By Jon P

Once at the bottom Rob shouted over the not so good news that we were back in the climbing section above the end of the Cartgate from last week. Good in a sense that we could now tie in the survey and see exactly how far west the final collapse was but bad in the sense that this was it. We climbed back down to the final collapse and whilst Rob started to shoot splays in the final collapsed, muddy chamber I took a few photos of the wooden ladder we’d forgot to do last week. We climbed back up to the head of the small ginged shaft to where a higher traverse headed west along a ledge. We looked at this last week and thought nah! – looks shit, better off going higher up. Rob said he’d already been across so far and it was wank, normally Rob’s good at this sort of stuff too but not this time.

The wooden and iron ladder, By Jon P

 I went for a second look and after a few metres there was no indication he pushed beyond. I crawled along the ledge to where I could stand up. From here a tight bridge across a small pot gained access to a rubble slope, here I could see the way on west continued after a further ascending bridge cum traverse over a 4m deep pot. The way over west looked large in comparison and I could feel a draught. The pot below looked natural, it reminded me of one of the small fractured pots at the bottom of Nettle Pot. At the bottom of the pot a small black hole caught my eye, I shouted back to Rob that it looked good and that I was going to climb down and check it out. Rob soon crawled his way along the ledge so he could see what was going on. The pot was really sketchy with both the west and east wall sides stacked way above our heads, we had to make sure not to touch anything close by.

At the bottom of the pot I could see through the hole into a small chamber until my view went out of sight. I couldn’t see much but I could feel the strong draught coming out which is strange as we’ve been following the draught throughout the rest of the mine – Boy! It was now getting exciting again. Rob climbed down as we had plenty of space at the bottom for both of us. I encouraged him to dig the floor whilst I filmed it on my camera. After removing a shit ton of rock which fell straight through into the chamber below we now had before us a rubble slope between two solid walls which dropped down 1.5m into the chamber below. Rob dropped through and as quickly as he’d disappeared out of sight he shouted to come through – QUICK! I dithered about and dropped my camera case and as quickly as possible dropped down the slope.

I was now sat on a boulder floor looking at Rob who was staring down a large natural passage heading north – ISOLATION! We’d cracked it or so I thought! After a bit of WHOOPING and a high five Rob encouraged me to push north along the passage, it was a large collapsed passage with a vadose trench carved through the centre. The passage was very muddy and looked to be a prime contender for the source of the flooding. After a few metres the passage soon filled with mud and although there was still a small airspace present it carried no draught – bugger!

Rob arriving in Isolation, By Jon P

Back in the chamber I dug a few boulders from the rubble floor which seemed quite open but we proceeded west to where a small natural passage entered from the south but was filled with mud. Before us now still heading west the roof shot up showing signs of miner’s activity, we were now back in miner’s territory (up here appears to link back to the passage going west at the top of the pot). We were now stood at the head of a 7m pitch in solid rock. We could see a solid floor but the way on looked to maybe be underneath us. I could hear somewhere in the distance a faint dripping falling into a pool just as I could hear back when we first explored The Hobgoblin’s Hideaway. We were now faced with the biggest dilemma of the evening.

Rob admiring the western lead in Isolation, By Jon P

I was keen to push on forward as we could easily traverse the pitch and continue west out of sight but Rob with his serious head on for the first time was the voice of reason. We came to an agreement and decided to head back to where we stopped surveying and continue to survey back up to The Tap Room. This would leave us hungry to come back after the pandemic had subsided but also gave us important survey data that we needed to start drawing up The Big Rift. Once back at last survey station we giddily surveyed back out, up the pitch and along the traverse whilst taking photos along the way. We both agreed that the traverse required a few more bolts for the feint hearted ( Lukey Boy) and we’d be probably be better off pushing the very end by abseiling down a lot closer to The Tap Room and walking along the bottom.

We reached the surface just before midnight and enjoyed a couple of Hobgoblin’s in the car whilst WHOOPING a few more times at what a spectacular, Awesome evening we’d just had and at what could possibly be the end of the world – hence why we didn’t try make the pub due to spread of Corona virus. – Hence calling our natural discovery ISOLATION.

We now have 6 leads to look at when we return but the first job will be to continue the survey to Isolation first, shame this’ll have to wait a few weeks if not months before we get the gang back together and push onwards through what’ll surely become known as The Wild West.

Stay safe kids.

Just Rob and I tonight with the mine being left "WIDE OPEN" from last weeks efforts. It's safe to say we were buzzing with excitement enjoying some rather stubby pre-beers whilst sat in my car. We decided to take the drill and a bag of lovely 11mm rope saving surveying and photography for when we have a few more TA members present.

Rob bombed down first and I followed with the bag full of rope which proved to be a right bastard all the way through, IDM being somewhat an assault course on rope. It wasn't long before I was ascending The Engine Shaft to the eye-hole where Rob and Dave had pushed beyond last week. Rob had scurried on leaving me to guess my way down the loose climbs and ledges, after a bit of faffing I found Rob's voice, he was placing a bolt somewhere underneath me, shouting at me to keep off the floor. After a brief exchange I realised we were only separated by a foot of loosely stacked deads hence his eagerness for me to stop moving. I did as I was told and climbed over the top and back underneath to meet him at the pitch head. He then took the rope from me and abseiled down in to The Tap Room.

I was knocked back by the dimensions of this place! A large bedding chamber with a central stacked funnel heading down to the rift below. The pictures from last week did not do this place any justice! There seemed to be leads at every corner but nothing wide open like the abyss below. Whilst Rob was bolting the pitch head I made a quick inspection of the chamber to try and find more evidence of T'owd Man but other than a few soot marks on the roof from candles I couldn't find anything, very strange as such a big space would've made a convenient workshop/break area.

Rob was ready to descend, about 5m below at the base of the stacking the rift shot off proper to the west and out of sight with loads of stemples, it looked tight and awkward so we decided to drop straight down where we'd been chucking rocks. It sounded good but looked terrible! All the water dripping in the tap room seemed to accumulate and cover the walls where we were about to descend - bugger it! Rob went down quickly leaving a short deviation gaining entry to the shaft proper. He was gone. I shouted down to him and after a couple of seconds he shouted up for me to come and join him, saying the abseil was pretty shit but there was a further pitch to descend.

Rob rigging down from the Tap Room (JRP)

I dropped down the funnel of deads and started a slower more detailed abseil of the shaft. As soon as I got below the deviation I was thoroughly soaked! I descended as quick as I could to a jammed boulder and realised I needed to drop west a further 5m to gain the floor. On closer inspection the rope was now resting against a large area of stacking which I was not happy about. I jumped off the rope and down-climbed the rest and made a mental note to avoid this on the way back up.

Rob was now bolting a further pitch to a larger level below us, similar in dimensions to the bottom of The Engine Shaft. The pitch was only about 6m and to the West headed for about 10m in water to a collapse. We followed the level East to hole in the floor which ended up in a void of boulders, presumably the other side of our natural West Choke. In the floor of the chamber the water drained down a small hole to pooled water a metre below us. Above this we collapsed a small stacked wall to reach a further void above with more evidence of miners tampering with the large natural choke with socket marks in the walls and rotten stemples on the floor. This all draughted strongly towards us. To the South a small rift natural rift headed off but too small to enter at this height.

We de-rigged this section thinking we might need the rope further on. At the top of this short pitch we bridged across to the westward continuation which was an upward slope in the large worked out rift. At the top of the slope the rift above widened massively and started to feel a bit more natural than the previous section, and with a huge draught heading up the slope to the west. Above us now was a humongous stemple ladderway which stretched out 20+ stemples high and out of sight! The slope beyond started to head down-hill but tightened dramatically. On first inspections it looked mega tight but after a quick dig and the removal of a small pokey out stemple Rob was through and gingerly bridged forward as on the other side of the squeeze the floor dropped 4m to the boulder floor with a small wet continuation heading back East but not inspected on this trip.

I followed through - literally and joined Rob on the far side, up and down another slope we hit a small clean washed shaft in the floor. Rob said I could take the lead and I made no hesitation in jumping down the shaft. As soon as my toes were on the floor I knew we'd hit big! To the West the level stretched off at walking height with stone stemples lining the roof. To the East Same again but obviously not as exciting as the way forward is West. I shouted up to Rob telling him we'd done good! He joined me in seconds and we inspected the Eastward extension which was in knee height water to a collapse (see photo). We then proceeded West through the large passage slowly inspecting the walls for more hidden gems left from T'owd Man. We soon reached a climber heading off above us followed quickly by a blocked natural cavity to the North with a possible draught but hard to tell. This was then followed by a further collapse which we could climb over. At the base of the collapse was and is the only Miner's ladder I've ever come across in Derbyshire, remnants of a wooden ladder with metal through the rung steps. We gingerly climbed over this and at the top of the slope the roof stretched out above where we caught a view back East and up West although the West Didn’t look too appealing!

Rob in the Wet East (West) extension (JRP)

Back at floor level looked the most appealing lead. A way on dropped down, deeper than floor level and was covered in mud. This looked the source of our flooding and the potential natural continuation! This was short lived as after a short crawl it ended at a large collapse more man made than natural - bugger! We decided to do a possible first "round trip" up and over back East and start on our way out. A short thrutch in the rift got us to the top of the climber we were looking up into from below. Westward continued above the blockage below but looked tight and awkward and would be a lead for next time and maybe tackled from higher above. We continued back East up and over false floors and dropped back in to Westward side of the tight squeeze. We negotiated the squeeze with ease and once back at the bottom of the rope decided to de-rig so we could traverse across over the top of all this next week.

Now was the fun part, the wet shaft...

Rob headed up first which meant I had the job of carrying the drill and making sure the rope wouldn't tangle when we pulled it up from the top. Rob shouted down that it was as shit as it looked and he also didn't realise how bad the rope rubbed on the stacking when he descended earlier in the evening. Once the rope was free I wrapped the drill up as well as I could in the tackle bag and freed the rope so it would pull up smoothly. I had to free-climb the lower half of the shaft to avoid the dodgy stacking and with large perched rocks on the opposite side I really didn't give two fucks about about anything as I started to get waterboarded from above. I climbed the rope like a demon stopping at the occasional breathers out of the water. Here I would look above to decide my next moves.

I made it to the top and although thoroughly soaked was quite warm from the efforts. We left most of the gear in The Tap Room ready for next weeks pushing at the higher level and started to make our way to surface. As soon as we got East of the Black Jack Choke we could feel the cold fresh air from surface. By the time I'd reached the entrance pitch I was freezing my knackers off and ran all the way up the dale back to the car.

Rob was already changed and declared it was 11pm and we might make the pub so I told him to go and we had a plan B of drinking post beers in the car park if it was closed. Getting even colder than before I eventually got my sorry, cold self back to The Anchor where we supped some lovely cold beer whilst sat next to the radiator. After an extraordinary evening down IDM we even lucked out at the pub as they were once again cleaning the pipes!

Great trip and another memorable evening!

Well last night was a trip to remember, at least for me and Dave!

After our pre-beers we again split into two groups, one poking the natural choke at the bottom heading back east towards Brexit Rift, and the other inspecting a lead heading west off the engine shaft about 20m from the top. The choke didn't do much, but I think Jon is keen to have another furtle there sometime. Or at least he was until we told him how we’d gotten on!

So the best lead left in IDM is the natural choke heading west at the bottom, because it takes the draught and is heading into blank space. However it’s a big undertaking and the general consensus was that this would only be attacked if/when the engine shaft could be opened and so provide a much easier and safer route in whilst carrying scaf. There was however one lead to the west that we’d seen whilst bolting up the engine shaft which had the potential to bypass the (significantly lower) choke, but because we’d never really noticed much of a draught up there I wasn’t convinced. Today was therefore more of a box ticking exercise as I just expected to find some narrow worked out rifts.

Looking across the Engine Shaft to the awesome ginged wall

However as soon as I'd bolted across to the opening I felt a strong draught going in and knew we were onto something. Dave came up to join me and we set off exploring. Following the rift it soon opened up slightly and after a bit a gardening we could progress quite easily along at this level. There are ways up and down and the whole place echoes well. For some reason at the narrowest bit I decided to put in a bolt and abseil down to inspect a lower section. Here large waves of calcite flow over the walls and rotting stemples, giving a strong contrast to the loose and dull rifts from before.

Soon we got to a bit with a solid roof (for once!) and we continued on in comfort until the way on west got too tight. An obscure way on was found in the floor back under the hanging floor where we’d just come from and instantly any comfort was quickly lost again. The draught was whistling down this route and Dave suggested I go first as it did look proper dodgy. Instead of doing any gardening I decided simply not to touch anything and it fortunately worked well. I was now working my way down a vertical rift and I could see a boulder floor about 6m below. As I got further down I realised that the walls belled out above the floor and really quite drastically! Judging the exact distance was very tricky from this perspective and I was worried I might not be able to get back up into this rift from below. However it looked really good beyond so I apologised to Dave for the potential consequences and jumped down. Thankfully it was only about 2m so I knew we’d be ok getting back up and I shouted for Dave to join me.

The Tap Room is a fully natural bedding chamber about 10m by 5m, and 2m high. Small stal stumps line the roof and there’s even a small nest of cave pearls on the floor.It has a very Bagshawe feel about it. We were buzzing! To the south a bedding passage heads off but soon fills to the roof with sediment. A dribble of water flows away down here and it definitely warrants another inspection. To the north a small passage heads off which looks like the miners have dug it open a bit. We didn’t have a proper look along here. Back in the Tap Room the main way on is to the west. A nicely ginged hole in the floor leads down into a large rift at least 20m deep and with a huge echo. The draught going down here is strong and beyond is a definite sound of water; maybe just an accumulation of a lot of drips, but it’s hard to say.

Dave Harley in the Tap Room

Dave looking down to the big way on

As we were really missing Jon and Luke who’d put in so much effort to this project we decided to turn around. Although to be fair had we any rope and bolts it’s unlikely we would have been this altruistic! Dave built a rock cairn to allow us to climb out of the Tap Room and we surveyed our way back to the engine shaft, bouncing off the walls as we went.

Luckily the others had got to the pub in time so we recounted our tales to them. Even more luckily the pub was cleaning the pipes through so kept bringing us an assortment of free beers! This extension now puts the survey of Intake Dale Mine at over 500m long and it’s definitely showing all the signs that it’ll keep growing…



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