Beldi Hill Mines by Gary Rhodes

Bled Hill, Keld: Abigail Rhodes, Gary Rhodes (3 May 2008). 

Sunday is going to be wet. And now as I look out of the window, yes it’s bloody wet! Good job we went out yesterday (Saturday) for a day of exploring. A few years ago Abby and myself went up to the YHA up at Keld with others from the White Rose. Just for a bit of a get-together, curry and beer sort of thing, with a bit of caving at Crackpot the next day. Before this though we went for a bit of a wander. This is when we came across a level. Also there were some remains of a smelt mill. Said we should come back and have a look at this. So two years later! Under clear blue skies on one of the warmest days of the year so far saw Abby and me finishing off breakfast at the farm house cafe in Keld. A quick change into gear and off we went, blending into the hoards of walkers in their shiny Gortex and ski poles. O.K. not quite, maybe the wellies, crap covered bags, ice axe and trail of Dow Cave Mine made us stick out a little. Not long into our walk we came across a trickle of water across the path. Ah what’s this? The first of the day! (Grid ref. 901009 ish). We we tied John up, forgot to mention that we had him with us. In we go, water up to knees, soon out of this. The adit was a hundred meters. Passed a sump, water rising out then onto a bend. Here on the left is a climb. Ignored this and followed on down passage until a collapse had made it a little lower and having to crawl. Abby went on and reported that the passage continued but a little on the wet side! As it was the start of the day for us we decided to leave it and stay dry for a little longer. On the way out we went up the climb. Going up we followed a natural inlet. Here some timber work had been done, best not to prod it. Passing this I was really glad not to have prodded it as 20 ft of walking was built directly on top of it! We went up about another 50 ft before it became to narrow, many stopes were here with no sight to how high they went. There were also some very toxic looking pools! Back out we emerged to a gathering of people around John. He was happy to see us as we popped out of the ground as if by magic. The entrance is a little concealed. Had a natter with the walkers then back on to our wanders.

Now we were heading up to Crackpot Hall, however Abby spotted some spoil heaps so with this distraction off to them we went. Ah what’s this? the second of the day (903011 ish) Several feet in here was a collapse but somebody had spent a great deal of time and effort to dig through and placed timbers in to support this. The wood was new! Crawling past this we were soon in good passageway, with a few collapses here and there. Passed a sump or two. (A sump in a mine is not the same as a cave, full of water – it is just the name given to a vertical down shaft). Passed a right branch and ended up at a dig! Lots of scaffolding pole, buckets, wood and high probability of death. Went back to check out the right hand passage. Thinking back there is not much to say about this. Ends in a collapse and I’m not digging it! Back out in the sunshine it was getting hotter as the day went on and we carried on our wanders. First we had a look out over a quarry from its top. Then we turned our attention back over to Crackpot Hall. But on the way over there, ah! what’s this? The third of the day (905009 ish). Looking around ourselves at the deads that abounded we knew this could be of some size. So first job was to have some boiled eggs and cheese and pickle butties. Got ourselves re-kitted up and in we went. Blocked! Bugger. So had to dig through, that’s why I carry an ice axe with me. Soon made a body size hole through soft mud and slithered my way in. Abby followed, and another collapse was soon overcome.

This level turned out to be somewhat complex and in very unstable clay/slate passageways. The miners in here had built many archways – portals to hold the place together. Some of these have over the years been compressed into very narrow passageways! Part have been crushed and collapsed altogether leaving massive unstable voids. It was best not to touch the walls as bits fell off, and the roof, just don’t look. And if at all possible try not to walk on the floor! But even after saying this, parts were worth the risk of the visit. In one beautifully constructed passage, bum deep in water, we came across some of the most colourful and vivid formations ever. Black, white, orange, blueish, green and red. All this seeping through the constructed stonework like snot. Oh it was a pretty place. Anyhow, its a big place and quite complex so don’t ask me how to find your way around it! Back out we wandered down the hill to find the smelting mill. Given up trying to find the level we were going to look at, too many distractions. After half an hour we were down at the mill in West Wood and at Beldi Hill Low Level (007903 ish) In we went. A short way in I looked at Abby. Abby looked at me. We looked into the dark passageways ahead. We turned around and looked at the daylight streaming in. We looked at each other. Fuck it, we had had enough! The day ended with beer. There’s a lot to look at up Keld way, and we will be going up again later on in the year. Have some leads that need to be followed up. Lots of these mines intersect natural cave passage as well. So who knows, may find some new cave whilst we explore these abandoned places.

Laird Rhodes

Pics by Gary.