Exploration of New Peru, West Peru and the Old Turf Pits.

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On the 29th of December 2017, both myself and John decided to tackle some of the deeper shafts still accessible across Grassington Moor. Namely New Peru, West Peru and the Old Turf Pits. John was especially keen to undertake the exploration due to his fascination with the legend of the lost caverns of Grassington Moor. It’s said that these caverns were discovered by miners working within the Old Turf Pits, and during a surface walk of the area a few months earlier, I had discovered one of the manways into the Old Turf Pits. I was just happy to get underground, and it would also give me the opportunity to tick off a number of shafts that had been on the cards for a number of months. So, at 8AM on a snowy Friday morning, we set off through Grassington up to the wind-swept moor and towards the mines

As is the case with most of our exploratory trips, we couldn’t have picked a worse day to head up to the mines. The snow had fallen hard the night before and the tight country roads were half a foot deep in snow with a thick layer of ice underneath. The conditions were so bad that no sooner had we departed from Grassington, I had to ditch my Freelander by the side of the road and had to hitch a ride in John’s Land rover Defender fitted with snow chains.

Jumping out of the vehicle at the end of Old Moor Lane, it felt like we were in the middle of Antarctica. With not a soul about, the snow continued to fall and the ever-present wind that swept across the moor chilled us to the bone. The weather was so cold, I opted to wear my hi-visibility coat over the top of my caving suit as well as hat and gloves. As we trudged over to the shafts, I reflected on the conditions which the miners of the 1800’s would have dealt with. These men would have worked in conditions that are unimaginable to people this day and age, and back then there was no such thing as minimum wage. Without waterproof clothing, high powered torches and appropriate safety equipment, these men would have toiled in the dark and dangerous mines for hours on end with a gruelling walk up and down the moor at the start and finish of every shift.

Thankfully due to my familiarity with the area, I was able to guide us toward each mine in near whiteout conditions without the use of the GPS, and in no time at all we were assembling our equipment above West Peru Shaft. The Shaft itself was very well built, with an oval shape made out of rectangular blocks embedded into the shale rock.
As I descended cautiously down the shaft, I observed the iron pitons embedded into the wall, and the intricate lattice of holes built for wooden stopes delicately chiselled out to enable the miners to enter and exit the shaft. Whilst abseiling, I called out to John as he had descended down the shaft first. This was not to boost my confidence, but as morbid as it sounds, was to ensure that I was not going to descend into a cloud of deadly gas. Following a positive response from John, I continued my abseil into the abyss.

As I descended to the bottom of the shaft, it opened up into a medium sized chamber with a boulder floor and upon reaching the bottom both myself and John searched for a way on. Unfortunately, due to the amount of debris that must have fallen down the shaft over the years, we could see no further passages and we decided to make our way out and onto the next mine. Following John, I began my ascent up the shaft whilst trying to avoid the numerous rocks dislodged from the walls. At the bottom of the shaft I could hear as the rocks and debris fell, and could anticipate their descent and move out of the way, however during my ascent I felt like a sitting duck.

Whilst extracting myself from the old mine, I head the familiar whooshing sound of a falling rock as it dislodged from the top of the shaft and attempted to make myself as small as possible. Unfortunately, the rock hit its mark and received a deep gash on my right hand. At least it wasn’t my head I thought as I continued my ascent out of the mine.

Upon exiting the West Peru Shaft, we moved the old wooden sleepers back to their original position and re packed our equipment. There was not a soul in sight as we marched across the moor through the deep snow towards the open manway at the Old Turf Pits, and upon our arrival, we once again hammered the metal stakes into the ground and prepared for our next decent. As per tradition, it was my turn to descend the shaft and after abseiling the initial shaft down to a depth of around 8 to 10 meters, I reached a small chamber to my right, and a short 5 meter passage to my left leading to the head of another shaft. The small chamber contained some interesting artefacts such as old mining buckets, milk churns, rotten ladders and a short section of rail, but with no further avenues of progression, we turned our attention to the 5 meter passage and the second shaft. At the head of the shaft, a dodgy looking metal bar was wedged across the head of the pitch and an old pulley was attached to it with steel wire. It seems obvious to me that we were not the only visitors to this mine, and the pulley must have been re purposed to assist with hauling digging buckets.

After tentatively resting my weight on the metal bar, I began my descent of the second shaft using the bar as a rebelay. The shaft continued for about another 8 meters and as I descended I found the wall lining to be in a very poor state. It was imperative to avoid contact with the walls, as large sections of the base layer had begun to dislodge. Upon reaching the base of the shaft I could see a short crawl leading on, but which ended in a collapse almost immediately.

Eager to exit the shaft, I made my way back up the rope and relayed my finding to John. It seems that the base of this shaft would be the best place to dig, however the instability of the shaft lining is cause for concern. Following a short debrief, John decided to descend the second shaft as well, before we both headed back to the surface.

Our descent of this shaft identified some interesting mining relics however not much else. It is said that the Old Turf Pits connected with the Lost Caverns Of Grassington Moor deep underground, and both myself and John hoped that we would be able to make some progress toward reaching the caverns. Unfortunately, it looks like a serious amount of digging will be required before we get anywhere near anytime soon.

Finally, we headed over to New Peru shaft. It was late in the day and we were both tired, however I was determined to complete our trip. The New Peru shaft was the deepest mine that we had visited on Grassington Moor, measuring at an impressive 80 meters in depth and definitely contained at least one passage just over half way down. John headed down first and I followed soon after. The shaft fully lived up to its expectations, and as I descended, I was amazed by the workmanship of the shaft lining. Upon reaching the 55 meter level, I met John at a large ledge with an intriguing passage leading northwards. He assisted me in disconnecting from the descent rope and I led the exploration into the passage. The passage continued through thigh high water for about 50 meters at which point, a junction was reached. Prior to the junction, there was a worrying section held up with decaying timbers which looked ready to collapse and we took extreme caution as we waded though the stopes. Upon reaching the junction there was a large black pool to the left. I have a bit of an aversion to deep water, and so John took it upon himself to examine the pool and conclude it was a flooded shaft. This came as a surprise to me as most of the mines including New Peru connected to Dukes Deep Level which runs 1.5 miles from Hebden Gill, and was intended to provide drainage for the deeper mines throughout Grassington Moor. This is definitely something which we will need examine in the future.

Just past the junction, a collapse halted progress, but we were able to access a small chamber created by the roof collapse. Unfortunately, there was nothing to see, and climbing over the accumulation of boulders was extremely dangerous. This was the furthest we were able to progress along the 55 meter level passage and after returning back to the main shaft, I opted to abseil to the bottom. After connecting back onto the main descent rope, I continued my downward descent whilst being saturated in ice cold water. Unfortunately, once reaching the bottom of the shaft I could see no further passages on, and had to return back up the shaft. This was a disappointment as the mine surveys had stated that there was a cross cut passage at the bottom of the shaft leading onto a number of other mines, however this must have been covered by the amount of debris that had fallen down the shaft over the years. With no further avenues of exploration, I ascended out of the mine back onto the wind-swept landscape of Grassington Moor. Not long after, John remerged and we returned back to his land rover, elated at our discoveries but ready for a well earned pint in the pub.

The trip had concluded my initial observations of the deeper mines throughout Grassington Moor, and further exploration will be via some of the smaller shafts, or through digging of ones already visited. I look forward to our further exploratory trips.

Second trip

On the 29th of December 2017 both myself and John decided to tackle some of the deeper shafts still accessible across Grassington Moor, namely New Peru, West Peru and the Old Turf Pits. John was especially keen to undertake the exploration due to his fascination with the legend of the lost caverns of Grassington Moor. It’s said that these caverns were discovered by miners working within the Old Turf Pits, and during a surface walk of the area a few months earlier, I had discovered one of the manways into the Old Turf Pits. I was just happy to get underground, and it would also give me the opportunity to tick off a number of shafts that had been on the cards for a number of months. So, at 8AM on a snowy Friday morning, we set off through Grassington up to the wind-swept moor and towards the mines

As is the case with most of our exploratory trips, we couldn’t have picked a worse day to head up to the mines. The snow had fallen hard the night before and the tight country roads were half a foot deep in snow with a thick layer of ice underneath. The conditions were so bad that no sooner had we departed from Grassington, I had to ditch my Freelander by the side of the road and had to hitch a ride in John’s Land rover Defender fitted with snow chains.

Jumping out of the vehicle at the end of Old Moor Lane, it felt like we were in the middle of Antarctica. With not a soul about, the snow continued to fall and the ever-present wind that swept across the moor chilled us to the bone. The weather was so cold, I opted to wear my hi-visibility coat over the top of my caving suit as well as hat and gloves. As we trudged over to the shafts, I reflected on the conditions which the miners of the 1800’s would have dealt with. These men would have worked in conditions that are unimaginable to people this day and age, and back then there was no such thing as minimum wage. Without waterproof clothing, high powered torches and appropriate safety equipment, these men would have toiled in the dark and dangerous mines for hours on end with a gruelling walk up and down the moor at the start and finish of every shift.

 

Thankfully due to my familiarity with the area, I was able to guide us toward each mine in near whiteout conditions without the use of the GPS, and in no time at all we were assembling our equipment above West Peru Shaft. The Shaft itself was very well built, with an oval shape made out of rectangular blocks embedded into the shale rock.
As I descended cautiously down the shaft, I observed the iron pitons embedded into the wall, and the intricate lattice of holes built for wooden stopes delicately chiselled out to enable the miners to enter and exit the shaft. Whilst abseiling, I called out to John as he had descended down the shaft first. This was not to boost my confidence, but as morbid as it sounds, was to ensure that I was not going to descend into a cloud of deadly gas. Following a positive response from John, I continued my abseil into the abyss.

 

As I descended to the bottom of the shaft, it opened up into a medium sized chamber with a boulder floor and upon reaching the bottom both myself and John searched for a way on. Unfortunately, due to the amount of debris that must have fallen down the shaft over the years, we could see no further passages and we decided to make our way out and onto the next mine. Following John, I began my ascent up the shaft whilst trying to avoid the numerous rocks dislodged from the walls. At the bottom of the shaft I could hear as the rocks and debris fell, and could anticipate their descent and move out of the way, however during my ascent I felt like a sitting duck.

Whilst extracting myself from the old mine, I head the familiar whooshing sound of a falling rock as it dislodged from the top of the shaft and attempted to make myself as small as possible. Unfortunately, the rock hit its mark and received a deep gash on my right hand. At least it wasn’t my head I thought as I continued my ascent out of the mine.

 

Upon exiting the West Peru Shaft, we moved the old wooden sleepers back to their original position and re packed our equipment. There was not a soul in sight as we marched across the moor through the deep snow towards the open manway at the Old Turf Pits, and upon our arrival, we once again hammered the metal stakes into the ground and prepared for our next decent. As per tradition, it was my turn to descend the shaft and after abseiling the initial shaft down to a depth of around 8 to 10 meters, I reached a small chamber to my right, and a short 5 meter passage to my left leading to the head of another shaft. The small chamber contained some interesting artefacts such as old mining buckets, milk churns, rotten ladders and a short section of rail, but with no further avenues of progression, we turned our attention to the 5 meter passage and the second shaft. At the head of the shaft, a dodgy looking metal bar was wedged across the head of the pitch and an old pulley was attached to it with steel wire. It seems obvious to me that we were not the only visitors to this mine, and the pulley must have been re purposed to assist with hauling digging buckets.

After tentatively resting my weight on the metal bar, I began my descent of the second shaft using the bar as a rebelay. The shaft continued for about another 8 meters and as I descended I found the wall lining to be in a very poor state. It was imperative to avoid contact with the walls, as large sections of the base layer had begun to dislodge. Upon reaching the base of the shaft I could see a short crawl leading on, but which ended in a collapse almost immediately.

Eager to exit the shaft, I made my way back up the rope and relayed my finding to John. It seems that the base of this shaft would be the best place to dig, however the instability of the shaft lining is cause for concern. Following a short debrief, John decided to descend the second shaft as well, before we both headed back to the surface.

Our descent of this shaft identified some interesting mining relics however not much else. It is said that the Old Turf Pits connected with the Lost Caverns Of Grassington Moor deep underground, and both myself and John hoped that we would be able to make some progress toward reaching the caverns. Unfortunately, it looks like a serious amount of digging will be required before we get anywhere near anytime soon.

 

Finally, we headed over to New Peru shaft. It was late in the day and we were both tired, however I was determined to complete our trip. The New Peru shaft was the deepest mine that we had visited on Grassington Moor, measuring at an impressive 80 meters in depth and definitely contained at least one passage just over half way down. John headed down first and I followed soon after. The shaft fully lived up to its expectations, and as I descended, I was amazed by the workmanship of the shaft lining. Upon reaching the 55 meter level, I met John at a large ledge with an intriguing passage leading northwards. He assisted me in disconnecting from the descent rope and I led the exploration into the passage. The passage continued through thigh high water for about 50 meters at which point, a junction was reached. Prior to the junction, there was a worrying section held up with decaying timbers which looked ready to collapse and we took extreme caution as we waded though the stopes. Upon reaching the junction there was a large black pool to the left. I have a bit of an aversion to deep water, and so John took it upon himself to examine the pool and conclude it was a flooded shaft. This came as a surprise to me as most of the mines including New Peru connected to Dukes Deep Level which runs 1.5 miles from Hebden Gill, and was intended to provide drainage for the deeper mines throughout Grassington Moor. This is definitely something which we will need examine in the future.

Just past the junction, a collapse halted progress, but we were able to access a small chamber created by the roof collapse. Unfortunately, there was nothing to see, and climbing over the accumulation of boulders was extremely dangerous. This was the furthest we were able to progress along the 55 meter level passage and after returning back to the main shaft, I opted to abseil to the bottom. After connecting back onto the main descent rope, I continued my downward descent whilst being saturated in ice cold water. Unfortunately, once reaching the bottom of the shaft I could see no further passages on, and had to return back up the shaft. This was a disappointment as the mine surveys had stated that there was a cross cut passage at the bottom of the shaft leading onto a number of other mines, however this must have been covered by the amount of debris that had fallen down the shaft over the years. With no further avenues of exploration, I ascended out of the mine back onto the wind-swept landscape of Grassington Moor. Not long after, John remerged and we returned back to his land rover, elated at our discoveries but ready for a well earned pint in the pub.

The trip had concluded my initial observations of the deeper mines throughout Grassington Moor, and further exploration will be via some of the smaller shafts, or through digging of ones already visited. I look forward to our further exploratory trips.