Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Middleton/Hopton Mine - 15/09/07

Middleton/Hopton Mine just outside Matlock Bath in Derbyshire was the UKs only limestone mine and at its height of production was extracting around 120,000 tonnes of limestone a year, the tunnels below ground stretch for about 25 miles with some caverns being as much as 13 metres wide by 16 metres high. The thought of having a mooch around inside rather appealed to me, and also to my exploring buddy, Havoc.

Having been in touch with a chap who was extremely knowledgable about the place and who gave us a few pointers regarding how dangerous the place was, for instance:

****** says: well, I might be telling you how to suck eggs here, but it's f*****g dangerous down there
****** says: it's also like a rabbit warren
Mendoza says: how so?
****** says: drops with no edges
****** says: middleton is like walking through an underground bunker complex

You know who you are, thank you!

Well, well, this all made for interesting stuff!! So, off we went, headlamps? Check. Torches? Check. Spare batteries, tripods, manky chicken burger and chips for lunch? Check. How to actually find the place? Well, kind of, so errm check, eventually.

Anyway, once we arrived on site the two of us are walking up the main drive only to meet a chap driving towards us:

Chap: Where do you think you're going, lads?
Us: Just going to take a few pictures, mate.
Chap: Pictures, eh? OK then, no worries.
Us: Thanks mate.

Well, that was an open invitation. So off we went, headed towards the mine entrance, which was a whole lot easier to get into than we'd imagined and once inside, wow! Pure massiveness, on a massive scale, quite breathtaking, really.

This being our first underground experience I don't think we were quite as prepared as we thought we were, once away from the entrance and sunlight, darkness takes over, completly, the temperature drops, rapidly, the moisture in the air prevents you from seeing more than a few feet in front of you, unless you hold your breath, your senses begin to work in an entirely different way, it was unnerving and exhilarating, to say the least.

I'll be honest, I've never done a great deal of low light/no light photography, so the learning curve was fairly steep, even with headtorches, torches and a decent Nikon flash it was bloody hard work, however, I'm pretty pleased with the way they've turned out.

The main problem we faced was the sheer scale of the place, the torches and flashes we took just didn't have the power to reach the walls and ceilings that stretched away above and around us, but we persevered and came away with some pictures we're happy with.

Anyhow, we spent somewhere in the region of two and a half to three hours underground, making our way from the Hopton entrance down and around the main drag to the Middleton side (which is covered by CCTV, on the outside, anyway). Barely scratching the surface of what must be one of the most impressive places I have ever set foot.

I have a feeling though, a return trip may be in order, given subsequent info recieved... ;->


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1 comment:

Steve said...

Great report, very detailed and good pics.

The guy asking what were doing left you option - it would be rude not too!!