Middleton mine spans a site approximately 168ha of land and is made up of 26 miles of tunnels across 3 levels. From the 18th Century until the end of World War 2, Middleton Quarry produced high quality limestone capable of taking surface polish, for use in monuments and other ornamental products. After declining demand for such products the quarry began to switch its production to powders, grits and filters for use in the steel, glass, asphalt and sugar refining industries. Stone was extracted by underground blasting and passed through a primary crusher before being transported to the surface by dump trucks for further processing.
This was my first underground explore and I really enjoyed it despite the early evacuation at around 2am (we’ll get to that later). I was invited along on a mine camping trip and told, bring beer food and fireworks! True to form I blew about £50 on 5 or 6 large fireworks and packed enough beer to get a horse drunk along with some food and all my camping gear (i would come to regret the amount of gear I brought later). After making our way inside we walked single file with only our torches to guide us for about 2 miles or so, I then became a little tired carrying probably in excess of 40kg of stuff packed awkwardly into multiple bags. I took 5 for a rest and a couple of the lads hung back. after i got back on my feet, we soon realised we were lost, the rest of the group (the ones who knew where they were going) must not have noticed we had lagged behind. We carried on, dropping glow sticks to mark our paths turning down various tunnels at junction points with various routes to choose from blindly trying to find our way to the proposed campsite without a map or a clue as to where we were heading. Finally after about an hour or so and almost giving up and pitching out tents after firmly believing we were probably lost and going to die down there, we saw a light. We had basically gone in a long circle and made our way to the camp site which was probably 5 minutes from where we had first become displaced from the group! Fun times! We set up camp and wonder off to take photos before regrouping for a few fireworks in one of the taller parts of the mine which spanned 2 levels. Watch the video below to hear how loud the main firework was (end of the video), in hindsight probably not the best idea I’ve ever had but damn was it fun! After some of the other guys took part in some abseiling, i got my head down and in the tent for a for zzz’s only to be awoken by Travis shaking my tent frantically from the outside! “Get up we’ve got to evacuate” he shouted. I opened the door of the tent and it instantly filled with thick smoke. We all quickly grabbed out tents throwing everything inside and retreated down to a deeper level of the mine to catch out breath and pack our bags before making a swift exit. We made a couple of trips back to the campsite to get a few remaining bits but it was so thick with smoke you could see more than a meter infront of you even with the P7! From what I gather someone had put a camp bed or an airbed of some description on the camp fire which had resulted in a thick most likely toxic smoke being emitted before the fire was quickly extinguished causing even more smoke! After we rapidly walked to the exit we pitched up the tents outside while some slept just inside the entrance point. On with the photos and video:
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