We made a last minute decision to visit Astry’s Adit – we had planned a trip to Darren Cilau and I was having second thoughts as there was only two of us (and I was not feeling too good). So we decided to
take the easy option and visit Astry’s Adit which is near to where I live and near a pub. This meant we would avoid the 2 hour travel time to Llangattock and get more time underground or in the pub.
Astrys’s adit was started around 1680 by Samuel Astry the owner of the coalpit heath collierty company
(the real CCC). It was build to lower the water levels before steam powered pumping was available but the network was added to and extended as mining went deeper when steam engines were started to be used (the adit allowed water to just be pumped upto this level). The adit cuts across to the river frome from Coalpitheath and emerges just north of Damsons bridge. Maggot posted a picture of the adit on one of his dog walks, his dog only just fitted through and Maggot demonstrated his camera on a stick skills to get a photo.
There is rumoured to be around 5 km of underground passages, although only the lower section that we have visited has been explored directly the route of the adit through coalpit heath has been established by lifting manhole covers and the occasional collapse (one happened at NAMHO 2010). There are rumours that it went as far north as nibley but this has not been established and the actual route from the southern adit to coalpit heath is not known for certain.
The existence of the adit was a closely guarded secret of Hades caving club and the south gloucestershire mine research group for nearly 10 years. I was fortunate to get a visit over 5 years ago. We entered down an old access shaft (now used by the golf course as a source of water to keep their greens green). We went down stream but did not reach anything. This was my first and only trip but this was systematically explored by the SGMRG and its route plotted. However the SGMRG went public with their discoveries last year at the NAMHO conference and elsewhere. Access has been negotiated with the golf course and farmer for the SGMRG, but access is freely available to anyone who is silly enough to enter via the resurgence. Actually all the access shafts to Astry’s adit are very close to or on public footpaths and none of the manholes are yet gated.
Our plan was simple we were to enter via the resurgence on the Frome and go to the end. No need for permission. When the SGMRG surveyed the adit they tried to use surfing body boards – but they were too heavy or the boards were not buoyant enough. So they obtained some industrial thickness polystryrene.
Our approach was to wear a wet suit under our caving oversuits and just crawl or walk bent doubled over.
Crawling is slow but at times the adit is too low to walk even bent double and sometimes you need to go under straw stalactites. Walking bent double kills your back the next day, and is hard work but it is a lot faster than crawling.
Here is Ivan crawling the first part of the adit resurgence – it is lower than the rest of the adit, but luckily the rest of the adit is larger.
Unfortunately just after the crawl is an area that opens out and seems to have been used as a dog toilet!
It was at this point I started to wish I was wearing some gloves, and Ivan was rather pleased to be wearing his. Rather annoyingly the need for gloves became more apparrent – the upper reaches of the adit are coated with black mud and the floor of the adit coated with black silt. The lower reaches are just brown.
My hands are now a blacky orange colour and the fingernails are stained. However my toenails are stained as well and they were inside wet suit socks within a pair of wellingtons. So a floatation device might have other benefits.
Here is Ivan bent double (I am slightly taller so it is worse for me), but actually Ivan preferred to Crawl (my wet suit was not so good) whereas I preferred to walk doubled up. My Back and legs kill now though.
The view of the adit is not very scenic and it is like this most of the time
Actually this is not quite true as I was bent double most of the time looking at the water – which was pretty clean for me on the way in as I was first, but for Ivan is was a muddy slurry and did not look inviting to say the least.
After what seemed a long way we reached a junction and a short muddy crawl led to a capped access shaft – here is Ivan emerging from the muddy crawl.
The shaft is about 12 feet deep but it covered up and here is a not too revealing photo
This shaft revealed the boredom that was the normal state within the adit itself, I think Ivan was wondering why we were in this shaft, but he kept quiet until near the end when I ignored his wishes extracted an agreement for another 100 yards and then went over 500 yards more!
Eventually afte rwhat seemed like ages we reached a sluice gate
Above the sluice gate was another access shaft
Here is the sluice gate from the other side
I took this photo whilst hiding from the spray of debris falling below as Ivan climbed the shaft.
After another eternity – we reached another larger junction passage on the right that led to a manhole cover. This passage was clearly well used with many footprints in the mud and even a dogs paw print. Cleqarly the SGMRGs norma entry route.l
The manhole cover was easy to open from inside and we looked briefly out in to the evening sunshine – but not too long as the manhole is overlooked by several houses. I recognised them and knew where they were as we not too far from the bandminton road. We were perhaps less than halfway to Serridge house!
We continued on passing through solid rock at one point as we went under the road (reassuring) to emerge back into our familiar arched roof and a display of straw stalactites.
There are quite a lot of straw stalactites which you have to be careful to pass under (take a dip) – they are a reassuring site as it means the water levels have stayed below them.
Eventually we reached the familair sight of the golf course access shaft – where I had entered over five years ago.
Here is the entrance shaft – showing that we are about 20 feet underground
A little upstream from the entrance shaft is another junction – probably the so called missing section leading to the northern coalpit heath end of the adit – someone in the SGMRG has been economical with the truth!?!
This branch of the adit is clearly more of a problem than the rest of the adit but it looks doable – but a lack of a turn around point would make the return arduous. Another trip not tonight. From here the northern branch must head directly up hotwater brake!
The junction with this northern branch is pretty interesting in its own right
After this the adit went on for ages – where we almost dispaired of reaching the end – it is filthy back mud on the bottom of the stream and dry bacl dust (coal) on the roof and sides of the passageway. However there were some stals to cheer up the place.
Eventually reached the end – I had been told that the adit ended somewhere short of serridge house with a blockage which was surprisingly soft – but no one knew what was on the other side and everyone wanted someone else to find out.
We heeded their warnings and headed back .. we soone realised we were already tired just reaching this point and it was demoralising retracing our steps. Arms were tired from the crawling the back was acheing from being bent double – and so we exited from the manhole cover in the horses field near the houses. But now it was pitch dark. In the field we almost walked into the electric fence for the horses and the evening could have ended with a severe electric kick. Unfortunately it was 11 pm – so we went back to my house
and drank my beers.
Good evening I have been wanting to go back into Astrys adit for ages. Now it is public