WARNING: Caves & mines are extremely dangerous places. If you want to try caving, get in touch with your local club.

Tilberthwaite Horse Level


Nestled in the side-valley of Tilberthwaite Gill near Coniston in the Lakes District are extensive mines and quarry workings, extending from

Plenty of donation parking is available at the bottom of the gill and one of the many mine tip piles. A steep path heads up the gill from here passing plenty of open quarries and workings, but today we’re heading to the Horse Level.

Levels are mines driven horizontally into the hillside, as opposed to entering above down a mine shaft. Usually equipped with rails, they allowed ore to be removed easily by horse-drawn carts, as well as providing drainage to allow deeper mining.

If we head back down the road we came up for about 50 metres (over a small hill and round a corner) and up a track branching off the road, we come after a few minutes to the remains of Penny Rigg Mill. This housed a giant watermill powering an ore-crushing and processing mill. Sadly, not much remains other than the collapsed walls.

On your right you’ll spot a deep cutting with a small stream flowing out, scraps of pipes and machinery littered around, and up ahead beneath the trees, the portal to the level at the bottom of a cliff.

Get your helmet and headlamp on and head in through the spacious entrance passage. The sunlight behind us begins to fade to a pinprick of light…

After 100 metres or so, a weir crossing the floor marks the entry into a vast chamber.

On the left, a huge stack of deads (waste rock) lines the passage, with a ladder propped up against it. The shelf above looks out over the chamber.

A rusting mine cart has been graffiti’d with a stark warning to anyone looking to proceed.

To the right, the cavern continues with a slightly lower roof; numerous bits of piping and ironwork lie in this side chamber, along with the railway sleepers just visible under the debris of mud and rocks lining the floor.

Following the adit as it passes through the large caverns, the Horse Level continues on into the mountain. In fact, it’s been dug and repaired to over 1000 yards in length, with work in progress to continue attacking blockages in what could end up being a 2 kilometre-long passage.

Further reading

CATMHS, the lovely folk who’ve spent a lot of time fixing up this level


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