News: No Access to Box Mines, Wiltshire

Lady Hamilton’s Hole II. Photograph courtesy of Mark Jenkinson

Following two recent rescues from Box Mines, Wiltshire, quarry owners Hanson UK are proceeding with the gating of other entrances. One of the recent rescues was caused when a party who had entered the disused stone mines via the entrance known as Back Door were unable to exit through Jack’s Working due to a grill installed after their last visit to the mine a couple of weeks earlier. They were unable to return to Back Door as they were only using mobile phone flashlights and their batteries were running low. Fortunately they had sufficient charge to be able to call for help from inside the mine,

Since then, quarry owners Hanson UK have been working to install grills on other entrances to the mines.

Bat Grill entrance, now welded shut. Photograph courtesy of Chris Smart.

Darkness Below approached Hanson for comment and received the following information from David Weeks, PR and communications manager: “We are replacing grills at two entrances (Jack’s and Back Door) which were damaged, and are planning to install a new grill at a third entrance (Lady Hamilton’s) subject to consultation with Natural England regarding the bat population. The mines are a designated site of special scientific interest due to the population of greater and lesser horseshoe bats, which are a protected species.

We are also improving fencing on adjoining farmland and carrying out an awareness campaign locally to keep people out of the mines due to the danger posed by falling rocks and collapsing chambers. Last year we ceased all underground inspections on safety grounds.

In response to a further question as to whether Hanson would be willing to discuss negotiating access to the mines for experienced cavers and mine explorers, David Weeks responded: “No, there is no prospect of us entertaining access for anyone, I’m afraid. Nor should any experienced caver consider entering the mine.

From recent photographs received from local cavers and further information from Hanson, we can confirm that the work referred to above has now been carried out, and cavers and mine explorers should be aware of the fact that all access to Box Mines now appears to have been lost.

Jack’s Entrance. Photograph courtesy of Mark Jenkinson.

With thanks to Chris Smart and Mark Jenkinson for their photographs and to David Weeks of Hanson UK for the above comments.