News: Two Rescues at Box Mines, Wiltshire

Photo courtesy of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue

Firefighters and cave rescuers have had to attend Box Mines near Corsham, Wiltshire, twice in three days to assist parties in trouble underground. On 2 July 2017, Corsham Fire and Rescue assisted a group of three who had entered the mines via Back Door entrance and made their way to Jack’s Working entrance where a recently installed grill blocked their exit. They were able to use their mobile phones to call for help and a small team from Mendip Cave Rescue led them out through a nearby entrance.

Three days later, in an almost identical incident, a party of seven youths from Bristol entered Box Quarry via the Back Door entrance at about 11pm on 4 July 2017.  They made their way to Jack’s Working entrance but found this had been grilled in the couple of weeks since their last visit there. They were unwilling to return to the Back Door to exit as the torches on their mobile phones were running low on battery.

Darkness Below is grateful to Chris Smart and Neil Reaich of Mendip Cave Rescue for the following account:

The Cathedral, Box Mines
Photo © Tony Littler, courtesy of the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive

At about 2:30 am on 5 July, an emergency call by mobile phone was made and the local Fire Service contacted. The Mendip Cave Rescue Organization were called and two local cavers were asked to search for the party.

Unfortunately, the information that the group were safe but trapped behind the grill at Jack’s was not conveyed to the two rescuers and they initially searched the Bat Grill, Back Door and A4 entrances to Box.  By 4:30 am, the rescuers had made contact with the two members of the fire brigade outside, and the seven explorers inside Jack’s entrance. 

We entered Box through Lady Hamilton’s entrance about 15 minutes later and made our way to the grill at Jacks and the party of seven. We had been advised that two of the group were claustrophobic but all seemed in good spirits, although even with fire brigade space blankets they were feeling a little cold. 

The group were very badly equipped and lacked helmets, adequate clothing, decent footwear, a compass or a survey of the quarry. Their mobile phone batteries were badly drained so torches were borrowed from the Fire Service and the party exited Box Quarry at about 6:30 am without further incident.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue are warning people to think twice about visiting the mines and have issued the following safety notice:

Anyone intending to explore any underground complex should:

  • Always tell someone where you are going, where you intend to park, and what time you intend to back on the surface – and make sure they have all appropriate mobile phone numbers for contacting you.
  • Dress appropriately – it can get very cold underground so take warm clothes, even if you don’t think you’ll need them.
  • Have more than one torch, fully charged, and make sure all mobile phones are fully charged as well.
  • Take water and some snacks.
  • Use a map and, where possible, check before you leave that the map is still valid – for example, some entrance points may have been closed off since the map was produced.

If you do get lost, call 999 and ask for Police Cave Rescue – they will then contact the appropriate organisations.

Station Manager Darren Nixon, from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, has commented: “Fortunately, nobody was injured on these two latest occasions, and the groups were OK to stay where they were until the cave rescue team arrived. However, with a bit more planning, and a bit more thought, they could have avoided multiple fire crews and volunteers being mobilised. Having fun is fine, but please think twice about your plans and whether you have done everything possible to be safe.”

A local source has informed Darkness Below that both Back Door and Lady Hamilton’s Hole II are likely to be fitted with grills in the near future. Anyone thinking of entering the mines should take the precaution of checking that any entrances/exits they are hoping to use remain unobstructed.