Man-made underground sites

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Many man-made underground sites and structures exist in the UK. The exploration of such sites attracts a whole community and there are many parallels between this activity and caving. The majority of equipment remains the same: helmets, lamps and SRT being used to access old mines. People who explore mines only, tend to call themselves 'Mine Explorers' rather than cavers. See

Areas of ambiguity can arise when attempting to categorise some underground sites - for example, in Derbyshire many of the natural cave systems come into contact with mined passages. However in general Man-made underground structures can be organised into the following with some overlaps:


Mines - Massive human engineering went into creating some of the worlds largest mines in the UK, and this is generally the focus of many underground explorers. Mines can present different dangers to caving but hold huge amounts of industrial archaeology.

Bunkers - Generally created by governments / military. These vary in size from pill boxes to the large Corsham complex. Some old mines are, or have been, utilised as bunkers.

Tunnels - Includes transport tunnels (rail, canal, road etc.), servant tunnels and tunnels to interconnect buildings.

Underground Streets or Crypts - This is a bit of a catch all. Older streets have simply been built over at a higher level leaving the original level virtually intact. A good example are the Lost Shops of Lawrence Hill in Bristol documented and visited by the Axbridge Caving Group.

Drains and sewers - A large community actually explores the subterranean water ways including covered rivers, overflows and sometimes even nasty sewers.


See Caving Regions of the UK and Eire, mines are included in the cave areas.


  • NAMHO - National Association of Mining History Organisations.
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