Earth collapses to reveal 100ft sinkhole in County Durham

Earth has collapsed to reveal a 100ft-wide sinkhole in County Durham that is so deep the bottom cannot be seen.

The gaping void, thought to be the result of mine workings deep beneath the surface, is just a stone’s throw from a  farmhouse.

And it was three times smaller when it was first discovered on Thursday morning, at Cowshill, in the rural area of Weardale, by Durham University academic Sam Hillyard.

The 39-year-old had been out shooting rabbits with her black Labrador Jack and was returning to her home  when she noticed the 30ft hole.

Overnight, the hole sank further to reveal an abyss. And it is feared rain forecast for the weekend may see it become larger still.

Sam’s partner John Hensby  said: “Sam came back and she was looking quite shocked.

“She told me that a hole had appeared and I said I best go and have a look.

“At the time, it was about five metres round. Throughout Thursday night it got bigger and bigger until it was about three times that size on Friday morning.

“It is about 35 metres wide and you can’t see the bottom of it.

“The sound was phenomenal. We could hear rumbling and smashing and crashing from down below; all of these great lumps of earth were falling in and falling in.

“If one of the dogs or the sheep fell in we would never see them again.

“On Friday morning it looked to be about 100ft deep.”

The couple’s home is between two former mines, Sedling Pit and Burtree Pastures Pit. Today Sam and John live in the old pit master’s home and the house is surrounded by sheep farms.

But one of the old mine shafts remains just metres from where the ground has given way.

John informed Durham County Council and Durham Police of the hole as a precaution.

> At which point, if there was any comedic justice, a police spokesperson should have been quoted as saying: “We have received a report of a sinkhole, and we’re looking into it…”

Now, they will wait to see if it gets any deeper as downpours are expected for Monday.

John said: “With more rain coming tomorrow and on Monday we could see a lot more of the hole.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  24 Aug 2014

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