by Daniel Jamieson

Writer's Note

One of my most vivid memories of childhood holidays in Cornwall was coming across old mineshafts in the corner of a field with just a flimsy bit of barbed wire around them. Through the scrubby bushes you could glimpse the hole disappearing into the depths of the Earth. If you threw in a rock you could hear it bouncing down for four, five, maybe six seconds before it hit the bottom. How deep were they? We’d count, then my dad would do the maths. Three hundred feet? Five hundred feet? To my mind, nothing could be more horrific than falling down a hole like that.

After the heavy rains of 2014, I kept noticing news items about sinkholes opening up all over the country. Some were caused by the excess water eroding strata of soft stone underground, but others were more man-made in origin - old mine workings that were collapsing. After these mines had been worked out, they’d often been haphazardly closed with a few wooden pit props and several tons of rock and topsoil. And sometimes these old mines went unmarked on maps, so houses were occasionally built on top of them. Over the centuries those wooden props had rotted away and when the rain saturated the ground and made it unusually heavy, the props collapsed, pitching everything above down into the hole - cars, roads, houses, lives.

Most of the time, thankfully, we live without thinking of the perils that surround us. But when we have a brush with disaster, a glimpse into the abyss… Might a fear of falling then reach such a pitch that it becomes as bad as falling itself?

Daniel Jamieson (Writer)