A 100ft-wide sinkhole that is so deep you can’t see the bottom has opened up in County Durham.
The gaping void, thought to be the result of mine workings deep beneath the surface, is just a stone’s throw from a couple’s farmhouse.
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, but more earth has since collpased.
Sam, 39, had been out shooting rabbits with her black Labrador Jack and was returning to her home, Burtree Pastures, when she noticed the 30ft hole.
Overnight, the hole sank further to reveal an abyss. And it is feared rain forecast for over the Bank Holiday may see it become larger still.
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Sam’s partner John Hensby, a retired sales trainer, 71, told the Newcastle Chronicle: “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.
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.”