Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Good Morning. Woke up again at sometime around 4 AM, and thought “Hell, here we go again!”, but fell back asleep and before I knew it, it was the right civilized hour of 7. Not so much time to dwell on the daily installment of our story, but the coffee is on, the troops are still slumbering, so I’ll dive in. Yesterday we all decided that 7 AM would be a good time for everyone to get up on workdays. This isn’t particularly difficult for me, but neither Byron nor Jonina are “morning people” so the task of sounding the morning alarm will likely fall to me. Perhaps I’ll let them sleep until 7:30 so I can finish this in peace.

The day has dawned bright and clear again, with scattered clouds and mist hanging on top of the moors. As I slept in this morning, I can’t report on any rainbows at dawn. Yesterday the wind came up in the morning and it was quite breezy, but clear. The wind dries things out nicely, so the mud index is now quite low – perhaps a 2 or 3.

Yesterday was our first full day at the mine, and as there were no specimens yet to clean, Jonina came with us for the day. First stop was at Neil Fairless’ yard to check on our order of supplies. A number of items were in, including new boots (known locally as Wellies – short for Wellingtons) and our ever-beloved orange rain slickers, which the crew refers to as their clown suits. These are actually quite well made and are the only thing we’ve found which will survive long-term abuse in the mine and still keep one reasonably dry. They are made in Denmark by The Viking Rubber Company, and I assume they are designed primarily for people working around traffic. The name of the company brings to mind images of medieval seafaring Vikings, prowling the cold North Atlantic while wearing bright orange slickers. Perhaps it would assist the rescue helicopters in finding those unfortunates who fall overboard.

It turns out that Neil was a former miner and worked in Cambokeels for a number of years. He supposedly has a mineral collection, which is currently packed away. Jonina keeps pestering him to see it, so perhaps some day we will. He is also a motorcycle racer, and being somewhat of a fanatic about certain pursuits myself, started asking him questions about his hobby. We were promptly led into his house – a nice modern stone place adjoining the work yard – where he had two vintage racing bikes parked on the carpet in his recreation room. Turns out they are both custom made British racing bikes from the early 1960’s. One in particular was his pride, and evidently worth quite a few quid. It was evidently once owned by a famous American racer – I think the name was Billy Lundy or something like that. The fellow had won many races over here and now runs a cycle shop to the south in Surrey. The provenance of the machine was apparently unknown when Neil bought it, but while rebuilding it, he discovered the former owner’s name engraved on some parts. It came to light that this bike had been the winner in a number of famous races, and I guess the fact that it had been “rediscovered” got published in a local biking magazine. Shortly after that, Neil received a letter from the original owner, complete with documentation of it’s history including a copy of the original bill of sale. I’m told it’s now worth around ten times what Neil paid for it. I made a comment to Neil about the fact that, despite being spotlessly clean and parked on his carpet, each one had a little metal bowl under the crankcase to catch oil drippings. In reply he said: “It wouldn’t be a British bike if it didn’t leak some oil now, wouldn’t it?” With that everyone had a good laugh, and we headed off to the mine.

Byron re-installed the plumbing for the water, while I busied myself in manual laborer mode and cleaned the rocks and mud out which had accumulated over the winter from around sections of the track. After accomplishing this, and as if on cue, Byron says: “I think we should collect for a bit.” As if the proverbial wild horses could stop him. The place he began picking at was at the head of the new, east tunnel, to the right of last summer’s pocket, and where the flats begin to cross over to the east side of the tunnel. Byron seems to be able to smell productive ground, and soon specimens were being handed to me. The character of the ground is rather different, despite being only a couple of meters from where we were working last year. The mineralized zone is heavily brecciated and dives across the face to the east. Despite the broken-up appearance of the zone, many reasonably intact clusters and plates were quickly piling up, so I busied myself wrapping and filling plastic tubs. When things get fully underway, Jonina will most likely not get to the mine much, so Byron and I let her have a go at the face. Byron watched for about five minutes, and then started digging himself, next to her. Working in close proximity to someone else in the mine means one gets quickly soaked and splattered with the spray generated by ones neighbor while hosing off specimens. If you look closely at the accompanying photo, you can see a well-splattered Jonina, who had taken to periodically licking her glasses in order to clean them. Byron is sporting his ever-present pipe, which I can’t imagine how he keeps going with all the water flying about.

By around 5:30 the zone was beginning to pinch out, so we locked up and headed out with four bins of specimens. Stopped for what was supposed to be a quick pint at the Golden Lion, which of course turned into another. About the time everyone was ready to leave, David Rennison (a local mineral collector and friendly chap) stops in. Said he was driving by and recognized our car. When I replied that it was a rental and he was not likely to have seen it before, he said it looked like the one I had last year. It’s a Ford Focus, which are fairly common around here, and not really unique. I suspect that, once the Americans arrive, the local “information network” passes this around quickly, and he knew where he might find us. Of course, another round ensued, and we caught up on things. Evidently he was so enamored of our diamond chain saw that he bought one for himself – not a small investment for an individual collector! Unfortunately, as soon as he got it, the foot and mouth epidemic hit and most good collecting locations have been off limits since. Business in his Barnard Castle shop has apparently been good, despite the problems with the disease. He says he has sold the specimens I left him with last fall, so perhaps will be interested in more. He also seems quite interested in getting Frosterley Stone, as are the Lands. Could be some quick income if Jim and Byron didn’t harvest every bit of it last year.

Finally got back to the cottage around 9:30 and had a quick supper of Cumberland sausages and a salad. Made phone calls back home, and everyone quickly retired. Today’s schedule calls for more maintenance at the mine. I suspect I’ll be shoveling the rockslide on the mine landing shortly.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse



Jonina and Byron collecting at the face of the east tunnel.

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