July 2, 2001
Good Morning. Warm and still this morning, with some high clouds, but no fog on the moors. Yesterday morning, heavy clouds moved in and for a while it looked like rain, but by afternoon everything had cleared out and the weather was about as nice as it gets around here.
Sunday being the official goof-off day for the crew, no work was scheduled. After coffee and composing yesterday's essay, I spent a little time water-gunning some of the specimens I had collected from the Solstice Pocket on Saturday. These specimens are relatively free of any iron staining, and many may be able to forgo any chemical baths, which we routinely use to clean up the fluorite. As if to compensate though, washing the sticky mud off these pieces is a task. It fills every crevice and will not budge unless subjected to the direct stream from the water gun. One has to be careful not to blast of fluorite crystals in the process. The end result can be quite encouraging, as seen in today's postcard.
After I finished with my two tubs of specimens, got cleaned up and we all set of on an expedition. First stop was to visit David Rennison at his crystal shop in Barnard Castle. The timing was right, as he had just taken in several flats of local fluorite specimens from a collector. Bill and Jonina appear to have developed a fluorite habit and selected several pieces from local mines that were not yet covered in their collection. Byron picked up a Caldbeck Fells pyromorphite, and I got a little fluorite-coated stalactite from the Cement Quarry and a really unusual calcite on quartz from the Cambokeels Mine. Anyone familiar with calcite knows that it can occur in a myriad of forms, and this one was quite a combination. The center portion of the crystal is a stout rhombohedron, and projecting out of either end are long, slender scalenohedra with small spine-like surface features. This was sitting on the face of a plate of milky white quartz crystals. Really unusual. Byron was quite taken with it as well, and mentioned that he has a birthday coming up. I wonder if he would trade for a tourmaline (fat chance of that!). The little stalactite was interesting because, though we find them in the Rogerley Mine, I hadn't seen any from other Weardale localities. There has been some speculation among the crew that these things form over the fossil remnants of paloezoic horn corals, which are relatively abundant in the limestone which hosts the mine. The base of this one shows what looks like a radial structure typical of these corals. Is it a fossil? Is it a mineral specimen? Stop, you're both right!
Had a good chat with David, who just returned from the St. Marie Aux Mines show in Alsace. He mentioned that he saw only one vendor with Rogerley fluorite, and that the material was pretty poor. Perhaps it was from someone picking the dump over winter. He also mentioned that he is planning on having a booth at the Munich show this coming October, and we discussed the possibility of him taking some fluorite. David also has a shop cat - a big black meatloaf of a cat, which lives locally. Every morning it is waiting for him at the shop door, and proceeds to spend the day sleeping on the register counter in a cardboard box that is almost too small to fit him. Jonina immediately latches on to him, and always seems quite torn when the mineral specimens come out, as she can't decide whether she would rather look at rocks or pet the cat.
Stopped for lunch at a pub across the street from David's shop called the Turk's Head. Nice Victorian-era pub with lots of wood paneling, stained glass, brass fixtures, and textured ceilings. Good beer selection too. After a quick bite, we headed off to North Yorkshire to visit the Black Sheep Brewery. Sort of a pilgrimage to Mecca. Caught the last tour of the afternoon and got to see the "Yorkshire Squares". These are large slate fermenting vessels that are traditional to Yorkshire brewing. Sadly, very few breweries still use them - high cost and all that, but they are one of the things responsible for the local character of the ale. The brewery was founded about 10 years ago by a member of the Theakston family, who have been local brewers for many generations. In the late 1980's the family sold the brewery to a large national corporation, who promptly set about turning a regional beer into a bland, nationally distributed brand. One member of the family who objected to this purchased an old disused building directly across the street and set up his own operation in competition. Guess it caused quite a fuss, but he has been quite successful. After the tour we all picked up a pint at the bar and went out into the beer garden. The weather was sunny and warm, the foxgloves and lavender were out in profusion, and one could hardly ask for more.
On the way back the crew decided to go exploring, and take a new route. A certain amount of confusion and missed turns ensued, but eventually we found our way back, and saw some great scenery in the process. David Rennison had made an appointment to come by the cottage, drop off a check, and look at more fluorite. Needless to say, our unplanned detours had made us a little late, but the saving grace is that David is never on time for appointments himself. We all showed up at the cottage at the same time - a half hour late. Jonina collected a check, David set aside some more fluorite, which we will clean for him, and then ran off to pick up a pizza for the family dinner.
Byron, Bill, and Jonina got involved in some card game whose rules were far too Byzantine for me to grasp, given the lingering jetlag hangover, so I went to bed early. Today will likely be a combination of specimen cleaning, and mine visit in the afternoon. Byron, Dave and Lofty will have their hands full with mucking after Friday's blast. Plans are to drill and shoot the face of the western tunnel today as well. After bending to the east to stabilize the tunnel roof, we are angling it back to the west and hope to drive right on the vein soon. The Killhope volunteers are suppose to show up for a mine tour at around 6:30 pm so it may be a long day.
More tomorrow, so stay tuned….
Jesse and the Crew
Fluorite from the Solstice Pocket.