July 5, 2001
Good Morning. Yesterday was truly summer-like - warm and still. Today begins clear and warm, with not a cloud in the sky. Looks like we're in for more of the same. Highly unusual. If this continues through the weekend, I think the public swimming pool in Stanhope could go critical.
The explosives order arrived in Kendal bright and early yesterday, and as I was finishing up the daily essay, we had a call from Lindsay, and arranged to meet him after lunch at the yard where the bunker is located. The trip to Kendal takes 1.5 - 2 hours depending on traffic, so this left us with a couple of hours before hitting the road. David Rennison had made an appointment to come by the quarry and look for Frosterley stone, but fortunately for me, had as usual, booked himself to be in far to many places at once. We shifted the appointment to Friday morning when, hopefully, I won't be on the road to Kendal. Byron headed off to the mine, and Jonina, Bill, and I went to work for a bit in the garage. I was eager to see some of the specimens I had collected from the Solstice Pocket the day before. Jonina began grumbling about me upsetting the cleaning routine, but when I promised that I would be out of her way shortly, she acquiesced.
About this time Jonina received a phone call from someone with the post office saying that a carrier had tried to deliver the water gun we ordered Monday afternoon, but was unsure whether it was okay to drive down the track to the cottage because of foot and mouth disease restrictions. We all wondered at this a bit as there is a "Path Open" notice posted at the gate. Jonina rescheduled delivery for this morning and gave permission to leave the parcel at the gate. Despite the screw-up with delivery, I find it amazing that an item shipped from the other end of the country here would get such a rapid delivery. My experience with the postal service here is that it actually works quite efficiently, which perhaps accounts for the fact that one sees very few express carriers such as Fed Ex around. The Royal Mail works as it should so they are just not needed as in the States.
About 11 am Jonina and I headed off to Kendal, and Bill was preparing to go to Darlington to pick up his parents at the train station. I've been to the train station in Darlington myself, and recall that they haven't made it easy to find for those unfamiliar with the local terrain. We wished Bill luck, and promised to send out a search and rescue team if he wasn't here when we got back. I don't know if that made him feel better or not. The drive to Kendal is through some pretty countryside, but due to many repeats has become rather routine for Jonina, so she was glad of the company. We made good time and stopped briefly at the Morrison's supermarket to forage for a few items not acquired on the previous day's shopping. Met up with Lindsay at the yard at 1 pm and got a tour of his and Mick's latest projects. They had just acquired a very large winch that had seen little use, but was being sold as scrap. He said he had no idea what they might use it for, but couldn't pass it up. When it comes to equipment, these guys are true packrats. They had also succeeded in adapting a diamond chain and bar to an air-powered chain saw. This looked quite useful for our needs, and I ask him to speak with Mick (who is currently away on holiday again) about doing one for us.
The drive back was uneventful, outside of getting stuck behind a few folks who couldn't seem to drive faster than 30 mph on the open road. Having been this route many times over the past few years, I couldn't help but be struck by the almost total absence of sheep and cattle in the pastures along the way. The foot and mouth epidemic is by now old news, and gets downplayed in the media, so the casual visitor doesn't get any impression of just how big a disaster this has been for the farmers. Just having been through national elections in the UK, many folks around here suspect politics may have had something to do with the disappearance of the issue from the front pages of the papers as well. Whether one gives credence to conspiracy theories or not, I can understand people's suspicions given the magnitude of the impact this has had on rural life in this country.
Made it up to the Heights Quarry by 4 pm and met up with a young fellow who had the keys to their magazine. One of the thinks that has made life for us infinitely easier is being able to store explosives here in Weardale. If not for that, Jonina would be driving to Kendal on an almost daily basis. The lad with the keys had recently taken a degree in geology, but with mining on the way out had been lucky to land a job with the quarry. He was obviously starved for someone to talk "rocks" with, and gave me a quick visual tour of the quarry from the bluff where the magazine is located. From our vantage point I could see the outcropping of what was likely the Heights West Cross Vein in the quarry wall. For the uninitiated out there, this and the Heights South Vein have been the source of some legendary fluorite specimens - the sort of thing we dream of finding in the Rogerley. The quarry management is understandably unwelcoming of mineral collectors, as in recent years many "weekend warriors" have snuck into the quarry and interfered with the operation. I hope some day we can at least get a tour of the quarry - it would be great to see the exposed vein up close. By way of a small thank-you gift for letting us use their magazine, I left a couple bottles of a good California cabernet for him and his boss, which were gratefully received.
Stopped by the Grey Bull, Isabelle's other pub in Stanhope for a quick pint of Black Sheep to take the edge off a day of driving, and then headed back to the cottage. Ran into Bill, his parents and niece coming down the road, so we turned around and headed to the Golden Lion. Byron showed up about that time, so everyone spent a while trading stories of their day. Byron had collected another couple tubs of specimens out of the Solstice pocket, and had a nice piece to show off. He managed to get the third large one out, but is remains at the mine for trimming when the saw gets back on line. Dave and Lofty had finished mucking and stabilizing the face of the western tunnel. Next order of business in the mine will be to muck out the east tunnel, and drill and shoot the western face again.
Back up to the cottage for dinner where Bill whipped up a beef goulash sort of a thing, which was quite satisfying after a long day on the road, and everyone crowded into the kitchen/dining room. The evening was still and clear, and after Bill and Jonina left to drive his folks back to the Mill Race where they are staying, Byron and I relaxed and watched a full moon rise over the hills. Today's postcard will hopefully convey some of the evening.
Today will be another day of cleaning specimens and work at the mine. Perhaps I'll split my time between the two. Bill is on tour guide duty with his family so will likely be out trying to find his way around the countryside. Cal and Kerith should hopefully be decompressing a little today after their marathon stint at the Del Mar Fair. Hope all is well back home.
Stay tuned for more….
Jesse and the Crew
Full Moon over Weardale.