Sunday, May 30, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

Yesterday it poured down rain for most of the morning. It must have been harder here in the upper dale because the road into the mine was not as much of a muddy mess as I expected when I arrived. By evening it had all blown through and sunset was marvelously clear with just a few high clouds in the west to catch the last light. This morning is cloudy but bright so I don't suspect it will rain for the next few minutes at least.

Dave had to be home by mid afternoon so we spent a half day at the mine. It was a good half day, though. Late last summer Byron had opened up a small "rat hole" following a fluorite seam across the tunnel from the opening to the Dipper area. As with all hand-dug rat holes, this one got narrower as it progressed. By the time the fluorite seam opened up into something really interesting, there was no room at the rear of the hole to work. To properly get at the specimen and have a good chance of getting it out without damage we would have to dig out the floor of the hole. The word "dig", however, might give the wrong impression as to the potential work involved - the floor was rock, not dirt. By this point we were in close-down for the season so it was left over-winter, giving Byron something to anticipate upon our return. Yesterday, at my suggestion, the three of us had at the floor, bars in hand, and soon had it properly opened up. I know where Byron will be working today. Attached is a photo of this bonnie bit as it looked on exposure last fall. When finished with this exercise, we had created a right mess of the east tunnel floor, which Dave had labored at over-winter to clean up and level the track. With the trusty Eimco it will probably take him much less time to clean up our little mess than it took for us to make it, though.

After dropping Dave off at home we returned to the cottage to find Jonina, who has been fighting some sort of rhino-virus lately, headed for a nap. With a few hours on our hands, Byron and I decided to take a drive up to Rookhope and visit the site of the Boltsburn Mine. The Boltsburn was perhaps the greatest specimen-producing mine in the region when active during the early 20th centuryand maybe one of the premier fluorite localities in the world. Encountering mineralization in the Rogerley even a fraction as well developed as the Boltsburn flats is the stuff of wild fantasy. I know, dream on! Some folks like to visit Graceland to see Elvis' grave for inspiration, we visit old mine sites.

After paying our respects to the old mine we stopped in at the Rookhope Inn, which is reopened with new owners. The place had new signs and a nice cobblestone parking lot had been put in so someone has obviously spent some money on the place. Inside we found it much the same, with a good crowd of both locals and some cyclists stopping over on their sea-to-sea (known locally as the "C2C") ride. The place has also retained a good selection of ales on hand-pump. Behind the bar we found Barry, a cheerful fellow we met a few years ago when he was doing the roofing job at the Golden Lion here in St. John's Chapel. Seems that he's still in the roofing business but has purchased a place for himself in Rookhope so helps out at the pub. He also seems to have acquired a lady friend and a couple young ones. The older lad sat quietly with a coke watching everything, but the little lass, 20 months old and just ambulatory was into everything. The owner has also hired a couple to run the kitchen so I guess we'll have to check it out for dinner some time soon.

Despite it being a holiday weekend everyone is anxious to get on with it, so we will be at the mine again today. Byron will be collecting in the newly opened up alcove (now too big to be called a rat hole), and Dave and I will muck out the mess I have created in the northeast cross cut, and begin tunneling toward where Byron is at work. I estimate there's no more than 10 feet of rock between us, which is hopefully full of fluorite. In mining, however, you never know what will be there until you move the rock.

Until tomorrow….

Cheers,

Jesse, Byron and Jonina



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