Monday, June 7, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

Yesterday turned out to be another beautiful sunny day here in Weardale, and by the looks of things this morning, we're in for another. As we all know however, this can change without notice.

As mentioned previously, yesterday was our first scheduled goof-off day since arriving, and I think everyone needed it. This is not to say that we lounged about and did nothing of mineralogical interest, however. After getting enough coffee down us to be functional, we all headed up the dale to the Killhope Lead Mining Museum. Brian Young from the British Geological Survey was giving a talk on the geology and minerals of the North Pennines, and as he is an expert on these parts I figured it might be worthwhile.

It was a fine sunny day at the upper end of the dale - something really quite rare. In fact, the weather can be so miserable up there that the museum closes during the winter months for lack of visitors foolhardy enough to want to experience the worst of the conditions the old lead miners had to deal with. Yesterday, however, was a good day to be a tourist. The lecture was informative, and gave us a chance to chat with Brian afterwards. Jonina spent some time querying him about pseudomorph localities in the area, notebook at hand. Personally, I have never understood the fascination some folks have with pseudomorphs. I've always thought they serve as a lesson on what nature can do to ruin a perfectly good mineral specimen, but to each their own. It did afford me a chance to look closely at a display of really fine local fluorites and other minerals on loan to the museum from British collectors Dave and Elizabeth Hacker. No ruined specimens there, but a fair number of fingerprints on the glass case afterwards!

After the lecture I took a wander about the grounds. Killhope is famous in these parts for having the only surviving large waterwheel, something that 100 years ago was quite a common site in the dale. Water power was used almost exclusively and most every mine had at least one. All gone now, mostly cut up for scrap during WWII, I believe. Killhope was for a time one of the more prosperous lead mines in the dale, and the museum is basically an attempt to rebuild it. Over the past year they have made good progress on reconstructing the ore washing floors, complete with the various hand-operated ore separating jigs. Today's photo is of the large wheel, which powers mechanical ore separators in the building adjacent to it.

Back down the dale by early afternoon for our barbeque with Bob and Mary. Against all odds, the weather held and we had a nice time relaxing, eating all manner of things fresh off the grill, and chatting with a constant stream of friends and family who dropped by. By all rights, I should have drifted off to bed early, but had been invited several times over the past couple years to attend a meeting of the Stanhope folk music club, only to miss it each time. The lady who has been after me to attend never showed up herself, but it was a fun and friendly group of folks. An added bonus was that the pub they meet at, formerly bereft of anything other than keg beers now had Black Sheep on hand pump!

On today's schedule will be continuing our assault on the northeast cross cut. Dave will be coming in a little late so Byron will head in shortly and I'll have time for another coffee before assuming my appointed role as chauffeur. Jonina's garage awaits her patiently.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Killhope on an anomolous day in the upper dale.

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