Saturday, August 26, 2006

Greetings from Weardale.

This morning things are quite and still, with a thin fog (or thick haze, depending on your perspective) hanging over the upper dale. For the past few days the weather has been sunny and a bit cool, as befits the last days of a northern summer. Yesterday afternoon, as if on cue for the annual St. John's Chapel Agricultural Show, the clouds rolled in and things got drippy. In all the time we've been here, I cannot remember a Chapel Show weekend that hasn't rained, or at least been rather damp. This never seems to have any effect on the festivities, however. Tents are up for the vegetable growing contests, pens are laid out for the livestock showings, and the town square is set up with the requisite spin-n-barf rides and vendors offering all manner of sugary fried treats.

The past two days have been a frenzy of activity, trying to get some last minute collecting in, while cleaning, wrapping, and binning up the specimens for shipment back to California. The Dodgy Bugger area of the West Cross Cut continues to produce - both specimens and copious amounts of mud. Over the course of the summer, we have excavated an area extending about five feet past the point where the specimens were visible hanging on large roof blocks back in June. This has, for the most part, been hand work, and the area is now in serious need of a few well-placed charges to open it up and allow proper access to the collecting face. As it is right now, one is forced to crawl into a cavity with a vertical clearance of less than 3 feet, lay on one's side, and reach for the specimen producing face. Everything is, of course, covered with thick, sticky mud, and the water hose is essential. Using water quickly creates a small lake around the prone collector, and when this lake reaches a certain level (which it does quite quickly), muddy water begins flowing down the sleeves and legs of one's rain gear, and often into the boots as well. What fun!

Overall, the specimens from this area, which I call the Dodgy Bugger Extension, are fairly distinctive. The fluorite, rather than small gemmy twins tends toward larger, untwined crystals, usually overgrowing a layer of white crystalline quartz. The color is very intense green with good daylight fluorescence, and when set against a background of white quartz can be quite attractive. Some fluorites show a little etching, but no white centers. In addition, we have recovered many large specimens, which show considerable topography, similar to the early Black Sheep pocket specimens. We even have a number of fairly nice stalactites. As always, the specimens will take some effort to clean and trim, but hopefully we will have a good batch of new and different material for Tucson. In the meantime, Cal has mailed back a small batch for showing at the upcoming Denver show, and I have done the same for a website update.

Thursday morning, taking advantage of the brief sunny spell, I took a drive up Crawleyside from Stanhope onto the moors to see the heather. It's at the height of it's display right now and is glorious on a nice day. A sampling of the experience may be seen with the accompanying photo.

Cal and Kerith are packing up and heading south today for their flight home on Monday. Byron and I will be at the mine, finishing up with the packing for our scheduled pick-up on Tuesday. If time avails itself, maybe I'll get to see who won the leek-growing contest at Chapel Show this weekend. Leeks are serious stuff here in the dale!

Stay tuned for more,


Heather in full bloom on the moors.

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