Monday, July 2, 2007

Greetings from Weardale.

As predicted, the weather was pretty wet and miserable all weekend, though I must admit that we have had a few brief interludes of blue sky between downpours. But, of course, this is not always the joy it may seem. Despite all the rain, it hasnít been terribly cold. With mild temperatures combined with a lack of breeze we get swarms of midges Ė small biting gnats to the uninitiated Ė which will make life a misery to anyone caught out on a seemingly nice evening. This is exactly what happened on Saturday evening when I decided it would be much more pleasant to go out onto the patio at the Blue Bell and enjoy the sunset (it had actually stopped raining for a bit!) than squeeze into a crowded noisy pub. Got mobbed by a cloud of the little buggers. All part of the ďNorthern ExperienceĒ I guess. It got back to a proper rain again soon enough, so I was spared a repeat performance the rest of the weekend.

Plans got a little upended over the weekend, as Byron woke up on Saturday morning feeling stiff and sore, and definitely not in the mood to make it worse by crawling around in a cold wet mine. So instead, we went shopping. There are no large markets in the dale, so any serious shopping requires a bit of a drive. One can either head north to Consett, eastward to Bishop Auckland, or south to Barnard Castle, the largest town in Teesdale. The drive over the moors and through Teesdale is definitely the most scenic choice, so that one won out. Back mid afternoon, we found out that out planned dinner engagement had been cancelled, setting the stage for the midges at sunset incident described above.

Sunday morning the weather showed a hint of promise in that I could see patches of blue out. Byron was feeling a good bit better, so after a lazy and prolonged morning coffee we headed off to the mine. The plan for the day was to spend a few hours of mucking out the Dodgy Bugger so that Byron would have room to collect without constantly sitting in a pool of muddy water and bumping his head on the cavity roof. Upon arriving at the mine, we discovered that the off-road vehicle group had invaded the quarry again and were busy adding to the amount of mud and muck one had to negotiate getting in and out of the mine. Come mid-afternoon, we were taking a brake from shoveling our own mud and rock when the skies truly opened up in a torrential downpour. Evidently it was too much for the dirt bikers as the high-pitched whine of two stroke motorbike engines quickly subsided It also caused a bit of a debris slide onto the landing just outside of the mine portal, which I spent the rest of the afternoon shoveling off the tracks so that we can get the Eimco and muck tubs in and out.

Met up with collector friend Lloyd Llewellyn, along with locals Barry and Helen up at the Langdon Beck Hotel for dinner. Lloyd, who lives down south in East Anglia seems to like to spend his spare time exploring old mines and such with Helen, and is up for a couple days of getting cold and wet in the name of good fun. He says heís up for a day of it in our little muddy hole in the ground before he has to return home to deal with domestic stuff. I hope he wonít be disappointed when he discovers that we donít have any waist deep bodies of standing water to wade through.

Our official Certificate of Insurance for Byronís Peugot has arrived so my first task of the new week will be to get it registered, and turn Byron loose. After that, it will likely be back to slinging mud and muck out of the mine for me. And just so you donít start thinking that the weather here is thoroughly disgusting, todayís photo is of the glorious lingering sunset we had here in St. Johnís Chapel last Friday.

Until tomorrow,

Jesse & Byron


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