Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Greetings from Weardale.

Back once again and year number ten it is. Iím not sure whether this is an example of a fool and his money or gluttony for punishment. But first, the weather.

Since arriving on Saturday the weather here in the North Pennines has been uniformly glorious. Sunny, warm, slight breeze to keep the midges at bay (most of the time, at least), and best of all, the quarry is not the mud pit that it was this time last year. Looking out the window this morning, it appears as if this weather will hold for a bit longer.

Byron and I arrived in London on Saturday, along with a plane load of noisy children and howling infants and, despite a bit of delay with a customs agent who was deeply interested in just what a few Americans are actually doing in the darkest depths of North England, made our way North in good time. The Dale seems largely unchanged since last year, but one immediately notices that even in this remote place current reality intrudes when it is time to refuel the rental car. Petrol prices are up around 25 percent from last year to around 1.15 Pounds per litre. For those of you in the U.S., this equates to around eight US Dollars per gallon, so stop your whining about having to pay four. What one does notice quickly is that because of the high fuel costs here, most vehicles are quite fuel efficient and newer cars will routinely get in excess of 35 mpg (and perhaps 50 if diesel). One of the more welcome intrusions of modern life is that we now have broadband internet access at our cottage, and are no longer restricted to a slow dialup connection. Despite having paid for the service and installation ahead of time, we arrived to find the modem and cables waiting for us in a box, along with three CDs containing different versions of the installation software. After several hours of fumbling around (no doubt assisted by a jetlag-induced mental fog), I managed to get it all to work, so we are now fully connected with the cyber-universe we have all come to depend on.

Our Welsh friend Lloyd Llewellyn was in the area over the weekend doing some mine exploring with local collector Helen Wilkinson. Despite being thoroughly jetlagged, we managed to meet up for a couple evenings of beer and stories of wading through chest-deep water or dangling at the end of 40-meter ropes going down old shafts. I am constantly amazed at what passes for fun with some people, but I guess I shouldnít talk. We ended up having supper (or tea as itís referred to in these parts) over the moors in upper Teesdale at the Langon Beck Hotel, where Lloyd usually stays on these visits. Though the food is simple, it is one of the few places one can get an evening meal in the remote upper dales, and is an enjoyable pub that features a good selection of local beers. The owner, Glenn, has been working on a mineral display room, and while not yet complete, we got to see the custom built display cabinets, which had been installed. Glenn has been fighting cancer for a while and looking rather frail, but was obviously quite keen on seeing his project to completion. I certainly hope it comes together, as there is really very little evidence left in the region of the once thriving mining industry.

Yesterday was the first day at the mine for us, and after pulling in the water line, Byron got to work where he left off last November in the Jewel Box pocket. The rock in the area is pretty brecciated so weíre going to have to do some development and stabilizing of the tunnel before much more collecting can be done, but Byron managed to get a couple nice pieces on his first day. The back of the excavated cavity is still highly mineralized, and several layers of fluorite can bee seen in the Northeast corner. This, however, is at about the limit of Byronís reach, so we will likely have to do some blasting and timbering before much more happens here.

On my schedule this morning will be phone calls to confirm compressor delivery and order explosives for moving the tunnel forward. The latter will also entail finding a fax machine somewhere here in the dale so I can send copies of our various local permits to the delivery company. Byron says that he is planning on putting together and firing up the chainsaw. The hydraulic power unit can often be a problem after having sat unused over winter, so we are hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst. Todayís photo is of the mine from the quarry floor on a sunny summer day.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron



A sunny day at the mine.

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