Wednesday July 2, 2008

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather for the past few days has been pretty sunny, warm and dry. Such an abundance of sun is quite a novelty in these parts and when we get a day like yesterday many folk feel compelled to expose as much flesh as modesty will allow and spend as much time doing what they can outdoors. I think many motorists keep folding lawn chairs in the boot of their cars for just such occasions. Driving about on a day such as yesterday, can find many who have pulled over at indiscriminant points along the road, set up their furniture, and are basking in the warmth. Unfortunately, the overall market for things like sunblock cream are pretty limited in places like Northern England, and these things tend not to be readily available at one’s local convenience store. As a result, one will soon see a lot of fairly pink people wandering about looking slightly dazed from the experience.

With the nice weather, I spent much of Monday washing and wrapping accumulated specimens down at the containers. Byron spent the day at the pocket, but soon had excavated to the limit of his reach. The fluorite seam also appeared to be pinching down and almost no specimens of any consequence came out, so it became obvious that another round of blasting was needed. We’ve developed the collecting face laterally to the extent that we now need to start a true cross-cut tunnel heading eastward into the fluorite zone and away from the main tunnel. To make sure we could do this without blowing out much of the pre-existing timbering at the face, Dave spent the morning yesterday building a cage-like set of cross braces before drilling the floor below the exposed fluorite-producing zone. At the end of the day he shot it, and this morning we will see the results.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go out to Scordale with Helen and visit the site of the Hilton Mine. The Hilton is located along the western escarpment of the North Pennines, and has been the source of some marvelous specimens of amber-yellow fluorite. The mine site is now within a military firing range and is often closed to visitors. Yesterday was otherwise, and with the good weather at hand, I decided to take a goof-off day and go along with her. One must park at the mouth of the burn and walk about a mile in, but with the weather yesterday, this was quite enjoyable, and we found ourselves virtually alone on the trek. Once to the head of the valley one must climb some fairly steep slopes to reach the old mine workings. Helen bounded upwards like someone who does this sort of thing every day (which I am sure is not far from the truth), while I was able to keep up, at least most of the time.

The level that accesses the flats where the best specimens have come from is well up the valley side, and the view from up there was spectacular. Adding to that was the wild thyme, which was blooming in profusion with tiny purple flowers. The actual level is now off limits, but over the years many collectors have visited the place anyway, leaving it in a very messy and dangerous condition. Helen and I had our lunch and enjoyed the view, which is featured in today’s photo, and then headed back via the Murton mine workings on the north side of the burn.

This morning Cal and I have a meeting with our landlord’s estate agent to discuss the terms of our lease agreement (i.e.: raising the rent), and afterwards it will be back to the mine to see how the new cross-cut is developing. Undoubtedly, we will be pushing tubs of muck out of the mine in the process.

Tomorrow I will be heading down to London then back home for July. Cal will continue the updates, and I will return again in August to oversee the end of the season.

Until next time,

Jesse, Byron, Cal and Kerith

A view down Scordale from near the Hilton Mine.

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