Sunday, August 17, 2008

Greetings from Weardale,

Friday actually turned out to be a fairly nice day by Northern English standards, it only rained a little bit. Though overcast most of the day, it remained fairly warm and a bit breezy and things managed to dry out a little. By early evening it began to sprinkle a bit, but the rain never managed to get very serious. Saturday was much the same, which might be a record stretch of good weather this summer. This morning it is chucking down rain once again.

With our 10th anniversary social event happening Friday evening, we had a good number of visitors at the mine during the day. Byron, being the relatively single-minded individual he is, was out the door around 0800 to open things up. Cal and Kerith made one final shopping trip for food and drink, after-which Cal showed up at the mine. I picked up Dave and Joe at 1000 for the drive in, and found the contingent from the Natural History Museum already at the mine and anxious to get muddy. Shortly there-after Ian Jones, Lloyd Lewellyn and his wife Sandra showed up as well. After suiting up everyone got the tour, and the brave ones even crawled their way (one at a time) into the Rat Hole for a look at the fluorite remaining on portions of the cavity wall.

At the main face Byron was busy digging away, but was soon chased out by Dave, who needed to do some more timbering. According to Dave, Byron spent much of the time pacing around, offering “helpful” suggestions, and generally making it clear that he was impatient to get back in. I guess you could call him “focused” on his job. After a bit of mucking around the mine, Mike Rumsey joined Cal in searching the dump for things that may have missed Byron’s attention at the face, while I showed the rest of the crew where they could collect some of our Frosterley Marble (actually a black fossiliferous limestone) in the quarry. Today’s photo is of Mike and Cal having a good pick on the dump. After a bit of collecting, the museum folks headed off for a tour of the mining “hotspots” around the dale, including Rookhope, Allenheads, and Killhope, with a rendezvous planned at the Blue Bell later in the afternoon.

Back up dale, we all met up at the pub for a quick pint then adjourned to the cottage to inspect a small collection of the season’s best specimens, which we are holding separate from the general produce in order to send back at season’s end by Fed Ex. Everyone made the appropriate noises of appreciation and awe, and we even got a few enquiries about availability and price. Very gratifying, as well as somewhat reassuring when I think of what it cost us for a mining season.

The evening’s festivities began around 1800 at the Weardale Inn, a large pub/restaurant just up dale from St. John’s Chapel. Back in the days when there was still a mining industry in the dale, the building was the local school. I am told that during the 1970s it was a Mexican theme pub known as “Hacienda del Rio.” Much of the interior still has a look that is faintly suggestive of what someone from Northern England may have thought a proper hacienda should look like, but is a large and comfortable place that can accommodate a bit of a do. We had a good turnout, and were able to say a proper “thank you” to all the folks who have helped us here over the years. The rain was even appreciative enough to hold off, while yours truly tended the barbeque. Isabel was kind enough to have put on a cask of Deuchar’s IPA, which we all managed to put a good dent in.

Saturday morning, despite having helped himself to the lion’s share of the Deuchar’s the evening before, Byron was out the door for the mine by 0800. The rest of us hosted a number of the previous evening’s attendees who stopped by for coffee on their way home out of the dale. Around noon Cal and I got to the mine and found Byron busy at the face. The tunnel around the face drains poorly due to all the mud, and “Lake Weege” was rising rapidly from his use of the water hose. I actually got about a half hour collecting at the face when Byron and Cal took a lunch break, and managed to recover a fairly nice bit for myself.

Today is a day off from the mine. Cal and Kerith are packing up for their return trip home, and Joan and I will likely go out for a bit of sight-seeing. The heather is said to be in full bloom on the moors, and should be a sight, despite the rain. Byron doesn’t seemed to have been moved beyond drinking coffee and reading the paper.

Until next time,

Jesse, Joan, Cal, Kerith, and Byron

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