Monday, August 10, 2009

Greetings from Weardale,

Our spell of good weather has continued for several days now, remaining sunny and warm, and with an unusual lack of rain. Yesterday was a bit cooler and breezy, and I expect that autumn is not far off here in the North. This morning we are back to a light rain, which will give our visitors a taste of our “normal” weather here in the North Pennines.

Friday at the mine we drilled and shot the main face again, hoping to expose more of the incipient alteration zone that was showing on the west side of the face. I parked Jurgen and Robert in a couple spots around the mine that showed some promise of yielding a specimen or two and let them enjoy themselves while getting covered with mud. Being a nice day outside, Byron set up the chain saw and scoured the mine for large bits to be carved up into smaller, more manageable bits.

With no place promising to collect myself, I volunteered to help Dave at the face during the afternoon’s drilling. This turned out to be a much more frustrating and time-consuming task that usual because of problems with the drill. Dave’s favorite drill has always been the small Holman that we purchased a number of years ago. The chuck on the drill recently broke, and will need to be replaced over winter. Last year we acquired a slightly larger Holman, which Dave hoped to use as a replacement. Unfortunately, shortly after he started the drilling it developed a problem with the air feed to the jackleg, which pushes the drill against the wall during the drilling process. After fighting with it for a bit, he gave up in frustration and brought up one of our Sig drills from the storage container. These drills are quite powerful, but are much larger and heavier than the Holmans and take some serious effort to muscle around. Dave finally got the face drilled and shot by end of day, but was obviously quite tired and in a pretty foul mood from the experience.

On Saturday Cal, Kerith and Eric took a drive over to Kendal to visit with Lindsay and Patricia Greenbank, and the rest of us went in to the mine to check on the results of Friday’s blast and show a couple scheduled visitors around. The blast had gone off quite well and only knocked out a couple of cross-braces from the timbering, leaving a large pile of rubble in the tunnel. After hand-mucking the some rock from the top of the pile we were able to see that the alteration zone on the west side is continuing to develop and some seams of bright green fluorite were showing. While I showed our visitors around Byron and Jurgen had at digging the newly exposed seam, and Robert mucked out the mess he had created the previous day while collecting in the Northwest Crosscut. The fluorite from the new exposure shows promise, as there looks to be a lot of gemmy lustrous twins on a crust of smaller fluorite. Unfortunately, most of what we managed to collect was damaged or crumbled to bits when extracted. I’m hoping this is just a result of being to close to the blast and that things will improve as we dig forward.

After closing down around 1630 we headed up the dale and stopped Barry and Helen’s so that Jurgen and Robert could have a look at Helen’s collection. Robert got rather quiet for a while as he looked through the drawers and display cabinets.

Sunday was a goof-off day for all. Byron had a London-based friend he had met in Tucson stop by for a visit to the mine, Cal, Kerith and Eric had an afternoon barbeque with some of our neighbors here, and I took Jurgen and Robert out to visit some of the old mine sites around the dale. First stop was Killhope to see the mineral and sparbox displays, then up to Allenheads and back down Rookhopeburn with stops at Groverake, Frazer’s Hush and the site of the Boltsburn mine in Rookhope. Over the years since closing, the Groverake site has suffered from periodic vandalisms, the most serious was the theft of one of the two mainframes for scrap a couple years back. What remains is a sad reminder of a once flourishing mining industry, which with the exception of our small operation, has now vanished. Today’s photo is of the remaining head-frame seen through a broken window in the former mine shop. When we got to the village of Rookhope an even sadder discovery was that someone has created a garbage dump in the remains of the Boltsburn site. Afterwards, we stopped by the Rookhope Inn for a pint of Black Sheep and toasted the memory of this once glorious mine.

This morning we start on our last full week of the season. Dave and Joe will be mucking the face, and Byron will, undoubtedly, be pacing about, anxious to get back to collecting.

Until next time,

Jesse & Crew

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