Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather remains cool and overcast, but the rain has held off, for the most part. The heavy rains of last Friday and Saturday are still feeding the waterfalls into the quarry, and our ponds are pretty much full again. Fortunately, the road in the quarry hasn’t turned completely muddy, yet. Yesterday the breeze was almost non-existent, and appears much the same this morning. Unfortunately, this creates ideal conditions for the midges to come out, and we were swarmed with them in the quarry. Unless the wind picks up a bit, I fear it will be much the same today.

Saturday morning Dave went in early to start clearing out the beginnings of our new cross-cut into the flats on the west side of the tunnel near the face. Unfortunately, some of the support timbers near the cross-cut got rearranged in the process. While we didn’t loose the timbered roof, the resulting situation was dangerous enough that Ian and I were not able to do any collecting until Dave was able to set things right on Monday. With an unplanned afternoon on our hands, we decided to make a trip up dale to Killhope for a look around. Nothing new and interesting to be had at their bookshop, but we did get to spend some time visiting the mineral display. On the way out we almost got trapped there when a cloudburst caused the stream (actually the head of the Wear) to rise rapidly, temporarily blocking the normally passable ford on the road in.

Sunday we made the drive west to Kendal to see Lindsay and Patricia Greenbank, the original operators of the mine. Both have been relatively house-bound lately because of health issues, and seemed glad for the visit. For those not familiar, the Greenbanks, along with having started the Rogerley back in the early 1970s, have had one of the most important collections of Northern English minerals put together in recent years. While much of the collection has recently been sold on (with yours truly participating in the proceedings, of course), there are always new specimens to see, and plenty of stories to be told during visits. The drive over and back from Weardale is also quite scenic, though can be made a bit slower this time of year by all the gypsy caravans on the road heading to the nearby horse fair in Appleby.

Monday morning, everyone was back at it at the mine. While I helped Dave with some of the mucking and re-timbering to be done up front, Cal got out the chain saw and fired up the hydraulic power unit. Doing this for the first time each year is always a cliff-hanger. In most years, something has gone wrong with the thing while sitting over winter and it takes us a while to get it going again. This year it mysteriously fired up without any trouble, so we were able to spend much of the morning reducing our accumulation of large bits into more manageable sizes. Today’s photo is of Cal working on one of the larger plates we recovered from the Mud Ball pocket last week.

After lunch (known locally as “bait”) we set to doing some collecting around the now-securely timbered face. There are several seams of very green fluorite showing across the west side of the face, and I spent several hours digging away at this spot in hopes that it would pocket. While I did succeed in moving a good bit of rock, I only managed to get crumbly bits of fluorite, and no real specimens for my efforts. Cal and Ian, working in the area of our new cross-cut were more successful. While this area continues to be as slow and difficult to collect as it was last summer, some good pieces came out, and the area looks very promising. Toward the end of the day, we had to vacate our respective diggings to help Dave install some new lengths of PVC ducting to bring the air from our ventilation fan closer to the face.

Today will likely be a busy day. Along with continued collecting in the new cross-cut, Dave is planning to drill and shoot the main face again. Along with this, we have quite an accumulation of soaking specimens that need to be scrubbed of their mud, and I suspect that someone will also need to make another fuel run for the compressor and generators.

More soon,


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Cal and and chain saw reducing a specimen to a managable size.

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