Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

A storm front moved through the area over the weekend, but seems to have largely missed us here in Weardale. We did get some rain of and on but mostly it was just cloudy, warm and very humid. By yesterday morning it had passed and we got a very nice summer day. This morning looks to be another one, but we all know that the weather – no matter which kind – is subject to change without notice here in the North Pennines.

Much of the past three days have been spent collecting the new pocket and hoping to get at least a few good bits out of the mine this summer. Saturday Cal was away on tourist duty with Kerith, so Ian and I had the pocket to ourselves. After a lengthy struggle, Ian managed to capture a fairly large specimen from the center of the cavity, measuring about a meter in length. Unfortunately, the rock was only partially covered with fluorite so will need cutting, but should yield a nice plate from one end. Taking over after him, I managed to recover a good number of smaller specimens and numerous single crystals and bits. During his struggle, Ian managed to get himself fairly well soaked and by mid-afternoon was beginning to look a bit hypothermic, so we headed back to the cottage where he could take a hot bath and regain his composure.

Saturday evening we had a small birthday gathering for Kerith at the Black Bull in Frosterley. This former pub is one of the few places in Weardale to get anything more than “pub grub” to eat, but has been a bit uneven in the past. Saturday’s meal was excellent, however, and everyone had an enjoyable time. Back in St John’s Chapel, Cal, Ian, Roger and I made a stop in the Golden Lion, the village’s second pub (along with the Blue Bell). The Lion has seen its ups and downs during the time we have been coming here, and had been closed for much of the past year. New owners have taken over and cleaned up the place nicely, and were having a bit of a celebration that evening. We’ve had many a pint at the Lion over the years and it is nice to see it coming back to life. They are even planning on serving meals on a regular basis, which is something the upper dale really needs.

Sunday got off to a slow start as many of the roads through and around the dale were closed for a large charity bicycle race. Much of this was finished by around noon, so the three of us headed in to the mine for some more collecting. I elected to take a turn at scrubbing some of the backlog of collected specimens while Ian and Cal had at the pocket. About the time I got into the scrubbing it began to rain. Coupled with the relatively high temperature this made the task something like working in a sauna, and the rain guaranteed that none of the washed specimens would dry anytime soon. After filling the table with washed specimens I joined the others underground, where it was cooler, if not less humid. By around 1600 we had managed to fill several more tubs with new material, which Cal sent down on our gondola and set to soaking in truck-wash detergent to get some of the mud off. Back up the dale, we ended up at the Blue Bell for a pint (as one does) and met up with the crew from the Greenlaws dig, who had their own tales of fluorite and mud to tell.

Yesterday began with a major assault on the backlog of specimens needing to be washed. Cal decided to go in early and by the time Ian and I got there he was well along with the task. I pitched in, helping finish the chore while Ian soaked up some of the rare North Pennines sun like a lizard on a hot rock.

After getting the washing done, we all headed back to the pocket in hopes of more produce. As happens, several days of digging had produced a long, narrow cavity that was now rather difficult to work in, as we decided to try and break out the opening on the left (north) side to give better access. This was successful, and we got a fairly nice (and large) two-sided specimen in the process, but this also seems to have destabilized some of the rock around the opening, making it a bit dodgy to be working under. While contemplating how we should approach our problem, Cal set up the washing screen and proceeded to dump huge amounts of accumulated pocket mud on it for washing. Today’s photo is of him picking out some of the numerous single crystals that are mixed in to the muck.

After considering our options, we decided that we would likely need to scale away all the loose rock from around the pocket opening and put a timber frame in to support the ceiling at the entrance to the pocket. We also decided that it would be a good idea to have Dave involved, as he will be mucking out the face and likely installing another timber set when he’s back on Wednesday. I’m not sure where this leaves us today, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

Stay tuned for more.

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

More fun with the mud.

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