Thursday, May 21, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

Being this far north, summer is often a brief and fleeting thing. Since arriving last weekend the weather has been fairly cold still, with strong winds and occasional rain. Trees are just beginning to leaf out and the usual profusion of wildflowers is yet to fully develop. I am told that even during the last past few weeks there have been overnight frosts and a light dusting of snow on the felltops. The though the cold wind does bite, it also dries things out, and on opening the mine we found the quarry ponds at a very low level for this time of year. The nesting ducks and moorhens are likely unhappy about this, but so far weíve avoided getting the company vehicles covered in mud. Yesterday things warmed up a bit and the sun was out much of the day, so maybe summerís getting closer.

At the mine on Tuesday, Ian and I spent the morning back at what remained of last Augustís pocket, and unlike the vehicles, did manage to get ourselves rather soiled and wet. We also got a few more tubs of specimens, but by early afternoon it became apparent that the pocket was pinching out. After a brief group conference, we decided that itís time to drill and shoot it, and see what lies ahead.

Before shaking things up, Dave decided that some infrastructure work needed doing, particularly on the timbering that we put up in the incipient second drive that we started at the end of last summer. One of the support sticks at that face had been damaged in the last blast we did there, and needed to be replaced. The exposed roof at that face is also a jumble of some very large and nasty looking rocks. Fortunately, these did not move over winter, but Dave feels we should make the area more secure before shaking things up by blasting in the pocket zone again.

While Dave began the timbering chores, Ian and I went down to the storage sheds and started scrubbing the mud off our recent finds. About 1500 I noticed that it was getting dark and the temperature had dropped. Before long the rain began, and while carrying our load of freshly scrubbed specimens into one of the sheds, the rain turned to hail, which was soon coming down the size of pea gravel. While this can make an interesting sound when striking your hardhat, I donít recommend standing around in it. As everyone was cold and wet, and getting even more so by the minute, we decided to close up a little early and head back up dale. By the time we got past Stanhope we noticed that the roads were completely dry, and it seems our hailstorm must have been a very local happening. Todayís photo is of the quarry dusted with the hailstones, as we left. Back in St Johnís Chapel, Ian recovered from the dayís experiences with a hot bath, and afterwards we went over to the recently resurrected Golden Lion for a few pints of Theakstonís and a bit of chat with some local friends.

Yesterday the sun actually came out and we were treated to one of those lovely North Pennines days with blue skies and fluffy clouds rolling by. Still a bit cold, but almost summer. The Brits, being traditionalists, generally donít like to rush into things too quickly. Our hired compressor was scheduled for delivery at the mine, and showed up shortly before noon. Usually the driver making the delivery is there fairly early, and so were we this year to meet him. Evidently he got stuck on a two-lane road behind an accident, and with the compressor in tow behind a Land Rover, could not turn around.

While waiting, Dave engineered an extension to the air hose, allowing us to park the compressor a bit further from the dump than in previous years. This will, hopefully, avoid the specter of an errant rock bouncing toward it when we are dumping muck over the side of the landing, and damaging an expensive piece of hired equipment. Everything started up as it was supposed to, no leaks in the airline, and we spent the afternoon hauling up timbers and cutting them for use at the face. With the sun out and a cool breeze, it was about as good a day as one can get for this sort of work.

Back up dale, we had as much of a pub crawl as one can manage here in the village. Stopped by the Blue Bell for a pint, but the cask went off after getting just one. Brian did not have a replacement ready to go, so we wandered over to the Golden Lion for a second, and had a very nice steak and ale pie for supper. A little tired and sore this morning from my introduction to a season of manual labor, but Iím sure weíll be right back into it shortly.

Stay tuned for more.


Jesse & Ian

Not quite summer, yet!

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