Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

The past couple days have been truly winter-like. Monday was overcast and cold, with strong winds and some serious rain in the afternoon and evening. After returning from the mine, we decided to make a visit to the Golden Lion for a pint. While it is only a very short walk to the other side of the village square, I was pretty cold and wet by the time we got there. We were also the only customers. I would think the locals were use to this type of weather, but it seems that everyone else was cowering at home. Yesterday was windy and cool, but we had intermittent outbreaks of sunshine. This changed about the time we finished up at the mine for the day, and the rain started again as we changed out of our muddy mine clothes. The lock on one of the containers has become rather sticky, and, of course, it decided to misbehave while we were trying to lock up in the downpour. On the plus side, there were some nice rainbows to be seen on the way up dale, and today’s photo, courtesy of visiting friend Lloyd Llewellen, is of one seen from the square in St John’s Chapel.

Monday morning at the mine, we finished up cleaning the face and installed another set of timbering. There were some low-hanging rocks in the exposed part of the ceiling that Dave spent some time trying to bring down. They remained stubbornly in place, so the lagging boards had to be engineered to accommodate them. That done, we once again assaulted the face with all manner of hand tools and water. There was a nice band of ironstone alteration interlayered with several seams of green fluorite stretching across the face, but try as we might, the zone only gave up broken bits and nothing resembling a real specimen. This, coupled with the cold wet weather left everyone in a less than stellar mood by the end of the day.

Back at it yesterday, Dave decided that it was time to install another length of rail at the face, so Ian and I helped with that while Cal began to troubleshoot the batteries in the loco, which do not seem to be charging up fully. The spare rail that we have at the mine is in 10-foot lengths and already tied together with sleepers. To install a section, Dave must first cut holes in the ends and match up the connecting plates (known as “fish plates”) with the acetylene torch. As the rail sections are far too heavy to be carried about the mine by hand, each section must be hauled up onto the top of the muck tub and driven in and out with the loco. Getting a 10-foot section of rail around a couple of the tight bends in the mine track without smashing onto (and potentially knocking out) some of the support timbers is a trick, but this time we managed.

By early afternoon we had the new length of rail installed, and Dave left us to tear at the face again. This time, we actually recovered a few tubs of specimens, but it was hard-fought, and a lot of rock needed to be shifted. Most of it was likely wholesale grade, but I think a few nice things turned up. I’ll know today when we’ve had a chance to scrub the mud off them. Late afternoon local friends Lloyd and Helen turned up and spent a bit of time ratching about a couple vein pockets that were exposed along the drift just back from the face. These pockets are usually imbedded in solid ironstone and can be difficult to collect. I’m not sure if they came up with anything really worthwhile, but at least they had a couple hours to play in our mud.

Back up dale, everyone met up at the Blue Bell for a couple pints, and a chance to catch up on things all around. Lloyd, obviously being in tourist mode, had been watching the scenery on the way up dale and had caught some nice rainbow photos. I think the rest of us were just focused on getting back to the cottage and getting into some dry clothes! Today at the mine we will likely spend some time scrubbing our harvest from the past few days. I suspect that it is once again time for another shot at the face, so Dave will likely begin the drill-blast-muck-timber cycle once again.

Stay tuned for more.


Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

A rainbow over St. John's Chapel - by Lloyd Llewellyn.

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