Saturday, June 27, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather has finally started to act a bit more summer-like here in the North Pennines. Thursday was still a bit rainy, and though that carried over into Friday morning, the temperatures have generally been in the 16-18C range during the day. Yesterday afternoon the sun actually came out, making it a rather pleasant experience to emerge into the outer world after being in a dark wet mine (with a constant temperature of 8C) for much of the day. Driving back up the dale around 1730 I saw that most pubs with outdoors seating were jammed with folks finally getting a chance to expose bits of pale skin to the sun. If the weather continues like this through the weekend, I’ll guarantee there will be a lot of bright red skin about by Monday.

On Thursday we finally were able to get through a day as planned, without breakdown or major distraction. I spent much of the day on the mucking crew, helping Dave and Joe clear the face, while Cal set to filling some of our newly acquired blue shipping bins with wrapped specimens. Although clearing the face was somewhat complicated by a couple threatening rocks in the ceiling that required some special assistance to come loose, we finally had it cleaned up and the water plumbed back in by mid-afternoon. Cal, having filled five bins with our recent take from the mine, joined me at the face for the last couple hours of the day, and we were able to wash down some of the newly exposed ground and get a look at what may (or may not) lay ahead.

After washing a bit of the ever-present mud away we could see ironstone alteration and several seams of fluorite running across much of the face and back around on the east side of the tunnel. I think this is the strongest showing of mineralization that we have had in some time, so hopes are high that we will get some good production in the coming days. Without timbering yet in place, we did not want to begin tearing into the face in a major way, but managed to collect almost a full bag of single crystals and green bits by day’s end.

Kerith was away for the evening on a girl’s night out (known locally as a “hen”) with several local friends, so Cal and I fashioned ourselves a dinner of sausages and roast potatoes, after which I met up with our neighbor Roger and some other local friends at the Golden Lion. A new cask of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was on, which is arguably one of the finest beers in the country, but somehow I managed to get back to the cottage and into bed at a reasonable hour.

Yesterday morning Cal and Kerith were away early for a wool festival in Cockermouth, which is in western Cumbria and a fairly long drive on twisty country roads. I went in to the mine and spent the morning helping Dave and Joe timber the face and muck out the last remaining rock from the face. All was reasonably secure by early afternoon, so I got the water and gathered an assortment of collecting tools and got to work. After a bit more washing at the face it became apparent that we really have a lot of fluorite showing now. Unfortunately, many of the seams are still tight and much of the fluorite has been broken from the matrix.

After about an hour of mostly picking bits out of the mud Cal showed up to join the party. The nice thing about having such a large exposure of mineralization is that more than one person can collect at the same time, though having only one water hose sometimes leads to a bit of competition for it. After a couple hours we had created a bit of a lake at the face and found ourselves standing in water. This can be a bit troublesome, as if some interesting bit slips from your muddy hands it will likely disappear forever under the water. It will also let you know in short order if you have a leaky wellie, which I did.

By around 1530 I was loosing feeling in my toes from the water now inside the boot, so took a late lunch break, leaving Cal with an uncontested water supply. Emerging from the mine to sun and relative warmth when one is cold and wet is truly one of life’s simple pleasures! After eating a quick sandwich and squeezing the water out of my socks, I rummaged about the storage container and found another pair of wellies that sort-of fit, and headed back in. Cal was still busy ratching about the portion of the face he had been working at, and the lake had grown noticeably about his feet, but he was only getting single crystals and a few average wholesale specimens for his efforts. Diving back in, I found that my new boots did not instantaneously fill with water, and after a bit of work in my chosen spot, actually turned up a couple nice pieces. Cal was obviously getting cold and wet, as well as a bit frustrated at not turning up anything really good, so headed out to begin close-up, while I dug at the final specimen for the day, which is the subject of today’s photo.

Today we are hosting a group from the Northern Mines Research Society, as well as a couple local friends who are interested in mines and minerals. Hopefully we will get some more collecting done, as well. And hopefully our lake at the face has drained away.


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Last specimen for the day.

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