Friday, July 17, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

For the past couple days we have been having what passes for summer weather here in the North Pennines. Mostly sunny, cool in the mornings but getting up to around 20C by mid-afternoon, and just enough breeze to keep the midges at bay. All this changed yesterday evening, as heavy clouds rolled in, spoiling the chance for a decent sunset. I remember waking up around 4 am to the sound of some seriously heavy rain. This seems to have stopped, at least for the moment, but the clouds are still dark and threatening. By yesterday afternoon the quarry was drying out nicely, but I guess we’ll be back to a mud pit, now!

With Dave away, the three of us have been concentrating on collecting the past couple days. With the face secure, we had at it for the entire day on Wednesday, and got some decent production. As has been the case with the pocket zone for much of this summer, a lot of it has been seriously broken, and is yielding literally hundreds of single crystals and fragments of fluorite. The best specimens seem to come from fluorite seams along the eastern margin of the flats. These pinch and swell as we have moved northward, but we have been able to recover at least a few excellent quality pieces with each blast forward. Two of those that we got on Wednesday are featured in today’s photo.

When fully exposed, the mineralization seems to carry right across the face and onto the east side of the tunnel. This gives us a rare opportunity for everyone to collect at the same time. Having chosen my place on the right (east) side, I had the pleasure of coming up with the best bits of the day. Cal, in the middle, managed to fill several plastic tubs with what will most likely be wholesale material, as well as fill almost two large plastic bags with single crystals. On the left, Ian uncovered a fairly large vein pocket, which looked like it was extending eastward toward the flats. After a lot of thumping and prying, he was able to recover a number of plates of quartz crystals with fluorites scattered about. Interesting bits, but probably more like souvenirs of a day’s work than anything highly saleable.

First thing yesterday, Cal and I loaded the van with another 16 filled shipping bins and drove them over to the timber mill to assemble another pallet for shipment home. That done, we returned to the mine to find Ian working at the face. He had successfully brought down some large rocks that we had undercut during the previous day’s digging, and was busy trying to wash away some of our copious pocket zone mud. Having enjoyed the best of the previous day, I spent much of the afternoon accepting things that were being handed back as possible specimens from Ian and Cal at the face. Unfortunately, the zone on the eastern margin, which had been so nice to me the day before appeared to be pinching down again. The center of the pocket zone, though having several layers of fluorite spread across it, had become even more of a broken jumble than before, and by about 1500 everyone had had enough.

To move forward it had become obvious that we will need to bring down some more undercut roof rock. The portion that shows the most promise is directly behind one of our support timbers, so we will need to cross-brace it before allowing any falling rocks to head its way. Deciding that was a job for another day, I went and got the loco, loaded it with the take from two days of collecting and drove it out onto the landing. We then took turns loading it into the gondola and sending it down for Cal to put in the soaking tubs. Back up dale, we all got cleaned up and headed to the Golden Lion for a couple pints and caught up on the local happenings with Roger and Billy.

Today Cal and Kerith are off to an auction south of here in Leyburn, where Kerith hopes to come away with an art nouveau glass vase that she covets. I am planning a trip west to Penrith to see a fellow who I have commissioned a custom-made guitar from. Saturday we are hosting a couple tour groups at the mine, so should be a busy weekend. And I suppose we'll also need to check on the quality of the beer at a couple nearby pubs.

Stay tuned for more.

Cheers,

Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith



A few more bonny bits.

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