This is a personal blog mainly to do with hillwalking things but with other stuff as well.....maybe the odd rant..
Saturday, 10 July 2010
Slit Mine Archaeology and Other Interesting Things
Today, at quite short notice, I assembled by the Post Office in Westgate in Weardale and conjoined with Brian and Charlie and several Westgate residents, the landowners of Slit Wood and various archaeologists, hydrologists and other kinds of ologists for an exposition of an industrial archaeology project which is taking place high up Slit Wood. Slit Wood is and ancient bit of woodland which is absolutely heaving with wild flowers, including quite a lot of plants which don’t mind a spot of lead pollution. It also has an ancient mill at it’s foot, which may well have a longer history of being other things, and Slit Mine which is one of the biggest and most important mines in Weardale, with a history of about 250 years of activity. English Heritage and Natural England (careful Peewiglet…..) are spending about a quarter of a million of yer Queen’s spondoolies making sure the place doesn't disappear into the beck, which occasionally sports some monster floods. The work is centred around stabilising the buildings – in particular some Bouse teams (stores for lead ore for each team or gang of miners), a 600 foot shaft, a wheel pit and the site of a hydraulic engine and it’s dam, plus dressing floors, a smithy and some culverts.
This rose is carved into a tree next to a memorial bench for a local who died in Spain in 2001. Unfortunately the tree is now dead. This photo may well soon be all that's left of it. So, lead by Tom Gledhill, we learned a lot about the place and made some unexpected discoveries. After the walk during which we sent Brian off to pick some litter from the beck, where we discovered this fossilised beach And then some of us met with 88 year old Charlie Armstrong planting out in his garden by the beck. I should explain that the path up to Slit Wood goes through Charlie’s garden. We got chatting and Charlie asks us in to see inside the mill….. which turns out to be probably originally built as a Bastle house, probably with some building material from the Bishop of Durham’s castle just downstream a bit. We started almost underground in a byre with a kitchen next to it, but, apparently, no way to get upstairs. Upstairs were the controls for the mill wheel and hoists and ancient fireplaces and floor levels. And Mr Armstrong is the possessor or the head wheel for Slit Mine a mile upstream, showing damage from the cable which must have been too small. Apparently, this wheel had worked its way downstream over a number of years and was rescued just before it fell into the pool where Brian was picking litter. The pool is quite deep and rescue from there would have been more than tricky. A short sojourn in the Hare and Hounds was called for and enjoyed. We have, of course, been to Slit Wood before haven’t we blogreaders? But now we know more about it.
I am a retired NHS Personnel person. All I do nowadays is walk about.
I used to have my pet dog Bruno with me (in the front page pic). he was Superdawg but he died. Now I have Lucky the pup. He's a bit like Bruno, only smaller and more suspicious.