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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Grooving at Groverake

groverake hush

I read this book the other week about flourspar. This may well not seem to be a terribly exciting subject, and, indeed, it did help me sleep on a couple of occasions. But it did tell me all about how it was an extremely common and once valuable mineral, especially in certain parts of Upper Weardale until some inscrutable eastern inscrutes dumped vast quantities on the European flourspar market and the local mines went out of business. Unlike most mineral mining, this happened as recently as the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s.

crater number one

And so me and Brian turned up at Groverake, just a bit West of Rookhope and climbed up the line of the vein out on to Redburn Common. There were lots of big holes. Craters, really. And these had a few outcrops of red and yellow rocks in them which in turn had shiny bits. On inspection (with a big ‘ammer), most of these turned out to be either flourspar (flourite) or lead ore (galena) there was, in fact, a lot of galena.

flourite and galena in situ

groverake 008

We explored the vein and the holes up on to the moor where we discovered that we were very close to the Rookhope Flue.

This flue is over a mile long, crosses a local river on a kind of viaduct, and climbs up the hillside to the summit of Redburn Common. The idea is to send lead-heavy fumes up the flue which should condense on the walls for later removal by the insertion of a small child with a sharp pick and a bucket. Nowadays, this would be seen as cruel. In future we’ll probably view the feeding of saturated fats and sugar to children as cruel and not as the crime-prevention measure that it really is (kids are too fat and unfit to escape from the police after breaking a window or whatever)

top of rookhope flue

Anyway, the top of the flue is a fine place to sit in the warm sun listening to springtime moorland birds and putting the world to rights.

After a while, we retraced back down the line of craters and bashed a few more geological samples.


galena - lead ore

Then we explored the nearby mine buildings. The main mine was abandoned around 1989 and the buildings still contain discarded clothing in the pit showers (mainly socks and gloves, it would appear) – and there are still documents in the office which has, though , all,been thoroughly vandalised. This is archeology in the making. Birds have been nesting inside and the place has an odd an slightly unnerving atmosphere.

oracle with nests

We visited the head gear where the cage was in its “up” position. The shaft below was tested for depth and a stone or two each took around seven seconds before a splash was heard. Tip: Don’t jump up and down on the covering of this shaft. The time taken to hit the water is sufficiently long for far too much thinking to be done. I would guess that most thoughts would centre around how the current situation was unlikely to have a happy outcome.

head gear

So we went to the pub at Allenheads, and then the one at Garrigill after seizing a rear brake in Alston Front Street (worra smell…) Seems OK, now , though, but I went over a bump on Killhope, so that probably unseized it, I expect.

I think we did about 2 miles with about 300 feet of uphill, but that really wasn’t the point of this, which was to poke around looking for minerals and doing some pontificating on the meaning of various holes and “things”

The vein is rich in galena. I expect that most of the flourites in deep underground as there’s not a vast amount on the surface. You can look at this stuff, by the way, but you can’t take any away.

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