Crystals of bright barytes bond to dark grey galena,
Tallow candlelight on felt caps to bright bulbs on hard hats,
From Mines Royal to motionless museum, a near half millennium has passed,
Still sheep graze on grass above this deep dark mine.
White eyes in smudged faces emerge into the light
Ore dumped in grizzly hopper, drawn by belt
Worn through the layers to rings, contours of a mountain?
Still silent wheel, no crushing here today
Slack chain drive once turning the ritespeed
No current flows today, drawn from the beck head
Held at height rushing down, turning water whirring turbines
Rushing crushing ore falls through the funnel
To rattling riddles, separating slate from mineral
Into the hollow drum of the ball mill.
Balls of steel rumble tumble and grind, silent now,
To flotation tanks of foaming minerals,
Skimmed, dried and gathered by the scavenger cells
Skeletons of empty trucks
Worn artefacts of hard labour, tagged.
Notes: This tour was organised by the Lake District National Park, thanks to Joel Ormond for giving us a grand tour!
Coledale Mine was worked from Elizabethan times, by German miners employed by the Mines Royal, and finally ceased work in 1992 when it was gifted to the National Trust. The machinery was to be scrapped until it was realised that this was probably the last remaining example in Britain and so it was all brought back and reassembled! The processing mill must have been an extraordinary dusty and noisy place to work and serves a a tribute to the fortitude of the men who worked this site over the centuries. It latterly it was worked predominately for its Zinc and Barium bearing ores but was also mined for lead and silver in the past. The vagaries and fluctuating fortunes of mining meant that it eventually closed due to a roof fall which buried the loco and was the final straw. These mines were thrifty places and there was widespread recycling of metallic items and power provided by hydro-electric turbines latterly, indeed much of the machinery present still dates from the 1920’s.