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An evening stroll up the spongy moss-damp valley, snail-like, my home on my back.

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Across the beck loosing the fence-stuck  young Herdwick, up miners zig zags to long-deserted delph – unforthcoming trial.

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Past diverting ditch drawing the water away from the workings, on up, a breached dam and cut hushed the soils off the slopes below, in hope of exposing the ruddy ore they found over the hill, the next valley, alas not here.

Crummock slabs, Ling Crag; Dodd Cairn; Gale Fell; Gable moonrise 028

Past ancient enclosures, ghosts of Elizabethan, perhaps Tudor, shepherds, whistle dogs and gather the flocks to guard against the hungry night.

Crummock slabs, Ling Crag; Dodd Cairn; Gale Fell; Gable moonrise 046

Here a shepherd slept? Wrapped in sheepskins and bedded on heather in the lee of the hill.

Crummock slabs, Ling Crag; Dodd Cairn; Gale Fell; Gable moonrise 039

Curiously constructed perched cairns float above the ground, small rocks,

Crummock slabs, Ling Crag; Dodd Cairn; Gale Fell; Gable moonrise 037

round arrangements, mysterious monuments grown from the clatter of stone scattered amongst the stone bields and heather.

 

Mosedale and Clew Gill 010

An orange sky on the northern horizon frames the barrow-like bulk of the summit,

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night beckons but light lingers on, as the moon looms up lazily over peak and precipice.

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Press on to find shelter, wind rising, cresting the rounded ridge, nestle down in low ancient enclosure.

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Night finally falls, transforming rocks into moonlit ridges. Memory stirs and mind wanders to the hands of forgotten waller hefting the pink granite rocks of this roundel on high moor.

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A gathering, winds whisk clouds up, wraith-like tendrils whisper, grasp at the moor but fade into moon-grey darkness. An intrusion in the night, heartbeat drumbeat echoes in the ear, drifts up from the valley below then dwindles to the distance.

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Morning, a change has come, the sky has fallen – in the clouds.

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In the gloom still watched over by the ghostly guardians,

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who are watched.

Notes: A walk up the aptly named Mosedale, Gale Fell and Starling Dodd. Old mine workings and trials are numerous in the fells, here the prospectors in the 1860’s – likely a Mr Faithful Cookson and John Hosking -were trying to locate a continuation of the rich iron ore bearing seams and lodes found on the Ennerdale side of these fells at Kelton Fell and Knockmurton worked from about 1853. However none of these trails developed into true mines and were abandoned by 1873. What is unusual hereabouts is to find traces of hushing, where the water is dammed and diverted to erode the topsoil to expose the rock and, hopefully, the rich seams, the gullies formed by this method are visible in the second photograph. The numerous small stone structures on the moor here have not been formally recorded to date and most likely relate to post medieval upland grazing activities although one or two have similarities to the smaller Bronze Age ring cairns found elsewhere in the Cumbrian Fells and beyond. 

 

 

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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.

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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?

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Still silent wheel, no crushing here today

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Slack chain drive once turning the ritespeed

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No current flows today, drawn from the beck head

Held at height rushing down, turning water whirring turbines

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Rushing crushing ore falls through the funnel

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To rattling riddles, separating slate from mineral

Into the hollow drum of the ball mill.

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Balls of steel rumble tumble and grind, silent now,

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To flotation tanks of foaming minerals,

Skimmed, dried and gathered by the scavenger cells

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Skeletons of empty trucks

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Worn artefacts of hard labour, tagged.

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Notes: This tour was organised by the Lake District National Park, thanks to Joel Ormond for giving us a grand tour!November 2015 - March 2016 189

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.

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