Date & Time: Thursday 22nd May 2008. 8.30 am start. ( NY 115 295 )
Location of Start : Mitchell's Auction Mart Cockermouth. Cumbria, Uk.
Places visited : Nenthead Mines Heritage Centre near Alston in the Pennines, then Sanders Close Farm, Alston, and The Auctioneer Pub, Carlisle.
Walked with : Myself plus sixteen other members of the Loweswater Discussion Group.
Weather : Sunny and dry becoming overcast later in the day.
The signboard at the entrance to the Nenthead Centre
During the winter months there are regular meetings of a group formally called the Loweswater Discussion Group, but known locally as the Farmers Discussion Group. They chat over a beer or two on alternate Monday evenings at the Kirkstile, and invite speakers on a wide range of subjects to talk at meetings. The group is one of the oldest established Cumbrian village groups of it's type as it started over fifty years ago.
At the end of the winter season they organise a day out
which usually involves a farm visit, a bus trip, a meal out and time away
from the ladies !!
Arrival at the Nenthead Heritage Centre courtesy of Ken Routledge Coaches.
After a coffee at the reception cafe, we visited their museum.
The school children were panning for lead as we crossed the yard to the indoor display.
As the first half of the party walked directly to the first mine visit of the day, our group studied the exhibits and sites on the way up the valley.
Looking down the 300 ft shaft.
Press the button and drop a "virtual stone" down the shaft. The lights cascade down the shaft and splash at the bottom.
The pipes are original and carry water and air down to the base of the mine, for power and ventilation.
Back down in the valley they have constructed a series of working examples of water power.
Pull the handles and release the water to work the wheels.
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The London Lead Company developed the site to include the processing and refining of the ore into lead ingots.
For every ton of lead they refined, they also separated out about half a pound of silver as a secondary but very valuable second metal.
The site plan here shows the process, from raw material on the right to smelting in the centre and refining on the left. The wall across the picture is an inclined chimney built up the slope to remove the poisonous smoke away to a chimney high on the hillside.
The inclined flue can be seen in the centre of the photo, the old hoppers to the right.
A cleared smelt mill area showing the foundations of each of the processing sections.
Mine trucks of the sort used to bring out the raw materials.
Our head man for today, William, standing next to a mine engine used to load raw materials underground.
Carrs Shop, the last building before the mine entrance where the miners would have signed on for work, recorded their output, and probably left tools for repair at the end of their shift.
Today it was the point from which we collected out hard hats before being led underground to see the old workings.
These are remains of the unworked lead vein left behind by the miners. The working veins would have been even more impressive.
The river bed has lost its natural look as the spoil heaps crowd the banks and the water is diverted to feed the wheels.
Click here for more information on the Nenthead Experience
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After the Mine visit we adjourned to the Miners Arms for a rather nice lunch.
The village was built and influenced by the early Quaker Brethren and so the London Lead Company was very caring to it's employees and their families.
Even today there seems to be a very rich community spirit in the village. Here the children's adventure playground is new and full of things to do.
The Community Shop is run from the old Quaker Reading Rooms.
All the village youngsters were educated up to eleven years old and welfare was well planned including pensions for retired workers, those that lived long enough to reach the required age that is. Life expectancy by virtue of living and working in a lead mining environment was slightly shorter than the national average.
However a certain Mr Bainbridge and his wife did survive into old age and he received a testimonial for his work at the mine.
This Village drinking fountain stands testament to his efforts.
Out of the warm bus on this hot day and a chance to visit the farm and hear it's success stories with cattle and sheep.
Sanders Close Farm is about 1450 acres (or was that hectares) of which 1200 acres is open fell.
William Watson spreading a little cattle feed to attract the herd closer to us.
Pure bred Limousine are the brown cattle, the blacks being those crossed with Friesian I believe.
The cattle are wary of such a large crowd and when one of the youngsters takes fright, they all run off across the field.
Even the large bull is nimble of feet and moves quickly with the rest.
One of their two prize winning bulls, taken with a telephoto lens due to the distance they ran across the field !
In the cattle sheds more of the herd, not yet out in the sunshine due to lack of sufficient early summer grass in the fields
The Watsons farm about sixty head of cattle for the pedigree and beef trade.
This other bull must weigh nearly two tons and would be worth over a thousand pounds at the beef market.
As a breeding bull, it's value could be as much as five or six thousand pounds.
They have great success rearing 3/4 Limousines (black half crossed, bred with pure)
This produces a darker brown offspring with great potential as beef cattle.
There were many slightly jealous eyes amongst the Loweswater crowd, not only for the quality of the lambing shed
but also for their inability to find 1500 sq. metres of flat land anywhere on their own farms to place such a magnificent building.
A great working environment.
After a very pleasant afternoon, and some excellent refreshments, we said our thanks and our goodbyes
only stopping briefly once more on the way home to enjoy an evening meal at the "Auctioneer" in Carlisle.
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Our thanks go to William and Johnny Vickers for organising the day,
to Nenthead Mine Museum staff for their guided tour,
to William and Adam Watson of Sanders Close Farm for the invitation
and to Mrs Watson and family for their hospitality afterwards.
Last but not least, to Ken Routledge and their driver who ensured a stress free day out to Nenthead and Alston.
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Technical note: Pictures taken with my Cannon G7 or Ann's Ixus 75 Digital cameras.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . . another slice of that nice chocolate cake ?
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