Force Crag mine took centre stage again last week, firstly with a school visit and then a day working with my volunteer team. The school group was from Braithwaite School in the village situated at the foot of Coledale Valley.
There may have been mineral workings on Force Crag since the 16th century but significant mining began in the 1800s to extract lead and silver. When the price of lead fell to uneconomic levels, attention turned to extracting barytes. In the mine's final years lead, barium and zinc ores were extracted. Eventually a collapse in the mine led to its being closed in 1990 and it was handed over to the National Trust. The buildings and machinery remain the only complete examples of their type in the Lake District and the mine is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument that is situated in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
For this school visit, John Malley (the Trust’s Water Adviser) joined us. He is the Trust’s lead officer involved in the project to develop the best strategy for dealing with the water collecting in the old mine workings. So the children were able to learn a lot of science, especially chemistry, from him. They also had the opportunity to go inside the building and see the machinery that was used to crush the ores and to make ‘rubbings’ of machinery labels etc. as part of a pictorial record of the site.
It was an excellent day with one of their highlights being the wearing of hard hats to go behind locked doors where they could see the workings and experience something that the miners experienced!
Later in the week, I returned to the site with my volunteers to do some work diverting water around the scree slopes above the mine. This is one of those jobs where the best option is just to set to work with shovels and wheel-barrows and some hard work hand-digging to channel the water away from the screes. This should stabilise the slope. My great volunteers were, as ever, undaunted.
Me and Roy went digging in the rain. It was horrible, horrible. Then we went back with the volunteers when it wasn’t raining. That was quite good.