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Report - Grove Rake fluorspar mine, July 2015

Discussion in 'Mines and Quarries' started by Mutagen, Jul 5, 2015.

  1. Mutagen

    Mutagen 28DL Regular User
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    Context

    Had this one on my 'to do' list for a good few weeks now, after spotting a cryptic reference to it on the web and then searching on here for it. Finally got myself a decent pass out to have a crack at it and post an updated report as the last one on here was done in 2014 - time and trauma gets to us all, especially abandoned fluorspar mines and I was interested to see what condition it was in a year down the line. The weather was purely miserable and I nearly missed the mine as there was thick fog in Weardale this morning and I couldn't see damn thing out of the side windows of the car. Eventually got my bearings, parked up and dropped down from the road to the mine site itself, pottered about on the surface for a bit then got stuck in to the meaty underground stuff that I'd come for in the first place.

    History

    Springing up in high Weardale at the end of the eighteenth century, Grove Rake was initally designated a lead mine, but the veins that the two shafts tapped into proved to be relatively low in yields of lead and relatively high in yields of fluorspar (aka fluorite or CaF2 - calcium fluoride). It then operated as a dual lead/fluorspar mine for a while but it wasn't until the mid-twentieth century that today's main attractions were driven into the hillside: Rake Level, a horizontal drift trending roughly ENE and Firestone Decline, a formidable drift tilted at a gradient of 1 in 4: each drift promising to pierce the upper and lower limits of the ore veins that run through this part of Weardale. The mine continued to operate right up until the end of the twentieth century, finally giving up the ghost in 1999 and being abandoned ever since.

    Due to its remote location, it hasn't suffered too badly from vandals and thieving pikeys, although the easternmost shaft's headgear has gone and the various buildings have suffered to a certain degree from random vandalism and looting. The westernmost headgear still stands, although the stairs have been cut away in an attempt to stop people accessing the steelwork. It hasn't worked ...... :cool:

    The visit

    Due to the crappy weather, I had a quick potter about on the surface when I first got there and checked out the various buildings but headed underground fairly quickly as the light was garbage for photos. First up, a trip down Firestone Decline:

    IMG_0542.jpg

    The first few yards of Firestone are concrete-lined, although there have been several cave-ins, casting spoil into the tunnel and necessitating a bit of clambering and crouching to get over:

    IMG_0544.jpg

    The original tub rails are still in place, which is pretty unusual for a mine like this - they've usually been salvaged either by the miners or by scrap merchants: again, testament to how remote this site actually is.

    After you exit the concrete section, there is then an awesome impressive thirty or forty yards where the tunnel is hewn from the solid rock - the echoes in here are phenomenal, just from footfall:

    IMG_0545.jpg

    You then pick up the standard metalwork further down the decline which contains some fairly arse-clenching roof voids above it and some seriously large rocks balanced precariously on the metalwork.

    IMG_0547.jpg

    There is a pretty insistent trickle of water that follows you down from the top of the Decline but more and more is finding its way in through the refuges at the side of the tunnel and it gets wetter and wetter the further down you go, until .....

    IMG_0551.jpg

    This was the limit for me: at this point, the water reaches roof height and I didn't fancy risking a swim! The water was a really unusual greenish yellow at this point if I held my lights at the right angle - never seen a colour quite like this in a mine before. The roof was in a pretty poor state here as well with lots of fresh spoil on the floor and voids above. Not a place to stay too long!

    Heading back out, I tried to get a couple of shots that showed the gradient inside the Decline:

    IMG_0553.jpg

    IMG_0555_6_7_tonemapped.jpg

    IMG_0546.jpg

    It was only at this point I realised just how cold it had been on the Decline - coming out into the fresh air again was like walking into a sauna and my lens immediately fogged and didn't clear for twenty minutes whilst I poked about some more at the surface, finding the original shaft for the easternmost headgear (covered by some flimsy wooden contraption) but not liking what I saw in terms of going down for a look!

    Once my lens had cleared, I grabbed a few surface shots before heading off into Rake Level.

    IMG_0560.jpg

    The entrance to Rake Level (as seen through a blurry, filthy lens ....):

    IMG_0565.jpg

    Rake Level is flooded to well above knee height from the first few metres in and it was chest deep within ten metres after a bit of a squeeze through a substantial roof fall (visible on the next photo down) - VERY cold water awaits you after the roof collapse (which has left a surface crater of no small dimensions) and made doubly cold as I soon found out that crawling around somewhere in the past had opened up a couple of holes in my right wader leg ....

    IMG_0567.jpg

    The water aside, Rake Level is a really beautiful drift: the metalwork, meshing at the sides and the colour of the rock plus the ochre water all combine to make it a great place for photography:

    IMG_0569.jpg

    It's fairly low work at first with the roof not far above the head - it does open out after a little while though. You have to be really careful with your footing though as the original tub rails are still in situ and VERY slippery if you stand on one - I nearly went for a swim on three separate occasions.

    IMG_0570.jpg

    Further into the drift, you spot a bulge in the wall where a tub loop was put in to enable greater traffic through the drift:

    IMG_0573.jpg

    According to the survey I have of the mine workings (dated May 15), the drift eventually bears right on a bearing of 100 degrees and there are plenty of other workings to be seen further in - I was getting cold, hadn't got my gas detector with me and just had one of those feelings so took one last photo and headed out, intent on coming back wearing warmer gear and with my Altair4! Discretion being the best part of valour etc.

    IMG_0575.jpg

    The roof fall looking back towards the entrance:

    IMG_0576.jpg

    The entrance from just inside the Level:

    IMG_0577_8_9_tonemapped.jpg

    With that, I was preparing to head back to the car, having given up on the idea of getting on to the headgear for a clamber up top. Had one last look, ditched my tripod, DSLR, lights and backpack and managed (with a good deal of swearing) to climb up onto the first section of tantalising ironwork, putting another hole in my waders as I did so. Here are a few shots from my phone of the headgear:

    20150704_132235.jpg


    20150704_132350.jpg

    Looking down!

    20150704_132131.jpg

    Shot of the mine site from the top of the headgear (Firestone Decline can just about be seen here):

    20150704_132413.jpg

    Couple of general shots from the short walk back to the car:

    20150704_134020.jpg

    20150704_134038.jpg

    There you have it: a great place for a proper good explore! I'm going back properly kitted out to get further in to Rake Level - if I was feeling properly mental, I'd borrow some scuba gear and see how far I can get into FIrestone but that needs someone with bigger balls than me!

    Thanks for reading.
     

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  2. The Kwan

    The Kwan funksoul Brother
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    Really nice mine mate, just too photogenic..thanks for sharing it!
     
  3. toby

    toby Armchair warrior
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    Enjoyed that report very much, and great shots. Thanks.
     
  4. catbalou

    catbalou off the wall
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    superb... fantastic photos and a lovely place indeed. its a great view from up the headstocks isnt it... i would quite happily have sat with a picnic up there but was rather rainy when we visited so i was a tad wet on reaching the top section.
    Thanks for sharing that, really enjoyed reading it
     
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  5. Lenston

    Lenston Bajo Tierra
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    Quality snaps there mate :thumb
     
  6. ACID- REFLUX

    ACID- REFLUX 28DL Regular User
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    :thumbQuality report as usual mate .

    So you finally did it then eh? I had wondered what you were up too as very quiet lately. Ironically I was gonna bell you on my way up north last week but plans changed .

    Always looked an inviting place but even more so.with your pics. Probably the best to come out of there ;)

    Why was it we said about flooded & collapsed tunnels and no Meter???? .....shakes head
     
  7. wellingtonian

    wellingtonian Subterráneo
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    Mate that is beautiful. Thoroughly enjoyed your report :thumb
     
  8. Mutagen

    Mutagen 28DL Regular User
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    I've been out and about doing some 'standard' landscape stuff recently as the weather has been good. Got a pass out for Saturday though and couldn't resist venturing into Weardale.

    As for forgetting the meter ... I know, I know.
     
  9. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel 28DL Full Member
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    A word of warning, there have been some major collapses in there just in the last few months.
    Once commonly visited area has been completely lost by a massive roof-fall.
     
  10. Mutagen

    Mutagen 28DL Regular User
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    Cheers Squirrel. Was that in Rake Level by any chance?
     
  11. Mutagen

    Mutagen 28DL Regular User
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    By the way, if anyone goes back any time soon and spots a Tokina lens cap, I've lost mine somewhere between the headgear and Rake Level entrance (or maybe up on the headgear itself) .... :banghead
     
  12. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel 28DL Full Member
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    Near the incline there was a right turn into the BSC stopes.
    There isn't anymore.
     
  13. Miss Mayhem

    Miss Mayhem 28DL Regular User
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    Awesome report, looks interesting :thumb
     
  14. Medwaydan

    Medwaydan 28DL Full Member
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    Looks spot on that. Great pics
     
  15. Wevsky

    Wevsky A Predisposed Tourist
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    That really is how a report should be done mate,enjoyed reading that and your pics do make you want to visit :thumb
     
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