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Report - Walna Scar Slate Mines – The Duddon Valley - May 2014

Discussion in 'Mines and Quarries' started by The Lone Ranger, Jun 14, 2014.

  1. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Walna Scar Slate Mines – The Duddon Valley

    Set high above the picturesque Duddon Valley lies the extensive Walna Scar Slate Mines. Visible from the whole of the valley they appear to be the largest mines/quarries in the area. They are also rumoured to one of the oldest large scale slate quarries in Britain.

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    There isn’t too much if any history on this green slate mine; the Duddon Valley however is one of the quietest and most unspoilt valleys in the Lake District National Park. Approximately 9 miles long it has a Post Office, a Pub, a campsite, 2 churches, a number of hamlets and farms and a fair smattering of quarries and mines cut into the fell sides high above the River Duddon.

    It is unclear when mining, quarrying started here, but from the 1890’s it was employing 12 men who appeared to live in the small collection of cottages at the different levels.

    Owners: 1890s - Walna Scar Slate Co.
    1900s - Walna Scar Green Slate Co. (No. 2) Ltd.
    Output: 1896 - Slate.
    1902 - Slate.

    Employment: 1896 - 12 (6 below, 6 surface)
    1902 - 8 (4 below, 4 surface)

    There was only one documented accident on the 27th March 1900 - Accident with Explosives - one man injured - The match attached to the straw was ignited by another shot, and the explosion occurred as the men were returning to light the second hole. (Gunpowder.)

    The quarries and mines are spread over 4 different levels, with a couple of smaller entrances to the East next to the Walna Scar track.

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    None of the mines are anywhere near as extensive as the nearby Coniston Copper Mines and the majority of quarries are a lot smaller than Hodge Close, Tilberthwaite or Cathedral Quarry, which are just over the hill. They are however a lot less frequented, which for me makes them more appealing for me.

    Mines first appeared in the Duddon Valley around 1235, charcoal burning started in the valley in the 13 hundreds which must have supplied the couple of forges operating by at least the 1500’s. The blacksmiths worked the iron and copper mined in the valley.

    Slates were also mined to provide roofing material for the local houses, farms and barns, additionally they were exported out of the valley by the ‘slate cart’ still remembered by the older folks of the valley and at the time was the main communications with the outside world, the driver would accept shopping or delivery commissions as few people left or entered the valley.

    These days jackdaws nest in the empty quarries and owls and bats nest in the adits and shafts of the now derelict mines.

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    My Visit

    I have passed these a few time while on Sunday Strolls over the years, they lie on the Fellside about a 50 minute walk up the hill form where I often stay while up here. I had a quick look at them at Easter, but the weather closed in and Mrs TLR and the little TLR’s weren’t that keen to hang around while I had a proper look.

    Roll on a month or 2 and I was back in the Duddon Valley again, keen to have a proper look. In the main these quarries/mines are unreported, a photos exist but that’s it really. I was very optimistic that they would be extensive due to the amount of spoil heaps below the audits and the few large entrances I’d previously seen.

    I started off at the couple of entrances next to the track, alas they had been filled in and only a small gap was present, without a bit of digging I wasn’t going to gain access to these so continued on to the main section.

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    Starting at the top I headed to what looked like the largest entrance.

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    It turned out to be a large cavern, with a small passage leading off.

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    The passage was chained off and it had obviously been walled up in the past to prevent access.

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    It soon became apparent why, as there was a 20 meter vertical shaft hidden in the dark.

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    It seems it was walled up to prevent another fatality here, someone unfortunately fell down it a few years ago. I didn’t have any abseiling kit with and hoped to find my way into the chamber below from a lower level.

    I headed out and dropped down to a lower level which I hoped would get me into this section.

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    I knew there was a passage set high up in this entrance.

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    I must be getting old, or just a bit more cautious. My back up torch had failed and the climb up to this audit wasn’t too hard, I did most of it until this little voice in my head say to leave it for another day and preferably with someone else! I’m not sure if this was the link, if it was I have since heard that it is loose and potentially dangerous. There are meant to be a few old axels in the cavern.

    Back out again I passed a few of the old buildings and sealed up entrances.

    [​IMG]

    It is a huge site, but gaining access to the passages was proving harder than I thought.

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    I did know of an entrance on the lower levels so off I strolled.

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    This was probably my favourite part, it is very similar to the nearby Crook Wood Slate Mine.

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    It’s not overly long and you soon reach a rook collapse after about 100 meters.

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    The end reached I had a quick look around some other entrances which had collapsed, I only spent around 4 hours here and know I missed the 1 section at the base of the shaft, probably other parts too.

    Considering the amount of spoil on the Fellside there was a lot less to see than I had thought, but a great place to spend a few hours. The nearby Broughton Mills Quarries are far more extensive, still plenty of small mines in the area for me to head down in the future as well as the 20 meter shaft here to drop down.

    Well that’s it, well worth the Sunday stroll to visit the mines.

    Cheers,

    TLR​
     

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  2. Marsden1002

    Marsden1002 Love it!
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    Looks like a nice little stroll despite the lack of underground "stuff"

    On the other hand there are Some good views to be had from the looks of it
     
  3. Keynsham

    Keynsham 28DL Full Member
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  4. The Lone Ranger

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    Cheers Marsden, the views are always fantastic in the Duddon Valley, there was a reasonable amount of underground stuff, just not as much as I'd hoped for given the amount of scree.

    The chamber looked fairly open when I shone a torch down, will have a look next time I'm up (which is fairly often) the link side tunnel from the other chamber needs a stroll along as it's at the correct height and not that far away to link in with the chamber with the axels. Plus there's plenty more in the Duddon and need to get my arse back over to Coniston Copper Mines, must be 20+ years since I was last down then :D
     
  5. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
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    Good to see this after you telling me about, not bad at all
     
  6. Leeds(Ex)plorer

    Leeds(Ex)plorer 28DL Regular User
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    looks like a top stroll that does mate :thumb
     
  7. Snake Oil

    Snake Oil go in drains
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  8. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Cheers :thumb

    I don't think it ever gets too much traffic as with the other mines in the area. Still a few more for me to head down in the future again with little or no info so see what I find :D
     
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