Volume 36 Number 1 Article 3
Duddon Valley Weekend
29-30 August 1998
Mine experts: Eric Holland + two friends. Pete
Climbers: Roger, Tim, Paul Windle, Paul Wilkinson, Lizzie.
Walkers: Sandra and Mel, Carol, Tom, Bob and Roz.
Social drinker: Keith Pacey
To be able to camp in Stuart and Linda's beer garden at The Prince of Wales with a weekend of mining, walking and climbing, and I might mention a little drinking, seemed to appeal to the Red Rose and there was a respectable turnout.
Eric Holland arrived on Saturday with two friends to show us some of the many slate mines of the Duddon. The first two were walk-ins to a chamber where the slate had been blasted out, the next mine had lots of junk in the entrance cavern. He explained that during the "cold war" - (this is in my era when we thought we were going to be nuked by the Russians) some local people decided that this mine would make the ideal nuclear shelter. They had brought with them all the comforts of home which in the non-event were abandoned.
So we climbed down into the chamber with pots, pans, cushions and an old rusty wardrobe scattered around us. If they had dropped the bomb, their last views of the Duddon would have a least been beautiful, but I suspect only the ants would have survived!
The final mine was different, it had a long tunnel entrance (lit all the way by candles strategicallly placed by Eric) which we had to wade all the way along in icy water. There was a squeeze which had been dug out and shuttered up by Eric and his friends. The roof it seems had been deliberately dropped in to prevent access. This passage led into a massive chamber, again Eric had placed candles through the spoil heap to guide us. Over the top - Brilliant! In the next deep chamber he had also lit many candles, I turned off my light - it was like a Christmas Grotto with Bob Johnson "Ho Ho Ho'ing" at the end. We all had a play - there was so much light from the candles and it was far more light than the miners would have had. We then descended into a lower series by an electron ladder secured around a rock by a piece of Eric's washing line. After the usual abuse about safety we descended into the final chamber on an old wooden ladder. (two pieces of silver birch tree with steps of packing case nailed across and, to add to the excitement, it was on a slight lean!). I did not stay long here as the hanging death in the roof and all of us shouting and laughing made me very nervous. A quick exit, then a lay in the sun and emptying of the wellies of that very cold water. - Great day, Thanks Eric.
We were in the pub too early, 4.30, and Stuart's beer is very drinkable. By the end of the evening with twenty Red Rose around the big table we were making a lot of noise. Roger had made a commitment to get "seriously drunk" by ten o'clock, he did make it out of the pub door at closing but fell asleep on top of the beer garden picnic table next to his tent. He woke up in the middle of the night and at a second attempt made it inside. Come the morning he was however up bright and early, cooking his breakfast of bacon, eggs, Cumberland sausage, mushrooms etc. ready for a day on the crags.
The group split, Rogers group to Wallerbarrow Crag or as Lizzie called it, Wheelbarrow Crag and the walkers went to Caw and The Pikes having dinner at the Walna Scar Mines, where with a box of matches we explored the mines (whilst Mel sunbathed and slept!). A direct descent to the Newfield Inn, where pints and ice cream were consumed - guess who had the ice cream! - then back to the Prince of Wales. Chris Kinghom had just arrived, he drank so fast that poor Bob just gave up going pint for pint! Chris was full of stories of his trip to America, he had been climbing with someone "harder" than himself! ( I DON'T BELIEVE IT!) but best of all were tales of his encounters with the police and his speeding exploits - which only cost him £60 this trip, where it was over £200 last time.
Monday saw us at Coniston, a joint climbing and walking enterprise. We all walked to the base of Dow Crag, the climbers had a read of their guide book and started to fettle their gear. Lizzie was not sure whether to climb or not - it looks a black forbidding crag at the best of times, but today was misty and you could not see the top, or how far it was to climb. Seven pitches in all but she did it.
The walkers pottered around Goatswater Tarn and did "a direct" to the shoulder and onto the summit. The mist was just clearing so we had good views of the Duddon, Coniston Old Man and down to the lake. We carried on along the ridge to Brown Pike where we dropped off to Bright Tarn and yet another mine. We had to have a look inside here - we were now mining experts, eight mines in three days - not bad!