Sunday, 20 May 2012

Coppermines Valley

Coppermines Valley is an fascinating place whether you are interested in the mining heritage of the area or not. It is easily reached by either following the road by the side of the Black Bull or going up past the Sun Inn and on to the main Coniston Old Man footpath. With Coniston being very busy, I was fortunate enough to find a free parking spot by the sports ground around the back and took the Black Bull road up out of town. Considering the town was so busy, the walk up to the valley was very quiet. I suppose most of the people who visit Coniston either go down to the Lake or walk up the Old Man. It was the same for most of the day, there were very few people about.

The history of the copper mines go back over 400 years but extraction of copper will go back much further than this, probably to Roman times or even earlier. The most prosperous period was the 1850s and by the 1870s the mine went in decline. For most of the mines history only gunpowder was used, hand drilling, and only tallow candles as light. The country rock is volcanic so progress would have been painfully hard and slow. Getting to the copper veins at depth could only be done by descending wooden ladders and stagings. Some of the workings were over 1100ft below the surface and around 500ft below sea level. 

When you first enter the valley it is quite scenic, being surrounded by all the distant Coniston Fells. However the deeper you get into it, the more you see evidence of it's past with abandoned slate and copper mine workings and lots of waste heaps. On a plus side, the many old miner's tracks have now been adopted as safe routes on to the Fells. I have been on top of every one of the Coniston Fells and just about all of the walks were either started or finished on one of these. The first branch off takes you up Wetherlam way and the track I followed eventually takes you up to either Swirl How or Brim Fell.

I walked up as far as the main waterfalls of Church Beck which flow out of Levers Water and nestles below Swirl How and Brim Fell. I sat and had my lunch overlooking the valley with Coniston Water beyond, a scene of contrasts to say the least. The only people about were a group of four who I had seen having a picnic down in the valley. They were only trying to negotiate a pushchair along the path! As they passed me, the track narrowed to just a normal pathway but they persisted albeit most of the way the baby and pushchair were carried. I suspect they were walking right round the head of the valley and coming down the Walna Scar Road which in itself is something I wouldn't want to tackle with a pushchair.

I came down on the same paths as far as the bridge over Church Beck. There I took the track down to the Sun Inn where I sat out in the warm sun and enjoyed an excellent pint of Loweswater Gold. Well it would have been rude not to wouldn't it?

It was a very enjoyable way to end an interesting afternoon.

Bridge over Church Beck

Coppermines Valley

Coppermines Valley

Mine ruins and Brim Fell

Mine ruins and Coniston Old Man

Main copper mine ruins

Main copper mine ruins

Main copper mine runs

Main copper mine ruins

Mine ruins

Church Beck with Coniston Old Man

Church Beck

Lower waterfall Church Beck

Upper waterfalls, Church Beck

Upper waterfalls, Church Beck

Looking back down Church Beck

Coniston Old Man's lead mines.

Church Beck

Lane back to Coniston

Outbuilding, Coniston

Mind your head cottage, Coniston

Wider views at Harlow Carr RHS Garden, Harrogate

Some more photos of my afternoon at Harlow Carr RHS Gardens in Harrogate. The last set were mainly close ups of the flowers whilst this set ...