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Countrystride #60: WAD - The wealth of Borrowdale

…in which we stride out from Seathwaite with mining authority Mark Hatton to unearth the turbulent history of Borrowdale graphite. As we battle bracken on the fellside of Low Bank, we seek out the nature-reclaimed remains of a mining industry that played a key role in the emergence of industrial Britain. In a story that starts with a lone farmer discovering a means to mark his sheep and ends in financial collapse on a huge scale, we learn how critical Borrowdale and Keswick were in the development of early capitalism; we debunk the myth that Derwent Isle was used to safeguard German immmigrants; we meet counterfeiters and bandits; we wonder whether ‘breathing’ mines might explain legends of dragons; we consider how lawless this wild-west hamlet once was… and, last but not least, we talk pencils…



Seathwaite Farm - once the centre of a lucrative wad trade - now the former mine manager's house in the trees, right.

Our guest, Mark Hatton, with the wad holes rising up the fell side behind him.

The wonder material of wad - aka graphite or plumbago.

The River Derwent on a fine summer's day. The apparent sheepfold, left, is the old processing house. A waterwheel once stood by the grassy mound on the right of the image.

A view of Seathwaite from one of the adits.

Following the old miners' trod - still clear in the ground.

Dave and Mark celebrate being 60 years young.

A youthful Dave on episode #0 - our trial episode three years back.

Mark alongside the John Banks stone.

Wad spoil heaps.