Countrystride #85: COPPERMINES VALLEY - Landscape legacy of audacious ambition

...in which we journey into the mining past of iconic Coppermines Valley above Coniston with industrial historian Mark Hatton. Rewinding time to the 16th century, we seek out the earliest signs of copper extraction on the lonely slopes below Hole Rake, before climbing to the wheelpits and adits of The Company of Mines Royal - monuments to the German miners who abandoned Keswick when their Newlands seams were exhausted. As we climb ever-higher into Red Dell, we learn about the audacious scale of 18th century infrastructure - the breathtaking leats, the mighty waterwheels and the miles of tunnels; we consider the dangers of the shaft-potted landscape and its unforgiving technology; we picture the hard lives of the men, women and children who once worked these remarkable slopes... and we ask, 'Did the IRA really try to assassinate John Major using a bomb below Levers Water?".





The view down Red Dell.

Mark and Dave beside one of the early wheel pits, spoil from the Bonser workings in the valley bottom.

Reconstructed waterwheel on the site of the Bonser processing workings. Note the old settling pools, above right.

Our ever-reliable guest for the day: Mark Hatton.

Mark at the footbridge over Red Dell beck.

Spoil (both copper and slate) and the onward view down to Coniston Water.

Holes in the ground, wheel pits and, on the top right, the remarkable Triddle Incline. The holes are the former surface exposure of copper vein, quickly exhausted when flooding became an issue causing the miners to attack from beneath.

Fenced shaft – the scene of many tragedies. Also note the Triddle Incline, top left, which terminates at an adit. The pump rods at one time traced the incline.

The biggest wheel pit of them all - and another site of tragedy.

Whale blubber fat - still spattered against the side of the wheel pit.

The topmost of three leats that shift water from Levers Water to various wheels.

Tracing the leat.