Its not just wood that I love. I also have a great passion for minerals as stated in the ‘about me’ section. It’s not only necessary to go hunting for the wood I need, but I also have to obtain the minerals /precious /semi–precious pieces that I inlay into the wood. So a couple of weeks ago we went to Derbyshire and stayed in Bakewell (a beautiful town). I had already planned a visit to the famous Treak Cliff Cavern where the very rare mineral, called Blue John, is found. This a very colourful banded form of Calcium Fluoride and it has been worked for centuries into ornamental bowls and vases. Many of these are held in Stately Homes and museums throughout Britain. Here are some pictures of the visit:

IMG_2506[2235]Examining the vein of Blue John

Until recently a new vein of Blue John had not been found for 150 years but the mine manager Gary Ridley discovered a new vein whilst testing some new equipment.

Gary during our visit underground

Here we are outside the mine with Vicky the mine owner.  I enjoyed this visit with some really nice people- and I managed to get some Blue John for my inlay work.

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The following day I had arranged a visit to the only working ‘ Spar’ mine left in Derbyshire.  Milldam mine works the westerly end of ‘The Hucklow Edge Vein’ which has been worked at different times for hundreds of years for Lead ( Galena) and Fluorspar ( Fluorite). Further East along the edge at a place called Eyam a mine called  Ladywash was working in my youth and I was taken down Ladywash by a miner called Ken over 40 years ago. (I actually found him again after 40 years!)

Here are some pictures of my visit to Milldam Mine:

SAM_1251This is Mike who took me underground this time. You can see the square opening to the mine behind him.

Milldam is accessed by an adit level straight into the hillside.  We actually drove into it in a four wheel drive down a 1 in 8 slope with twists and turns where they follow the vein.

SAM_1241A small fluorspar vein.

SAM_1233One of the digging machines they use to extract the ore. This is controlled by an operator standing some distance behind using a remote control.

SAM_1242Trying out one of the diggers.

SAM_1249Just a Miners lamp for illumination.

SAM_1239This is a level where mining was withdrawn owing to the dangerous ground and likelihood of a collapse.

I enjoyed my trip underground but I must admit I was apprehensive and although I’ve been underground a number of times this mine has to cut through some pretty risky ground.

I also understand they have recently broken through into the old levels of Ladywash mine.