Honister Slate Mine - The Oldest working Slate mine in the UK
It's cold. It's wet. It's dark. It's in the middle of nowhere and it takes what feels like a lifetime to get there. What did you expect? After all, this is a day out in the UK!
Honister Slate Mine
Located just outside Middle-Earth(Or Cumbria to be more precise), Honister Slate Mine is the last working slate mine in the UK. Honister supplies the rich (and believe me, you have to be stupidly rich, or just stupid, to afford this stuff) with the world-famous Westmorland Green Slate, a product that is 450-million years old! For Myself and the rest of the paupers who were on this day-trip, we got the chance to go into the mine and discover just how much of this stuff has been blasted out of the earth.
After we all strapped on our plastic head-potties, which I wouldn't trust to stop a baked potato, we jumped onto a minibus and headed towards the mine.
As we arrived at the entrance it was time to switch on our 1-watt headtorch and begin our under-world adventure...
The thought of traveling hundreds of meters below the earth's surface is a weird one, and to think this is a place where your great, great, great, great-grandad could have worked makes it even stranger. The mine first opened in 1728 and as you followed the twisted, rusting rail-cart tracks you really begin to sense the history within the mine.
As our guide led us through the different mine shafts from one cave to another she shared stories of miners working in grueling conditions and having to use equipment that in today's world seemed archaic.
Back in the early days, children would have been working these mines so it was fun to see our little-ones having a go at breaking the rocks with a long bar and a lump hammer.
In some of the caves, you could see where miners had drilled meter-long holes into the rock, allowing them to insert dynamite which would then blast whole faces of slate-rock from the wall. Some of the pieces that were blasted away were gigantic and must have weighed several tons. In the picture above, you can see on the left-hand side one of the drill holes that had penetrated the rock.
While the caves were vast there were parts of the mine that felt very claustrophobic. In one section steps had been carved into the rock which led you further down into the mine. In this particular section, the ceiling stretched 30-40 meters square and was only inches above our heads, you couldn't help but wonder what was stopping it from simply falling in on top of us.
Honister slate mine is a fascinating place to visit. The fact that it's still in operation is something to be proud of and it reminds me that there are jobs out there which, even with today's equipment, take us back to our historical beginnings.
Just one piece of advice for anyone who visits Honister slate mine and takes along a young boy. Whatever you do, don't get them over-excited by telling them there are bats in the cave. My girlfriend's son was adamant that if he saw a bat he was going to stuff it in his bag and take it home with him, a threat that I had to take seriously. And then when the guide had just finished an informative speech and asked for questions, guess what my young man asked...
"Where are all the bats?!"
Hope you have all enjoyed reading about Honister slate mine. I've posted this and other travel blogs on https://pinmapple.com/, so please come over and check them out! You can also find many great travel blogs via the tag, #haveyoubeenthere. It's a great community with some awesome content.
See you around soon. Take care!