Brian Griffiths recently led the East Cheshire ramblers on a walk exploring the industrial past around Monyash and Sheldon. Starting out from Monyash the group headed north on field path passing Hard Rake a nature reserve which has some rare limestone loving plants in season.
After crossing a road we made a descent through Deep Dale where there were many cowslips and at the foot we stopped for our morning break.
To get to Sheldon it meant a steep ascent up a wooded valley before crossing more fields to reach this former mining village.
From Sheldon it was just a short walk to reach the Magpie Mine which was our stopping point for lunch. Afterwards Brian gave us a potted history of the mine. The Magpie Mine commenced operation in 1740 and was one of several mines in the area. Right from the start there was an issue with stopping the mine from flooding and by 1824 a Newcomen type engine was installed to keep the main shaft free of water. In 1827, 800 tons of lead was extracted, a record which stood until 1871 but the mine was always dogged with disputes with other nearby mines and sometimes fires were lit underground to smoke rival miners out, but this resulted in three miners being suffocated by fumes in 1839. In 1839 the famous Cornish mine engineer John Taylor was brought in to re-open the Magpie Mine and introduce a number of improvements and deepened the main shaft to 208 metres. New pumping engines were installed but water seepage remained a major problem. In 1873 a drainage channel was cut through the rock to take water away to the River Wye some two kilometres away but this proved very time consuming and costly.
For the afternoon we headed south via field paths and lanes and later descended to Lathkill Dale. Turning right, we headed upstream beside the crystal clear water which further up the valley was emerging from a cave system. En-route we stopped for an afternoon break and afterwards the group made our way back to Monyash stopping for afternoon tea in the village.