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Nenthead, Coalcleaugh, Wellhope Mines, Nentsberry, Cumbria
[ 12.3 km] Tue 17 Jul 2012

NY 7810 4365
The car park for the Nenthead Mines Visitor centre was empty when I arrived. I set off by crossing the main A689 road to the Nenthead Community Shop and Post office, stopping briefly to look at the empty Wesleyan Chapel and cast iron water fountain before taking the right fork up the hill towards Whithall. For a while the road surface is cobbles, then back to tarmac at the sharp right turn. Earlier rain had stopped and the day was now fine but overcast. I took a right turn up the unsurfaced track that is also marked as a cycleway but I would say for mountain-bikes only. Up to the left a ruined farmhouse was being rebuilt but further up to the right the ruin of Hardedge was still in a ruinous state.


Hardedge

The track continued upwards and gave good views back towards Alston Moor. Iíd been on the track for about a mile when I came to the tarmac minor road connecting Nenthead with West Allendale. I turned left to follow it down to Coalcleugh. On the left were old abandoned mine workings and spoil heaps with the wonderful name of ďRough and ReadyĒ.


The School bus passing 'Rough and Ready'

I left the road to take the track to the buildings of Sunnyside. The house is well maintained but there was nobody about. The whole area was a collection of old mine workings and spoil heaps. I followed a track, then path west up on to the moor. At the high point I came to a wall and gate but didnít go though it as my way was to the right. The map shows a public path but there isnít one where shown. I kept to the wall side then left it for Doddís End and the path which was now evident as an old track. It was a lovely walk along the hillside track and I was lucky to have a clear view down in to West Allen Dale and also distant mountains on the horizon.


Sunnyside

Wellhope Mine and spoil heap - the timber cap of the 127m (416ft) deep shaft can be seen on the right.

The map shows a path going as far as Peterís Pit mine workings but I took another path to the left before getting there. As I descended to the Wellhope Burn the path improved and boards had been fitted in places. I could see the substantial ruins and spoil heaps of the Wellhope Mine ahead. When I reached it I was surprised how modern looking the buildings were. They werenít stone as I would have expected but concrete blocks. The two buildings still had tin roofs on and seemed to be used for grouse moor equipment. The spoil heap was very substantial and standing on the top I could make out the remains of the old steel gantry that was part of the original shaft winding gear. Some timber planks covered the head of the shaft.
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When I got home I found some fascinating information on the website of Malcolm Woodward from Newcastle on Tyne. He is an underground explorer of considerable experience and some years ago went down the shaft. It is 127m (416ft) to the bottom, though the bottom part is now flooded it is possible to get in to side galleries above the water level. The shaft was sunk in 1924 and worked till about 1938 which explains the relatively modern buildings.
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Nenthead - the way to go

I headed SE along the mine access track to the gate at Hunterís Break. A van was parked there and looked to belong to someone working on the moor somewhere, possible repairing a fence or wall. Descending to Netsberry there were wonderful views across to Alston Fell and I stopped to examine the view through my binoculars. I could clearly see the route Iíd walked a couple of weeks ago. At the road I could have turned left for a easy road walk back to the car but I decided to follow the path down to follow paths through fields a short way above the valley bottom. After Wellgill the path is fenced in near to a wall and is very muddy underfoot. I emerged in to a rough field then through a tiny stile gate onto Church Lane. It was totally overgrown and almost impenetrable. I could see St Johnís Church over the wall so crossed a stile gap in the wall to visit the church and leave the overgrown track behind.


St Johnís Church


St Johnís Church interior

It is England's Highest Parish Church at 440m (1,445ft). The Architect was the Italian Ignatius Bonomi (1787-1870) and it was build very fast, you could say hastily. The foundation stone was laid on 20 Apr 1845 and the church dedicated just 116 days later. I wandered down the main church gate then walked along Hillersdon Terrace, Vicarage Terrace and back to the car.


St Johnís Church