CATMHS pulls off another successful NAMHO conference

Taking a break on Friday’s geology walk, overlooking Buttermere. Photo: Peter Burgess

Peter Burgess attended another NAMHO conference and reports his impressions. With a great set of talks, field trips and social events it seems to have scored top marks despite the unsettled weather!

Another excellent NAMHO conference has come and gone; this year’s event was held at Grasmere in the Lake District from 7th to 10th July and was organised and hosted by Cumbrian Amenity Trust Mining History Society (CATMHS or “CAT”). The event included the usual variety of underground visits, surface walks and, of course, an excellent two days of lectures in Grasmere Village Hall, which also served as the conference reception and venue for social events on Friday and Saturday evenings.

There was a well-attended geology walk on Friday, which started at 10am and only finished late in the afternoon. This was near Buttermere, and included visits to a short Elizabethan copper mine, and the slate workings of Dubs Quarry, on the other side of the mountain from Honister Mine. This strenuous walk introduced those attending to the complex geology of the region as a whole. The climb to the top of Haystacks was worth it just to see the flow banded lavas in the crags there. The walk was led by geologists Julian Cruickshank and Lorraine Crisp.

Crossing the beck on the way to Dubs Quarry. Photo: Peter Burgess

Alex Thurston, who attended several underground tours over the weekend, says:

“I spent most of the weekend on field trips including Carrock tungsten mine, where we were treated to some in-depth geological observations underground. A surface visit to Force Crag and a detailed explanation of the workings of the mill, then joined an all-day underground and overground tour of the Coppermines Valley at Coniston with some fascinating surviving artefacts and splendid mineral colours. It was great to meet up with old friends and make a few new ones too!”

The theme of the lecture programme was focused mainly on Lake District mines and minerals, was well run and very well presented. The lecture list with presenters follows:

  • Ian Matheson (CATMHS) – Fifty years of exploration and conservation – CATMHS contribution to Lakelands Mining Heritage
  • Richard Smith (Northern Mine Research Society) – Mining and Smelting in the Caldbeck Fells
  • Stephe Cove – Hodbarrow Iron 1840-2023
  • Dave Robson (Newland Furnace Trust) – The Story of Newland Furnace
  • Jamie Lund (National Trust) – The archaeology of the Lake District extractive industries – its legacy, significance and future
  • Richard Smith – Medieval lead smelting
  • Graham Brooks – Coal mining on the Caldbeck Fells
  • Warren Allison – The history of Greenside Mine when working, through original photographs
  • Eleanor Kingston (Lake District National Park [LDNP] archaeologist) – The history and conservation of mining sites in the Lake District
  • Ormonde Joel (LDNP volunteer) – Surveys of mining sites by the volunteers of the Lake District National Park Archaeological framework
  • Eimear Deady (Senior Economic Geologist, British Geological Survey) – The geology and mineralisation of the Lake District, revisiting historic mining areas from a critical minerals perspective.
  • Roy Starkey – Nature’s Treasures – the legacy of 300 years of mining
  • Sally Taylor (University of Oxford) – Tracing the stone artefacts of Cumbria’s first farmers – from upland quarries to lowland settlements and beyond
  • John Pickin – Stone hammers, mortar stones and early mining in Cumbria
  • Rebecca Cadbury-Simmons (North Pennines AONB Partnership) – Land of Lead and Silver
  • Eleanor Kingston (LDNP archaeologist) – Coniston Copper Project.
Les Williams and Chris Cowdery preparing for John Pickin’s lecture at NAMHO 2023. Photo: Peter Burgess

Overall, the organisation of the weekend was really good, given the challenges presented by hosting the event in summer in the middle of a very popular national park. A camping field was hired for our exclusive use and provided with showers and a water supply. Its setting was superb, and although a 30-minute walk from Grasmere village, it was a pleasant stroll through the woods and along the lakeside road. There was a minibus service laid on to allow delegates to attend the evening functions and use the bar without having to drive. Catering was excellent – there being a supper on Friday evening and a conference dinner on Saturday. Packed lunches, tea and coffee were also available during the day.

Part of the NAMHO 2023 camping field. Photo: Peter Burgess

In addition to all the underground and surface trips, and the lectures and facilities, the weekend was another excellent opportunity to meet up and exchange news and stories with like-minded people. Also present at the conference venue were COMRU with their impressive rescue vehicle, and stalls from Descent Magazine , Starless River , and Moorebooks with a really good selection of books to buy.

Thanks are due to CATMHS for an excellent weekend, and in particular to Chris Cowdery for managing the many aspects of the event, and Les Williams for providing and controlling the audio-visual facilities.

The wet weather didn’t detract from an excellent weekend at Grasmere. Photo: Peter Burgess

As yet, there is no firm venue for a conference in 2024, so if you are able to organise an event of some sort, whether simply lecture-based, or a series of field trips, or both, please contact Peter Jackson to discuss what might be possible. There are a lot of people who will be only too happy to advise on the practical side of things. Get in touch via the NAMHO website contact page using the contact form and selecting Chairman from the dropdown list.