Conclusio Thomas Schürmann en

The Old Man of Coniston

Always hidden in the fog

Disused mine - On the flank of the fell there are numerous abandoned slate quarries.

Disused mine

On the flank of the fell there are numerous abandoned slate quarries.
Photo: Thomas Schürmann, Sigma DP Merrill, 2016

The Old Man of Coniston is an 803 m high mountain west of the town of Coniston and Lake Coniston Water in the English National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Lake District.

View to the south - View to the south at the descent, which had led past Low Water.

View to the south

View to the south at the descent, which had led past Low Water.
Photo: Thomas Schürmann, Sigma DP Merrill, 2016

Hiking on the Old Man

Starting from Coniston

The beauty of a hike on the Old Man is the easy start. From the car park in Coniston it is not far to the narrow path, which first leads through a beautiful forest and passing some old trees growing on meadows to a small stream bubbling from the mountain. Later the path meets the wider path to the only working slate quarry on Old Man.

I had so much hoped that the fog on the Old Man would save us this year (2016), but it shouldn't be like that again. Everything looked nice downstairs, but upstairs everything ended in a single soup. But you have to reckon with that and due to the variety of this hike there is no boredom even in fog.

For me, this mountain is a little bit the quintessence of the mountain world that makes up the Lake District. The mountain itself is rugged, unapproachable and full of scarred embrasures caused by centuries of mining. At the same time, when the weather is good, one has the sweetest and most delicious views from him, far out to the River Crake.

Disused mine - Disused mine on the west flank of Old Man of Coniston,

Disused mine

Disused mine on the west flank of Old Man of Coniston,
Photo: Thomas Schürmann, Sigma DP Merrill, 2016

Slade and copper mines

Work on the mountain

Mining has been around the Old Man for a long time. According to sources, copper and slate mining had already been carried out at the Old Man in the 12th and 13th centuries. While the region around Coniston Water is also a rich copper mining area among many others in the Lakes, slate mining itself has a long tradition. German miners were not uninvolved.

Steetley Minerals wrotes:

Goldscope worked to Lake District standards with quite rich copper and lead veins, so that in the 1560s it was described by German miners as a "Gottesgabe" and its English name is seen as a falsification of this fact rather than an indication of gold. The work is very extensive and even after centuries of preparation and processing, the "Great Lead Bunch" was found in 1854 at the junction of the copper vein and the goldscope vein, which became a very prosperous mine in the following 12 years.

Source: Steetley Minerals

The mines at Old Man are also known as "Old Man Quarries", although sometimes with the individual names of: Brandy Crag, SaddleStone and Moss Head, while green slate is mined up on the mountain, grey slate is mined further down. If you walk over it and past it, you will notice the difference to the slate we have here in my region Wuppertal on the outer wall, which today is mostly imported from Spain. (It used to come from the Siegerland, for example). The pieces at the Old Man are more massive and resemble rather the slate, in which wine is cultivated at the Mosel.

Today there is only one slate mine in operation at the Old Man of Coniston, that is the mine Low Brandy Crag, which was developed into an open pit mine by Burlington Stone in the 1980s. From higher altitudes the stones were transported to the valley by cable cars, parts of which are shown in the photos.

Coniston Water - View to the southeast to River Crake. Fog, light and the lush green of the mountains create a magical atmosphere.

Coniston Water

View to the southeast to River Crake. Fog, light and the lush green of the mountains create a magical atmosphere.
Photo: Thomas Schürmann, Sigma DP Merrill, 2016

Coniston Water

At the foot of an old man

At the foot of the Old Man of Coniston lies the Coniston Water. The lake lies in the English Lake District and is with a length of 8 km and a width of 800 m the third largest lake in the Lake District. The lake is 44 m above sea level, which means that if you start at the shore you have a good climb of 759 m in front of you. The lake has a typical glacial shape and every year it is a venue for high speed races with motor boats.

Conclusion

On all his visits so far, the old man always showed the same face: cloudy and covered in fog. But I will visit him again, the old man of Coniston. Perhaps once in the sunny light of which all those who could overlook the southern Lakes from him rave. 

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