Drygill mine - Caldbeck Fells, Cumberland


This was the biggest vug ever found in Drygill. Measuring nearly 2 foot long, it contained numerous world class specimens, and took over a week to extract, despite operations being interrupted by a rescue that took 2 days! One of the pieces from this vug, found and extracted by Pete Ward, is on page 112 of 'Cooper and Stanley - Minerals of the English Lake District'. Peter exchanged it shortly after discovery with Dick Barstow, for a collection of West Cumberland Barites.


Drygill was one of the first mineral localities I really ever went to.

I'd seen some bright orange crystals from Caldbeck - a place called Drygill. I wanted some. Badly. Dick Barstow intervened. He'd started a dig and had some contacts. Grant lived at the farm at the foot of the fell, and we soon struck up a friendship that resulted in me almost living on the farm. Our first visit to Drygill was on the old Massey Ferguson tractor - the collecting gear stacked in the sheep carrier on the back. It soon became apparent that this was a major locality. More digs were organised, and I became Campylite King - boxes of the stuff piled up at home - almost every week I'd be up there digging away - sometimes on my own for days at a time. My mum came up to one dig - it was a fine summer's day and she sat in the opencut picking away at rocks. She came over with a little piece of quartz with a lovely blue mamillary coating on it. Grant grabbed it and his face split into a laugh - 'Hey - Guys... look.... it really DOES come from here - Plum Bog Ummite ...' My mum was a hero...

This was the first plumbogummite specimen found in recent times, and it confirmed that the mine really had produced good material. I still have it, in pride of place, sandwiched between trays full of specimens we mined in later years, together with the lovely material that Ralph Sutcliffe found lower down in the bottom stope. Have a look further down these pages to see some of Ralph's specimens...

Drygill is a sad place these days - opencuts overgrown, entrances and stopes collapsed and almost obliterated - what a sad end for such a glorious locality that is so world famous. Another few years and you'll never know there was a mine there - probably just what the national parks people want..

























Clearing snow from the steel lid which used to cover the main shaft - Dick and Ralph put this in place in about 1976-77 in conjunction with Lindsay Greenbanks who originally found it.


The main stope at Drygill. Timber at the top is about where Dick ended up when the deads collapsed!

Dick was getting worried. I was finding as much as he was - if not more. The monthly lists were carrying campylite, pyromorphite, sphalerite, fluorite, barite - all dug during the many visits I was making up north. He started to accompany me on some of these trips - especially Drygill. One day, we'd gone down the shaft and Dick was burrowing in a hole on the south side of the shaft. There was a little wooden platform there, and he was perched on the end of a plank of wood which crossed the shaft. I was digging into the pillar which held the stope open, and with a huge rumble, a pile of stacked deads and vein material fell out of the pillar and crashed down onto Dicks' staging. He disappeared in a thick cloud of choking black psilomelane dust... I picked myself up from the rubble pile at the bottom of the shaft where I'd fallen, and started to look for him. After a while, I heard a plaintive squeak from above my head, and looked up to see a pair of white eyes peering from a sooty black face - at the TOP of the shaft above where I'd been working. He was safe. The rock had hit the end of the plank, and catapulted him upwards to land in a small recess cut into the side of the stope! Many of the campylites shown on the minerals page of this site were found during those trips with Dick.


Collecting underground in the main stope at Drygill. Note the black psilomelane soot everywhere.


The Range Rover at the shaft entrance in later years... Farm in the background at the bottom of the valley. Its interesting to note that after all the accusations of rape and destruction of the fells by the LDNPA (for the overseas readers - this is a bunch of do-gooder authoritarians who think they own the countryside!!) with regard to mineral localities, this photo says it all. We'd been up there for years, and all you could see was a little hole in the ground. No damage, no rubbish, nothing. And at the end of our efforts, we'd photographed the workings, recorded the cavities, and made a large volume of material available for the world at large. I'd say a good proportion of the campylite on the market today came from our efforts, and I'm sure the world is a better place for it!!!


The hole from which the huge vug appeared...


And the rescue of a wayward collector from the hole... he lived to tell the tale, but I dont think he's been back to Drygill since..!

The big vug was a little spectacular to get out - a collector we vaguely knew walked up the fell one day while we were extracting the cavity, and pushed past me into a dangerous part of the workings which we advised wasn't a good idea. He ignored us, and a few moments later there was a rumble of falling rock. I disappeared in yet another cloud of black soot, and this time there was no sign of him. It took the combined efforts of our fells rescue team and the RAF rescue helicopter to get him out alive. During the rescue, this huge cavity was hanging above the people involved, and somehow I managed to keep it undamaged and intact. The day afterwards, we dropped it out and scarpered!


Another great lump - 6" across...

Ward Collection 1978


Smiley..... 2"


Coronadite - manganese oxides, on campylite - 3"

Ward Collection 1978


Exceptional - bright orange, on pure black. 4"

Ward Collection 1978


Unusual hollow crystals..


Unusual yellow colour - 2"

Very best

The best piece out of the vug - that SHOULD have been in Cooper and Stanley! It measures 13 x 9 centimetres, with crystals 8 or 9mm across.

Ward Collection 1978

Very best close

best small

Another from the same vug

Ward Collection 1978


Another from that vug! 2"

Ward Collection 1978

The Flame

I call this one The Flame ... As with many of the best, it has greenish barite associated. 4"

Ward Collection 1978

Flame - closeup

Campylite - from the Philadelphia Academy Collection, now Peter Ward Collection, 2008.

I rarely see specimens with such bright colours and incredible lustre - crystals are over 1cm across.


This one is exceptional - a huge rib of crystallised barite sits on a plate of brownish orange crystals - nearly 9" long.

Ward Collection 1978

Barite closeup



.. bright, orange - from bottom stope


Different again..