Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The lead mines

I cycled over to Helen's Bay and met up with old mate RJG to climb up to the disused lead mines above Ards today.

Lady Dufferin kindly gave us permission to pass through her estate after some manual persuasion. I reminded her that she stole the land from the Earl O'Neill.

We ascended through the forest up to Helen's Tower. This was where our brave boys trained in 1915 before they hurled themselves sacrificially against the guns of the huns in WW1.

Some repairs were being carried out.

"What's going on here boss" I asked the worker men.

"Just carrying out some repairs here, big fella" they replied.

"Good good, carry on" and away we went.

Next we came to an entrance to hell, inside an old brick kiln.

Wildlife spotted on the journey:

- a squirrel, grey

- several rabbits

- a pair of fetching jays, courtin'

- probably a raven. Even RJG said it was too big for a crow and he knows feck all about birds.

On and on and the crack was good.

Eventually we came out of the forest into clear blue air and hit the lead mines. The actual shafts and whathaveyou were all closed off but you could still see the workings of the mines above ground. There was a windmill and several tall smelting chimneys. The views were spectacular, with the Galloway Coast of Scotland on one side, the Isle of Man sweeping over Strangford Lough in the middle, and Scrabo with Slieve Donard behind it on the right. My camera doesn't take good scenery photos so you'll have to imagine it or use google.

Then we descended into Ards itself, where after some hunting around and the aid of a friendly traffic warden (who RJG recognized as a part-time actor) we found famed local drinking establishment Wetherspoons. They had an ale festival on. £1.39 a pint. ONE POUND THIRTY NINE PENCE A PINT! Gotta love those numbers. Why can't Bangor have a 'spoons?

I had a coconut-flavoured stout from Hawaii and then a Cornish fizzy ale. Both good.

RJG only had two pints but managed to do something most dramatic. After leaving the first floor toilets he slipped on the landing and went THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP arse over tit all the way down the stairs. I thought he was dead but after he came to the bottom he leapt to his feet like a stuntman. People rushed to his aid while I pissed myself laughing. It was great.

We got the bus and train home because we're not mentals.

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