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CREDIT: Dave Lynch

Coniston Copper Mines MLE with Mike Kitson

RPS Landscape Group Newsletter, February 2024

Coniston Copper Mines Member-led walk with Mike Kitson

By Suzy Bray and Michael Walker (with additional images by Nicky Robley and Dave Lynch)

The recently relaunched RPS member-led events are a great way for photographers to get together and spend time with a fellow RPS member who has location-specific knowledge and expertise. In our case, Mike Kitson led us (a small group of four) through the majestic landscape above Coniston village in the Lake District, where the old copper mines are located.

Image © Michael Walker

Michael’s story

My journey to Coniston started from North Kent with stops overnight in Macclesfield on Saturday, Skipton on Sunday and finally Ulverston on Monday, before a short drive to meet Mike Kitson, the event leader, and the other three members of our group outside the Tourist Information Centre in the middle of town on Tuesday morning.                                                                                 

Mike (K) had previously sent us all a three-page email with notes on what to expect during the walk, suggestions of what to bring - food, equipment, clothing - and an ordnance survey extract of the route we were going to take. This included various areas of interest highlighted together with some historical background as well!  Once we had all gathered in the pouring rain Mike explained the format for the day and we all introduced ourselves. 

I made a quick detour to the local Co-op to get some food and water and we began our ascent to the “Copper Mines”. I soon realised that I should have looked more closely at the maps Mike had sent! Upwards all the way, whilst passing becks and waterfalls running from the reservoir higher up, together with views of Coniston Fells as a backdrop - wonderful.

Image © Michael Walker

Images © Nicky Robley LRPS

The views as we approached the mines were stunning as dark clouds punctured by sunlight gathered over the fells. Mike was always on hand to answer our questions and offered a local insight into the area which was very welcome. Photographically I found the whole walk really enjoyable with lots to see and photograph. I did, however, underestimate the impact of walking up and down hill over unmade tracks for around 6 hours. My knees are not used to that! 

Mike made the whole day really enjoyable and we ended it all with a drink in the local independent brewery pub in Coniston.   

Image © David Lynch

Suzy’s story

 In my case, this was familiar territory. I started my first hostelling holiday as a child in Coniston YHA, in the days when you had to arrive at hostels on foot. Over the intervening years the traces of the copper-mining industry, so very apparent then, have remained a strong feature of this landscape. Some are weakened by time and less distinct, while others have been renovated and re-purposed to twenty-first century priorities. Copper mining in the area started in the late 16th century, many early miners living as well as working on the hillside, and continued until the 1950s:

We set off under grey skies and early rain, but the weather produced nothing to deter us and plenty that enabled the landscape to show its photogenic potential. We climbed steadily into Coppermines Valley, alongside Church Beck and Levers Water Beck, pausing by the mining settlement with its old industry relics before continuing up to a welcome lunch spot beside Levers Water. Following a path across the fell shoulder we then descended through further mine workings and levels, the landscape indelibly marked by the mining heritage. Fabulous  views tempted us throughout, with the   hillsides fleetingly lit by sunshine against  the drama of the heavy skies. As so often in the mountains, we had to be quick to catch the light. It was a brilliant day.

Montage Image © Suzy Bray

Header Image © David Lynch