The Greenburn Copper Mines lie just over a mile from us here at the Three Shires Inn, and offer a terrific opportunity to explore this surprisingly well preserved complex of ancient ruined buildings, mine workings, tramways and water courses, to name just a few of the features you’ll find. With a little background information, a touch of imagination, and a keen eye for detail you really can get a good picture of how this huge mining operation would have looked back in its heyday.
From the Three Shires, take the path across the fields and over the iconic Slaters Bridge, just as the miners would have done hundreds of years ago, and follow the ancient walled lane until you find the mines about half way up the Greenburn valley.
Nobody really knows the exact date that mining began here, but there are plenty of records which show that it was a very busy place by the late 1600’s, with its greatest output occurring around the middle of the 19th century, and the mines finally closing down for good in 1940. So there’s a good 300 years of history here, with a great deal still visible today.
The obvious centre of operations lies in the valley next to Greenburn Beck, and it’s easy to spend hours wandering around here seeing the remains of the buildings where the copper ore was processed, the miner’s accommodation, storage sheds, and the great spoil heaps where the discarded stone lies piled high. You’ll also easily identify the site of the waterwheel, remnants of the tramway and a great network of tracks for moving materials around the site, and with a little detective work you can also identify the system used for delivering water to all the different production areas. A little further upstream from the main site you’ll also find the reservoir and the remains of the dam used for controlling this water supply.
And then, of course, there are the shafts and levels themselves. Blocked up now in the interests of safety, but very much still visible, their entrances are dotted around the main site in the valley and all the way up the high slopes of Wetherlam. They’re not difficult to spot thanks to the tell-tale mounds of spoil cascading down the hillside below each one, and you can even still see the remains of ‘blast shelters’ near some of them.
All this history, with no entry fee and almost complete freedom to roam, makes for a fascinating day with a lovely little walk thrown in; plus, the added bonus of a drink and a bite to eat with us afterwards.