Hodge Close Quarry at Tilberthwaite by Coniston is an excellent reminder of the Lake District’s industrial past. Mass tourism and the associated services which now support that burgeoning sector, are a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to the current situation the area was exploited for its mineral riches and stone: haematite and coal mines in the West fed steel works and ship building; graphite mines in Borrowdale led to the pencil factory in Keswick, wolframite mining on Carrock Fell produced tungsten, there were galena mines aplenty (lead and silver) and, of course, the copper mines at Coniston to name but a few.
Quarries are also prominent in Cumbria with granite extracted at Shap and Threlkeld, limestone also at Shap and, more commonly, slate at many sites such as Kirkby in Furness, Honister and Hodge Close. Hodge Close was used for building and roofing slate from the 1800s up until the 1960s. It is a large, steep-sided, flooded pit with many of the original tunnels and workings now submerged. It has become a popular place for divers, wild swimmers and rock climbers to visit, though, as in our case, it is also an interesting place to just descend into and look at – especially with autumn sunlight and colours enhancing the spectacle. If you would like to visit there is a path down to the big tunnels (image), though great care should be taken around the quarry edges and be mindful that the water is very deep and very cold.