A RURAL spot in County Durham once a part of a vanished industry is today a popular site for stargazing and dog walking, but what is left of its mining history?

County Durham’s last remaining mining headframe stands tall at the site of a former lead and fluorspar mine on the outskirts of Rookhope in Weardale, becoming a fixed symbol of an industry that once dominated the region.

Grove Rake mine, now an iconic landmark in the North Pennines, was saved from demolition in 2017. 

Mining started at the site in the early 1800s and major operations were developed by the Beaumont Company in the 1810s. It started producing fluorspar under the ownership of Weardale Lead Company and after the Second World War was one of the leading producers of the mineral.

When it closed in 1999 it was thought to have been the last fluorspar mine operating in England and the last deep mineral mine in County Durham.

While Grove Rake has changed over the years, with a fire in 2015 badly damaging a building which is no longer there, the surviving infrastructure is some of the last evidence of mining to be preserved in Weardale.

The Northern Echo: Grove Rake in 2017 - the back right building is no longer there.Grove Rake in 2017 - the back right building is no longer there.

Some explorers have gone into the old mine, looking past surface features such as the headgear and into the Firestone Incline, The Old Beaumont Horse Level and Rake Level which reveal flooded shafts and old wiring, but this is dangerous and entrances are blocked off.

Here's what is left of the site: 

The Northern Echo: Grove Rake, RookhopeGrove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Old buildings at Grove Rake, RookhopeOld buildings at Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: It is the last remaining headgear in County DurhamIt is the last remaining headgear in County DurhamThe Northern Echo: The headgear is now fenced off. Grove Rake, RookhopeThe headgear is now fenced off. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Many of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, RookhopeMany of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: The spot is in rural Bishop AucklandThe spot is in rural Bishop Auckland

The Northern Echo: Buildings are full of mud, with many appearing to have been toiletsBuildings are full of mud, with many appearing to have been toilets

The Northern Echo:  Grove Rake, Rookhope Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Two of the site's buildings are separated by a stream. Many of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, RookhopeTwo of the site's buildings are separated by a stream. Many of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: This building is to the far north west of the headgear. Many of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, RookhopeThis building is to the far north west of the headgear. Many of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Inside, it looks as though rubbish has been left there. For example, at the entrance, there is a fridge-freezer. Many of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, RookhopeInside, it looks as though rubbish has been left there. For example, at the entrance, there is a fridge-freezer. Many of the buildings still have fire places intact. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Many of the buildings had second floors but no stairs or ladders. Grove Rake, RookhopeMany of the buildings had second floors but no stairs or ladders. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo:  Grove Rake, Rookhope Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo:  Grove Rake, Rookhope Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Tracks can be seen under the ground. Grove Rake, RookhopeTracks can be seen under the ground. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: There are two entrances underground, one of which is flooded. Grove Rake, RookhopeThere are two entrances underground, one of which is flooded. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Old wiring can be seen at the entrance. Grove Rake, RookhopeOld wiring can be seen at the entrance. Grove Rake, Rookhope

The Northern Echo: Evidence of visitors can be seen throughout, with the odd lost shoe or welly as well as litter. Grove Rake, RookhopeEvidence of visitors can be seen throughout, with the odd lost shoe or welly as well as litter. Grove Rake, Rookhope