The Lake District's Hidden Gem... Slate!

The Lake District's Hidden Gem... Slate!

It’s undeniable that the Lake District is abundant with natural beauty. Indeed, as the name ‘The Lake District’ or ‘The Lakes’ suggests, the area in the northwest of the UK is most well-known for its 16 majestic lakes. With the sublime, lofty mountains towering commandingly above them, the lakes can be dark and foreboding in the midst of winter or as tranquil as a mill pond, dazzling like a diamond as the sun dances on their surface on a summer’s day.

These little, (and in some cases extremely large with Windermere being the largest lake in England) dazzling, gem-like bodies of water have been the inspiration for many a painter and writer over the centuries and equally for the tourists who travel each year to gaze upon the beauty and splendour of the area. But what can’t be seen when you gaze over the awe-inspiring landscape of the Lake District national park is the Lake District slate, the hidden gem of the area!

What is slate and where is it Found?

Slate, a metamorphic rock which takes its colour from the mineral structure and mineral grain size of its composition, is formed by the metamorphosis of clay, shale and volcanic ash and can either be collected from slate quarries or slate mines. Within the UK, slate can be found being quarried in Cornwall and mined in Wales and the Lake District. Being one of the remaining slate mines in the UK and indeed the last working slate mine in England, Honister Slate Mine uses ancient techniques to extract the natural slate stone from deep within Fleetwith Pike.

Standing 2,126 feet high, Fleetwith Pike keeps a watchful eye over Buttermere, a 1.2-mile body of water nestled at the foot of the fell and the Honister Pass, a mountain pass which connects Seatoller in the Borrowdale Valley to Gatesgarth at the southern end of Buttermere. The Honister Pass snakes its way to an altitude of 1,167 feet, it’s one of the highest passes in the area and has the steepest gradient at 25%. It’s at the summit of Honister Pass where you’ll find Honister Slate Mine. The historic mines have been extracting slate from Fleetwith Pike mountain since 1643 but it is thought mining took place as early as during Roman times. With such a fascinating history why not book a Honister slate mine tour to see firsthand the passages and caverns deep within Fleetwith Pike, learn the 400-year history of the mine and be regaled with tales from the past.

Just like gemstones created deep within the earth over millions of years, slowly forming their stunning unique characteristics, Honister green slate is 450-million-years-old. Every exquisite stone slab unearthed, a one-off masterpiece telling a story of its creation through its soft undulating striations for those who know how to read it. It’s due to the mineral composition within the landscape, being rich in Celadonite, that the slate has a beautiful green hue ranging from olive to dark green and results in Honister slate being one of the rarest types of slate. It seems fitting for slate created in such a breathtakingly beautiful area abundant with luscious greens in every shade to mirror its surroundings in such a way. And as it’s synonymous with the Lake District it’s know by many different names from around the area including Cumbrian green slate, Westmorland green slate, Lakeland green slate as well as Coniston green slate and Borrowdale green slate.

Image of Honister Pass in The Lake District

The Properties of Slate

The composition of the slate not only gives it its stunning appearance but also means it’s incredibly resistant to weathering and erosion. This durable, waterproof, natural material also has great insulating properties and is resistant to heat. All these exceptional properties of slate together with the ability to cut and shape slate means it lends itself beautifully to a multitude of uses.

The Uses for Slate

The most common use for slate is as slate roof tiles. Honister has quite the pedigree here with their natural Cumbrian slate roof tiles having been used on Buckingham Palace and St Pauls Cathedral no less. But with such stunning characteristics why stop with the roof? Outside garden features, such as tables and benches as well as water features will mean you’ll be keeping up with the Jones’. Why not add some Honister green slate paving and perhaps some small pieces of slate know as slate chippings or some slate dust / tailings which are smaller than chippings and ideal for paths and boarders to make your garden Chelsea flower show ready. Whether you’re thinking indoor or outdoor for your slate lintels, sills or steps, slate is the right choice for that showstopper piece of architecture which has functionality in abundance alongside good looks.

When it comes to flooring and wall coverings you can’t go wrong with slate. Honister green slate floor tiles come in a natural / riven or a honed / polished finished, both are equally stunning and durable to stand up to the test in the busiest of households meaning whichever you choose, you and your guests will be admiring them for years to come. And when it comes to wall finishings, green slate wall tiles in a bathroom will really elevate your space to the next level, giving that sumptuous spa like feel. Equally with its durable and heat resistant qualities slate makes for an outstanding worktop or hearth that will really create the wow factor.

With our exceptional craftspeople at Honister we can create everything for your home from handcrafted slate tableware and kitchenware to slate jewellery, chessboards and doorknobs and even create bespoke slate sculptures for your garden, the possibilities truly are endless.

With Honister green slate’s exceptional properties of durability and heat resistance coupled with being a sustainable option as slate can be reused or recycled and being visually stunning and unique with timeless appeal, it really is a gem hiding within the Lake District National Park.

With our years of experience, highly skilled craftspeople and exceptionally stunning green slate, Honister truly is the UK slate company to go to for all your slate product. If you are looking to feature slate in your home please feel free to contact us to discuss.

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