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Honister mine bids to add new route to cliff-edge Via Ferrata

Plans for a daring new cliff-edge experience have been submitted by a high-profile Cumbrian tourist attraction.

Ellis Butcher photo
Ellis Butcher

Honister Slate Mine wants to add an even more challenging route to its Via Ferrata attraction, the Xtreme.

It is entirely separate from the Borrowdale mine’s ill-fated zip wire, which was rejected by planners in September. This was the dream of late owner Mark Weir, who died in a helicopter crash just over a year ago.

But Honister spokesman Ellis Butcher said the Via Ferrata extension is something very different and stressed the plans have been drawn up under the guidance of Natural England and the Lake District National Park Authority.

Although popular in Europe, the Cumbrian Via Ferrata is the only mountain attraction of its kind in England. It gives untrained climbers a chance to take part in vertical climbs, rope bridge crossings and rungs on sheer rock faces, high up in the cliffs around Honister.

At present there is just one route available to visitors after two other courses were closed down last year because they did not have proper planning permission. But Mr Butcher said this time they are determined to get it right.

“We have been out on the site with the LDNPA and Natural England to ensure that route is one they are happy with and that the landscape is entirely protected.

“We have done a tremendous amount of work on this and worked with the experts at every stage,” he said.

The planning application, which was submitted to the LDNPA authority this week, asks for permission to install protection cables, ladders and bridges at carefully chosen points between the Road End Mine Entrance and Nag Beck Winding Drum.

A decision is likely to be made by early May with a view to having it open later that month if approved.

It is anticipated the new Xtreme route will bring more visitors to the area.

Meanwhile an acclaimed fly-on-the-wall documentary about late mine owner Mr Weir is to be repeated on national television on Wednesday. The hour-long film, called Tales From The National Parks, will screen on BBC Four at 7.30pm.

It was filmed in the months leading up to the 45-year-old entrepreneur’s death. The episode, which was commended by critics, debuted in October last year.

Mr Butcher said: “The public reaction after the documentary was first shown is incredible. We want to make it clear that Honister is still open for business, with its Via Ferrata and mine tours, and remains England’s last working slate mine with ambitions for new attractions.

“The recent sad news of the well-established and family-run Kirkstone Quarry in Ambleside, with the loss of 40 jobs, shows just how vulnerable the slate industry is and how tourism can help make these historical industries viable, which Mark was always battling to try and make people understand.”

Have your say

As a family we visited Honister mine about 5 years ago. What really struck me was Mark's love for and dedication to the area also because of family connections in that his grandfather had once mined honister. But Mark was not stuck in the past, his vision was to share the area with kids and teenagers who had never experienced the wonder and majesty of the Lake District mountains. It was interesting when watching the documentary this evening to note the average age of those on the board must have been about 65 what about the young people? what about the children ? The lake District should be for everyone Wishing the Honister team every success and keep going forwards

Posted by mair macdonald on 4 April 2012 at 23:24

having watched your documentry i thought what an inspiration to people around him he must have been we need more people like Mark Weir to get us all motivated to get out there and do something with are lifes
like he said in one of his website clips "better to live like a tiger for a day than live your whole life like a mouse"
keep up the good work and lets hope these persons that are making the decisions are strong enough to see the bigger picture and get on with it he was a man of action
i hope you succeed

Posted by Michael Allison on 4 April 2012 at 23:23

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