Far and away in May
Heading to the colliery on foot from the green hills beyond the village of Hemingfield itself, the pit first appears as a wooded hollow.
The huddle of cottages at Pit Row guide the eye to the right level, on the far side of the canal bank, at the foot of a densely wooden hillside – really the landscaped spoil heap of Hemingfield’s younger sibling, Elsecar Main Colliery.
Standing proudly over the canal and railway line in the main headgear, its concrete geometry contrasting with the lush green leaves swaying in the breeze.
Standing in the distinctive lines of its shadow, the Friends and regular volunteers collected tools and headed out around the site to get to work.
Keep it clean
A big part of the Friends’ work is taking pride in looking after the pit; taking care of this remarkable survival of the Victorian age is a privilege, and as a survivor, the site has been no stranger to the effects of neglect and vandalism. Stepping out of the gates, and grabbing a brush, shovel and take, it is good to keep the gateway to the site clean and tidy.
Elsewhere around the yard, Site Manager Glen powered up the strimmer and got to grips with the long grass, whilst regular volunteer Chris raked up the cuttings and cleared the lower level by the pumping shaft.
The sun was fierce on Saturday, but the working party on site were still a little cooler than the firemen on the footplate of the steam engine racing by on the Elsecar Heritage Railway line below.
A Hole New World
Keeping cool in the moderate shade of the winding engine house were ‘the crew’ – regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, John and Keith returned to the fray, excavating the pit feature which is now two metres down from where we once stood a couple of years ago.
As features emerge, trowel work takes the place of the shovels of demolition rubble, as we seek to assess and interpret what the pit was used for, and record it’s features including compacted coal, and the tantalising drainage feature which suggests we have hit the bottom.
Pausing for lunch before rounding off the digging, strumming, raking, sweeping, narrowing and brick chipping. The Friends returned home to a well earned glass of water/pop/juice/beer [delete as applicable]. All pleased with another pleasant day spent on site at Hemingfield under blue skies with hopefully none-too-reddening necks!