ripping it down in Elsecar
Elsecar Reservoir needed topping up for its big weekend, it seemed. As Elsecar geared up for a memorable couple of days celebrating Elsecar by the Sea, so the Rain Gods deemed it expedient to bestow their bounteous blessings upon the village. It was a wet one!
Elsecar by the Sea was a fun name for the daytripping delights of the park and its reservoir which had originally been built to supply the Dearne and Dove Canal. Around 1910, the Sheffield Independent and other newspapers ran several stories referring to the wonders of Elsecar Park, with its ‘beach’ and the fun and frolics of the free bathing opportunities close at hand, just a short journey by rail from the busy smoky city. Forget Blackpool, stick to Barnsley borough and enjoy Elsecar.
Steeped in history, soaking up the atmosphere
With a real ale beer festival in Milton Hall; a plethora of seaside-themed events in the Heritage Centre; a Community Gala in the park, and regular steam trains running down the line from our friends at Elsecar Heritage Railway, there was far too much going on for the hardy to be deterred. The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and their volunteers were similarly determined.
Friends Chair Steve opened the site, under glowering skies and light, but forgettable drizzle. Our Peak contingent of volunteers returned to the site: John, Chris and Phil; joined by regular volunteers John and Chris. Site Director Glen added to their number as the Friends wheeled out their barrows and got ready to continue the excavation around the side of the electrical switchgear building.
Uncovering the old pit yard surface beneath the layers of rubble and detrius is slow and steady work. Removing the remnants of the old demolished boundary wall continued as some troweling work commenced, to begin to show some of the features.
Where there’s bricks to reclaim, there’s mortar to chip off. Regular volunteer John got stuck into the emerging blocks with chisel hammer in hand, cleaning them up and adding to the prodigious pile. We have a number of projects in mind to reuse this material and are very pleased with the variety of plain bricks, bull-nosed and coping materials which we have retrieved thus far. For anything that doesn’t make the grade, there’s the rubble pile – future hardcore.
As the Friends and volunteers discussed the events of the last few weeks, the earth began to reveal some different tones: red shale, coal, rich packed earth.
As the trowel work eased back the layers, the dark line of an in-filled foundation trench emerged. Likely associated with an earlier boundary wall, the line was clear and distinct.
Opening the floodgates
Breaking for lunch, the volunteers sought shelter in the switchgear building. Sat eating lunch, and sharing the cake kindly delivered by Friends Chair Steve, the crew dried off awhile and discussed projects past and yet to come. A number of the volunteers are contributing to the forthcoming International Early Engines Conference, in May 2017, and it was interesting to hear about the preparations for the event, the papers being given and the activities being planned.
Glancing out of the door, grey and gloomy clouds continued to gather, and the wet stuff began to fall in abundance.
Debating the merits and challenges of digging in mud, the crew adjourned to enjoy the passing steam engine and special Elsecar by the Sea train:
Light showers turned to heavy rain. It was, to use the vernacular, siling it down. Gathering tools and tidying up the site, the Friends and volunteers were happy to have clocked up a healthy number of hours on site, and also to have heard tell of some forthcoming developments on site (of which more anon!).
With the outdoor work drawing to a close, Friends Chair Steve proceeded to take things indoors, into the old winding engine house, where some tidying up was in order, amongst the old winding rope drum house and the former beam engine room.
Whether heading home for a well-earned rest, a shower of the hot variety, or else a sneaky exploration of the aforementioned beer festival, the Friends and Volunteers drew another Working Party weekend to a close. From a wet summer, we’re hoping for a dry autumn and a pleasantly tropical winter. Our thanks to our volunteers for their hardy work and ready wit.