Open Day, Saturday 21st April 2018

Hot, bright sunshine shone down across the valley from Elsecar on Saturday as the Friends and regular volunteers arrived at the pit for the final Open Day in April. 2018 has truly flown by!

With Site Manager Glen out on assignment, regular volunteer Keith opened up the gates. He was joined by a good band of volunteers, Paul, John, Mike and Barrie. A fair array of brimmed headwear was on show, most sporting baseball caps, before the arrival of Chris, who was seeking deep cover under a cricket hat.

Rubble and strife

With the arrival of warm weather after weeks of cold and wet, otherwise known as British Summer Time, the Friends shift gear and site maintenance and presentation is at the top of the agenda.

Cutting back the ‘green stuff’ and tidying the main open areas were the orders of the day, together with another campaign on reducing the old wall rubble mound which the group have been slowly chipping away at since 2014.

We dig the mound…

…and stack up…

…the good bricks from the slope 

Mt Rubble. Compared to 2014 this is progress, honest!

Shovels and picks sending barrowloads of bricks down the slope bring with them the regular counterpoint rhythms of chisels and brick hammers in cleaning off the mortar – perhaps not as sonorous as the birdsong all around us, but no less urgent.

By the end of the afternoon, the work has reduced the slope again and the top of the concrete bank can be seen once again, after having been eclipsed when the old boundary wall was bulldozed in the 1990s.

Planes, trains, automobiles … and pheasants

As ever, the call for lunch led to a range of entertaining exchanges sat in the shade of the switchgear building. Conversation ranged from Barnsley-built CEAG miners’ lamps and river navigation; from current affairs to postal history, and from the beauty of old company billheads to the wonderful results of geological processes over the millennia.

Friends Director and Site Manager Glen returned from assignment and, ladder in hand, made some illuminating additions to the site. More of which in the future…

Meanwhile up in the sky aeroplanes traced their weary way across the sky; a hidden helicopter disrupted the calm and a friendly whistle sounded the approach of our friends from Elsecar Heritage Railway, and the black LMS livery of their loco William.

Footplate experiences on a beautiful day

Perhaps sensing the day’s end, a pheasant cock dropped in on the site, calling loud and proudly for the neighbouring hens. Feathers and fumes filled the air; the pheasant stalking the pit as the loco charged down the line.

Cooling off

Pausing for a rest and some shade, the colliery provides some wonderfully cool and dark spots. Inevitably with the sun high in the sky, one’s gaze is often drawn downwards, into the peaceful gloom of the shaft, and the unmistakable echo of falling water.

The surface of the water down below is in constant shivering motion, catching the light and cooling the air.

Through the grill: the drip, trickle and plop of water in the shaft

Even in the darkest spots however the sun shines through, adding a strange beauty to the scene, both indoors:

Sunlight pierces the dark winding engine house

Rays of light bathe the machinery in light through a slit in the wall

And out:

Glaring sunlight over the shady stone steps

Another great day on site.

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