True blue skies above greeted the Friends as they arrived at Hemingfield-sur-mer for another in the seemingly endless summery days of 2018. More heavy work was at hand, but some beautiful weather made it fun, and the company of regular volunteers Paul, John, Keith and Chris certainly kept the mood light with laughter drifting out over the canal and railway below the colliery.
Every tool in the kit
The working party’s day commenced where the last had left off – on the edge (we like it that way in the Friends). All hands returned to top side of the collapsed retaining wall, to reacquaint themselves with the recalcitrant tree stump. Surely a wonder of nature, the tree had single-rootedly lifted an entire brick wall, and undermined a substantial amount of material which will be a big job for the volunteers to put right.
Nevertheless, the crew came prepared. With near-surgical precision, and a plethora of edged tools, the digging and root-removal began once more. Choice is a wonderful with tools. If the roots are too big or to small for one options, there is surely another way to tackle it, and this working party was certainly tooled for the task at hand. With some tools powered by electric batteries, and others by sweat and colourful language, the group got stuck in and steady progress was made in releasing the stump from its clamped position.
Wonders to behold
Happily stood in the shade of the winding engine house rear wall, the volunteers’ task was a cool one; a welcome break from the bright sunlight peeking out behind the clouds.
Root-by-root, and inch by inch, the amazing tree stump began to loosen its grip – the dense, twisted roots being a powerful display of nature’s power, as well as a strangely beautiful example of how man-made structures can bend and shape – even down to the smallest mortar-gap marks etched into the tree, showing how slowly but surely the tree had consumed and destabilised the old wall.
Digging down to cut out the main roots, the volunteers encountered an unexpected culvert leading up to the wall. A brick-edged channel, now dry and disused, draining to nowhere, but clearly predating the current visible retaining wall and concrete buttressing which served to block it.
After making some headway, and exhausting a number of batteries, and probably a few volunteers during the day, the end of proceedings was called by the spectacular sight of a Douglas propeller aircraft flying low over our site and beyond – possibly part of the RAF memorial flight. A beautiful farewell.