Summertime in the sub-urban rurality of Hemingfield. Bright if cloudy skies up above make the shady corridor of trees on Wath Road a welcome shelter from the sun on the approach to the pit for another Open Day and working party weekend.
Nice to see thi
Site Director Glen welcomed regular volunteers John, Paul, Chris and Keith on site during the morning, together with other returning friends John and Sean during the day. The mood on site was jolly, and the attitude was can-do, so let’s crack on with what got done!
First things first: a catch up. Signing in sheet completed, a brief site tour identified the areas to tidy up and keep clear; the endless surge of greenery from the wet and warm weather continues unabated and only by regular cutting back, uprooting and general tidying can we keep on top of it, and stave of the return of the wild look we saw when first taking on the site in 2014:
It is nice to take a step back and reflect on how far the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery have come in the last 5 years. In June we marked the actual anniversary of saving the site. Those first trepidatious steps onto the abandoned site were exciting but daunting.
Years of neglect, criminal damage and self-seeded tree growth obscured what survived and also – possibly a good thing – hid the scale of the work still to be done. Nevertheless thanks to the untiring efforts of a regular group of volunteers, led by a passionate group of directors, the Friends have achieved much in saving the site, caring and conserving its winding engine house and making bold strides into planning a future for the site overall, acknowledging its historic value, but also embracing its position in the landscape and close connection to the railway and to the canal which delivered and exported the so many millions of tons of coal from the late 1840s through to 1920.
Milder undergrowth challenges faced the team on this particular Saturday, but thanks to Tesco’s customers generosity in their Bags of Help scheme, we are now able to really keep on top of the growth thanks to the strimmer which the scheme has helped us to acquire.
Volunteers sans frontiers
Strimmer aside, one job which has become a more pressing concern is the rebuilding of the low retaining wall between the colliery site and Pump House Cottage. As part of our work to support Hemingfield’s Hidden Histories project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to secure Pump House Cottage, we had permission to remove the old privet hedging. With it gone, the damage to the underlying stone block wall was clear, and further earth movement hasn’t helped, so it was decided to take part of it down, dig out the earth and re-site the sandstone blocks – the wall itself is likely a re-use of materials from the boilerhouses which dominated the front of the site until the 1920s.
Cometh the task, cometh the volunteers. John stepped forward and set to repairing the wall while others tidying up around the site and removed a final few stumps.
John’s efforts attracted many admiring compliments on his handiwork; tongue in cheek suggestions of rebuilding the whole length being politely, but firmly, declined.
Wall repaired, the crew repared to the shade of the winding engine house to have a bit of a tidy-up. Tools, assorted rusty metal finds and bits and bobs were neatly arranged to ease access and clearance for visitors later in the year.
Lunch was called and everyone trekked back up to the main headgear for shade and sustenance and – of course – insights and witty reflections on the progress of the day. Water, tea, sandwiches and fascinating tales awaited, as reflects the wonderful range of activities the Friends and volunteers are engaged in. From adventures with submersible remote operated vehicles, to tales of flooded storm drains earlier in the week up in Jump and a “grey tide” flowing down Jump valley whilst some of the Friends participated in some geophysics work, there was never a dull moment!
Lunch consumed, the afternoon work resumed, strimming, stone picking and generally busying ourselves on the site. The sun was starting to take its toll, however. Suncream, silly hats and shade can only carry you so far. A late decision to tidy the rear of the pumping engine house building led to some new excitement as a brick surface emerged from beneath weeds. A little light excavation later, and everyone was open to interpretations of just what the purpose of the path could be – though likely a domestic standing associated with the post-1930s cottage conversion, it made for a nice final bit of tidying before heading home for a wash and a rest.
Looking back across the site, the day had been a happy and productive one and everyone is proud of the work conserving this very special piece of heritage.
Join us next time?
The next Open Day is Saturday 17th August, everyone is welcome.