Heritage Open Days 2019, Part the Second

Saturday 21st September 2019

A thick mist hung over Elsecar on Saturday morning the first day of a full weekend of Heritage Open Days for Hemingfield Colliery.

(somewhat obstructed) View from Elsecar over to Wentworth

But the sun soon shone through and burned away the lingering mist, as the Friends arrived to open the gates and raise the banner, quite literally, for more of our Heritage Open Days.

Hello Hello

A cracking Saturday ensued, with visitors arriving even before the Friends had finished setting up a table and their display of books, maps and photographs. Site Manager Glen, regular volunteers Keith and Chris were on hand, joined by community researcher Glenda, to share knowledge, explain the objects and provide access-all-areas tours of the site during the day.

We were pleased to welcome visitors from near and far – Barnsley of course but also from Newcastle, and Derbyshire – taking advantage of the weather and the number of places with open days listed on the map – to come and visit unique and normally inaccessible sites of interest.

Friends displaying their research on Hemingfield census and the history of mining at Hemingfield and around Barnsley

The sunshine was scorching at times, so sunglasses and hats were the order of the day as tours began under the winding headgear and passed along in front of Pit Row down to the Pumping engine house and shaft, and then inside the winding engine house, to explore the surviving winding engines and drums, and view images of the pit during its working life.

Emerging back out of the winding engine house into the bright sunshine, visitors could see the wonderful sight of butterflies alighting on the bright white warmth of the concrete headgear.

The Friends had some very kind comments and generous donations on the day and also offers of future help and ongoing support which we look forward to following up.

With the final tours wrapping up, and visitors heading home after 3pm, the Friends took the opportunity of strimming the site and tidying up. The forecast for Sunday didn’t look too promising, so a bit of a preemptive strike was well received.

Even at the end of the day, the sun was hot and the conversations arising from the day of visits were very positive.

Reclaimed by nature?

A theme regularly repeated in the site tours was the way nature had reclaimed to site over 30 years or more of neglect – leading to the need to remove many trees in order to physically access the site once again. However even amongst the stumps the power and beauty of nature can be amazing – as witnessed by the explosion of fungi on an old willow tree stump which had overtaken an abandoned section of iron pipe.

Sunday 22nd September 2019

As feared, early signs on the last HOD looked less than promising, and that it might be a washout. Rain overnight and creeping drizzle promised a swift exit, but once again both the rain gods and the heritage-loving British public defied the odds to deliver an amazingly busy and, ultimately, a remarkably downpour-free day of happy tours, interesting conversations and new support for the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery.

Fearing the worst, the Friends had set up stall indoors instead of risking a table out in the open. However this did give Glen, Keith and Chris the opportunity to display materials a little differently, and the HOD bunting looked a treat as the first visitors – inclduing a couple of families with young children braved the elements and stepped out onto the pityard to explore.

Grey to blue. Wet on the ground, but warm enough to explore

Indoor displays – signs and vido projections welcoming visitors and showing some of the history of the site

Bags of Help from Tesco (and you!)

Sunday 22nd September also brought the official presentation of a cheque for £2,000 from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme, as voted on by the local shoppers of Wombwell and Stairfoot. These funds have been a fantastic boost to the Friend and to our ability to obtain the tools needed to take our site conservation and repair work to the next level. Thanks to local Tesco shoppers, the Friends have been able to procure a portable electric generator, and cement mixer, together with a heavy duty strimmer.

The generator means we can finally begin to tackle some of our biggest challenges with more than hand or short-term battery power for tools. In particular the generator and mixer have enabled us to start making headway on the huge task of repairing and frankly rebuilding in some cases the decades of collapse in the rear retaining wall.

(Photo credit: Peter Davies)

Photo credit: Peter Davies

This fabulous support has also been a real morale boost to the regular volunteers enabling their dedicated hours of voluntary effort to go further and achieve more. Five years on from first fighting our way on to the neglected and arson-damaged site, these tools are crucial to keeping the work moving, ensuring the safety and sustainability of the site, improving the time taken to do the pityard strimming maintenance to a few hours instead of two full days, and opening up new opportunities to learn some new skills – lime mortaring, anyone?

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