Riding the wave, 19th Sept 2020

Dazzling sunlight under the main concrete headgear in September

Cautiously returning to site, the Friends and volunteers arrived as the wider country seemed to be on the cusp of a second wave of Coronavirus.

With schools and Universities continuing in person activities, and the final rays of sunshine and warmth kissing the ground, all was filled with an unreal air: was it the final calm before the storm?

Green light means go?

Wall damage and temporary traffic light outside the pit on Wath Road

Arriving at the pit gates, once again the persistence of the deep irrationality of others strikes: further damage to the boundary wall. The temporary traffic light system had become a semi-permanent fixture while the damage to the Wath Road corner property’s wall due to a drink driving incident was being resolved.

Semi-permanent does echo the fears of how the pandemic is raging and it’s impact on everyone’s lives. Behaving responsibly, the Friends distanced on site, outdoors, in small numbers, continuing their commitment to caring for and improving this heritage site.

View across the whole site from Pit Row, on Wath Road

And what a sight! Despite the living in the figurative shadow of unease and disease, this day was a beauty, literally: sunshine, blue skies and fresh air to lift the spirits; a real pleasure and welcome relief from the breathless news and speculation of what is to come.

It’s only thanks to National Lottery players and our Hidden Hemingfield Histories Project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund that we can finally read the site as a single unified whole: from left to right, from the main winding shaft and concrete headgear, winding engine house, over to the pumping shaft and headgear and Pump House Cottage, now safely secured for the future, but with much repair and restoration work to do inside and out of the building.

In the weeds

And so, after the great push to repair the rear retaining wall, some less celebrated, less strategic activity was in order: weeding the pit and providing a hopefully final cut-back to prepare for Autumn and winter. And so to work.

Weeds along the old electric cable troughing at the top of the pit yard.

Inch by inch around the site, lifting weeds, cutting back undergrowth and strimming down the long grass all over, at the entrance, by the winding engine house and pump house, and on the lower terrace.

Strim when you’re winning. Strimmer artistry on the topside of the pit yard.

The crew stuck to their separate tasks and steadily tidied up the appearance of the site. With birds flying high overhead, peaceful sounds and unchanged views of the countryside all-around, it was a delightfully productive way to spend the day.

Strimming in the shade. Tidying work on the lower terrace behind the old pumping engine house. Clearing the way for some roof-top access perhaps?

The attendees also said goodbye to an old friend as the old caravan which has been on side for several years, was finally moved on to pastures new.

Spick and span. Smooth strimming to stir the soul.

After the more recent weeks of heavy work on the sandstone blocks of the retaining wall, the regular volunteers appreciated the change, although upping the pace to cover the whole site still made it rather tiring!

Admirable results

Before closing they took some time to inspect the cured lime mortar pointing and rear wall. Although there is still much to do. The sense of satisfaction on getting this far is really palpable. To see more about the story of the retaining wall, see our dedicated page.

The final look of the rebuilt retaining wall below the lower terrace.

Going for a wander

Making the most of the good weather and what remained of British Summer Time, a healthy walk down by the canal was in order. Although surrounded by rather too much Himalayan Balsam for comfort, the path was a delight. Kind fellow walkers and smiling cyclists passed by, enjoying the fresh air and respecting each others’ distance.

Canalside walk between Hemingfield and Cortonwood

Like a blast from what seemed a dim and distant past, a horse and rider followed a cyclist, curving under Smithy Bridge, and emerging once again from the shade back into the sunshine. A moment of hope and peace in a scary time.

Tow path tales. Under Smithy Bridge

Continuing down towards Brampton, the disued canal branch opens up, and returns to water from its silted narrow channel just before. A lovely day outside.

Looking down the Elsecar branch of the Dearne and Dove canal towards the Brampton end, from Birk’s Bridge.

Taking pride and giving hope

Finally, just a line to mention that, disrupted though the world may have been, there are still signs of life continuing, and people still care about their wider communities.

Hanging basket in Hemingfield

Although intended for Spring and Summer, the Friends were delighted to see the Hemingfield and Jump hanging baskets emerge for Autumn and Winter. As a sign of our own concern for the village and how important we feel the colliery is to the story of Hemingfield, it is delightful to see flowers along the main road, including a small basket in our own name. Stay safe everyone.

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