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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.