March airs and nights of wonder

Reporting on a busy weekend 12th and 13th March 2022, the Friends were blessed with a lovely bright day, finally feeling warm in the sun; everyone was eager to get to work under the beautiful blue sky.

Beautiful birdsong greeting us to site from the headgear

Welcoming us to site, and a portent of Spring, was a symphony of birdsong, performing loudly all around the site. Looking up, we caught sight of a small group of birds alighting on the main headgear, heralding the changing seasons.

Garden party

Ready for action. Bright morning at Hemingfield

Not yet officially in Spring, and a short while before the clocks chase us up to lose an hour, the day nevertheless was mild enough to make very pleasant conditions for gardening in the Pump House Cottage garden, now rapidly taking shape as new beds are established and plants and flowers planted ready for a year of colour to come.

Regular volunteers get stuck in to the Pump House Cottage garden, bringing new life and interest to a once neglected space.

Time flies

Fabulous high view across the site from the main headgear towards pump house cottage (Photo credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Meanwhile, progress was being made on many fronts across site. Inside the winding engine house, regular volunteer Mitchell was finishing the uneviable task of cleaning down the workbench surface.

Finished article(s): the cleaned up workbench provides a display area for items during tours.

Bringing new energy and enthusiasm to the task, we can also share some of the work in progress from an earlier session, through a timescape video, played at speed.

Time flies. Volunteer labour making a difference with some timelapse in the winding engine house (Photo credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Flat out

Up at the front gates, work also continued to flatten out the mound which had been built up from spoil and debris from work elsewhere on site as well as rubbish thrown over the wall in years prior to the Friends securing the site.

Kings of the vanishing hill. Saturday 12th saw the final attack on the mound

Previous blogs show progress in this area, but this week saw a big concerted effort to pick, mattock, shovel and barrow the remainder away to level the ground by the concrete pad.

Unimpressed toad

En route a toad emerged, and a pause for lunch gave everyone a chance to catch their breath before continuing the efforts, and eventually rightly celebrating having levelled out the ground. This will allow easier access, improved parking capacity and, when grassed a more attractive and more easily maintainable entrance to site.

2 barrow job. A study in perpetual motion and sweaty brows.
Done it! Flatten out the mound. Opening out the ground next to the concrete pad and creating a wide open space by the gates
Side-on comparison: Before (top) and After (bottom) weeks of work. Mound no more! (Photo collage by Mitchell Sutherland)

Good news: GNN Community Award Scheme

Group shot of Friends and volunteers after  receiving the Good Neighbours News Community Award Scheme cheque (Courtesy Good Neighbours News)

Earlier in the day, we received some very good news. Thanks to the initiative of our volunteers, and the generosity of Good Neighbours News magazine, we received a Community Award Scheme award for £200 which will help us continue work on renewing the garden of Pump House Cottage.

Presentation cheque from Good Neighbours News Community Award Scheme

This award will help improve and maintain the new garden beds in Pump House Cottage garden, where volunteers Janet and Jeff have transformed the forgotten and overgrown patch into a new planned garden, with improved paths being planned and several new beds which will offer a range of plants and provide a haven for wildlife as well as bringing colour and beauty back to that end of the colliery site.

Work in progress. A huge amount of digging and manual work has gone into preparing the ground, removing weeds, roots and rubbish; creating new raised beds and laying out accessible pathways through the garden.

It is thanks to their efforts, and the crucial financial support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, that the group were able to launch their Hemingfield’s Hidden History project, designed to secure Pump House Cottage, from private ownership, remove the barriers and reunite this side with the rest of the colliery site, and begin to engage new audiences and welcome visitors to share and celebrate the colliery’s stories.

WE Wonder Noir

And now for something completely dark and wonderful, and different.

WE Wonder Noir festival

On Sunday 13th March 2022, the Friends ventured forth up the hill to ‘the Big House’ at Wentworth Woodhouse to visit the WE Wonder Noir art exhibition. A week of after-dark evening openings from 6-9pm to view a showcase of works from Yorkshire-based artists displayed in the grounds and within the state rooms of this majestic grade I listed house.

Listen, a theme to several of the modern artworks creating light and sound displays for visitors to the house.

Building on the arts and cultural engagement work of the Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar project, working with Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, this WE Wonder Noir festival event was supported by supported by Arts Council England, Without Walls and RELOAD, receiving support from the South Yorkshire Mayor’s £1m Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Ukraine’s Yellow and Blue shone out from Wentworth Woodhouse at the WE Wonder Noir festival.

Amongst the festival’s many star exhibits, was Artist Luke Jerram’s ‘Museum of the Moon’. An immense globe 7 metres in diameter with detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, suspended, magically floating in the beautiful Marble Saloon. A touring artwork, each centimetre represents 5 kilometres of the Moon’s surface.

‘The Museum of the Moon’ by Luke Jerram, in the Marble Saloon at Wentworth Woodhouse.

Horse play

In the Whistlejacket Room a newly commissioner neon light artwork from Patrick Murphy, inspired by the room’s eponymous painting by George Stubbs (now in the National Gallery in London).

‘Neon Horse’ by Patrick Murphy, in the Whistlejacket Room.

The new beaming horse image sat directly opposite a reproduction of the original painting as a striking contrast of classical and modern art.

Wall to wall contrasts

Mining magic

Finally, we must end on a mining note! Artist Ed Carter’s ‘The Mute Still Air’ art installation lent sound, light, and movement to the State Dining Room at Wentworth. Previously exhibited at Elsecar Heritage Centre, this work was inspired by the shared insutrial atories of Wentworth and Elsecar, with a scultural installation of copper wind chimes, sounding as fans blow the air to the sound of a score featuring the Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

‘The Mute Still Air’ by Ed Carter in the State Dining Room.

Taking inspiration from the work of Earl Fitzwilliam’s colliery viewer and engineer, Benjamin Biram, who pioneered mechanical ventilation at the collieries – including very early and important work at Hemingfield in particular – something which will become clearer as the fruits of the Friends and volunteers history research and new interpretation plans from the Hemingfield’s hidden Heritage project emerge in the next year.

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