How lucky we are to be out in the countryside! The post-industrial semi-rural greenery abounding around Hemingfield and Elsecar.
From 29th April to the 21st May our regular volunteers arrived early and bright, eager to get stuck into maintaining and regenerating the site.
Mower-try and lotion
On Saturday 7th May, the Friends borrowed a petrol mower, aiming to test out how far the year’s levelling efforts permitted an easier run at keeping the grass mown and clear as the green stuff shot up all around.
Site Manager Glen got stuck in, mowing back and forth – the mower rolling the blades of grass as it went adding an air of sophistication to the old pit yard.
Of course there was still the ‘rough stuff’ to tidy up. The strimmer still gets where the rolling mower can’t (but needs a rake up after).
The verdict on the mower was clear: a sound investment, time saver, holds its own cuttings, and the end result looks better…cue two weeks later: we have invested in a mower of our own. And the results are well worth it.
On the rocks
On Saturday 7th May, as the first roller mowing was underway, the volunteers took it upon themselves to move mountains to make the future mowing easier.
In an admittedly sisyphusean task, they moved a pile of stone rubble (gathered in previous clearance activities) up to the side of switchgear building, and generally tidied the top corner of the upper yard.
Many hands (and bars-as fulcrums) make light work. But pausing for a breather amidst the greenery also assists.
On the slope and ramping up
Elsewhere the tidying continued. Indoors and out. The slope adjoining the top yard is a fairly steep ramp, composed of bricks, stone and concrete, and covered with clumps of grass and remnants of stumps past, such that it took quite a bit of sweat and tears, if not actual blood, to extract.
As the grass was being trimmed and dandelions and weeds clipped back, so too this ramp was subject to some attention.
While perhaps not the most accessible of inclines, this wide ramp is a working feature of the site. Part of the history of the transition from coal winning to pumping station, as the old boiler houses were removed from this area and the access levels around the site were adjusted.
Never knowingly understumped
If there is one trait characteristic of Hemingfield Colliery’s volunteers, it is their dogged determination in the face of immoveable forces. Specifically tree stumps. 2022 has seen something of a ‘mopping up’ operation across the site on many of the ‘last redoubts’; stumps which could not be moved, by hand, axe, spade or strap.
Admitting our admiration of Nature’s strength and ingenuity at how tightly or perilously trees have grown in and over walls and along buildings, there remained at least one which was very much part of the site, as a 2018 image shows:
Growing in, and out from, the upper terrace retaining wall, next to the two iron plate cisterns, this beastie has shifted and stained the brickwork, but has proven extremely resistant to drilling, cutting, rotting, or assorted verbal abuse. However Saturday 21st May 2022 was a turning point.
With a new sharp handsaw and no little grit and determination, the chunky trunk was sliced off and much weight relieved from the face of the wall. It also made for a dramatic moment as the trunk was hauled into view from behind the rear winding engine house, surprising other volunteers on site.
In the outer bark and edge wood, natures amazing power was revealed through the wood worm (beetle larvae) gnawing their way through the vast hard wood trunk for 2-5 years, weakening the structure and producing the ‘dust’ in the tunnels, known as frass, or larvae poo.
Down the garden path
With Spring all around, the ongoing transformation of the Pump House Cottage garden is a source of joy to everyone. Every week shows new work; new planting, new pathways, a real regeneration happening before our eyes.
Turning over the soil, new planting, and pathlaying are creating a welcoming and attractive space. Making use of reclaimed materials from elsewhere on site, the garden is also a great example of sustainable heritage improvements.
On 21st May this work continued and picked up pace as a rubble base for a new path across the garden was collected, and old bricks reclaimed from the site were reused in a new sawtooth edging for the new route.
Finally this update must also cover the further work on maintaining and adjusting the gates by the Pump House Cottage side of the site. First and foremost is the large gate securing the side entrance to the pit which was set out in April, and balanced and cemented in at the end of that month.
Next came alterations to the garden entrance gate. Having first been hanged and fixed in May 2019, some expansion and movement has occurred which required adjustment. At the same time, the opportunity was taken of repainting the large gate the same holly bush green colour to match the rest of the house, echoing the pit’s colours back to the time of Earl Firzwilliam, colours still seen all around Wentworth and Elsecar.
Huge thanks to regular volunteers, Jamie, Janet, Jeff, John, and the other, non-Js, Paul, Mitchell and Chris. We welcome volunteers from all parts of the alphabet.