Feeling hot, hot, hot was definitely the defining feature of July 2022, between 16-20th, and especially on Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th as the Met Office issued its first ever Red warning for extreme heat, together with amber warnings indicating danger to life or potential serious illness.
From the frying pan into the fire
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) together with the Met Office issued a Level 4 Heat-Health alert, which is when a heatwave is so severe that its effects extend beyond the normal health and social care system. At this level, illness and even death can occur among fit and healthy members of the population, not just those in high risk groups. This lead the UK government to declare a national emergency.
If this all sounded like an overreaction to some, the reality was quite stark – transport was widely affected as railway lines and airports slowed, reduced or cancelled services. The temperatures put significant pressure on the National Health Service, with elderly, vulnerable residents particularly at risk.
In Yorkshire the emergency services declared a major incident, asking people not to ring 999 unless necessary. Yorkshire Ambulance Service moved to Resource Escalation Action Plan level 4 (extreme pressure) with a surge in calls and delays in handovers at A&E.
Meanwhile, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue was inundated with calls to deliberate and accidental fires all across the region and the Chief Fire Officer stated “On occasion, we had to leave fires burning that were not affecting life or property to attend other, more serious incidents.” Fires destroyed 6 homes in Barnsley, 3 houses in Kiverton Park and several properties in Maltby.
Heritage, Humour and Humidity at Hemingfield
July had started out a little cooler, but with exciting developments as Barnsley Council launched a consultation on their newly-developed plans for the Conservation Area in and around Elsecar.
On Wednesday 6th July between 3.30pm.and 7.30pm at the Elsecar Heritage Centre Visitors Centre, a new conservation appraisal and management plan for Elsecar was opened for consultation, informed by the work and research conducted for the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone over the last few years.
Barnsley Council have worked with Purcell Architects to review the existing Conservation Area established in 1976, and presented the new draft plan, which includes a number of proposed extensions to the area, as well as focusing greater attention on the architectural heritage features which should to be protected in the future development of the village and its surroundings. We would encourage everyone to read the Elsecar Conservation Area and Management Plan.
Back at the ranch…
The Friends and regular volunteers continuing regular maintenance visits as well as taking time to admire the fabulous colour appearing in the garden of Pump House Cottage.
Alighting on the colourful wild flowers in the border were many busy bees, flying back to the hives just down the road besides the Knoll Beck at Tingle Bridge. It’s always delightful to see how much wildlife is attracted to our former colliery site, and a genuine pleasure to see such biodiversity from the old muck stack behind Pit row, down to the Canal side by the TransPennine Trail.
The constant gardening continued, and further work on the brick path.
Going to the Gala
The following week it was time for something a little different – with the Friends heading out to Hemingfield Gala at the Hemingfield Ellis School during the afternoon of Saturday 16th July. But first the team had a few hours on site, checking on things and maintaining the garden.
The Hemingfield Action Group Summer Gala and Jubilee was returning after two years of hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Suncream, shorts and hats were the order of the day as the heat was on. Seeking the shelter of a gazebo, regular volunteers Mitchell, Janet, Jeff and Chris were joined by Andy, providing moral and logistics support as the crew set up a stall for the Friends up on the top playing field, with excellent views of the alpacas.
Sitting high and dry throughout the hot summer’s day, it was nice to get back to the heart of the village from which our scheduled site drew much of its workforce as the local community gathered to enjoy the stalls and activities (and drinks and ice cream).
Thanks to the organisers, Hemingfield Action Group, and to the visitors to the FoHC stall, young and old. We were delighted to meet several schoolchildren to talk about their forebears, sharing school photographs of the children who went on to work at the pit, as well as meeting perhaps the youngest (if not the last!?) active miner in Hemingfield, before he travelled overseas.
It was an enjoyable day off-site, sharing our stories and celebrating Hemingfield’s Hidden History which is exactly what our National Lottery Heritage Fund project set out, and is now enabling us to achieve as things return to some sort of ‘new normal’ in the wider world. Even if the climate if far from normal!
A whole lotta love…
Surviving the heatwave, the month ended with a bumper attendance of Friends and volunteers on site, with Chair Steve able to travel post-covid, Site Manager Glen, John, Paul, Mitchell, Heather and Fynn, with Janet and Jeff, Chris, and Matthew.
There was plenty to do. Grass to be mown. Paths to be levelled. Bricks to be cleaned, collected and laid out. Meanwhile out came the mixer to prepare some lime mortar to continue repointing the small retaining wall to Pump House Cottage’s raised level garden.
Mitchell took on a dirty, shady job – sweeping and washing the concrete floor in the winding engine house. It almost looks whitish again!
A particular delight during the day was the return of an artefact which used to be part of the winding engine house up until 2007 – a Worsley Mesne brake lever!
Weeds and Wet Days
July had another weekend’s worth of activities in store for the Friends, albeit a slightly damper affair – cooling down after the hottest July days in recorded history.
Sweeping up early doors, the humidity was palpable. Likewise continuing the gardening and brick paving in Pump House Cottage was sweaty work, although the soil at least looked a healthier shade, compared to some of the parched grass.
Sun and rain favour weed growth, unfortunately, so regular weeding is necessary in, on and around the stone and concrete paved areas of the pit yard and lower terrace.
It’s impressive how quickly nature can mask the industrial past.
It’s something the Friends are only too aware of, as we look out across the old railway line and canal basin which once worked so closely with the colliery in its heyday.
Although it may already seem like a lifetime ago, back in July 1980 the railway between Elsecar and Cortonwood collieries was in use, but then as now it needed regular maintenance – sending weed-killing trains down the line.
But the past can still inform the future, so as we make further progress on our own Hemingfield’s Hidden History project, and look around us, at the consolidation of the Elsecar conservation area, and the exciting ‘Forging Ahead’ creative heritage scheme now under way at Elsecar Heritage Centre, we are reminded that there is *so* much hope for the future.