2022 was quickly passing away in August as the Friends and regular volunteers pressed forth on improving the appearance of the site, both inside and out. Enjoying the uncommonly great weather, and ignoring the Westminster political hustings dragging on around the country, as talk of energy crises continued, and the War in Ukraine rumbled painfully on.
Pump House Cottage Garden
Blessed with bright and fine weather over several weekends, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery ploughed on with tending and reinvigorating the garden in front of Pump House Cottage, which is really making a major difference to the look and feel of that side of the site as we prepare to host more events and attract more visitors to the site, supporting our Hemingfield’s Hidden History National Lottery Heritage Fund project.
It’s thanks to National Lottery players that any of the work on this side of the site has been able to develop, after the former pumping engine house was secured for the Friends group in 2019, and work on roof repairs and clearing the ground has continued throughout the pandemic period.
Volunteers are amazing
Regular volunteers Janet and Jeff weeded, watered, tidied, set-out and laid down the garden path which brings beauty and greater accessibility to this end of the site.
On Saturday 20th August, the Friends ventured out beyond the gate by Pump House Cottage, to help keep the weeds in check and tidy the area by the septic tank which serves Pit Row. It’s rather more pleasant than it sounds!
Nature’s lucky dip
In what turned out to be a scorcher of a day, regular volunteers Paul, Jamie, Mitch, and Chris, together with Site Manager Glen went picking, pulling and raking back the weeds, brambles, the resilient Russian vine, and sundry rubbish in the underground on the outside of the pit grounds – a side which is seen (briefly) by all passers-by, whether motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, when heading up past Tingle Bridge on towards Elsecar village.
Several toads were carefully rehoused in thicker shrubbery further down the bank, and many full barrows of cuttings were dispatched. Of course, no good deed ever goes unpunished, and just as the weeding and clearing was getting into full swing, out shot a ground wasp to chase us around, and charmingly greeted at least one of our number with a sting!
Still work continued, and the area looked much better for some TLC – hopefully something visitors, neighbours and volunteers can recognise and enjoy as we prepare for more events and activities on site.
On the high wire
Back inside the grounds, something of a long-term niggling irritant was finally tackled: removing the unsightly modern barbed wire and security fence panels which had been put in during the pumping stations years of disuse and decline, to try to prevent trespassers accessing the site from the rear railway line and canal-side level. The last few fencing panels had blocked both views and physical access around the pumping shaft to some degree, but with the appropriate permission, it was decided their removal could safely go ahead.
Blasts from the past 2016. Six years before
A quick note from the past, specifically in 2016, after the Friends had taken possession of the site in 2014, and had started to make some inroads. Still, the front and rear of the site were effectively cut off from each other by fencing and trees.
Back then a continuous security fence blocked the front of the winding engine house from the back, by a series of panels slicing across the site behind the pumping engine shaft. From the wall of the brick-built part of the winding engine house, over to the back of the stonework of the pumping shaft itself. This fence consisted of several posts bolted into the ground, between which pronged security panels were hung, topped with barbed wire. Inviting it was not, but equally it did not prevent vandalism over the years.
One fence panel, nearest to the brick wall of the winding engine house was later removed for basic access, but the remaining fenceposts and panels had lingered on. They were both an obstacle to viewing the pumping shaft, and frankly a bit of an eyesore to boot. Screaming ‘keep out’ on a site we are seeking to open up as part of sharing Hemingfield’s Hidden History remains a challenge, as security remains a key concern, and we need to ensure a safe and sustainable future for this important piece of our industrial heritage.
Back in 2022, the work to clear away the unwanted blockages was taken in hand. Of course handling heavy fence panels is one thing, but tackling the rather unfriendly barbed wire was quite another.
The crew carefully removed and wound up the barbed wire before taking out the panels and posts blocking the pumping shaft.
Clearing space next to the shaft also meant the volunteers needed to relocate a big stack of bricks –
– something we are well versed in from almost eight years of practice. Although telekinesis was certainly attempted first – the whole process took a couple of working days on site to finish off.
But the results mean we can now see the whole pumping engine shaft more clearly, and potential visitors can gather around all three sides of the safety railings to look down into the pumping shaft.