August company – Happy days at Hem in 2022

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.

4th August 2022 – a beautiful welcome to Pump House Cottage garden
Inside view – the new path taking shape, with more planting going in around the carefully tended beds, 4th August 2022
Meeting of the ways. On a rubble base, flattening and laying out the path with limestone and sand before setting out the bricks 4th August 2022

Outward bound

Have tools, will transform!

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!

Weeds a go-go, by Pump House Cottage, 20th August 2022

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.

A barrow-full of laughs weeding the rough ground by the side of Wath Road and Pump House Cottage (until the wasp emerged!)

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!

Weeding the ground beside the pit

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.

Job done. Nice and clear.

On the high wire

Fencing around the pumping engine shaft, 4th August 2022 (Photo credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

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.

4th August 2022 – partly fenced in pumping shaft, prior to removal later in August.

Blasts from the past 2016. Six years before

The wilderness: looking down on the rear of the site (lower terrace behind the winding engine house) 6th August 2016

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.

Fenced in – The security fence cut off the site by the pumping shaft, 6th August 2016 (note also this was prior to the restoration of the winding engine house roof over the Winter of 2016-17

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.

Fenced off, cutting off the front from the back of the site, 6th August 2016

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.

Trading barbs

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.

Climbing up to remove the barbed wire

The crew carefully removed and wound up the barbed wire before taking out the panels and posts blocking the pumping shaft.

Regular volunteers removing the barbed wire from the fencing blocking the back aide of the pumping shaft (note the bricks soon to follow)

Clearing space next to the shaft also meant the volunteers needed to relocate a big stack of bricks –

Shunting in progress. Bricks on tour…you get the idea.

– 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.

(re)-stacking reclaimed bricks

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.

Opened up: cleared of obstructions, 2nd September 2022

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