Summertime gatherings stir the soul and lift the spirits. Surrounded by lush countryside, listening to breezy birdsong, and keeping cool in the shadow of this old workplace under a bright blue sky makes for a memorable day.
And so once more unto the pit, dear friends, once more, as the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery assembled to open the gates for another open day, and continue to maintain and explore the site.
The May Day bank holiday weekend saw a busy day down at Hemingfield Colliery, as the Friends and a good crew of volunteers arrived on site, thankfully blessed with a bright and pleasant day.
On the Fence? To the pallisades!
Seasons to be cheerful
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery arrived on site this weekend as autumn colours finally began to take hold all around. Shivering trees of burnt orange and raw sienna tones, Woody Nightshade berries of bright tomato-red shades and Yellow Snapdragon flowers of a delicate lemon hue all displayed their dazzling natural beauty against a backdrop of grey-brown industrial features.
Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) plants have invaded the site, clambering over rocks and brick rubble and smothering scrap heaps. This plant is a member of the Solanaceae family, the most well-known genera of this family perhaps being Solanum tuberosum (potato) and Solanum lycopersicum (tomato). Woody Nightshade is a truly beautiful plant with curvaceous, arrow-shaped leaves and striking purple flowers, which are succeeded by succulent, though highly poisonous, scarlet fruits.
Yellow Snapdragons (Linaria vulgaris) are dancing happily on our freshly-formed clearance spoil heaps, their delicate pale lemon and yellow petals adding a welcome splash of sunshine to the dull brown mounds of soil. Naturally a late bloomer, the Yellow Snapdragon can often be seen brightening up waste places, disturbed land, road verges and railway sidings as the sparkly month of October turns into gloomy November.
And this changing season has brought with it changing times for the colliery – the beginnings of a new lease of life for the engine house.
Thanks to generous support from The Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, the Association for Industrial Archaeology, and Subterranea Britannica, the colliery site has been transformed as work has begun on the repair and restoration of the roof of building which held the 1846 beam winding engine.
ripping it down in Elsecar
Elsecar Reservoir needed topping up for its big weekend, it seemed. As Elsecar geared up for a memorable couple of days celebrating Elsecar by the Sea, so the Rain Gods deemed it expedient to bestow their bounteous blessings upon the village. It was a wet one!
Elsecar by the Sea was a fun name for the daytripping delights of the park and its reservoir which had originally been built to supply the Dearne and Dove Canal. Around 1910, the Sheffield Independent and other newspapers ran several stories referring to the wonders of Elsecar Park, with its ‘beach’ and the fun and frolics of the free bathing opportunities close at hand, just a short journey by rail from the busy smoky city. Forget Blackpool, stick to Barnsley borough and enjoy Elsecar.
Some young holidaymakers at Elsecar by the Sea in this turn of the twentieth century postcard (Private collection)
Nothing but blue skies
Unaccustomed as we are to sunshine and summer days, the Friends and volunteers were delighted to renew acquaintances and bask in the glory of another beautiful day down at Hemingfield.
Friends Director and Site Manager Glen was on site early, joined by regular volunteers Chris, John, and Keith who rolled out the barrows and rubbed on the sun lotion for a hot day’s work at Hemingfield, continuing to remove the overburden and demolition debris of the old boundary wall, as well as revealing the odd find here and there.
Too hot to handle…
Saturday presented a very British problem: an actual summer’s day, filled with sunshine and calling for hats, lotion and shade. Friends Chair Steve, and Director Glen were on site ‘early doors’, accompanied by volunteer and ecologist Antony who was conducting a survey of the wildlife in the pit’s boundaries.
The Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership are preparing to launch a new community engagement project, “Archaeology and Geology of the Dearne” which will offer opportunities to learn more about the setting, development and history of key heritage sites through the Dearne Valley.
Read more about the project on their website
Elsecar Heritage Railway steam loco Birkenhead shuttling up and down the line, with Hemingfield village across the fields in the background.
Bank Holiday Weekend fun
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery returned to the pit on Saturday at the start of a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend. The sun was shining and it was a great day to be outdoors.
Site Director Glen and Friends’ Chair Steve were on site early ready for work, trimming back the lush grass which has shot up over the past couple of weeks. They were joined by Peak volunteers John, Eric and Chris, with regular volunteer Chris arriving later in the morning.
Hemingfield Colliery in its glorious setting. A lovely photo by Chris Jones.
A Rustling for the May Queen
Saturday 14th May was a particularly bright and sunny Spring day at Hemingfield Colliery. Other than the chirping and twittering of happy birds, and the whisper of a light breeze gently swaying the lilac trees on Pit Row, the morning was quiet. As the working day wore on, the rural peacefulness would be lightly broken by the occasional phut phut, hiss and whistle, as steam trains slowly chuntered past on the Elsecar Heritage Railway line below.