4th - 6th June 2010 - Nigel
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The annual NAMHO conference was held in an unlikely area, South Gloucestershire. I had been down there in March for a NAMHO meeting and I had visited two of the coal mine sites so in June, I chose to visit some stone mines, a coal mine in the Forest of Dean, Old Ham iron mine and a grotto folly in Bristol. The venue was the Miners' Institute in Coalpit Heath (sorry - no pics!) but before booking in there, I went down Whittington Quarry (Mine) near Cheltenham. The first set of pictures were taken in March and show the sites at Coalpit Heath.
Below 1: Archaeological work on the surface at Serridge Pit Below 2: In a tunnel at Serridge pit linked to the engine house Below 3: Display board at Ram Hill colliery put in by the council Below 4: Building remains at Ram Hill colliery
The Whittington Quarry trip was led by an old friend, Maurice, so spent as much time catching up on old times as talking about the mine. The mine is an easy walking height almost throughout and follows a simple branching plan from the artificial entrance dug by local cavers. It was operated by local men with simple horses and carts, no railway, and was hand dug throughout. Grooves were cut into the rock on one or both sides and the rock was broken out using wedges in V-shaped cuts. The pieces were loaded straight onto carts and processed outside the mine.
Below 1: Typical gallery in Whittington Quarry Below 2: Evidence of carts rubbing against the wall and the groove left by the axle Below 3: Another typical view at a junction Below 4: One of the working faces with V-slots for wedges on the left hand side
On the Saturday, I went over to the Forest of Dean and the first trip was into a working small coal mine, Monument Pit. These mines are limited to an output of 500 tons a year and sell to the local market for house coal. We were led round by one of the two operators and shown the current face and his plans to open up a new face. Equipment inside the mine is limited to trucks and rails and a chute to send the coal down to the trucks. The height of sophistication is an old coal cutter which, like everything else, has done duty elsewhere. We were made very welcome by the owner and had a thoroughly interesting trip.
Below 1: Ray outside Monument Pit waiting to take us down Below 2: The lower level, at the bottom of the worked out bed of coal. The chute is in the background Below 3: The face where working was ending as the upper clay is too thick to justify extracting the coal belo Below 4: Returning to the entrance up the main incline
In the afternoon, we went over to Clearwell and down Lambsquay with Jonathan Wright, emerging from Old Ham. Jonathan knows the mine very well and pointed out many features, such as the firesetting which I had never noticed before. Lambsquay is quite restricted in size and includes a couple of interesting climbs and crawls so the change into Old Ham was very welcome. We saw down to Railway Churn in Old Ham but time prevented us from further exploration. Well worth a return.
Below 1: In Lambsquay with restricted height Below 2: Looking at evidence of firesetting in the eighteenth century in Lambsquay Below 3: Crossing a sump in Old Ham Below 4: Sophisticated roof support in Old Ham
Sunday morning meant another change of scenery as a small group visited a grotto in the gardens of a Bristol house. The grotto is rarely visited and the 'behind the scenes' sections that we were able to see are even less often seen. The folly was build in the eighteenth century and has a waterfall which was originally fed with water from a miniature Newcomen engine in the tower folly in the garden. The house belonged to a wealthy Bristol businessman but it seems he rarely invited people to visit the grotto. It all belongs now to the university of Bristol.
Below 1: Inside the grotto looking towards the waterfall Below 2: The statue at the head of the waterfall Below 3: In the tunnel that led to the base of the tower Below 4: The tower that housed the Newcomen engine to pump water from a well
Last but not least, on the way back to the M5, I visited Nailsworth in the Cotswolds and the quarry known as Balls Green Mine (Lower). I had been in the upper mine some years ago so it was interesting to visit it's near neighbour. This mine turned out to be a fascinating mixture of different periods and different activities including mushroom farming at one time. It had much larger passages than Whittington and the far end contained a fascinating area of worked stone waiting to be shipped out. On the way through, we passed Jubilee track and wagons linked to the 20th century phase.
Below 1: Discussing working techniques in the outer part of the mine Below 2: A jubilee wagon trapped by a major rock fall just to the left Below 3: Graffiti and candle soot marks on the wall. The graffiti is a series of measurements Below 4: The working platforms at the far end with blocks waiting to be chipped out
Glancing back through the pictures it is interesting to see how the colours change: sandy yellow and orange in the stone mines, red in the iron mine and grey in the coal mine. By the end of the weekend, my boiler suit had examples of them all.
The weekend was tiring as there was little spare time and I was sad not to have attended any lectures but the trips were all fascinating and led by people who really knew their areas. Another good area for a club trip some time.