Mapping the history and wildlife of former collieries

I’ve written previously about the work we are doing as part of the OPAL project to encourage people from the ex-coal mining communities of the Dearne Valley in South Yorkshire to explore the wildlife on former colliery sites that have now been restored.

Over the past couple of weeks we have run local history and wildlife events at three of the ex-colliery sites in this area: the former Grimethorpe Colliery (now known as New Park Springs), the former Hickleton Colliery (now known as Phoenix Park) and the former Cadeby Colliery.

At these events we ran several of the OPAL surveys: the Bugs Count, Water and Soil & Earthworm surveys. These are a fun way for people of all ages and abilities to explore their local wildlife. More information about the OPAL surveys can be found at http://www.opalexplorenature.org/surveys).

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A group undertaking the OPAL Bugs Count Survey.

We also wanted to link the previous industrial uses of these sites and how they have been restored with the wildlife seen on these sites today. We did this by asking people to contribute information about the history of these sites and the wildlife they have seen on them recently by sticking flags into or drawing directly onto large aerial photos of the sites we had printed out.

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OPAL Community Scientist Alison and George who worked in the Hickleton Colliery.

We have found this to be an activity that people really enjoy participating in. It is a great way of capturing valuable information about the history of sites which is often only present in people’s minds and so might otherwise be lost. This information is also useful when trying to explain the diversity and distribution of wildlife seen on sites today. For example, planting of trees and wildflowers, disturbance from dirt biking, imports of soil and rubble and fires are all activities that will affect the ecology of a site but may not have been formally recorded.

Below are two images showing the types of information we captured at the former Cadeby Colliery.

Industrial and post-industrial features of the site of the Cadeby Colliery.

Industrial and post-industrial features of the site of the Cadeby Colliery.

Recent wildlife sightings from the site of the Cadeby Colliery.

Recent wildlife sightings from the site of the Cadeby Colliery.

This is just the start of this process of exploration and we would like to engage people further in linking site history and wildlife over the next couple of years of the project. We hope to do this by running more historical mapping activities and also helping people to undertake more detailed wildlife surveys of the sites.

These events were all run with the help of some great local partners, including the Forestry Commission, the Land Trust, the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, the Dearne Valley Green Heart Partnership, Entour and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.

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