For the third field trip for the second-year Contemporary Past module, I took students on a partial repeat of a trip I undertook with last year’s group, to explore the industrial and post-industrial landscapes of Gresford Colliery: its memorialisation, reuse and dereliction. The aim was to see the various different fates of different segments of the former colliery and its environs, as it has adapted to the closure of the coal mine and the reutilisation of the pit and its environs, including railway line, road and the pre-existing Wat’s Dyke. We also revisited the Gresford Colliery Memorial.
For the earlier blog, see here.
In this new post I want to augment my earlier discussion by mentioning a few additional things we saw.
The weather was so much warmer and sunnier than last year’s visit, so we decided to scale the coal tip and see the wider landscape context: Iron Age hillforts of Caer Alyn and Caer Estyn, the line of Wat’s Dyke, an early medieval hilltop fortification and medieval castle (Caergwrle), the medieval village of Gresford with its church visible in the distance, and the industrial villages of Bradley, Gwersyllt and Llay. The suburbs of Wrexham, Acton, were also visible on the skyline, as well as longer distance views towards Ruabon Mountain.
Close by, we gained from the panorama a clearer sense of the scale of the former mining complex, now an industrial estate at Pandy.
Walking to the top of the coal tip furthered the students’ appreciation of its scale, the planting of fast-growing birch trees to help consolidate it, and evidence of its informal leisure use for walks, bikes and (in winter) sledging.
Near the entrance we saw a new addition to the tunnel under the railway. Last year, there were concrete cylinders – seemingly a reused chimney – employed as a barrier to prevent vehicles accessing the landscape. However, investment by the council has led to a more permanent barrier of fencing and a restricted gate to prevent motorbikes and larger vehicles, but facilitating the continued access by mountain bikes.
A further dimension of activity we identified was the use of the space for fireworks! Like any public space, there was not only the residue of the fireworks themselves, left on the concrete cylinders (not strewn within the coal tip area) but also a fly-tipped dump of domestic refuse and a fireworks box by the fencing.
About these cylinders: what are they doing now? Having been removed from the entrace to the tunnel as a makeshift barrier, they are now installed in lines, and groups, blocking nothing and doing nothing: fragments of multiple former lives.
The rest of the field trip saw a departure from previously: we went on to the church and churchyard at Gresford to explore its Roman altar, medieval monuments, post-medieval memorials, including the memorial to the mining disaster. I’ll address aspects of this in a further blog post.