Words and Images by The Jogger……
“I plan a marathon today. Just to dispel any suggestion that I am a fine weather protest jogger, today the rain is falling sideways. My Jog begins at the top of Linethwaite and the cycle track close to the main A595. I head towards Whitehaven on the track that runs across the head of Pow Beck Valley.
This green valley would be the location of the Train Loading Facility. The view from the cycle track is shrouded in mist today. St Bees Priory is just visible on the misty horizon a few kilometres away. The Coal Yard would go on the left under Stanley Hill and be connected to the coal mine via a 3KM tunnel. Wainwright’s Coast to Coast would pass beneath the railway and sidings. What would the coast2coaster think when they descend from Bell House Farm to be greeted with railway sidings full of coal wagons?
I continue, downhill slightly, to Whitehaven. I have a good tailwind, my pace is that of Michael Johnson. I breeze into Mirehouse and on to Corkickle. My first restbite is close, I want to add a little bit of adornment to one of Whitehaven’s permanently fixed residents near Morrisons. He should have that mask covering his nose though.
I cut through the Georgian streets to the Market Place and add a little more adornment to one of the sailors standing there too.
Around the harbour for Wellington Pit and to look ar the End of an Era coal mine monument. When the artist created the work it was indeed the end of coal mining in Whitehaven. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the artist depicts one of the miners in a respirator, the coal mines of Whitehaven: and particularly Haig Pit, were prevalent to firedamp.
I had visited the Haig Pit Museum on a few occasions and came away amazed at the courage of coal miners working in such dangerous conditions, descending that mine shaft and trundling in the coal wagon 4 miles to the coal face. If I was given the choice I would not be sending miners underground and risking their lives for coal. Earlier this year 5 miners suffered burns to their airways and upper body in a gas explosion at a metallurgic coal mine in Queensland. Modern technology failed those miners that day.
My run has been mostly downhill up to this point but that is about to change. I run up the steps and ramp leading to the Candlestick Chimney; still venting gases from an old coal mine, and follow the railway brake to the top of the hill and Kells. past West Cumbria Mine HQ.
The stiff south westerly that aided my arrival into Whitehaven is now blowing straight at me and my run is a snails pace as I battle up to Seacliffe and the coal mine site near Sandwith.
I reach the top, no view to enjoy the lakeland fells just a blanket of grey. I am going to follow in the footsteps of Wainwright’s Coast 2 Coast at Sandwith to take me back to Pow Beck and Linethwaite. I wonder how much money his coast to coast has generated for our Whitehaven economy? A tourist asset that should be protected but now has the possibility of an ugly coal yard cutting across its path.
The footsteps of Wainwright today are wet and muddy as I plod to Demesne Farm. I cross the St Bees Road heading for Bell House Farm and begin to drop down into Pow Beck.
The underground coal conveyor would brush past that bungalow in the background and into the new coal loading building at the bottom of the hill. Its a straight line from the planned coal mine through an ancient wood and down to this green space near Linethwaite. My descent is tricky, the grass slippy but I manage to stay upright.
I stand to visualise what this place would be like if the mine gets the go ahead. They are to extend the cattle arch for the Coast to Coast path. The railway line is two metres above me.
Where I am stood would need 1000s of tonnes of rubble and hardcore stretching for 1km down the valley to enlarge the embankment wide enough for two railway sidings. Most of the field pictured above would disappear under the hardcore base they intend to dump here. The loading facility would be housed in a timber clad structure to ‘fit in’ with the area, but I can’t see how a large building and dozens of coal wagons in sidings fits into this pretty place.
The run is nearly done, as I continue under the bridge in Wainwrights footsteps across the fields back to Linethwaite. The going is slow, the field swamped; as it often does in wet weather. I splish splosh to a track that leads back to my starting point, a welcomed piece of gravel and tarmac and just one small hill to ascend and I have completed my circuit. 15KM I am well chuffed with myself, I don’t think I have run as far in my life. Carry on like that and I shall be as strong as those miners back in their day. Mining is our heritage not the future.
Keep the coal in the hole”
Words and Pictures by The Jogger