Tracks of the Ironmasters – Project Diary

 

Phase 1: The Big Call Out and in-depth community consultation (May – June 2015)

The key activities of this phase included:

  • Initial site visits to meet key stakeholders
  • visits to community groups in order to engage and inspire them in getting involved in the project
  • identifying key groups who wanted to engage directly in both consultation and the delivery phase of the project.

 

 

Phase 2: Mining for Gold: sourcing local knowledge (June – August 2015)

  • Marketing and promotion campaign
  • Two Launch events
  • Guided walks
  • Volunteer training days to identify Station Volunteers
  • Eight day Residency

 

Project Launch Events

Helena Thompson Museum, Workington (Tuesday 14 July)

Haig Pit Mining and Colliery Museum, Whitehaven (Wednesday 15 July)

The purpose of the Launch events was to broadcast the project as widely as possible and identify people who worked on the railways, the steel industry, the coal industry; or who were interested in local heritage or the natural environment. We invited people to bring their stories, photographs, films and other memorabilia about the rail, steel, iron or coal industries and help us plan the future for the tracks.

Both launches involved presentations by Art Gene and Sustrans; they were accompanied by local guests who could talk about their experience on the tracks and in the area, including Michael Heaslip (Allerdale Borough Councillor) and John Harkness (former fire officer and engine driver) in Workington; and Mervyn Dodd (author and historian), Pamela Telford (Haig Pit Mining and Colliery Museum) and Nick Ford (Cleator Moor Town Councillor) in Whitehaven.

 Images below: Project launches and Guided Walks

Guided Walks

In order to familiarise ourselves with the tracks at the start of the process, we invited a limited number of experts and specialists to join us on a walk on the tracks and share their experiences and knowledge with us. Our approach to guiding was innovative in as much that rather than us being the guides, we invited local people to come guide us.

The walks were held on the Workington track on Saturday 18 July and on the Whitehaven track on Sunday 19 July.

In Workington, we started at Siddick Ponds in Workington and walked to the Navvy Bridge. We were joined by Ann Douglas, Cllr. Bill Bacon and Cllr Michael Heaslip.

In Whitehaven, we started at Moor Row, walked to Cleator Moor and also took in Florence Mine. We were joined by Mervyn Dodd, Gilbert Finlinson (manage of the Florence Mine in Egremont), Cllr. Nick Ford, Alan Cleaver (Egremont 2Day and Whitehaven News) and local botanist, Bob Gatherer.

These Guided Walks helped us site the ‘Community Stations’ for the residency – as well as building relationships with experts and specialists.

Community Stations

Through mapping we identified a series of significant sites for ‘Community Stations’ which would become the main sites of engagement for the 8 day residency. On the Workington track these were: Uplands, Seaton and Siddick. On the Whitehaven track they were Mirehouse, Moor Row, Phoenix Bridge, Rowrah and Yeathouse.

We chose these sites:

• to cover as long a stretch of the tracks as possible in order to understand the diverse nature of the heritage of the tracks as whole

• to maximise the opportunities for engagement with as wide a range of participants as possible

• to maximise the opportunities to go ‘off piste’ and understand the broader social, cultural and industrial contexts of the region as a whole

• to identify focal points which would reflect different communities of interest along the routes

• to maximise our chances of meeting informal users of the sites of all ages, by day and night

• to identify neglected or ‘problem’ areas in need of further custodianship.

 

Road Show Events

Workington Track: 3 days residency (Sunday 23 – Tuesday 25 August),
based at the following 3 Community Stations:

Seaton Hall
Burrow Walls Roman Fort Uplands
Camerton

Cleator Moor Track: 5 days residency (Wednesday 26 – Sunday 30 August),
based at the following 5 community stations:

Mirehouse East
Moor Row
Phoenix Bridge
High Leys National Nature Reserve
Yeat House Quarry

Each day was structured around 3 sessions: 10am – 1pm; 2pm – 5pm and 6pm – 8pm.

The aims of the residency were to:

– Develop an in-depth understanding of the histories and potentials of the two tracks

– Involve a wide range of community groups in the research process

– Involve participants in research, mapping and interpretation processes

– Produce a body of information which informs the interpretation process

– Promote the work and intentions of Sustrans

– Scope out potential plans for future projects.

 

We invited people to join us and:

• Share knowledge of the histories of the tracks and hopes for the future

• Enjoy a conversation over a cuppa on the tracks

• Help create a photographic survey with guidance from Art Gene artists

• Explore the ‘hidden assets’ of the tracks

• Learn surprising things and share home cooked food with us all!

 

“Whilst we intended that each session would have a different focus, in practice we found that we responded to who was there in the moment: sometimes this would be groups, on other times this would be individuals.

We continued to document the project through all the sessions and use the questionnaires we had begun to use during the launch events. These gave us the opportunity to offer a semi-structured way of engaging with people in order to shape their responses to us, but open enough to allow the conversation develop as the participant wanted.”

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 Images below: various scenes from road show events at Community Stations

You can find the full report that Art Gene provided to Sustrans here.