Miners from the North East played an important part in trench warfare in World War I. Miners had specific talents which were pressed into service when the war went underground into tunnels. They were accomplished at mine rescue and used to working in cramped conditions.
As a memorial to the miners and their families who were involved either in the pits at home or at The Front, Groundwork North East & Cumbria created a special project called ‘Miners’ Memorial Meadows’ in Ashington Community Woodland.
Ashington Community Woods was chosen as one of the sites for a meadow area as it sits on top of the honeycomb of shafts and tunnels that once made it part of the largest pit village in the world.
Groundwork North East & Cumbria working with the support of the Friends of Ashington Community Woods group, local history societies, the North of England Institute for Mining and Mechanical Engineers, the school library service and local schools, have now completed the project.
Local school children have surveyed plants, collected seed and grown deep rooting plant species such as black knapweed, scabious, valerian, meadowsweet and yellow rattle and planted out young plants on the old pit head sites during the course of the project. These improved grassland meadows will be a living memorial in stark contrast to the cramped and fearfully dangerous communication tunnels and trenches. The seed collecting and plantings will increase biodiversity and enrich these grassy areas for enjoyment, quiet reflection and future remembrance.
The project also researched family stories relating to the miners from this area between 1914 and 1918 to record and archive, working with Woodhorn Museum Archivists. These have been published in a Miners Memorial Meadows album now available at every library in Northumberland. Leaflets have also been produced on the project and are available from Ashington Town Hall.
Civic Head of Ashington, Cllr. Marjorie Chambers has visited the Woodland to meet with Groundwork staff and volunteers on the project. Cllr. Chambers said ‘The history of Ashington is built on coal mining and this excellent project will provide a lasting legacy to miners from the town who played a very important role in producing the coal to support the war effort as well as serving on the front line. It was good to see the project involving local schoolchildren and we do hope the Meadow, in the Woodland, is both well visited and respected’.
The Miners’ Memorial Meadows was a three year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the centenary commemorations of World War I. Ashington Town Council also contributed to the interpretive panels placed in the Woodland.
In the picture is Cllr. Chambers with staff from Groundwork and volunteers from Ashington Community Woods installing an interpretation panel.
In addition, there are three schools artifact loans boxes which have been developed for children to understand the unique importance of coal mining in the Northumberland coalfields.
For more information about the project please contact Lesley Silvera, at Groundwork North East & Cumbria, on email Lesley.firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01670 514 876.