Archive for March 1, 2010

Taking things for granted.

March 1, 2010 2 comments

When you are young you take things for granted and you think things will never change. The Deerness Valley is still the same shape, the same length and the same height as when I was a lad but the pits, the pit heaps, and the colliery villages have almost disappeared and nature, with mans assistance, has moved back into the valley.

Seen on a clear sunny day from the crossroads above Whitehouse Court the valley is very beautiful. It is a far cry from the valley that was when I was conscripted into the Army in March 1960. The mineral railway line still ran up the valley to Waterhouses Colliery. The collieries in the Valley at that time were Ushaw Moor, Esh Winning, Waterhouses, and on the rim of the valley was Pit House Colliery and the West Brandon drift. New Brancepth Colliery had closed in the early 1950s, and East Hedley Hope Closed sometime in the 50s also. On top of these collieries were a number of open cast coal sites. The valley was really given over to the production of coal. It was said that more coal was produced in the bar at Ushaw Moor Big Club on a Sunday dinner time than was ever produced at the Colliery.

The work of a miner was hard, dirty and unrelenting. When I left school I wanted to go down the pit but my mother said “NO” and that was that. Whilst in the Army in Kenya in 1961 I read in the Durhan County Advertiser of the death of a boyhood friend who was killed at Pithouse Coliiery and I realised then why my mother was against me going down the pit.

Back to the Deerness Valley.; Collieries were dirty, ugly blots on the landscape, with steam, smoke and dust flying about. Couple this with a plant producing coke as at New Brancepeth Colliery and the pollution was very high. You took these collieries for granted and as a child or young man I never saw them as ugly. There were just part of the landscape and part of your life. I thought that when the pits closed and families were moving to Yorkshire and the Midlands for work in the pits down there that the Valley would stagnate.

The opposite has been proved with villages expanding with modern housing, schools and amenities and the scenery today is beautiful. I find it so but I think most people who live in the valley take the beauty for granted. After living on Tyneside since 1965 I still miss the closesness of a village like Ushaw Moor.

Brian Mc