EVEN on wet and windy days the volunteers at Barnsley Main Heritage Group are out developing the land around the iconic site.

The group of volunteers have spent the past few years developing the formerly derelict land around the Grade II-listed colliery building, turning it into an educational environment where families can enjoy nature and learn about its mining past.

While not responsible for the building itself, the group - who have won the Queen’s Award for Volunteering - does not wish to totally transform the land, but rather preserve the mining heritage while developing something new.

Chair Helen Totty, who comes from a mining family, told the Chronicle: “When we came here there was nothing - no gate, just a concrete barrier and thick, matted ground.

“We set to uncover it all, put in a car park and add the small pop-up museum we’ve got.

“We’ve been developing all sorts - it’s about trying to fit in space for families and children while making it safe.”

Thanks to their work - which has included planting over 500 trees, developing various gardens, with further plans to create a bog garden - Helen believes that nature has ‘taken back’ the area.

Now they have regular visits from deers rabbits, and various types birds who’ve made the former pit their home.

“It’s not a park,” Helen added.

“We persevere and develop, while maintaining the integrity of the site.

“It’s important we remember our heritage and don’t forget about mining.

“In the museum we’ve got tools that have come from retired miners, or the families of miners who’ve brought it in and want us to have it - it’s not worth a lot but it’s precious.”

Helen and the other volunteers work with community youth groups - such as the Scouts - and local schools to bring people to the site and keep the education of mining alive.

Some kids who visited didn’t even know what coal was when arriving, and left fully understanding the work their ancestors took part in.

“Schools will ask if we can open on a certain day so we will do.

“We’ve got a willow area that creates a safe environment for kids to learn in.

“We’ll bring in logs - it’s a place to sit but also create good habitats, so when the kids roll them over they can go searching for slugs and things.

“Lots of people in the collieries went to fight in the wars, so this is a nice area and again tells the story to kids and shows the connection.”

Their work is supported by grants and charitable donations, with Barnsley Rotary providing funding for specialised gardening equipment for children.

On Monday, Lisa Hammond, a community champion at Tesco, presented them with £370 that had been raised in local stores.

She said: “I started helping years back when it was a derelict bit of land.

“We were doing litter-picks and raffles, all sorts to help out.

“It’s amazing to see the change now - I live locally anyway and used to come here as a kid, so to see what it’s become now is great.

“It’s an important place, it’s important we don’t forget about our heritage - I think this place is a gem.”