This kissing gate was provided by the Foresters’ Forest project. Beyond the gate the woodland on the hill to the left, Pastors Hill Grove, is private woodland of Pastor’s Hill Farm.
As you walk up the hill, through this long, narrow field of Pastors Hill Farm called The Langett, look out for a small flat-topped spoil heap to the right. Opposite this, to the left of the path is the source of the spoil, an abandoned drift mine. The water draining from the mine keeps this section of the path boggy, even in dry weather.
A drift mine is a mine that is accessed using a tunnel driven in from the surface. The Flourmill and Park Gutter collieries that we passed earlier were worked using cages wound up and down in vertical shafts. Such deep pits usually had to continually pump out water as the bottom of the shaft, ‘pit bottom’, is well below the water table.
Small mines, such as the one that was worked here, are worked by men known as Freeminers. To become a Freeminer, you must be 21 or more years old, born within the Hundred of St Briavels and have worked for a year and a day in a mine in the Forest. You can then apply to the official called the Deputy Gaveller to work an area of coal, which is known as a Gale. Gales can be allocated anywhere except for in a garden, an orchard or a churchyard. This mine has not been used for many years.
The poet Catherine Drew described the origin of Free-mining in a poem in 1841.
Between 1982 and 1984 opencast coal mining took place on Pastors Hill. This method of mining scrapes away the surface soil and underlying rock until the coal deposits are reached. The coal is then removed using huge “diggers” and finally the rock and soil is replaced. The oak shovel above was found during this opencast mining. The split occurred when it dried out and the charring during a fire while it was in storage. (Mark Ward – from Facebook).
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