'Each of us has our own story' - Wakefield National Coal Mining Museum guide looks forward to next week's reopening

Phil Jones at the NCMPhil Jones at the NCM
Phil Jones at the NCM
Wakefield’s National Coal Mining Museum is set to reopen next week.

Its attractions will return gradually starting with galleries and building up to underground tours in the summer.

The reopening comes as the country enters the third stage of the roadmap out of lockdown and rules on meeting up and visiting attractions loosen.

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The museums join The Hepworth, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Nostell and other attractions that are gradually returning over the coming weeks.

Georgia Hill with FinnGeorgia Hill with Finn
Georgia Hill with Finn

The NCM has taken a lot of work behind the scenes to be ready to welcome visitors back.

From tidying the grounds, to feeding the ponies, and checking for gas in the pit itself, a lot of time and effort has been put in to keep things ticking over.

Trevor Chalkley is one of the guides at the museum.

He’s been working at the museum for around seven years but has a history in the coal industry going back 50 years.

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Aerial view of the NCMAerial view of the NCM
Aerial view of the NCM

The largest segment of his career was at Sharlston Colliery with stints at the Prince of Wales and Kellingley collieries.

Now he passes on the stories of an industry no longer active in the UK at the museum.

He has been spending a lot of the past year monitoring the air quality in the mine among other things. But what he’s really looking forward to is when tours will be allowed again.

He said: “What the mining guides love is meeting people.

“Each of us have our own story with little bits and bats that are different even though we are running off the same script.

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“We like to meet people, have fun, and put smiles on their faces.” Trevor said the guides offered something more personal that what an exhibition can provide and reminded us that they will not be around forever.

He said: “The mining museum itself – the surface and underground – all the infrastructure in 20 or 30 years’ time should still be there but all the guides will not be there.

“We are a living exhibit and we have a finite amount of time so our aim is to pass on as muc feeling as we can about what it was like as we can to generations after us.”

Above ground Georgia Hill has been looking after the NCM’s three pit ponies – Eric, Ernie and Bud – and Clydesdale horse – Finn.

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She is looking forward to the opening of a new Pony Discovery Centre, which has a planned opening date on June 23.

Georgia said: “The last year has been alright but we miss the public, it’s been strange, very strange. The ponies didn’t really care, they’ve just adjusted as we’ve adjusted.

“Finn is the biggest horse you’ve ever met but he’s a big softy and loves cuddles.

“Eric and Ernie are grumpy old men and Bud’s a wind up merchant. He’s the youngest and wants to play but the others just want to be alone.”

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Jill Clapham is librarian at the NCM and has been furloughed for most of the last year.

The museum’s unique library collection has been “locked away” since the pandemic began and is expected to reopen at the end of June.

Jill said: “I felt really sorry for students who were counting on the resources we have in the library, some of the books we have they don’t have anywhere else.” The NCM will be open

Wednesday–Sunday. In summer 10am-5pm with last admission 4pm, and winter 10am –4pm, with last admission 3pm.

There is £10 recommended donation and booking is essential at www.ncm.org.uk/book.

Galleries, nature trail and playground will open from May 19 with more attractions to follow.