t: 01289 332900 e: info@starscape.co.uk

Woodside - Wildlife and brief history of the site

The site from which Starscape currently operates is a classic brown field site, since it was originally one of Northumberland's many coal mines.

The village of Scremerston has a long history of industrial workings, and of coal mining in particular, with at least one pit operational at any time between the 18th Century to the mid 20th Century.

Woodside was the site of the penultimate coal mine in the village, known during its lifetime as Greenwich Colliery after the landowners – Greenwich Hospital (roughly speaking, the naval equivalent of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and also established during the reign of Charles II). However, it also had a multitude of other names: in various documents it is also called Scremerston Colliery, Scremerston Old Colliery (after it was abandoned), Jack Tar Pit and the Sink Pit.

Greenwich Colliery was opened in 1840 and continued to be worked until 1878, two years after the new Scremerston Colliery was opened a mile to the north. The shaft was sunk to the “…great depth of 110 fathoms” (approximately 200m), and worked the Scremerston Main, a coal seam around 1.3m thick that produced two grades of coal.

Towering over our main workshops is the stone engine house, and just a few metres to the southwest the even larger stone water tower which fed the steam engine. To the north of the engine house is the concrete capping sealing the shaft. The rest of the colliery has vanished, along with a nearby row of cottages and the railway line that ran north through the village to meet the main east coast line.

As well as the remains of the 19th Century colliery, to the south of the remaining buildings is a narrow stone-lined channel leading to a gin-gang. This represents the only visible evidence of an earlier pit that was obliterated by the later water tower and engine house.

The pond seems to be thriving with the oxygenators and other weeds introduced.

The concrete pan was quite heavily overgrown and its base covered in debris. A day’s work sorted out the rubbish and then a waterproof liner was installed and water introduced.

We then constructed an island and three stone enclosures. The island and two of the enclosures were filled with soil and planted with native species. The other enclosure was left as a bird bath.

After a few weeks we introduced 20 minnows and 20 sticklebacks. The day after disaster struck. A heron, identified by a footprint in one of the planting areas wreaked havoc with the plants and fish. As far as we could see not a minnow remained. The heron also visited a long established water feature outside our office door and took five of the eight goldfish. (Our two original fish had produced six offspring).

Measures were taken. As only one side of the pond is easily accessible a cord was strung to stop the heron walking in and a wire grille cover constructed for the water feature which is removed during the day.

As far as we can see the heron has not returned, or has done and been deterred by our protective measures, and we’ve subsequently added some more minnows.

We now have two species of water beetle, water boatmen, pond skaters and loads of midges! We are hoping, as the pond matures the midges will be controlled by the beetles, frogs and toads. The pond has already attracted frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies.

Apart from our efforts to support local wildlife, our transition at the start of 2013 to using LED-based light sources in place of the conventional halogen light sources means that our customers are collectively using far less electricity these days – 5 watts rather than 50 or 75 watts.

This Iron bell container is used as a water feature containing seven Goldfish. It could have been part of the mining equipment, or it might be a remnant of the period when an architectural salvage yard operated here. The two lugs on the outside suggest the container tipped.
Fat, nut and seed feeders.
Iron bath pressed into service.
Deer live in the surrounding wood and sometimes venture into the yard.
Wisteria at Woodside
‘Letterboxes’ were cut out of two of the workshop doors to allow swallows access.