Lucky Lowe, Canal & River Trust heritage volunteer describes her day at Hartshill Yard's Open Day in February 2015 and the consultation on potential future uses for the site.
It’s been longer than I care to admit since I was at school, so how is it that ‘half-term’ still manages to conjure a feeling of fun and freedom? A welcome break, a precious short-term reprieve from the routine norm, and so it was last week at Hartshill Yard.
With the preceding, unseasonal sunny start to the week I was hopeful for the planned Open Day on Friday the 20th February 2015. On Wednesday my optimism was dampened. The midweek downpours reminded me I’m in England in the middle of winter. Just because I looked forward to a sunny Friday outdoors by the canal didn’t mean it would happen. I readjusted my mental imagine got my thermals and waterproofs ready. I hoped others would still be enticed out by the opportunity to spend time at the Yard. I was not disappointed.
I arrived early wanting to be helpful with the preparations. It was immediately obvious that Trust staff and volunteers had got there long before me. The yard was looking pristine. I watched and chipped in as stalls were set up inside and out. There was a fantastic range of people and activities that came alive as visitors arrived in a steady stream that continued throughout the day.
The traders, Mike Wood of Draco Crafts, moored their butty in the dock for their first business outing of the season, the Explorers provided an opportunity to make bird boxes, children (small and big) could colour ‘lace’ plates or learn first-hand how an arch goes together. For more informed insights, visitors could talk to the knowledgeable members of the Inland Waterways Association. Mike Snow, the blacksmith was working in the forge, and short trips on the canal with Tony Gallimore, working with Elana from Boot Wharf, proved popular and perhaps only bested by the scrummy cakes and refreshments made
fresh and served with a smile by the family team at the Land Girls Cookery School.
People came from many surrounding neighbourhoods. The garishly papered front room of the slightly crumbling old manor house housed a table top model. Richard from the Trust, had captured the essence of the yard and buildings in cardboard and provided pens ready for visitors’ to note their ideas, aspirations and preferred options for regeneration. It was a privilege to hear childhood memories and stories of growing up in the yard.
I value greatly the historic environment at Hartshill; it’s something special, to be treasured for its own sake. But I recognise it needs new, alternative uses to generate a self sustaining lease of life to ensure future generations, young and old, will be able to enjoy a day out during their half-term break. If just a small portion of the ideas shared on Friday could be brought to fruition then there will be plenty to sustain the place and people who are Hartshill Yard.
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.See more blogs from Heritage team