Some of you will know that Northumberland was famously a coal-mining region. My paternal grandfather, whose story I capture in my song “Coaldust and Seaspray” was a miner, just sayin’.
There were countless collieries and undersea mines as well as also open-cast mines. Surface mining near Cramlington was accompanied by art in the form of what is claimed to be the largest landform sculpture of the female form – Northumberlandia (the “Lady of the North” or “Slag Alice” to some).
Northumberlandia was designed by American landscape architect Charles Jencks and was made from 1.5 million tonnes of earth from neighbouring Shotton Surface Mine on the Blagdon Estate owned by fellow science writer Matt Ridley. NB Most science writers don’t own estates other than the vehicular type and any that they live on tend to be (ex) council. Anyway…
Shotton has operated on Blagdon almost continuously since 1943. The sculpture meanwhile is 34 metres high and 400 metres long, and set in 19 hectares of public park. Landscaping was undertaken in part by Cambridge Direct Tree Seeding (CDTS).
The neighbouring Shotton mine was granted government permissions to start mining in 2007 (despite opposition from the local council). It is still active, although it should have ceased operations in 2016. It provides 8% of UK coal output amounting to several million tonnes of coal.
A Wildlife Trust representative at the Northumberlandia site told me that the company had been granted an extension but it would definitely close in 2018. The mine is continuously back-filled and ultimately will be landscaped and trees planted to make a much larger public park and nature reserve.