Local residents have been taking a look at how archaeological work at a new County Durham surface mine has been planned and carried out.

Banks Mining organised two community archaeology days at its Bradley surface mine through the liaison committee that was set up to help share information on all aspects of the scheme’s operations between the company and the local community.

Six amateur archaeologists from local interest groups including the Land of Oak & Iron project, Leadgate Community History Group, Durham University students and the liaison committee members themselves were invited to spend a day with the team of heritage consultants that is implementing the archaeological works set out in the Written Scheme of Investigation for the Bradley site, which sits off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton.

The volunteers were able to take part in hand excavation, survey and recording work at East Billingside Farmstead and view excavations which aimed to identify the remains of 18th century waggonways on the site.

Their work was carried out under the supervision of archaeology experts, who provided insights into how they approach and carry out these sorts of activities, and the importance of the findings to local historical records.

A subsequent event saw more than two dozen local people visiting the Bradley site, including a party of Year Three pupils from the nearby Collierley Primary School. The group were able to examine the excavations across the site and to learn more about how the works had been undertaken and the history of the Pont Valley.

County Durham-headquartered Banks Mining formally commenced mining operations at the Bradley surface mine in May.

Restoration of the site will include the creation of new woodland and a nature reserve area, as well as the return of some of the land to agricultural use, while the related community benefits fund, which will provide funding for support eligible local community improvement projects and initiatives, will go live in the coming months.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, says: “Our Bradley site will help to meet the UK’s continuing need for coal for industrial and energy generation purposes and so reduce our reliance on imports from Russia, the US and Colombia that will otherwise be used to satisfy domestic demand.

“We work closely with archaeologists across many of our sites to ensure that detailed investigations are carried out and proper records kept of anything of interest that’s found.

“We’re very pleased to have so much interest from the community in our events, as we have previously done in many other development locations, and to give them the chance to speak to the highly skilled specialists who are carrying out archaeological work on our behalf.

“The Collierley children were keen to dress in the same way as our site employees and we were more than happy to be able to provide the hard hats and hi-vis vests that they needed to do so!

“The Banks Group has been creating highly-skilled and well-paid jobs in County Durham and around the North East for more than 40 years, and we are proud of the continuing contribution we are making to the sustainable success of the regional economy.”

For further information on the Bradley surface mine project, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/projects/mining/bradley