New Totem Tree Trail Opens at National Coal Mining Museum

This May Half Term, National Coal Mining Museum for England opens a brand-new totem tree trail, with beautifully engraved totems and benches, in celebration of the vital role that trees played in the story of coal mining.

Ten interpretation totems designed by Hartland Design, with accompanying benches and trees, highlight the unique properties of ten types of wood and how they were used for different tasks. Trees characteristic of prehistoric forests, such as ginkgo and monkey puzzle, give visitors the chance to imagine what our woodlands looked like over 350 million years ago and where the story of coal started.

The accompanying benches with reflective messaging and tactile braille interpretation have been lovingly made by Roger, one of the Museum’s volunteers, and will encourage visitors of all ages to take a seat and encounter the trees which were essential in the development of the coal mining industry.

Examples along the trail include a pear tree, a timber used to create printed blocks to share illustrations of mining techniques in the 16th century. Walking through our woodlands, families will see a bench dedicated to Lignum Vitae, a slow-growing broadleaf evergreen, without the tree visible. Used in aquatic conditions in mines, Lignum Vitae is native to the Caribbean and therefore only its timber was imported to the UK.

The totem tree trail, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Museum’s Coalfield Conversations project, comes at a great time as there will be plenty of hand-on activities on offer at the Museum for May Half Term.

Younger visitors can get crafty with the tree theme at the free daily Makers’ Shed – making a peg doll from ash wood and a gemstone bookmark inspired by prehistoric trees. At Caphouse Creators, children (7-12 years) can make impressions into clay with organic materials to create a unique botanical relief casting.

The much-loved Canary Capers Show returns for daily free performances – where families can learn about Sparky the Canary in a shadow puppet show, guaranteed to delight the young at heart.

Lynn Dunning, CEO said: “The Museum’s new totem tree trail is a fantastic addition to our already bumper half term offer. We’re pleased to highlight how essential trees were in the formation of the coal mining by encouraging our visitors to relax, reflect and explore the great outdoors this May.”

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