NEW volunteers are being sought by the West Somerset Mineral Railway Project to give guided walks and talks, help at events, test out walks along the line, and regularly check to make sure it is accessible for visitors, undertaking conservation work where necessary.
The project aims to conserve the remarkable legacy of Victorian industry both within Exmoor National Park and along the West Somerset coast.
It was last year awarded a £603,500 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to help with conservation work, creating physical access, and interpretation.
The railway, built in the 1860s, ran from the iron mining region of the Brendon Hills to the coast at Watchet, from where iron ore was shipped across the Severn Estuary to be smelted in South Wales.
Project heritage education officer Mary Olszewska said: “We are looking for people who may have an interest in the West Somerset Mineral Railway or perhaps are local residents who have grown up with it and have some good tales to tell.
“Maybe they have an interest in industrial archaeology, or perhaps they enjoy walking on Exmoor and sharing its beautiful landscape with others, either way if they have a few hours to spare to become a mineral line volunteer, we would like to hear from them.”
Watchet Market House Museum is also looking for new volunteers.
The museum has a fascinating collection of photographs and artefacts about the mineral railway, and has money to improve its display.
A spokesman said: “Volunteering can be an excellent way to meet new people and learn more about your local history and landscape.”
A Mineral Line Volunteer Open Day is being held on Thursday, August 14, from 10 am to 2 pm at Langham Engine House, in the Forestry Commission-owned Chargot Woods off the B3224 (OS 35:97).
It will be a drop in event with refreshments and will be an opportunity to find out more about the roles available and hear about the history of the WSMR.
Anybody who is interested or would like to discuss the issue further should contact Mary Olszewska on 07966 515589 or email email@example.com.
The restoration project is administered by Exmoor National Park Authority, which leads a consortium of local and national partners comprising West Somerset Council, the Forestry Commission, Somerset County Council, Watchet Town Council, English Heritage, Watchet Market House Museum, the Exmoor Mines Research Group, and the Somerset Rural Youth Project.
Expertise is provided by key individuals such as Mike Jones, David Dawson, Eric Robinson, and Linda la Valle.