The engine house site has recently been cleared of the tangle of vegetation that threatened to engulf it and has been stabilised, so you can have a look at the site. The disturbance has led to the germination of some interesting plants that would have been familiar to the people who once lived and worked here. There are some exceptionally fine specimens of common mullein or Aaron's rod, Verbascum thapsus, that often thrives in disturbed ground.
The plant produces a few new flowers each day along its long flower spike, so blooming continues for a long time ....
.... and produces a constant supply of pollen for bumblebees over a prolonged period. It's easy to spot these visitors because their pollen baskets are always full of orange pollen.
Mullein is a biennial and produces a beautiful rosette of densely hairy leaves in the first year, that look particularly fine when they are covered with dew on sunny autumn mornings, then in the second year the flower spike elongates. The dense hairs were once shaved from the leaves, dried and used for making lamp wicks and tinder that ignited easily with the slightest spark. A mucilaginous extract of the leaves, boiled in milk, produced a medicine that that was used to treat coughs and it's tempting to think that those who worked in the constantly damp conditions underground here might well have used these plants for that purpose.
Mullein produces vast numbers of seeds but as Sir Edward Salisbury, former Director of Kew Gardens and author of the classic Weeds and Aliens discovered, most fall within about 12 feet of the plant and so it tends to occur in locally dense, self-seeded patches - as it has at this location.
According to C. Pierpoint Johnson in his treatise on The Useful Plants of Great Britain, published in 1863, the tiny seeds "are said to intoxicate fish when thrown into the water, and are used by the poachers for this purpose".
This musk mallow Malva moschata, growing in amongst the mulleins, is also a mucilaginous plant whose extracts were used as an emollient to treat pulmonary complaints.
It's tempting to speculate that this local concentration of plants with medicinal properties is not here by chance, but might have been used by the local miners when they were the amongst the few treatments for their ailments that were available to them. Maybe they are survivors from gardens of houses that have long since vanished .....