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Published February 28th 2013
Descend 140m Underground
The National Coal Mining Museum for England offers a unique opportunity for families to travel 140 metres underground down one of Britain's oldest working mines.
The journey begins with the whole family getting kitted out in their hard hat and battery lamp, followed by descending underground to discover the coal mines. The tour is led by ex-miners who are able to educate you on the mines and the dangers faced by the men who once worked there. Before descending underground, you are even able to peer down 140 metres in the Lamp Room's new glass-topped Furnace Shaft.
After the tour, guests can visit Hope Pit which is a fully restored colliery complex on the 17 hectare Museum site. Hope Pit is very educational and is totally dedicated to science. The Museum itself is home to original colliery buildings, which are more than 130 years old and are still in their original form. Walking around the site you are able to go into the pithead baths to see where the miners cleaned up at the end of a shift and view the 1876 steam winder. You are also able to go inside the coal interface gallery, which allows you to see how machinery was used to hew the coal.
Children will enjoy the hands-on interactive models, touch screen displays and virtual guides that educate them on the history of the mines. Children will also love discovering more about the lives of the coal miners through a new interactive tour, where they can see working machinery and tools in action and get their hands dirty like the miners would have in the 1800's.
Guests can also find out more about how the horses were once kept underground and families will get the chance to feed, muck-out and learn how to put their bridles on. The horses also have their own stables where children can meet the ponies Eric and Ernie and horses Finn and Clydesdale.
A nature guide is also available for families to join Monty the mole as he goes on an adventure around the nature trail and museum site. This is perfect for young children and the activity cards can be purchased for £3 at the reception. These cards also have interactive games and puzzles which they can enjoy all day. There is even a Little Diggers play area for under 5's.
On weekdays during the school holidays there are fascinating stories told by characters through mining history. These story days are perfect for teaching children more about what used to happen at the mine and can be booked on the website.
If you are looking for more research on the mines then there is also a library at the museum. This is open to the public for enquiries and research about the miners and they are able to supply you with old collections. The library is open on specific dates only so it is advisable to visit the website for more information.
The Museum holds three Special Exhibitions a year, each focusing on a different aspect of mining heritage. The most recent event is the haunting photographic exhibition, which focuses on the past and present of the miner. This exhibition is shown by artist Moira Lovell and is inspired by the 25th anniversary of the 1984-85 Miners' Strike. The exhibition will be shown between 11th February and 12th may 2013. During the Christmas period, children can also visit Santa in his magical underground grotto.
The museum has free admission but you will have to pay £2 per head for the underground tour. It is advisable to book your underground tour as early as possible as they book up very quickly and only run until 3:15 everyday.