THE PITS!

A tour of Fifes’ mining history


MAP AND ROUTE COMPILED BY WALLACE SHACKLETON OF THE FIFE & KINROSS DA
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There are a number of places where you could start this route, I chose Lochore Meadows Country Park because it is the best place for facilities and it is well sign posted. In the end...suit yourself!

Essentially this route is better suited for mountain bikes, though it could be done on any robust bike. The roughest part of the entire route is in Blairadam Forest, on the brick surfaced road, this section can easily be cut out if desired.


Total distance: 31.5 km / 22 miles.


For more information on the history of mining in Fife visit the Fife Mining Resource site at:

http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/mmartin/fifepits/

 

 

Start

From the Park buildings, which are just south of the sites of some old mines of the 19th century Lochore Colliery, cycle out on the road you came in, on the golf course to the left lay the old mines of the 19th century Wester Crosshill Colliery, passing the ruins of Loch Ore Castle on the right. Just before the mini roundabout is a winding wheel sunk into a small cairn. The inscription, pays tribute to the people who depended on coal mining for their livelihood. After the last of the coal pits closed in 1967 the surrounding dereliction was restored to countryside in one of the largest land reclamation schemes ever undertaken in Britain. Turn right at the mini roundabout, onto the B920 towards Lochgelly. In the trees on the left is the unusual onion shaped dome of St.Kenneths Church.

a: Glencraig Pit

This pit (1896 to 1966) was located on the left just after the church, by the small road leading down to Inchgall Farm. Farther down the road, opposite Lochgelly High School, what is now the Cartmore Industrial Estate was the site of the next pit. Watch out for the three traffic calming islands forming choke points – take care!

b: Nellie Pit.

The Nellie (1860, to September 1965) by 1960 the Nellie was as far as known the last pit to use steam to wind the cages and hutches in Fife. Under the railway bridge and station and climb the hill. Turn right sign posted, to Paxton Crescent.

c: The Wee Mary.

This pit (1872 to 1930) was to the right where the new houses are now, the coal seams of the Wee Mary Pit, were probably worked underground beyond the 1930s and brought to the surface at the Nellie Pit until it itself was closed in 1965. A dirt road leads off at a left hand bend; follow this road up the hill. The road will pass alongside Lochgelly Golf Club, go straight on at the junction. Pass the front of the Clubhouse and continue straight on at the next junction, going up the short hill ahead. The next junction is with the busy B981 road, turn right, passing by the fire station. Immediately after passing St.Finnians church (on the right), turn first left into Brucefield Terrace, which is a no through road…for cars. At the end of the road take the small path that leads off towards the right.

d: Newton (Arthur) Pit

To the left of the path, not a lot is known about this pit, except it was abandoned in 1925. Follow the path cum linear dog latrine through the Dora Golf Course. Heed the warning notices “Beware of golf balls” as you cross over a fairway. The Course is a bit of a misnomer, as the Dora pit was to the south of the town, should be known as the Foulford Golf Course. Gradually the path improves into a good road.

e: Foulford Pit

The Foulford Pit (1890s to 1931), had two shafts, No. 1 and No. 2, separated by a few hundred yards. No. 1 shaft was the main shaft in the early days of the pit's life which experienced a temporary closure in the 1920s. Several years later, the pit had closed completely. The golf course was built on the land reclaimed from the pit head spoil heaps. Follow the road up to the clubhouse and around to the left. Opposite the gas holder, is a hutch or coal cart, with plaques commemorating the opening of the nine-hole course in May 1991 and the 18-hole extension in June 1998. Follow the road, past the old coal board workshops and turn right at the T-junction. Pass the church and turn left at the A909 junction. On the outskirts of Cowdenbeath, on the right hand side, just before the dual carriageway, is a small memorial cairn, commemorating the eight men who lost their lives in the Donibristle pit disaster, 26th August 1901, approximately one mile south of the cairn. at the centre of Mossmorran Moor. They were tunnelling up following a coal seam when they burrowed through into the bottom of the peat moss.

f: Dora Pit

The Dora was on the east side of the Cowdenbeath to Burntisland Road about where the Fife Regional road is now. The Dora miners mainly lived at the south end of Cowdenbeath (Arthur Street/Arthur Place) and they had a football team called Raith Rovers, before the Kirkcaldy team was formed. They were seniors and one of the ten original members of the Fife Football Association in 1882. Later that year, they joined with Cowdenbeath Rangers to form Cowdenbeath F.C., in time for the first ever Fife Cup Competition, which was won by Dunfermline (not Dunfermline Athletic who did not exist then). After crossing over the dual carriageway, turn right, at the set of gates, go around and follow the road to the end, then continue on using the path leading towards the A92. Continue on through the trees, under the electricity pylons to another wood – caution there is a missing bridge on this footpath.

g: Alice Pit

On the right, over the other side of the dual carriageway is a brick tower with an adjacent chimney, this is the pit head baths of the Alice pit, (1894 to 1966) Lift the bike over two sets of gates and continue up the hill to a junction, continue straight on.

h: Ten Pits

This whole area was covered in pits. No less than ten were in the area bounded by the Cowdenbeath and Crossgates roads; The Donibristle No. 12/15 (? to April 1928), James Pit (? to c. 1928), Marion Pit (? to c. 1928), just several hundred yards south of the James Pit, George (Fordell), (1850 to 1906), William (1844 to October 1950), and the Henderson Mine The Henderson mine (1946 to March 1966) had a quite severe bend to the right which was the scene of a fatal accident, in April 1959, when runaway hutches/wagons came off the rails here into where men were sheltering. A road signposted for Cowdenbeath via Cuttlehill, is possibly pointing in the wrong direction, goes down to the A92, I would not recommend crossing the carriageway, unless you feel very very lucky. Continuing straight on, at the top of the hill is a Scottish Rights of Way sign post for Mossgreen and Fordell. This path is overgrown in places but is a good link to the Cullaloe Forest. These rights of way were miners routes to the pits. Continuing straight on, through a gate and around the right hand side of Cuttlehill Farm Follow the track around the back and then to the right and down the tree lined farm road. At some houses the road goes to the right and meets with the B917 road on the outskirts of Crossgates. Turn right, over the dual carriageway and railway then turn left into Netherbeath Road.

i: Keirsbeath OCCS

Continue to the gates, either lift the bike over or enter the car park on the left and follow the path to the pedestrian entrance. Continue along the track. This was a public road until the Keirsbeath Open Cast Coal Site opened and obliterated the road and the surrounding fields. The road was never reinstated and it is now a public footpath with a wide degree of public access. The road ends at a cross roads: straight on leads towards Dunfermline, left ends at the old settling ponds, and right goes towards Kingseat and the coal roads. On turning right the farm track becomes a paved concrete road as it climbs alongside the M90 motorway towards the Hill of Beath. This road was one of three built to transport the coal to the Westfield OCCS before final shipment to the customer. The intention was to keep the heavy traffic off the local minor roads that pass through communities like Kingseat and Crossgates. Cross the motorway and follow the road to the right, up the hill to a gate a small opening in a fence leads to a T-junction with the Cowdenbeath road, turn right then first left. Lift the bike over the gate and follow this road down hill. the old Kingseat Pits were in the fields here, Straight ahead is Loch Fitty and beyond that is the St.Ninnians OCCS, on the site of the Lassodie Pits. At the easternmost end of the Loch are two houses, just beyond that was the village of Lassodie, now almost all gone with the introduction of the open cast.

j: Lassodie

The closure of Lassodie Collieries, in May 1931, and the eviction of tenants from their homes, probably marked the beginning of the end for the mining village of Lassodie. At the present time, it is not possible to identify the individual pits, eleven pits were sunk in this area; No. 2 active in 1928, No. 3 active in 1928, No. 4 was in production in 1895, No. 6 no details, No. 7 no details, No. 9 no details, No. 10/11 no details. At the foot of the hill is another set of gates, hoist your bike over the gates and turn right at the B912 T-junction. At the foot of the hill on the left is a small war memorial, commemorating the names of 23 soldiers from WW I, mainly privates and an NCO from the village. Continue past the war memorial and take the next left, and up to another gate, pass through the gap and onto the last of the three coal roads. Continue on, passing by the main works entrance for the open cast, take care, this is an operational coal mine and heavy lorries use this road. At the top of a long and gut-busting climb may be another set of locked gates, lift the bike over otherwise continue on to the T-junction with the B914 road and turn left. A short distance later, turn right, sign posted for Blairadam Forest, just after the crest of the hill and over to your left you can see the site of the last open cast; Blairenbathie, taking it's name from a local pit. Continue straight on and down the hill. There may be a closed gate just past the forestry stores depot; continue down the road watching out for a small track on the left.

k: Blairenbathie Mine

Blairenbathie Mine (1926 to 1962) was established from the redevelopment of the Lindsay Pit No. 2 Surface Mine which was near the site of the old Blairenbathie Pits unfortunately, the mine ran into water problems during development and the workings also experienced geological problems. Take the left hand footpath, which is the bed of the old mineral railway for Blairenbathie pit. Following this newly laid footpath up to the junction with a forestry road. Turn left and continue up the hill, following the purple and blue KCR forest Routes. Look out for what looks like a small car park on the right, and follow the path that leads off from here, still using the KCR routes. The path is obstructed at a stone bridge; two sets of impracticable barriers have been placed across the path. Go through the barriers and continue on the track up the hill.

l: Pierre’s Burn Pit

This pit was located by the side of the Pierre's Burn, and was sunk around 1873. The working life of this remote pit is not known. At the T-junction, turn left and follow the Purple and Blue markers. The worst paved section of the entire route, partially paved with bricks from the nearby, and defunct Lochside Brick Works. At the next cross roads turn right.

m: Blairenbathie Pit

Upon rounding the corner and descending a little you come to a Y-junction. To the right is the Blairenbathie pithead; the track to the right is actually the old mineral railway. Straight ahead is the coal bing, or spoil heap from the pit. Take the left hand fork and descend all the way, over the bridge and up to the final gate. Turn left and follow the Kingdom Cycle Route towards Lochore Meadows, under the motorway to a T-junction, turn left and follow the road towards Maryburgh. Just after crossing a small bridge, and before the sign for Maryburgh is a cross roads, turn right and follow this avenue all the way down to the junction with the B996, turn right, straight ahead is the site of the Kinnaird Pit.

n: Kinnaird Pit

This pit, (1944 to 1959) lay between Benarty Mine (operating c. 1930) and Blairenbathie Pit. After the farmhouse, turn left Kingdom Cycle Route sign posted for Lochore Meadows. The cleared site of Benarty Mine is on the left just a few hundred yards into this road, squeeze through the gate and continue along the road.

o: Bell Pits

In the field to the left are traces of a number of bell pits where Ironstone and coal are known to have been worked on the slopes below Harran Hill and Harran Hill Wood. Records of the Lochore estate in the 1790s indicate that there was much mining activity near Lochore House, a few hundred yards to the north-east of the old bell-pits. Continue straight on, at the next gate by the stables. The KCR turns off to the right towards Loch Ore.

p: Mary Pit

Continue towards the pit winding gear visible above the trees. Mary Pit, (1904 to Aug. 1966). The pithead frame was built in 1921 and is the first of it's kind to be made from reinforced concrete in Scotland. Take the next turning on the right and continue past the pithead frame and past the shunting engine resplendent in NCB Scottish North Area livery. Continue down the track to the park buildings and the circle is complete.

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All Material Copyright Of Wallace Shackleton [2001]