Smithills Estate was purchased from Bolton Council in two stages by the Woodland Trust, in 2015 and 2017. The council had owned the estate since 1938 and for many years local people and those visiting the area used it recreationally. Its history has been a combination of industry and farming. Vaccaries existed from the Middle Ages, and there are still tenant farmers on the land today. Coal mining, tile and brick works, and stone quarrying all played their parts in industry during the Industrial Revolution.
The oral history project aims to gather stories and memories from many of the people connected to the site, from those whose health and wellbeing have been helped by spending time on the estate, to those involved in tree planting and farming.
My part in the project is to liaise with the project lead, and to assist, advise and guide a group of volunteers who are carrying out the interviews. I host workshops, provide training and interview guidance, administer the project paperwork, and process interviews.
We’re currently using online conferencing for our meetings and interviews are carried out by the volunteers using professional recording software via online interview, as suggested by the Oral History Society.