AN INDUSTRIAL museum celebrating Dorset’s clay mining heritage will be officially opened today.

Antiques Roadshow star Paul Atterbury, an expert on ceramics and author of railway books, has been invited to open the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum.

The museum is next to Swanage Railway’s station at Norden, near Corfe Castle.

It was built by volunteers on the site of old ball clay works demolished during the 1970s.

Explaining the history and technology behind ball clay mining – which dates back 2,000 years – the museum features a realistic reconstruction of an under-ground mine tunnel, a rebuilt ball clay trans-shipment building, a 300-metre section of narrow gauge railway as well as an engine shed with viewing area.

Purbeck ball clay was used in the manufacture of fine china and was also used in the 27,000 ceramic tiles making up the space shuttle’s outer skin and preventing the hi-tech spacecraft from burning up during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The museum, which has been built over the past decade, won the Heritage Railway Association’s Interpretation Award for quality earlier this year recognising its value as an educational resource and quality visitor attraction.

It will be opened in a ceremony beginning at 2pm witnessed by guests including South Dorset MP Richard Drax and Swanage Railway Trust patron Sir William McAlpine who is a keen railway expert and enthusiast.

Museum chairman Peter Sills said: “We are delighted that Paul Atterbury has agreed to officially open the museum which has taken volunteers some 12 years and 40,000 hours to plan and build from scratch.

“Part of the Swanage Railway Trust and its educational remit, the museum has been achieved thanks to a £100,000 European Union grant from the Chalk and Cheese organisation as well as £40,000 donated by generous members of the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum.”

CHILDREN’S favourites Peppa Pig and her brother George are visiting the volunteer-led Swanage Railway this weekend.

They will be a appearing at Harman’s Cross station at intervals throughout Saturday and Sunday. Times are at 10.50am, 11.40am, 12.50pm, 2.20pm, 3.40pm and 4.30pm.

While Peppa visited the Swanage Railway last year, this weekend will see George visiting the heritage steam line.

As well as coming face to face with Peppa and George, children will be able to watch Peppa and George DVDs at the station.

There will also be colouring activities, tea room refreshments and a shop selling Peppa Pig and George merchandise.

Advanced train tickets for the weekend are available for purchase online at and visits to Peppa Pig and George are strictly by valid train ticket holders only.