Thursday, 2 April 2015

SPRING NEWSLETTER 2015 Planning Ahead


After examining several options for the Mill’s operation and management after David King’s retirement in February 2016, last autumn the trustees accepted the recommendation of our consultants, Minerva Heritage Ltd, to open it to the public as often as possible, with demonstrations of the machinery by a new custodian. He or she will be an employee of the Trust, not a tenant as at present, and will occupy the refurbished cottage as a condition of employment.

Just before Christmas, we received Minerva’s final review of the Mill as a visitor attraction, and a condition report on all our buildings from Blackett-Ord Conservation Engineers, with estimated repair costs. By February, we also had a specialist millwright’s report on the machinery from Martin Watts, a national authority, again with estimates. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lake District National Park Authority Communities Fund for enabling us to obtain these reports, each containing essential information for future planning. Including VAT, capital expenditure will be about £420,000

Also in February three trustees, supported by John Hodgson and Rec Cathey from LDNPA, met HLF representatives to discuss a second and larger funding application. Although of course making no commitments, they gave us generally encouraging advice. There may be a problem with funding internal improvements to the cottage, as payment for privately used residential facilities is not normally allowed. HLF emphasised that grants for capital work on buildings follow on from funding of audience development, interpretation and activities for people, not the other way round. Those activities in the first five years will cost another £108,000, taking the total project cost to around £528,000. We will have to find match funding from other sources of 5% of the amount applied for.

Applying for a heritage grant is a two stage process. If we are successful this year with a first round application, there will be a development period during, and perhaps beyond 2016, with HLF funding for working up a detailed second round application. That will include full activities, action and business plans, specifications and architect’s drawings. Professional support will be needed even for the first round, outline application; we hope to pay for that by making yet another grant application – but are still short of the £600 match funding required.

If we succeed at HLF round two, building work will not begin until 2017, at the earliest. Whilst the Mill may close at the construction stage, we shall do our best to keep it ticking over, and to maintain some income from admissions, during the 2016 season onwards. That will probably mean relying on volunteers to guide people round, at times fixed according to train arrivals at Dalegarth. Identifying & training those people is therefore a priority for this year.

Are we daunted by all this ? Of course we are. But as our newest [trustee/adviser’s] father used to tell him, “It's the job that doesn't get started that takes the longest”.

Paul Pharaoh



We are still working to secure the funding required to manufacture and install a new waterwheel, that will supply ‘green’ renewable electricity to the grid, and offer an added attraction to visitors coming to see the last working corn mill in the Lake District National Park.

The only outstanding regulatory requirement is the granting of preliminary accreditation by Ofgem, who are currently examining our application. Once they give us the final go-ahead, and the money is in place, we are ready to sign a contract with our preferred supplier, who has recently completed the successful installation of a similar system in Langdale at Skelwith Bridge, near Ambleside.

The output from our new waterwheel should produce enough electricity to give the Trust an income of between £3,000 and £4,000 each year, which would enable us to pay the Mill’s fixed overheads and some maintenance costs. In addition, the electricity produced will reduce the cost of power used at the cottage. Without this boost to our income we are unlikely to achieve financial sustainability, even if visitor numbers and revenue increase in line with our consultants’ projections. If the financial performance of the last few years were to remain unchanged, the Trust could not survive for more than another three or four years.

The total cost of the hydro project will not exceed £50,000, reducing to £40,000 if, as we think is likely, we qualify for a lower than standard rate of VAT. So far, we have raised £27,000 from Trusts and individuals, and some other potential donors have yet to respond to applications. Projects which will benefit from the feed-in tariff, by selling the energy produced, are not eligible for capital funding from public bodies, because of a perceived double benefit. So the new waterwheel, which is so necessary to our continued existence, must be paid for only from private sources.

The funding gap of only £13,000 is frustratingly small. But we are still some way off securing sufficient financial support to make us sure of achieving the Trust’s principal object of protecting the survival of this wonderful historic feature of the Lake District, and of being able to offer an enhanced visitor experience in future, that will inform and enthral those who come to see it.

As the Trust’s very survival is doubtful unless the hydro project is successfully completed, the trustees are appealing to patrons, advisers and members to donate to the Eskdale Mill Generator Fund. All contributions will be acknowledged, and their value can be increased by 25% through Gift Aid if you are a UK tax payer.

Please send your donation with the membership renewal form which accompanies this Newsletter, or to Peter van Zeller, Company Secretary & Treasurer, Inglenook, Main Street, Ravenglass, Cumbria CA18 1SD; cheques payable to Eskdale Mill & Heritage Trust.

Len Watson

HYDRO PROGRESS autumn 2014

Our efforts to put in place an electricity generating waterwheel are progressing steadily. We intend to position the new free-standing wheel so that it may be seen by people as they approach the Mill from the village and cross the packhorse bridge which spans the Whillan Beck. The Mill’s integral waterwheels are not visible from the road, so the location of the new wheel should serve to increase visual interest for potential visitors. It will also add educational value as a demonstration of the power of water, one of Cumbria’s greatest natural resources, taking part of the flow from the existing millrace via a new wooden launder.

The energy produced from this renewable source will reduce our carbon footprint and, what is more, earn us income to keep the Mill and Trust going. We need around £3,000 each year for insurance and maintenance costs alone.

With the support of Eskdale Parish Council, we have made good progress in obtaining firstly the necessary planning permission from the Lake District National Park Authority, and secondly agreement to installation of the generator from the electrical network authority, Electricity North West. We are currently waiting to hear about our third necessary application from Ofgem, the authority which controls access to the Feed-in Tariff system for renewable energy providers. If that is successful, we are then in the position of being able to make final arrangements with the wheel’s manufacturer, who has already installed a similar waterwheel generator in Langdale.

The one major problem still confronting us is that so far we have secured less than half of the funds required, about £50,000. Fundraising is made more difficult because organisations benefitting from Feed-in Tariff payments are ineligible for grant aid for the project cost from ‘public bodies’, for example Lottery Funds, local government agencies or any organisation funded by national taxation. We cannot therefore approach many of the most likely sources of funding, and are limited to appealing for help to trusts, companies and individuals.

The wheel’s design should enable it to generate up to 4 kilowatts of power from the water flow we normally experience. If that power is maintained for 75% of the year at 60% efficiency, then we could produce annually about 16,000 kilowatt hours of energy, which would currently earn £3,800 from the FIT scheme. That would cover the Trust’s insurance costs and routine maintenance and repairs to the Mill and cottage.

There are limits on for how long the various permissions remain valid. We must build, install and commission the generator within the next twelve months, or we would have to re-apply to at least one authority. We therefore need to reach our funding target quite soon. So, although we have made really encouraging progress with the regulatory regime, and the manufacturer is ready to start work, we are still at a critical phase in the project.

Len Watson