Thursday, 10 November 2016

Volunteering – review of 2016 visitor season

Volunteering – review of 2016 visitor season


Weekly opening from Wednesday to Saturday between 10.45 am and 4.00 pm commenced in June. I opened the mill on 18 days in June, 12 in July, 15 in August and 18 in September. There were 2,450 visitors; one quarter were children. I took £5,100 in admissions. Trustees and other volunteers dealt with other admissions, for which donations were made. There were free admissions for visits by working groups, National Park staff etc.


The donation points in reception and at the exit were really successful, raising £xxx. Visitors donated generously for old library books and stocks of post cards; only a few now remain.

Guided tours

I gave 384 guided tours, mostly to small groups of 2 to 4 people. The maximum group size was 27. Visitors’ responses to the mill were overwhelmingly positive. Retaining its character, the chance to see milling in action, and taking home a bit of Eskdale, were high priorities.


The achievement I am most proud of was the recruitment of volunteers in January and February. Volunteer numbers have never been great, but they have achieved a tremendous amount. The mill’s internal appearance has changed substantially and a logical story has been laid out for visitors to follow. Volunteers significantly enhance their experience and allow smoother running of tours.

At the start of the season volunteers returned the upper wheel to running order. A regular maintenance routine for the stones is in place. Finger-post signs now orientate visitors to the mill. The leaflet dispenser made by Rod Chilton was hugely popular.

The skills base and enthusiasm of the volunteers is immense; they have contributed on 24 days, with 4 to 6 volunteers present on average. They are a tremendous group of individuals, with wisdom, insight and a quiet but deep seated love of the place. The Trust organised a training event and an enjoyable visit to Acorn Bank and Little Salkeld Mills, when a lot was learned.

Partnership building

Several tour operators include the mill in their itineraries, and relationships for future visits have been created. I organised two working holiday task days, generously donated by the National Trust, when a great amount was achieved. The National Trust also provided drystone walling training for volunteers. Future volunteer-guided walks have been planned with the National Park.
I applied successfully on behalf of the Trust to NuGen (who hope to build the new nuclear power station near Sellafield) for a grant to buy garden tools for volunteer tasks in the grounds. I discussed a grounds management plan with Cumbria Wildlife Trust. The partnership with Heron Corn Mill at Beetham was invaluable, particularly when our millstone bearings needed rebuilding.

Karl Bartlett, Volunteer Development Officer

The Trust is deeply grateful to Karl and all the volunteers who helped at the mill this year : John Bromage, Cliff Carter, Rod Chilton, Leslie Coan, Richard Eastman, Peter Harnett, Karen Mason, Iain McNichol, Megan O’Gorman, Chris Reay, Rosie Robinson, Len Watson and Jude Wildwood.


The first use of water power to generate electricity at Eskdale corn mill was in the 1930’s. The winnowing machine, formerly part of the oat milling machinery, was replaced by a dynamo, which only supplied sufficient power for DC electric light in the cottage.

In 2008, after the Trust took over, it was thought that a turbine could be installed in the watercourse to generate renewable energy. However, in those early days of the Trust’s existence, the acceptability of hydro power in sensitive areas was not clear. In 2012, in view of government initiatives for encouraging alternative means of generation, the Trust returned to the possibility of producing electricity. Visitors would see that water can not only do mechanical work for milling corn, but also convert mechanical work into electricity, a far easier way to transfer energy to where it is needed.

Another attractive reason for generating was that the revenue earned would provide financial support for maintenance of the site. The Feed-in Tariff is a government incentive for supplying clean, renewable energy to the national grid. A waterwheel was eventually preferred over a modern concealed turbine, both for its historical continuity, and its visual attraction of visitors to the mill, even though the power it delivered would be much less than by a turbine.

The construction phase is essentially complete, and testing of the waterwheel’s generating capacity has shown that it is capable of producing at least 3kW. We have been given approval to operate by Ofgem, and have signed a contract with British Gas, who provide electricity to the cottage, as our Feed-in Tariff licensee.

David Moore, joiner of Gosforth, and his team have built a new launder to carry water from the mill race to the top of the wheel, assisted in all aspects of the project by exceptional efforts from volunteers. The control panel has been installed in the hayloft, above the stable. Final adjustments have been made to its electronics, to make start-up simpler, and to prevent the waterwheel turning too quickly if there is a local failure of the electricity supply.

Fencing has been erected around the area near the sides of the wheel, and covers have been made to protect the bearings, motor and gearbox from the weather. Additional soundproofing of the generator will be tested over the next few weeks. When that is judged to be satisfactory, the waterwheel will begin to supply renewable energy to the grid and earn 25.4 pence per kilowatt-hour generated.

All cabling is in place and CCTV cameras are working to check on safe operation. It should be possible to monitor the system via the internet, using a camera which shows the control panel.

Len Watson

Editor’s note This report refers in passing to the exceptional efforts of volunteers, but does not do justice to the hundreds of hours of skilled work put into the project by Len Watson and Rod Chilton, assisted by Richard Eastman and Cliff Carter.

Heritage Lottery Fund project update

  • the good news
We learned a year ago that our round-1 application to HLF was successful, but did not receive permission to start detailed planning and costing until April 2016. This frustrating period, when parts of our budget were substantially revised, meant that the November 2016 target for submission of our round-2 application was uncomfortably tight.
We appointed Shirley Muir Associates of Blennerhasset, who helped us with the round-1 bid, as project organisers, against competitive quotations. We invited tenders and appointed Peter Kempsey, architect, of Countryside Consultants in Alston to lead the design team, and Minerva Heritage of Lancaster to produce an activities and interpretation plan. Chris Healy of Minerva wrote our 2014 options appraisal , and is now working on our business plan. Lisa Keys is handling activity and interpretation, assisted by The Way Design.
Peter’s team is : Stuart Hobbs, millwright (Greenodd); Blackett Ord Conservation, structural engineers (Appleby); AE Robb & Associates, mechanical/electrical engineers (Newcastle); William Shaw, quantity surveyor (Newcastle); James Woolgrove Associates, health and safety (Carnforth); Wardell Armstrong, archaeology (Carlisle); Hesketh Ecology, (Silloth).
All worked hard over the summer, whipped in when necessary by Dave and Shirley Muir. The Trust is grateful to them all. We discussed their progress and invited comments at meetings, bringing trustees, advisers and volunteers together for the first time, and local residents, businesses and organisations to the mill, continuing discussions at the Boot Inn. We met the planning authority and Copeland BC’s disability adviser.
  • and the not so good news
By 30 September and our second HLF review meeting, we had, or were on target for, all the information needed to submit our round-2 application in November. But we knew from the quantity surveyor that building costs for restoration of the mill and cottage were significantly higher than expected, taking the project cost from £807,000 to £1,005,000. On a well-argued case, HLF may allow a 10% increase in the round-1 estimate, but ours is over 20%.  
Some major additional items could not have been foreseen last year, and removing them would damage the project’s sustainability.  Our architect is looking at cutting some non-essential items.
In October, the trustees decided to defer our round-2 application until March 2017, whilst we seek funds to close the gap.  After informal discussion, we hope that Copeland Community Fund and LEADER will increase match-funding, reducing the gap to £75,000.  Potential sources for raising that amount have been identified. 
An immediate problem is that consultants are close to their round-1 budgets, expected to end in November.  We need help to pay additional fees to during the extended development phase until March, particularly on new funding bids.  Applications to raise that money are being made now.
The result of a deferred HLF round-2 application will be known in June, too late to complete tendering and building work in 2017. A start in spring 2018 now seems likely, with another season of relying on the sterling efforts of volunteers next year.

What will it look like ?
Parts of the mill will be re-roofed and some timbers will be replaced. There will be some masonry repairs and re-instatement of lime mortar. Otherwise, the mill will not change much externally. Inside, the machinery driven by the lower wheel, which has not turned for many years, will be restored to working order. We expect to be able to produce flour for human consumption, but not to produce it on a large scale.
Internally, the stages of milling will once again become clear, explained by new interpretation signs. As during 2016, the main entrance will be through the double doors, into the room used in recent years as the custodian’s private office. There will be screens in this room, to provide a virtual tour for visitors who cannot access the mill itself. The garage, previously a workshop and store, will undergo major renovation (acceptable to the planners because it does not involve changing the main building) to provide a reception, shop and toilet with disabled access.
The double privy will be restored as part of the tour, and the ruined piggery behind it will become the new workshop. The hayloft over the stable, which already houses the hydro control panel, will be a volunteers’ rest room. Both the stable and the byre, previously a private store, will be accessible to visitors. Dilapidated fencing and external steps will be replaced. There will be improved signage from Dalegarth station.
The cottage, a sorry sight once emptied, will be tanked to deal with extensive damp, and completely refurbished. We would have liked to gain more space by erecting a large shed behind the cottage, but the planners will agree only to a small fuel store. There will be a wildlife management plan for the whole of the grounds, including the field, which has already been partly cleared of brambles by volunteers.
There will be a new website and presence on social media, and a new format for this Newsletter.

Can you help ?
We have to raise £75,000 in three months. If any member is able to help, either financially, in kind, or by volunteering for work on site or administrative assistance, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact any trustee. Eskdale mill needs you!

Paul Pharaoh

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Opening times 2016 update

Opening times for the mill during 2016 are based on the availability of volunteers to open the mill and welcome visitors.
We aim to be open at the following times until 2nd October 2016 :
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11am to 4.30pm.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Heritage Lottery Fund success

We were delighted to learn at the end of November that our first round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major grant has been successful.  £67,000 has been awarded to fund the development stage when, assisted by various consultants, we will work up the second round application for the full cost of building conservation works, and an activities and interpretation programme.
The trustees are very grateful to HLF for endorsing our plans for the conservation and improved presentation of the mill, and also to Copeland Community Fund, who have agreed to provide match funding of £5,000.  We are particularly pleased that refurbishment of the now vacated mill cottage has been accepted as part of the work to be funded, even though our intention to use it again as accommodation for a resident miller/custodian takes it outside the scope of HLF’s usual guidelines.  The cottage is an integral part of the site, and badly in need of repair to bring it up to an acceptable standard.
At the time of writing, we have not yet been able fully to publicise the award, or to thank individually the many people and organisations who gave us invaluable letters of support, or assisted in other ways.  Notification of our first round pass was followed by a start-up meeting, which could not be arranged until 15 January, and then by a further application for permission to start work, which is currently still pending.  HLF have appointed a mentor, Kate Dickson, a freelance heritage consultant, whose experience and expertise will guide us through the development stage.  Following a helpful meeting with Kate at the mill on 26 February, we have submitted some amendments to our project management and procurement proposals and a revised budget allocation.
Once permission to start has been secured, we will invite competitive tenders from potential project managers, the first consultants to be appointed.  They will then assist us as we move on to the appointment of conservation engineers and activities/interpretation consultants, and commission further work on a business plan.
We had originally hoped to complete the development stage and to submit our second round application to HLF by August this year, but in view of the delayed start we are now aiming to submit in November, for decision early in 2017.  We have also to work up a second application to Copeland Community Fund, for a much larger tranche of match funding.
After the pattern of modest background activity which followed the Trust’s formation and its acquisition and leasing out of the mill, these are challenging times for EMHT.  We know our organisation and commitment needs to move up several gears.  HLF’s emphasis not just on the maintenance of buildings, but on providing a stimulating experience which people will enjoy, is entirely consistent with EMHT’s charitable objects, carried out for the public benefit.  It is an exciting and worthwhile challenge, and without doubt the right thing to do to secure the mill’s future.

Paul Pharaoh

Volunteering and mill opening in 2016

When the Trust decided on a major restoration project and change in the presentation of the mill, to follow Dave King’s retirement early this year, we anticipated remaining closed for the 2016 and 2017 visitor seasons, whilst funding was secured, work was carried out and plans for future operation were put in place.  That would have meant at least two years without income to cover insurance, business rates and other continuing outgoings, as well as suspension of our main charitable object, making the mill available to the public.

So we began to look for volunteers, who after appropriate training would keep the mill going until the eventual appointment of a new resident miller.  The number of volunteers would determine how often we could open.  Appeals at first met with limited success; volunteers are in short supply, and EMHT is not the only local concern seeking to recruit them.

Fortunately we are now able to call on the services of Karl Bartlett as the Trust’s Volunteer Development Officer.  Karl lives close to the mill, at Dalegarth Cottages.  He has not only a post-graduate diploma in heritage management and experience in running projects, but can offer a substantial commitment to opening the mill to visitors himself, and co-ordinating the contributions of other volunteers.  Thanks to Karl for the substantial amount of work he has already put in, particularly on the repair of drystone walls.

On 16 January Karl organised a volunteer recruitment day, starting with an introduction at Dalegarth station and continuing with a tour of the mill, led by Dave King.  This was followed on 13 February by a clean-up day, when volunteers made a start on improving the appearance of the grounds.  Both events generated a cheerful atmosphere and were supported by a mixture of new faces and existing supporters.

From Easter onwards, Karl will himself be opening the mill to visitors, and guiding tours, between 11.00 and 4.30 each Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  The admission charge, previously £1.50, will be raised to £2.50, but there will be concessions for families and groups, and no charge to members on production of a membership card.

This arrangement is entirely new : Dave King ran the mill as his own business, had the legal responsibilities of the occupier and retained admission fees for himself, but Karl Bartlett will open it on behalf of the Trust, which is now the legal occupier, and fees will belong to us.  In recognition of the extensive commitment he is taking on, we have agreed terms with Karl which include an honorarium, fixed by reference to visitor numbers.

Whilst visitors to the mill will see some changes this year, none will necessarily be permanent and all are reversible.  This transitional stage gives us a valuable opportunity to try out ideas, ahead of the major rethink of the mill’s presentation, led by professionals, which will follow as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund project.  There is a small budget in the development stage, which is about to begin, for pilot activities designed to engage people’s interest in the mill and the valley’s history.  Volunteers will be a key part of the mill’s operation for the foreseeable future, not only during the HLF project.

New volunteers who can assist in caring for the mill and presenting it to visitors this year are very welcome.  Please contact Karl Bartlett on 019467 23335 or



By the end of October last year, the waterwheel, gearbox and motor-generator had all been installed on the structural steelwork previously bolted to the granite bedrock by the designers and constructors, Smith Engineering of Maryport.

We have taken up the generous offer of the Worthington family to provide timber from their woodland at nearby Dalegarth for the launder which will take water to the new wheel, saving the Trust some £5,000.  However the winter weather was atrocious, with probably the most persistent rain and winds in living memory.  This made the felling and abstraction of timber (by Ronnie Phizacklea and Johnny Crow) very difficult, and just too dangerous for extended periods.  Eventually in January there was sufficient opportunity, and the european larch was transported to Muncaster Castle to be sawn into planks.  The weather continued to play havoc with Murray Wilson and Martin’s efforts at Muncaster, so that as I write the sawing operation is not yet complete, although it should be finished by the time you read this.

The delays have caused us to miss out on the availability of our joiner, so we are currently arranging for another craftsman to carry out the work.  He will not be able to start until the end of March.  It will take about four weeks to make the launder, and another couple of weeks to install it.  Electrical installation and commissioning may take a further two weeks, so we are looking at completion in early June, compared with my previous estimate of the end of 2015.  Full commissioning and approval by Ofgem before September is essential.

The two existing sluice gates have been fully restored, and a new one has been built to control flow to the waterwheel.  A trench has been cut from the wheel to the stable, where a mounting board for the control panel has been erected in the hay loft.  Another trench from the stable to the cottage will become the cable route for delivering the electricity. Internet cables are also to be laid, so that the performance of the system and security of the site can be remotely monitored by CCTV.

After commissioning, displays of information for visitors, construction of a protective barrier wall and fencing, and restoration of the paved viewing area will be required.  We will fit wire mesh screening over the launder, to prevent things from falling into the water, and make an assessment of tree branches, which might damage the installation by falling on it.  The building of steps over the launder will be needed to enable visitors to follow the route across the footbridge overlooking the waterwheel.

The system will be capable of delivering a maximum output of 3.68 kW.  If its efficiency is as the designer says, and water flow is at least 100 litres per second for 75% of the year, then we should realise about £5000 per annum via the Feed-in Tariff arrangement.

Len Watson