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 firstname.lastname@example.org