Spring flowers and garden plans

Primula vulgaris

Despite it being a cold and somewhat wet spring here in Boot, the Swallows and warblers arrived on the 7th April and at the Mill, the garden and meadow are awakening from their winter slumber.

 

I met Clive Stretton from the National Trust at the Mill, and we looked at the potential to use the mills large enclosed meadow as a location for a joint Green-wood crafts event next Summer. It’s relatively flat – a luxury round the valley – and accessible, so we think it’s a great idea to showcase local crafts and talent, watch the blog for more as it develops or get in touch if you have ideas or would like to get involved.

To get us started however the 20 years worth of brambles need to be got in hand, so to that end Clive is kindly lending us a days hand with his National Trust working holiday volunteers in May. A group of folk will hopefully make a good impression and start on the process of reclaiming the garden from it’s neglected condition.

Overgrown brambles Boot.jpg
Overgrown Brambles at the Mill

We will be holding weekly work parties at the Mill and the garden every Wednesday between 10.30am and 3.00pm, so if you would like to join us you would be more than welcome.

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daffodils at the mill Boot

Boots fine old mill re-opens for business

screen box cinemascope

After the retirement of the previous tenant Dave King, the Eskdale Mill and Heritage Trust were uncertain as to how to keep the mill open during the immediate future.

However a coming together by Eskdale Mill trust volunteers from both near and far have ensured that the mill is again open for visiting during 2016, now totally under direct Trust management.

Over the past few months volunteers have been clearing up the grounds and the mill itself prior to opening for the season.

Eskdale Mill clear up group
Part of the spring clean group

We have been working busily rediscovering the charms of this important building that have been hidden over the past few years. The mills presentation has been based around the 1970’s exhibition material, bolstered by farm sale and other material gathered by over the years, but over time it has become tired and in need of refreshment.

Our ambition for 2016 is to present the mill, closer to it’s original function and involve visitors in discovering more about this unique building.

screen box cinemascope
the above view shews the sieve box in the upper machine room

For the summer season a number of volunteers have come forward to help give guided tours around the mill and more are sought. One of the ambitions of the trust is to train volunteers in a whole range of rural skills to help keep the mill open in the future. The first training event is a dry-stone wall training course for mill volunteers led by experts from the National Trust. The course is being held in Eskdale on the 23rd April and is open to all volunteers new and old.

The big Spring clean 2016!

Volunteer Spring Clean

13th Feb 2016

A good sized group of 15 volunteers aged from a couple of years to over 80 gathered together at the mill to begin the long process of caring for and cleaning up the mill and its grounds after 20 years of very low maintenance.

A late change of plan meant that we concentrated on the outdoor space around the mill, instead of the inside spaces as originally thought. Despite the change of emphasis, we had a happy few hours and the weather for once this winter, despite being very cold, was on our side and we tackled a large amount of debris that had accumulated over the years.

Eskdale Mill vols7.jpg

In tackling this we were aided by Marian’s home baking, that was enjoyed by everyone present. A number of volunteers agreed that we would like to do more and get to grips with the mill buildings themselves, and eat more cake!

We will tackle that as the opportunity arises, and an agreed procedure is adopted to help us present the mill in as attractive way as possible this year, prior to the large scale renovations that are planned for the next few years.

For the future a very real challenge at the mill is to not only retain the sense of history and to preserve its visual character and interest, the “quirkiness” that appeals to so many visitors, but to make it relevant and accessible to 21st century visitors.

Is its future as a “cabinet of curiosities” presentation complete with cobwebs! Or renovated as truly the “oldest working watermill” in the lake-district?

The definition of building conservation BS7913 (‘management of change to secure the survival or preservation of buildings, cultural artefacts, natural resources, energy or any other thing of acknowledged value for the future’).

Thats something to think about! Many thanks to everyone who turned up and supported the Mill! Look out for details of the next volunteer day soon.

Eskdale Mill Volunteer Open Day – A new chapter in the mills story opens.

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We recently held the first informal volunteer get together and recruitment day at Dalegarth Station on the 16th January 2016.

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Paul Pharaoh the Chairman of the Mill Trust gave us an interesting introduction to the work of the Trust and its future directions. I then explained about about the immediate needs for 2016, and the crucial role that volunteers are going to play over the year.
Fundamentally the role of a front of house welcoming guide was identified as being our most pressing need and thankfully a few people expressed an interest in taking on that role.

What is the role of a front of house guide?

Front of House Volunteers are vital to the success of this transformation and our visitors’ experience of the Mill; they act as meeters and greeters, and represent the public face of the EMHT and can act as escorts for our visitors. We are looking for people to join our volunteer team, providing a friendly and helpful welcome to all the Mills visitors, taking the entrance fee, giving information,directions and answering queries about the Mill, milling, the valley exhibitions, displays,the collections and many other subjects.

Thankfully the weather abated for a short period – between storms Frank and Gertrude – and we even enjoyed some sunshine, as about 20 of us, some new and some familiar faces then walked up to the Mill where Dave King the outgoing custodian gave us perhaps his last tour of the Mill, though I’m hopeful that he will be able to come back as a volunteer to help train us in the operation of the mill before we open for the summer season.

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Dave’s tour was enjoyed by us all and inspired a lot of interest in the mill, milling, local history and getting involved in the the future.

Our ambition is that we will open through the Summer on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. So if you are also interested in helping with that or indeed any other roles at the mill, please do get in touch, you will be very welcome!

Thanks to everyone who came and I hope to meet you all again soon.

Our next meeting will be the big spring clean at the Mill on the 13th February 2016. Please join us between 10.30 and 2.30.

A packed lunch, gloves and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty are recommended!

mill poster

Recruitment day 16th Jan

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Come and Volunteer at Eskdale Mill!

Eskdale Mill at Boot is the last working watermill in the Lake District. This Grade II listed building, is set for significant development over the next few years – and we need you to be part of it.

Paul Pharaoh, the Trust’s Chairman says:

“Eskdale Mill is one of West Cumbria’s most interesting and unique tourist destinations. We welcome around 4,000 visitors a year and, with the retirement of the Miller are relying on volunteers to make each trip here a memorable one. Can you help?

From leading tours and bringing the Mill’s rich history to life, to explaining how the machinery works and even milling meal – our volunteers literally keep the wheels turning.”

Volunteers can become guides and eventually millers. Guides lead tours around the working mill, bringing its history to life and explaining how the machinery works. Millers, following six months’ training, will operate the mill to produce stone-ground oatmeal, keeping hundreds of years of tradition alive in the valley.

The recruitment day begins at Dalegarth station on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway on Saturday 16th January at 10:00am. Prospective volunteers will be given a short introduction to the trust and background to the Mill, We will then walk up to the Mill and be taken on a tour by the existing Miller.

This will give you the chance to meet existing volunteers and find out more about the roles available.

Volunteers are needed to cover Eskdale Mill’s opening times:

  • Easter to September – Friday, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday from 11.am until 4.30pm.

  • Bank Holidays and special events

  • Occasional other weekdays for special group tours, including schoolchildren.

For further information on the day or about getting involved please contact Karl Bartlett, the Volunteer Development Officer :- themillatboot@gmail.com

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Volunteers working on the Mills leat

Volunteer roles available

The miller helps operate the mill, harnessing the power of the Whillan Beck producing stone-ground oatmeal, keeping hundreds of years of tradition alive within the valley. Volunteers for this role should be reasonably fit as it involves some manual work, climbing steep ladder stairs and accessing the ‘lade’ at the rear of building.

The guide will lead tours around the working mill, bringing its history to life and explaining how the machinery works and selling snacks and souvenirs. Volunteers for this role should be reasonably fit as it involves frequent climbing of the steep ladder stairs. They’ll also need to be good at absorbing and retaining knowledge of the Mill’s history and machinery.

Other roles include, historian / researcher, practical grounds person /gardeners and eventually volunteer archaeologists of the site.

Eskdale Mill in art-1

Eskdale Mill Rose 1832 -35

This print, is based on an engraving of Eskdale Mill, Wilton Beck, Cumberland, by the artist Thomas Allom, engraved by A le Petit, 1833.

This beautiful evocative print derives from a 2 volume set written in 1832, amongst the earliest “tourism books”. Its capturing of the place, and its energy is still as relevant and interesting now as when it was published over 180 years ago.

Eskdale Mill Rose 1832 -35

Originally published in “Westmorland, Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland”, Illustrated, by H Fisher, R Fisher and P Jackson, Newgate Street, London, 1832-35.

Interestingly Whillan Beck is written as Wilton Beck. A mistaken Cumbrian dialect?

book spine
You can still get them!

The accompanying text expounded the delights of the location

“In Cumberland are two rivers of the name of Esk: one of which, after flowing through the beautiful valley of Eskdale, continues its course, till it at length falls into the sea at Ravenglass.

At the head of Eskdale, some remains of a Roman fortress are still visible. The scenery of the vale comprises some of the most picturesque objects in the lake district, including Birker Force and Stanley Gill. A few dispersed dwellings are scattered in the valley, surrounded by rocky knolls, beautifully enriched with trees, and bordered by uplands, on which large flocks of sheep graze in undisturbed quiet.

The ready and powerful aid constantly afforded by the mountain streams, has naturally led to the erection of many water-mills in this romantic district; one of these forms a prominent object in the present Illustration.

Amongst the choice morceaux provided in this seat of the picturesque for the gratification of the pictorial gourmand, few can be met with more suitable for artistic effect than Eskdale Mill. Free from all stiffness of outline and architectural precision, its rude appearance harmonizes well with the rich accompaniments that nature has cast around it. The wheel and stream, the rocky knolls and clustering foliage, and the glimpse obtained of the upland pasturages, combine together with amazing effect, and produce a picture richer in composition than any that might be wrought from the artist’s imagination.”

morceaux  – a short artistic composition.

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Help Needed!

wordle6

Come and Volunteer at Eskdale Mill

Eskdale Mill at Boot is the last working watermill in the Lake District. This Grade II listed building, is set for significant development over the next few years – and you could be part of it.

IMG_7094

Paul Pharaoh, the Trust’s Chairman says:

“Eskdale Mill is one of West Cumbria’s most interesting and unique tourist destinations. We welcome around 4,000 visitors a year and, with the retirement of the Miller are relying on volunteers to make each trip here a memorable one. Can you help?

From leading tours and bringing the Mill’s rich history to life, to explaining how the machinery works and even milling meal – our volunteers literally keep the wheels turning.”

Volunteers can become guides and eventually millers. Guides lead tours around the working mill, bringing its history to life and explaining how the machinery works. Millers, following six months’ training, will operate the mill to produce stone-ground oatmeal, keeping hundreds of years of tradition alive in the valley.

The recruitment day begins at Dalegarth station on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway on Saturday  16th January at 10:00am. Prospective volunteers will be given a short introduction to the trust and background to the Mill, We will then walk up to the Mill and be taken on a tour by the existing Miller.

IMG_7080
Volunteers construct a new sluice gate at the Mill

This will give you the chance to meet existing volunteers and find out more about the roles available.

Volunteers are needed to cover Eskdale Mill’s opening times:

  • Easter to September – Saturdays, Sundays and Monday from 11.am until 4.30pm.

  • Bank Holidays and special events

  • Occasional other weekdays for special group tours, including schoolchildren.

For further information on the day or about getting involved please contact Karl Bartlett, the Volunteer Development Officer :- themillatboot@gmail.com

Rebuilding the Boot Wall

Living here in Boot, we are constantly reminded of the fact that “our ancestors were mighty men” to quote the Duke of Chalfont in Kind Hearts and Coronets and erected a landscape of stone walls that endorse that sentiment.

Wainwright too had a soft spot in his heart for the men who laboured to build these testaments to changes in land ownership and agricultural practices, that have endured long after the commissioner and builders have been forgotten.

For those who don’t know, the Lake District is criss-crossed by a network of walls – normally enclosing fields in a logical pattern, but often not – going off in wild directions, hugging crags, or even just stopping, seemingly without reason. The mightiest celebration of the wallers imaginative pattern making occurs in our neighbouring Wasdale, where walls assumed enormous width and the title of consumption walls, for the amount of stone they er, well, consumed. When viewed from above on Great Gable the patterns are breathtaking.

Kirk Fell_62

But perhaps even more amazing is that many of these walls are approaching 200 plus years old and they have stood that amount of time without mortar or cement holding them up.

A dry stone wall is a mosaic of carefully placed rocks held together by the action of the rocks meshing and gripping together and the force of gravity. Over time the walls are buffeted by winds, rain,frost, snow and the passage of sheep, dogs and occasionally people scrambling over them. Eventually they succumb and the walls will give at a point of weakness. Driving over the fell road near Black Coombe is a wonderful example of that decay, a wall no longer functioning or required and abandoned to its fate. It gives the appearance of an impromptu roller coaster , with gaps gradually linking up the remaining standing areas until it will return into the fellside from which it was won.

But for us in Boot at the Mill Trust, a break in a wall can let sheep or people into areas we would prefer them not to be, so when the wall just at the point where the corpse road leaves the village of Boot collapsed recently it was time to dust off some little used skills and get walling again.

The stone hereabouts is mainly Granite boulders, mostly about the size of a person head, but about 5 times as heavy. So firstly the wall needed to be made safe by stripping back the wall to where it stands securely and down to its firmer foundation stones. This is done slowly so as the gap doesn’t want to be made wider than it needs and the stones are sorted out into like with like as you go. With the infill made of smaller stones making a separate pile (next time I need a bucket).

This particular wall was abutted against the intake wall (where the cultivated areas stop and the fellside proper begins) and stands about 6 feet tall, it’s going to be slow work – not the 6 metres a day of the skilled local wallers.

Stripping the wall back is now completed and revealed the obligatory old broken glass bottle. Some initial work has been undertaken to begin rebuilding it, now I need to think about how I can get into the field on the other side as it grows in height!