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.

daffodils at the mill Boot

Boots fine old mill re-opens for business

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.

Help Needed!

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.


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.

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!