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Friday, 18 April 2014

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One of UK's oldest working watermills in Cumbria set to reopen

ONE of the UK’s older surviving working watermills will reopen in April following a lottery backed refurbishment.

Heron Corn Mill is located in Beetham, halfway between Lancaster and Kendal, next to the River Bela.

The mill is important due to its national significance (being a grade II* listed, intact, and operational 18th century corn mill with rare features) but also because of the way it combines traditional and contemporary technology to operate sustainably.

The mill - managed by a registered charity - is totally self-sufficient due to a 100kW hydropower turbine installed in 2010 which provides green energy for the buildings and any surplus is sold to local industry which brings in an income. The turbine was designed to work in sync with the old sluice gate and launder which serve the supply to the original 14ft water wheel which still powers the milling machinery today.

The refurbishment, Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas. Other matched funding was from J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, has enabled major essential repairs and restoration of the unique mill to take place, including the ancient grinding machinery which dates back to 1740.

This project is testimony to the growing trend of mill restoration, with the Government recently backing such initiatives in its push for green power and renewable energy generation.

Audrey Steeley, Project Manager said “We are very much looking forward to re-opening. Over the recent years much work on site has prevented us from offering the full visitor experience, but now, with the mill looking great, new interpretation and better access, and with more staff and volunteers on board, we are ready to greet the public!”

Visitors can expect improved access and new interpretation - including a unique and colourful downloadable hydro game, a visitor app and a live feed from the hydro which shows the energy and equivalent income generated. They will be able to explore the three-storey corn mill, see the water power connection of the old and the new, meet Stuart the miller, join guided tours and watch the millstones turn to grind grains. The on-site archive - containing many rare examples of local milling and agricultural history including plans, maps, books, ledgers and photographs - is also being digitised so that some of the collection can be accessed online. And there will be a year-round programme of activities and events for the community, including hydropower training programmes, education packages for primary schools, arts projects with community groups and presentations for colleges and other groups.

Heron Corn Mill will officially be re-opened on Easter Weekend on the 19th April 2014 by scholar, broadcaster and writer Ivan Day as part of a weekend of programmed activities for the public. Ivan will give a talk and demonstration in traditional food of the working people of the Lakes counties, Westmorland and Cumberland, with an emphasis on the grain. The following day Nick Jones of Little Salkeld Mill, Penrith gives his talk entitled Flour Power in your Hands – Milling and Baking as Political Acts. A special surreal performance entitled Threshold is being devised by Ghostcog, a company of local artists and actors for the opening and will be performed both days of the re-launch.

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