Heritage Lottery Fund project update

Our round-1 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was submitted in August.  If we are successful in November, a nine month development period will lead to a full round-2 bid in August 2016.  We will appoint project managers to write the bid, and assist with the appointment of consultants for business and activity plans, and detailed specifications for works.  All appointments will be by competitive process.

We have asked HLF for £67,000 so far.  Match-funding of at least 5% is required.  We are grateful to Copeland Community Fund for agreeing to provide £5,000 for this purpose.  Their positive feedback will encourage us to apply to them again at round-2.

Working closely with the trustees and advisers, the round-1 bid and accompanying documentation was compiled by Shirley Muir Associates, based in Blennerhasset, who subcontracted input on interpretation and activities to Minerva Heritage of Lancaster.  This work was generously paid for by the Lake District National Park Authority’s Communities Fund, with match-funding from Cumbria County Council’s Community Fund, via Cllr Keith Hitchen.  

In preparation for the bid, visitors to the mill in early summer were asked to complete a questionnaire, and people were surveyed at Dalegarth station.  We asked for expressions of support from schools, local businesses, Eskdale Parish Council, and national organisations interested in mills.  The resulting letters were heartening, showing that the mill’s importance to the valley’s economy, as well as its educational and cultural significance, is widely valued.

We have taken a risk in asking HLF to fund the internal refurbishment of the miller’s cottage, which will be for the private occupation of a new miller.  Such expenditure is outside the normal guidelines, and must be justified by a very strong case.  We believe there are convincing reasons for requiring the miller to occupy the cottage as a condition of employment.
If we progress to round-2, we shall ask HLF for  a further £720,000, leaving us to raise £86,000 in match-funding and volunteer time, to pay for:

an archaeological survey, utilising the data from laser scanning in 2014;
re-roofing, timber and masonry repairs and other conservation work on the mill and outbuildings, recommended by the 2014 buildings condition survey;
repairs to the mill machinery recommended by the 2014 millwright’s report, including replacement of the 1970’s wooden launder, restoration of the second waterwheel (currently out of use) and consideration of producing flour for sale; 
improved external signage, and internal display and interpretation;
external and internal refurbishment of the cottage;
a display area for Mary Fair’s photographs of Eskdale’s wider heritage;
a small refurbished shop;
connection to mains water and installation of a visitor toilet;
repairs to boundary walls, fences, pathways and steps, improving disabled access where practical, but providing virtual access where this is not possible;
reclaiming the grounds and gardens and the field behind the cottage, perhaps as a hay meadow;
business, marketing and activity plans, including : volunteer roles; improved website and use of social media; co-operation with R&E Railway, National Trust and local businesses; involvement of schools, further and higher education; visitor activities, eg guided walks from the mill with LDNPA, baking haverbread, children as millers;
a financially sustainable model for maintaining the mill as a visitor attraction, after HLF support ends in June 2020.

We hope that the mill will be kept open to visitors in 2016, probably on a restricted basis, by the volunteers currently being mustered by Bob Hoye-Turner for training in October; details will be in the spring Newsletter.  We are likely to close for most of the 2017 season, whilst works are carried out.  A new miller/custodian should be in place in time for re-opening around Easter 2018.  HLF funding is intensely competitive, so of course nothing can be taken for granted.

Every decision taken by the trustees in getting us to this stage has been unanimous.  We have benefitted from the advisers’ views, both at meetings and in writing.  There is a tension between conviction that an ambitious development programme of this sort is both necessary and appropriate, and apprehension that the mill’s authenticity and eccentric charm could be compromised or lost in the process. The trustees are determined to ensure that those who design and implement the project for us should find and maintain the right balance, between essential conservation and the need for financial sustainability, on the one hand, and over-restoration or dumbed-down presentation on the other.

Paul Pharaoh