Heritage Lottery Fund update

The trustees have been working on plans for a Heritage Lottery funded restoration scheme since 2014. Having completed our development phase in February 2017, we hoped that HLF would decide on our delivery stage application – the big money – in June, but they deferred it for six months, requiring us to improve the documentation of our plans. At the end of October we submitted our revised business plan, which grew in length to a hefty 90 pages and now gives a complete picture of the project background, what we intend to achieve, and how we will get there.

With delight, relief and excitement, we learned in December that HLF have awarded us £842,000. This will be matched by £75,000 from Copeland Community Fund; £36,000 from the E U’s Rural Development Programme; £15,000 from the Pilgrim Trust; and £5,000 from the Cumbria Community Foundation. We are still £29,200 short of our match-funding target, and efforts to find that balance are continuing. If the notional contribution of volunteers’ time, which HLF bring into their calculation, is included, our project value is over £1,000,000.

Capital costs, inclusive of professional fees and VAT, will account for just under £700,000. Over £170,000 will be spent on activities – including the manager’s salary for two years, staff and volunteer training costs, explanatory materials and the cost of events. The remainder will cover publicity and promotion, contingency and inflation.

At the time of writing, our architect, quantity surveyor and consultant millwright are hard at work on the construction tenders. The project timetable shows the contractor starting on site by the time of the AGM at the end of April 2018. Building work is scheduled to be completed by spring next year. A new manager will then move into the refurbished cottage and the aim is to reopen the mill to the public in June 2019. HLF will continue to sponsor operations until spring 2021, but after that we will be on our own.

Whilst changing very little in external appearance, the buildings will be made structurally sound, and the machinery restored to full working order. The refurbished cottage with improved facilities will be occupied by a new, employed manager, supported by volunteers in a number of roles. The mill’s long story will be better understood and explained, giving visitors a more enjoyable experience. Working with others, especially the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, the mill will be promoted much more effectively. Greater visitor numbers will enable the trustees to achieve their target of financial sustainability, assisted by a steady income from the sale of electricity, generated by the new, freestanding water wheel.

The mill will be closed to the public throughout 2018, during the construction phase, but there will be opportunities for our hardworking volunteers to maintain their involvement, in the garden and field, the care and continued cataloguing of artefacts, the local history research project, and in training for the vital roles they will perform after reopening. By then, the mill will be in better condition, better presented and more effectively marketed than ever before. By employing a resident manager, rather than relying on a self-employed tenant as previously, the Trust will be directly responsible for the mill’s operation as a visitor attraction.

After the construction phase, the activities programme will continue until 2021. Until then, we will continue to be subject to HLF monitoring and accountability for expenditure. The project will be formally evaluated. Visitor numbers and experience are critical to the Trust’s financial sustainability, along with income from the hydro-electric scheme, and will be carefully tracked.

Paul Pharaoh
Chair of trustees