We are still working to secure the funding required to manufacture and install a new waterwheel, that will supply ‘green’ renewable electricity to the grid, and offer an added attraction to visitors coming to see the last working corn mill in the Lake District National Park.

The only outstanding regulatory requirement is the granting of preliminary accreditation by Ofgem, who are currently examining our application. Once they give us the final go-ahead, and the money is in place, we are ready to sign a contract with our preferred supplier, who has recently completed the successful installation of a similar system in Langdale at Skelwith Bridge, near Ambleside.

The output from our new waterwheel should produce enough electricity to give the Trust an income of between £3,000 and £4,000 each year, which would enable us to pay the Mill’s fixed overheads and some maintenance costs. In addition, the electricity produced will reduce the cost of power used at the cottage. Without this boost to our income we are unlikely to achieve financial sustainability, even if visitor numbers and revenue increase in line with our consultants’ projections. If the financial performance of the last few years were to remain unchanged, the Trust could not survive for more than another three or four years.

The total cost of the hydro project will not exceed £50,000, reducing to £40,000 if, as we think is likely, we qualify for a lower than standard rate of VAT. So far, we have raised £27,000 from Trusts and individuals, and some other potential donors have yet to respond to applications. Projects which will benefit from the feed-in tariff, by selling the energy produced, are not eligible for capital funding from public bodies, because of a perceived double benefit. So the new waterwheel, which is so necessary to our continued existence, must be paid for only from private sources.

The funding gap of only £13,000 is frustratingly small. But we are still some way off securing sufficient financial support to make us sure of achieving the Trust’s principal object of protecting the survival of this wonderful historic feature of the Lake District, and of being able to offer an enhanced visitor experience in future, that will inform and enthral those who come to see it.

As the Trust’s very survival is doubtful unless the hydro project is successfully completed, the trustees are appealing to patrons, advisers and members to donate to the Eskdale Mill Generator Fund. All contributions will be acknowledged, and their value can be increased by 25% through Gift Aid if you are a UK tax payer.

Please send your donation with the membership renewal form which accompanies this Newsletter, or to Peter van Zeller, Company Secretary & Treasurer, Inglenook, Main Street, Ravenglass, Cumbria CA18 1SD; cheques payable to Eskdale Mill & Heritage Trust.

Len Watson