Update from our Mill Manager

15th October 2023

That’s another visitor season nearly over with autumn well and truly here now in Boot village. The acorns and leaves from the majestic Oak tree that has stood overlooking the mill for centuries, have started to fall onto the pathways, millraces and sluices below. This is a time for regular drainage and path maintenance as well as looking ahead to our mill maintenance programme in the coming quiet winter months.

Our 2023 visitor season

Since commencing our 5-day per week opening schedule in April, we’ve welcomed over 5000 visitors to the mill with 2 weeks to go before the steam trains stop running and Eskdale sees less trade from tourists. It’s always a pleasure to help adults and children from a range of backgrounds from all over the world discover the mill and experience its special spaces. And we look forward to welcoming them back next season.

The impact of these current economic times has been felt here in rural Eskdale where all local businesses have noticed less family group visits this year. However, thankfully we have still received custom from regular visitors. We get to welcome people who’ve visited the mill before as well as those who’ve stumbled upon us whilst walking or those who have specially made their way over. It’s lovely to meet all of the various folk who find the unique heritage of the mill fascinating and want to learn more about its specific history. We continue to receive really positive feedback about our modern exhibitions, atmospheric grounds and acknowledgement of the special quality of this historic cornmill. For some, the mill can stir up emotion and be quite moving. Many of our visitors find inspiration in seeing the hydro-electric system operating and producing electricity. As a visual harness of energy whilst harking back to a time when water power was prevalent before mains electricity was rolled out for all of Boot households in 1950’s, it is a fantastic addition for people to see this producing power for the country’s National Grid.

Ongoing support for the mill

Our visitors and members help to support all of the operations here – without that backing, we wouldn’t be able to open our doors and keep the mill so well maintained. Part of my remit as Mill Manager involves promotion of the mill in order to spread the word and make sure people find out that our hidden gem exists. As a charity, we want to make it possible for everyone to come and visit and learn from these spaces and we don’t want anyone, who would appreciate its value, to miss out!

Again, this year, I’ve chatted with some of our lovely members at the mill who enjoy seeing the mill and hydro-wheel in action. I am happy to report that this year we’ve gained some new family members as well as local individuals who’ve signed up to show their strong support. Currently, there are around 80 members, which is an increase on last year.

Challenging economic times of 2023

Each year, the Trustees and myself forecast the organisation’s annual expenditure and projected income which helps us set our visitor targets. This process ensures that we make an informed decision regarding the admission and membership subscriptions charges. Given the current high cost of living and to ensure the mill is as accessible to everybody as possible, this year we didn’t increase the admission or membership charges and believed that through our promotional strategy we’d receive enough custom. Unfortunately, despite our efforts we won’t reach our annual target of 6200 visitors. A big thank-you to those of you who have made a donation this year – this goes a long way in ensuring our small charity can pay its bills! If  you would like to make a donation to help us bridge this year’s shortfall, online facilities are available on our website http://www.eskdalemill.co.uk/support or you can contact me directly for more information.

Mill Machinery and Waterwheels

The waterwheels and most of the milling machinery have operated reliably this summer with regular maintenance taking place to keep the equipment in good running order, as prescribed by Stuart Hobbs (our fellow miller/millwright at Heron Corn Mill) during spring’s annual assessment. The main bearing for the jog skry/jigger box in the upper mill is currently undergoing restoration after the drive shaft became detached from the mechanism that connected it to the main box. The repair work is being carried out by Stuart and his trainee millwright in the coming weeks. They will also replace the timber grain control gate for the lower mill which had disintegrated due to historic woodworm and its small shape. We’re really pleased that we can support the journey of a new millwright in his training. This work is being generously supported by a grant from SPAB, Mills Section ‘Mill Repair Fund’.

Tentergarth Meadow project

Our main funded project, the Tentergarth Improvement Project is making fantastic progress following 1 ½ years of regular works within the meadow. The new sizeable wildlife pond was dug out in May by local contractors which means that there is now a wetland area providing habitat for associated wildlife. We are currently observing its gradual colonisation by native creatures such as water beetles and dragonflies and look forward to its establishment over the next couple of years. We even saw a 1 ½ m long grass snake nearby in July; they will like our pond for feeding and we think will be using the warm grass heaps in the corners of the meadow for hibernating and laying their eggs. The newly planted heritage fruit trees have been settling in over the summer and now we have scenic spaces with picnic benches which our visitors are welcome to use during their visit to the mill.


In May, during National Mills Weekend, we invited the public to get involved in our meadow plant surveys. This was well attended by 22 people and resulted in some quality recordings as well as a coming together of folk in an idyllic space during springtime. In the summer, we also had opportunity to welcome a local conservation ecologist from ‘Wild Lakeland’ to provide training in plant identification skills to our volunteers and the general public. These workshops were well attended and benefited 18 members of the public. This year, we’ve established links with some of Whitehaven Academy’s Year 9 group who are working on their environmental ‘John Muir Award’. They have been here twice now helping out with the meadow activities, namely ‘bracken bashing’ and hay-raking which has enabled good meadow management as well as providing these young people with transferable, practical experience. Currently, we’re just finishing off cutting the vegetation ready for raking next week by nine memebrs of  VolkerRail staff followed by selected seeding with Cumbrian sourced Yellow Rattle.

Volunteer Team at Eskdale Mill

Everything that I have updated you on so far would not be able to happen without the reliable and regular support of our valued volunteers. In 2023, we gained three new regular volunteers bringing the total to eight on the small team altogether. They directly support me in their various roles and give up some of their free time and carry out hard work to ensure that the mill and its grounds remain in smooth running order and can continue to flourish. We have gardeners who look after the kitchen garden and flower beds, groundskeepers who mow, strim and get involved in the practical conservation tasks, stewards who demonstrate the machinery and talk to the public about the mill history and workings, DIY-ers who care for the buildings and carry out maintenance and last but not least, those who get involved in the waterwheel operations and reception duties; both critical roles in order to open the mill to the public. The volunteers are very dedicated and flexible and prove themselves to be stalwart members of the operational team; the mill would be a very different place without them which is reflected in feedback from our visitors who notice the high standard of care and attention. For anyone interested in getting involved with the various roles, more information can be found on our webpages http://www.eskdalemill.co.uk/volunteering

Keeping regularly updated of our progress

Keep an eye on our progress this winter by following us on our various social media platforms, Facebook, X-formally Twitter and Instagram. I look forward to sharing photos and updates showing the activities and hard work that goes on here.

Winter opening times

During winter, we’ll be open from 11am-3.30pm on selected days only; after Christmas and during half-term in February. We recommend you check our website before planning your visit to make sure the mill is open. You don’t need to book ahead and we welcome walk-in visitors. We look forward to greeting you!

Stay safe 😊