Volunteering – review of 2016 visitor season

Weekly opening from Wednesday to Saturday between 10.45 am and 4.00 pm commenced in June. I opened the mill on 18 days in June, 12 in July, 15 in August and 18 in September. There were 2,450 visitors; one quarter were children. I took £5,100 in admissions. Trustees and other volunteers dealt with other admissions, for which donations were made. There were free admissions for visits by working groups, National Park staff etc.

The donation points in reception and at the exit were really successful, raising £xxx. Visitors donated generously for old library books and stocks of post cards; only a few now remain.

Guided tours
I gave 384 guided tours, mostly to small groups of 2 to 4 people. The maximum group size was 27. Visitors’ responses to the mill were overwhelmingly positive. Retaining its character, the chance to see milling in action, and taking home a bit of Eskdale, were high priorities.

The achievement I am most proud of was the recruitment of volunteers in January and February. Volunteer numbers have never been great, but they have achieved a tremendous amount. The mill’s internal appearance has changed substantially and a logical story has been laid out for visitors to follow. Volunteers significantly enhance their experience and allow smoother running of tours.

At the start of the season volunteers returned the upper wheel to running order. A regular maintenance routine for the stones is in place. Finger-post signs now orientate visitors to the mill. The leaflet dispenser made by Rod Chilton was hugely popular.

The skills base and enthusiasm of the volunteers is immense; they have contributed on 24 days, with 4 to 6 volunteers present on average. They are a tremendous group of individuals, with wisdom, insight and a quiet but deep seated love of the place. The Trust organised a training event and an enjoyable visit to Acorn Bank and Little Salkeld Mills, when a lot was learned.

Partnership building
Several tour operators include the mill in their itineraries, and relationships for future visits have been created. I organised two working holiday task days, generously donated by the National Trust, when a great amount was achieved. The National Trust also provided drystone walling training for volunteers. Future volunteer-guided walks have been planned with the National Park.

I applied successfully on behalf of the Trust to NuGen (who hope to build the new nuclear power station near Sellafield) for a grant to buy garden tools for volunteer tasks in the grounds. I discussed a grounds management plan with Cumbria Wildlife Trust. The partnership with Heron Corn Mill at Beetham was invaluable, particularly when our millstone bearings needed rebuilding.

Karl Bartlett, Volunteer Development Officer

The Trust is deeply grateful to Karl and all the volunteers who helped at the mill this year: John Bromage, Cliff Carter, Rod Chilton, Leslie Coan, Richard Eastman, Peter Harnett, Karen Mason, Iain McNichol, Megan O’Gorman, Chris Reay, Rosie Robinson, Len Watson and Jude Wildwood.