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Eskdale Mill in Lake District opens ahead of schedule

Grade II* listed building is the only working water-powered corn mill in the Lake District National Park
Kate Hughes, Eskdale Mill Manager

This week Eskdale Mill in the Lake District opens to the public ahead of schedule, following a £1 million restoration project, thanks largely to funding raised by National Lottery players.

The first visitors arriving at Eskdale Mill were treated to glorious sunshine when Mill Manager Kate Hughes opened the doors on Wednesday 26 June. Located in the small village of Boot within the Lake District National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grade 11* listed building is the last working water-powered corn mill in the region. This historic building and its working machinery are rare survivors of a bygone age and the changing communities in the valley.

Visitors enjoyed an authentic experience of the water mill as it would have operated in its heyday. The newly installed exhibition tells the story of the mill’s history and the last Miller, explaining the milling processes through interactive displays and with knowledgeable volunteers on hand to answer questions. With artefacts displayed around the building plus an accessible audio-visual, tour heritage is brought to life for all ages to enjoy.

Both traditional waterwheels are restored to full working order, powered by water from Whillan Beck as it cascades down from the Scafells. There is a new hydroelectricity generation plant, in the form of a third waterwheel drawing power from Whillan Beck. This modern waterwheel, added in 2017 by Eskdale Mill & Heritage Trust, is made of steel and set back from the mill itself. It was designed to complement and work alongside Eskdale Mill generating income by supplying electricity to the national grid via the Feed-in Tariff scheme, as well as powering the mill cottage.

There is a cluster of Grade II-listed structures around the Mill, including the stables and stone packhorse bridge and the 18th-century miller’s cottage, on the other side of the track onto the fells, which has been lovingly restored and is now the Mill Manager’s house.

The reopening of the Mill adds to the range of cultural and heritage experiences on offer for visitors to the West Coast of Cumbria. Within easy walking distance of Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway’s Dalegarth station, Hardknott Roman Fort nearby, the various spectacular walking routes such as Stanley Ghyll Force, and great local pubs there are many reasons to visit for a day or stay longer, to fully discover the charms of this typical Lakeland valley.

For anyone interested in getting involved in the project there are a range of volunteering opportunities available from visitor experience to mechanical to nature and gardening. Find out more here.

Kate Hughes, Mill Manager said: “We are delighted to be welcoming visitors to the newly augmented spaces and ahead of schedule. We had planned to only have invited groups in the Mill this week, but the final preparations were completed ahead of time so we decided to make the most of this glorious weather and open to the public! More than just an historic museum it offers a sensory experience from the steady motion of the waterwheels, the rhythmic clattering of the internal milling machinery to the flowing water of the beck and the smell of wild garlic outside. We’re proud to be continuing the UNESCO Word Heritage Site story by illustrating how this historic building was once a bustling hive of industry and community focal point.”

Eskdale Mill & Heritage Trust Chairman Paul Pharaoh said: “The reopening of Eskdale Mill marks an exciting milestone in the project. Like many organisations in the heritage sector the Mill relies on our team of dedicated volunteers, without their time, passion and knowledge the Mill wouldn’t be where it is today. For anyone with an interest in gardening, mechanics and heritage we have volunteer opportunities available. It’s a great way to meet people become part of a community.”

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