Tuesday 11 December 2012

Last volunteer workday of the year

No pictures in today's freezing fog.

Richard, George and I finished demolishing the launder and stacked all the bottom planks and side support boards, as well as the control gates, tidily out of the way.  We hope to use some of the timber to build a new run-off chute for the dump valve.

When we meet again next year we expect to be meeting a Trust building man to discuss the kiln and launder rebuilds, and Sara has arranged for some scaffolding so we can hover safely above the spillway pit while rebuilding the launder.  We also need to have a safe platform while rebuilding the lip of the spillway itself.

Well, I guess that's it for 2012.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Farewell plastic pond liner

 Today we began to dismantle the old launder.  We had to remove the plastic pond liner that has kept us more-or-less watertight for the past 2 seasons, then knock the bottom planks out with a very big hammer.  Because the weather was very cold, and there had been snow recently, the launder had a good layer of ice, and you can see George shovelling some of it away.

Earlier, when we first arrived, we found that the huge stack of timber for the launder and the waterwheel lining had been delivered - in fact it was delivered last Friday and had spent the weekend freezing into a solid lump.  We scraped the ice off, managed to separate the boards, and got them all safely stored by lunchtime.  All the screws and other hardware had been delivered up at the house, along with our very own assemble-it-yourself wheelbarrow.  We therefore assembled the barrow fingertight so we could wheel the ironmongery down to the mill.

After lunch we had a useful forward planning meeting with Sara.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

A couple more weeks' odd jobs

Richard cleans the burr stone
 Over the past 2 Tuesdays we have pottered ahead:

  • We finished cleaning the burr stones and tun, including dismantling, cleaning and re-lubricating the top bearing, before putting the whole thing back together.
  • We sorted some of the stones in the kiln room to try to identify the ones that made up the arch.
  • We began to dismantle the launder ready for rebuilding.  This started with the removal of the wooden railings and some of the bolts holding the side joining plates.
  • We designed the fixings for two pulleys to run the rope for the sack hoist under the hurst staging where it eventually wraps round the lay shaft.
  • We continued to work on the shelling stone stone nut.
  • We made a box to contain the sand counterweight that sits on the dump valve lever.
  • We had a long meeting with Sara and Trust archaeologist Jamie Lund to discuss the project to rebuild the kiln and improve visitor access.
  • We helped garden volunteer Jim to celebrate his birthday by eating the enormous chocolate cake his wife had provided.

Mike prepares the launder
...with George

Jim and his cake

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Another busy Tuesday

Before we started, we had to have a picture of
all 3 of us with our Marsh Heritage Award

 We carried on fitting the first pulley for our revised sack hoist, first filing out the casting to fit the bolt we used as axle, then mounting it between the wooden supports.  We gave a lot of thought to the lift itself, as it would be useful to be able to hoist our "Really Useful" boxes as well a sacks.  A platform, with or without sides, attached by chains which would open the trapdoor, seemed to be favourite.  We also removed the stop mechanism actuator from the old sack hoist because it was in the way.  In the process we revealed quite a lot of woodworm activity in the roof truss - fortunately only in the outer few mm.

Richard carried on fitting the discs to the No 1 stone nut, and George and Mike cleared 8 barrowloads of rubble from the pit.  We fitted a bolt to the new "gate" across the front of the kiln.

Later we dismantled the tun and lifted the No 2 runner stone so we could hoover out all the grain and stuck flour.  We left the stone supported on blocks so we can lift it fully and check the bearing

Monday 12 November 2012

Presentation of the Marsh Heritage Volunteering Award

Bob and Richard receive the award from
Brian Marsh applauded by Dame Fiona Reynolds

On Saturday November 10th Bob and Richard, with Sylvia, attended the AGM of the National Trust to collect their Marsh Heritage Award.

The AGM itself was much more interesting than we had expected.  The big names at the helm of the Trust, particularly the Chairman Simon Jenkins, proved to be very good at fielding questions from the floor and delivering thoughtful and believable answers.

The meeting was dominated by the departure of  the Director General, Dame Fiona Reynolds.  She had obviously created a powerful impression on those she worked with, and earned deep respect and loyalty.  The tributes paid to her were very fulsome and emotional.
Brian Marsh poses with us and
our plaque and certificate

The time finally came for us to go up on the stage and receive our plaque and certificate from the founder and chairman of the Marsh Christian Trust, Brian Marsh, to loud applause from the large crowd of members at the meeting.

This may not be the place to discuss it, but I couldn't help feeling there is a disconnect between the lofty ideals of Simon Jenkins & co and the reality of the 67,000 volunteers who are mainly loyal to their property rather than the abstraction of the Trust.

The Plaque

The Certificate

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Access to the kiln

Richard surveys the
newly-hinged fence
We spent today fixing supports and hinges to the fence in the kiln room so that we could swing it out of the way to improve access.  Anything is better than having to climb the fence every time, especially for those of us with short legs.

Richard continued to file the steel discs for the shelling stone stone-nut to improve their fit on the taper.

We also removed the handle and main gear from the winnower so the handle shaft can be repaired.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Shelling stones and sack hoist continued

 The mild steel plates to improve the fit of the shelling stone stone nut have come back from the engineering works, cut out, drilled and tapped. We cut the lengths of 14mm studding and started to file the plates to improve the fit still further.  We need to refit the shelling stone before we can continue with the...
...sack hoist.  We took down two pulleys that had been used by the original restorers as part of the inoperable sack hoist.  After cleaning them up we gave them a coat of red oxide primer.  We cut some 10mm studding and two angle-iron plates to clamp timbers to one of the roof beams to carry the first pulley over the trap doors.  Ray is gong to make two further wooden pulleys to direct the rope under the hurst frame.

Meanwhile sorting of the stone in the kiln started, and some of the dirt and rubble was removed from the bottom of the pit.  George also repaired some of the masonry which had broken out where the hinge for the cart shed door was fitted.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Sack hoist and kiln work

Our attempts to reurrect some kind of sack hoist continue.  It looks as though we need to spool the rope round the shaft rather than the pulley of the layshaft to get a controllable speed.  The pulley is 0.7m diameter, so would lift about 2m per revolution.  As it is geared up 80/11 from the pit wheel, by my calculations at 10 wheel revs per minute it would lift at about 8 feet per second.  Anyway, we have started moving the sheaves to where they will need to be and planning where the rope will run.

We also started to lay out the position of the walls of the kiln using the plans drawn up by the people who restored the mill around 1990.  There seem to be one or two inconsistencies in the dimensions, but we concluded that the front wall, which housed the firebox, would have been where the plank is on this photo - blocking a good part of the existing passageway.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Apple Day and Beyond

Last Sunday was Apple Day at Acorn Bank - the event was a success.  The weather was better than it has often been recently, and the planning had allowed for wet fields.  The planners had moved the parking to a different field, and put the stallholders' tents along the path from the house to the mill. The public entrance was part way along, nearer the mill than the house, which brought us a lot of visitors.  We were milling and also, very successfully, selling our flour and loaves made from it by an artisan baker.  We were joined again by Stuart Hobbs from Heron Mill - thanks for all the help, Stuart.

Today (Tuesday) we carried on painting the brackets for the launder rebuild.  Ray started adding side cheeks to the layshaft pulley so we can use it for a modified sack hoist,though it will run rather fast.  Bob bagged some flour, including trying out some new sample bags.  The local engineering works sent the taper repair plates for the shelling stones in for us to mark the positions for the screw holes.  Richard marked them out, then Bob helped him drill pilot holes.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

A brief catchup

Sorry to have missed a few weeks - a combination of holidays and a couple of mill visits which I'm still trying to catch up for the blog.

Recent jobs have included:
  • Making brackets out of mild steel strip for the future renovation of the launder.
  • Clearing the upper reaches of the headrace.
  • Raising the bank of the lowest part of the headrace so that it won't overflow and wash the path away.
  • Continuing to fill in the voids in the stonework in the mill building.
  • Converting a large box to make a storage cupboard for flour bagging equipment and an old radiogram cabinet to make a bookcase.
  • Keeping on making and bagging flour to try to keep up with demand.

Today we also starrted looking at photos and drawings of the kiln, trying to visualise how it fitted in the ruined space we now have.

We would really like to start stabilising the stonework with a view to rebuilding the structure.  The other idea is a to put a bridge through the kiln between the information room and the upper floor of the mill so that visitors can see the milling process from a different angle; it would also make access better for the disabled.  However we found that the information room floor is a whole foot (30cm for the younger reader) higher than the mill floor.  This will lead to some challenges in the design of the walkway.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Gypsum mine artefact

Richard and Ray decided to try to excavate a truck from the former gypsum mine.  It was lying quite well buried at the foot of a slope near the drift mine, and is lacking wheels and side panels, but the frame seems quite sturdy.  It took most of the day, but they seem to have got it out.  A working party will be needed to drag it up the slope.
Ray had made a pair of plywood reinforcements for the square hole in the lid of the Really Useful Box we collect the flour in - the lid had cracked in use.  Bob drilled and fitted the reinforcements (this required the points of the screws to be filed off).  It was agreed that nuts and bolts would not be suitable, as the nuts could fall off into the flour.

Mike was continuing to paint the walls with limewash.

Later, Mike and Bob bagged all the remaining flour, but more will be needed for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Improving power

Nic gets to grips with one of our headrace hoes
In order to mill while the river is at a rather lower level, we needed to improve the flow in the headrace and the efficiency of the wheel itself.

While Mike and George continued improving the state of the internal walls of the milling room, we had a visit from NT Business Support person, Nic Frampton.  She indicated she would like to help, so we set her to clearing the last section of the headrace.  In half an hour she shifted a lot of sludge.

Ray and Richard were working on fitting pieces of plastic pond liner inside the wheel buckets as a temporary repair, pending having the time and wood to repair it properly.  Unfortunately, we only had a limited amount left, so they had to prioritise the worst buckets.

Later Bob drove over to Little Salkeld to collect some more wheat and flour bags.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Bagging at last

Richard and Ray used the new jack support beam to lift the inner end of the main shaft so that the bearing could be cleaned and re-greased.  The first picture shows the bearing with the top cover and most of the grease removed.
The second shows Richard adjusting the position of the jack so that the shaft lifted exactly vertically - otherwise it tended to lean on the bearing shell and stop it being moved.

Once everything was in order, the bearing shell was removed. The wear is easily visible and eventually a new one may be needed.
Meanwhile Bob siliconed under the edge trims of the bagging bench worktop (which Ray had fitted earler) and continued to put sealant on the internal corners of the grain storage bin.

Once the sealant was dry Bob took the opportunity of trying on the protective clothing so he could sieve and bag the flour we milled on 10th July.  That gives us 12 bags we can sell at the weekend.

George spent the day cleaning up and re-pointing the damp walls in the public part of the mill room. he is later going to put waterproof sealant and limewash on them.

Thursday 2 August 2012

All systems go!

Today we had a second visit from the Environmental Health inspector from Eden District Council, who had previously approved the milling of flour for public consumption.  She met Acorn Bank custodian Sara Braithwaite, catering manager Sarah Swindells and mill volunteer Bob.

It was a very helpful meeting, and the inspector passed on a considerable amount of her knowledge and experience.  She was very pleased with the progress we had made, particularly with lining the roof, and was prepared to give us the all-clear for the bagging of flour in the mill, subject to completing the sealing of the bench (Bob had bought the metal end covers, they just need to be fitted and siliconed) and including hoovering the overhead beam in the pre-bagging checklist.

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Main shaft bearing and bagging area

Just three of us again today - Richard, Mike and Bob.
Richard wanted to overhaul the wet-side bearing of the main shaft, so he rigged up a 3-tonne chain lift and pulled. And pulled. And pulled. Surely it can't be that heavy? At last realisation dawned - the hook block had twisted 360 degrees between the chains - sort of up and over between the two chains connecting it to the main block. This put a twist in the chain which prevented it running into the block. This may account for the problems we had on March 27th (see blog for that date).
Once that had been sorted the shaft was easily lifted and the massive stone bearing block removed for cleaning.This photo shows it degreased - the recess that the bearing pintle runs in looks rough, but feels quite smooth.

I had to include this nice Tolkien-ish picture of Richard working on the pintle...
...but you can see what he's doing better in this one.
Finally the bearing was re-greased and reassembled.

Apart from helping Richard as required, Bob and Mike finished the bagging area, fitting more plywood panels, sealing corners with beading, varnishing parts, and applying miles of antibacterial silicon sealant to the gaps and edges - and even the big crack in the roof truss..

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Bagging area - continued

Just three of us today (Ray, Mike and Bob), so we carried on boarding the roof above the bagging area and the wall behind.  All the board has been varnished.

We also tidied the cables that cross the area by putting them in a length of plastic trunking.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Improving the bagging area

Today George was filling some of the rather random holes in the masonry with wood, stone and lime mortar and Richard was working on the No 2 stone drive shaft (see later in this entry).  The rest of us made a start on the improvements required so we can bag flour in the mill.

 Ray removed the old back board from the wall and Mike cleaned it up and gave it a couple of coats of varnish.

Meanwhile Ray and Bob measured and cut two plywood panels to board over the bare slates, and these too were given some varnish. They will be screwed to the rafters next week when the varnish is dry.

 Mike went on to varnish the ends, legs and underside of the bagging bench.

 One of the other improvements listed last week was to the control that adjusts the angle of the shoe.  Bob found and removed this rather nice screw adjuster from the second, rather derelict, winnower.  Richard is going to adapt it to pulling the string.

Finally, as mentioned above, Richard had made some brackets which he clamped to the No 2 stones drive shaft.  There are brackets clamped above and below the stone nut taper.  Those below are to prevent the wedges falling out, while those above are to stop the taper sliding up the shaft when the stone nut is raised - the nut is a very good fit on the taper and tends to bind.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Milling Course

Richard, George, Nick, Mike, Ray and Bob

Today the 5 mill volunteers were treated to a basic milling course, courtesy of Nick Jones, owner of and miller at Little Salkeld Watermill.

We spent the morning around Nick's mill, seeing how different bits of machinery operated, learning about the various grains and flours and seeing how they influenced the milling process.

At lunch time it was pouring with rain (see picture), but nonetheless we stood in what shelter we could find and ate delicious pizzas baked in their cob oven.

In the afternoon we travelled to Acorn Bank, first to have a photo taken by the man from the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, then to start the mill and grind some flour. At first we could only mill fairly coarse meal, but this was probably due to feeding the grain too fast for the power available, which was limited by the delay between opening up the sluice and the extra water reaching the mill.

A number of improvements were suggested:
  • Repair the leaks in the wheel
  • Improve the launder end box to adjust the angle of flow into the wheel
  • Clear the leat and repair its leaks
  • Make a fine control for the shoe angle adjustment
  • Alter the hopper outlet so that it doesn't need constant attention
  • Put a flap in the front of the tun so the gap between the stones can be seen
  • I forgot this one - put a "sock" below the shoe to prevent grain scattering off the damsel
The other news of the day was that the inspector from Eden Council's public health department had visited and was happy about the milling process.  Unfortunately she was less happy with the bagging area - until some improvements are made bagging will have to be carried out in the tearoom kitchen, which introduces some logistical problems.  Specifically we are required to cover the bare roof slates over the bagging bench and seal all wooden parts in the area.

Friday 29 June 2012

Presented with the cheque!

Today was the day of the staff and volunteer party for our National Trust area. The barbecue was succesfully carried out in a shelter, and we all ended up indoors as it was windy and rather damp. Mike Innerdale, assistant director of operations for the National Trust in Cumbria, took the opportunity of presenting us with the £1000 cheque that is the cash part of the Marsh Heritage Award.

We now have to agree on what to spend the money on, though we are all agreed it should be something substantial rather than being frittered away on oak and screws. Then we wait until the AGM in November to receive a plaque and certificates.

Tuesday 12 June 2012


The flour we produced and bagged has proved very popular - there were even people waiting for it to be milled one afternoon. We therefore deduce that there is a viable market for our product.
This week we have been improving the interior of the mill to make it easier to keep it clean and hygienic. Wooden surfaces have been varnished, gaps between the flour bagging surface and its "splashback" have been sealed with food grade silicon, and things have been hoovered.
Two of us have already completed an on-line Food Hygiene course, and more are to follow. A hygiene checklist is being produced and then we will, we think, be ready to resume milling flour for sale.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

A new handle

While Bob was operating the mill on Sunday, the handle of the shutter next to the gate valve came off in his hand. Inspection showed that there had been a knot in the wood at just the point of maximum stress. Today Ray and Bob made a new, overengineered, handle. The design was mainly to avoid having to dismantle the whole assembly to remove the shutter. They can be seen above putting the screws in.

Meanwhile George was getting on with the pointing.
Note that, entirely by accident, none of today's pictures shows anyone's face.

Monday 14 May 2012

National Mills weekend 2012

We were open and milling all day Saturday and Sunday for Mills Weekend. The weather was very favourable on Saturday, Sunday was gloomier but at least it didn't rain.

There were children's activities in the information room, including making decorative cup-cakes from playdough, K-nex and other construction toys and pizza making.  Chris had the cob oven nicely warmed up for cooking the pizzas.

Garden volunteer Janice's husband, a professional baker, had taken away some of our flour and baked some superb bread both for tasting and for people to buy.  Some of the (100% wholemeal) flour was mixed with Little Salkeld unbleached white flour, some was used on its own.  It was a roaring success, and sold out completely.
Meanwhile we kept the stones turning and bagged and boxed lots of flour.  The 500g bags were offered to visitors for a donation.  Overall I estimate almost a hundred of them went.  Since last Tuesday we have milled 150kg of wheat - not sure how much we wore on our clothes!

The tea room had made some pastry and cake with our flour, and that was also very succesful.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

At last it can be told!

At the end of last year, we submitted an entry for the Marsh Heritage Award.  This Award, run by the Marsh Christian Trust in partnership with the National Trust, "recognises the contribution of groups of volunteers who work tirelessly for the nation's heritage".

 We are delighted to be able to reveal that we won the award, coming first of the nineteen entries from Trust properties all over the country. 

 We have known about this for a while, but we were asked to maintain a diplomatic silence until all the other entrants had been informed.

We were congratulated at the mill on April 1st by a volunteer member of the National Trust Council, Roseanne Williams, who sent us this photo of her with Bob.  There will be a formal presentation later in the year.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Milling again

Two of the curved wedges
for the axletree bearing...
... and one of them in situ
The loose bearing at the indoor end of the axletree has now been fixed. Richard has made some curved wedges from a length of 4 inch pipe. They have nuts welded on so that they can (perhaps) be jacked out of the timber by a screw if necessary.

 Meanwhile, Ray was putting the finishing touches to the grain storage bin. It has three separate lids, each of which is just lifted off the box (no hinges!)  There is also a ventilator, with internal insect screen; another one is to be added when we have obtained another ventilator grille.

George was usefully employed applying some lime mortar to the joint pointing in the launder support piers.  This morning, Bob went to Little Salkeld watermill and obtained 100kg of wheat and a few hundred flour bags - thanks again, Nick.

In the afternoon we started the mill and eventually got the water flow, grain feed and stone separation set correctly so that we were producing decent flour. There are still some whole grains bouncing off the damsel and missing the milling process, but we made a sieve of suitable grade to remove them from the meal. At the quantities we are producing it isn't a problem to sieve all the product.

We then made up the meal into 500g sample bags, about 16 in all by the end of the day.

Richard tests the
Our very first bagged flour!