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Restoring Broads mill a labour of love

PUBLISHED: 02:00 18 April 2009 | UPDATED: 09:02 06 July 2010

A photo montage showing Peter Grix and the team of volunteers replacing the cap on Hardley Mill

A photo montage showing Peter Grix and the team of volunteers replacing the cap on Hardley Mill

A derelict drainage mill on the Broads is being restored to working order for the first time in 60 years - thanks to the passion and energy of a Norfolk man and a team of friends and volunteers.

Mr. Grix and the team just before the cap is lifted on to the mill

A derelict drainage mill on the Broads is being restored to working order for the first time in 60 years - thanks to the passion and energy of a Norfolk man and a team of friends and volunteers.

The restoration of the Grade II listed Hardley Mill on the River Yare is the fruition of a 24-year labour of love for 73-year-old Peter Grix, who has ploughed in more than £100,000 of personal savings to make his dream a reality.

Mr Grix's vision and perseverance has resulted in an innovative project costing more than £500,000 which includes the mill, an eco-friendly visitor centre housing an exhibition of windmill history, and 24-hour floating moorings.

Norwich-born Mr Grix fell in love with the mill while boating on the river as a boy. It had been destroyed in 1950, damaged by vandals and was home to thousands of birds.

In 1985, after moving to London to work as an architect, he was determined to restore it. It took him seven years to obtain a 99-year sub-lease from Norfolk County Council, for which Mr Grix pays a peppercorn rent.

With a group of friends he began restoring the mill, sleeping inside the derelict structure during the week.

Rudolf Gunther, 83, from Cringleford, Michael Stephenson, 71, from Marsham, Wally Gould, 70, from Bawburgh and David Battell, 57, from Hardley, have used their engineering, carpentry, and problem solving skills to bring the project to life. Bill Carson from Thurton has been looking after the administration and finances.

In 2005, Mr Grix formed the Friends of Hardley Windmill (FoHW) and money was secured from various grants.

“I've just got a passion for mills and am fascinated by their mechanisms,” said Mr Grix. “They are an extraordinary piece of machinery. It's terrible to see so many falling down in the Broads.

“My main concern is for the future of the mill, to try to ensure that it will be maintained as a working example for the next 100 years. But we badly need more volunteers to form a rota to man the visitor centre and mill. I would like it to be a community project and for local people to take ownership of it and enjoy it.”

Yesterday , the mill cap, crafted by volunteers and Broads Authority millwright trainees, was craned onto the top of the structure. The stocks and sails will be added in a few weeks when the structure will become the only working drainage mill in south Norfolk.

The mill and visitor centre are set on the Wherryman's Way and will be open between March and October.

It will be officially opened on Saturday May 9 and on Sunday May 10 at 10am a four-mile sponsored walk will go from Hardley village hall to Hardley Staithe, along the Wherryman's Way for tea and cakes at the mill and visitor centre. Anybody who would like to take part or offer sponsorship should contact Tony Timmins on 01508 528174.

For more information about the mill visit www.hardley-windmill.org.uk or contact Richard Rockley, the FoHW secretary, on 01508 539221.

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