Dredging the mill pool was one of the maintenance tasks that got
mentioned in the last blog.
It became obvious through the summer months that we didn't have enough
water in the pool to do more than short periods of milling.
The problem dates back to the awful rain of 2007 that caused flooding
throughout the country and damaged the hillclimb track here at Shelsley
The extreme weather washed many tons of silt into what was then the
newly dredged millpool. When the pool is full it looks fine but the
water was only a few inches deep in large parts of the pool. This was a
problem that would not go away by itself.
We managed to find a contractor who was prepared to tackle the job at a
price we could afford so we drained the pool and they arrived on site
on the 20th September with a digger and a large dumper truck. The first
day seems to have gone reasonably well but disturbing the silt in the
pond had the effect of re-plugging the drain and partially blocking the
pipe to the waterwheel.
What happened next was captured on video. Nothing dramatic, but you can
watch as the team struggle to unblock the drain before calling in the
The following week we were able to use a full pool of water to
finally dislodge the blockage in the penstock pipe. The clang from the
waterwheel as the 'plug' emerged echoed round the farmyard.
The delays cost us an extra day's hire of the digger, but the pool now
has a much greater
capacity and we have found and removed an obstruction in the penstock
pipe that must have been there for many years.
essential task that came to light during the summer was to consolidate
the great spur gear. This is the wooden wheel that takes the drive from
the centre shaft to the stone nuts under each pair of millstones.
wheel is almost certainly contemporary with the centre shaft so must be
over 300 years old. We had trouble all summer with the wooden cogs, the
gear teeth, coming loose. Any cog that protruded too far from the
circumference of the wheel would hit an upright and break off with a
The timber of the gear wheel is mostly sound but
very wormeaten in places. After some research we decided to follow the
suggestion from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings,
SPAB, and use a resin filler. We sourced a specialist wood hardening
resin that soaks into the wood before it hardens. Using this will
preserve the wheel as it is but strengthen the timber to withstand the
occasional use that we need to be able to demonstrate how everything
The two part resin is mixed and then just applied with a
paint brush. Not a difficult task but getting to the inside
surfaces of the gear does require some contortions. There is no way of
cleaning the brushes after they have been in the resin but the cost of
few brushes and the resin is small compared with the cost of getting a
new spur made. We would much rather preserve the original anyway.
need just one more mix of resin to finish the job but we are waiting
for a supply to arrive from America. It's a job we want to finish so
that we can replace all the wooden cogs before they get muddled up. We
might even try some milling to see if the dredging has made any
difference to how long we can continue.