Major attraction reopens after being hit by flooding

The River Till flooded the basement of Heatherslaw Mill.
The River Till flooded the basement of Heatherslaw Mill.

A flood-hit tourist attraction has pulled out all the stops to be open again for the February half-term.

Heatherslaw Mill, on the Ford and Etal Estates, was flooded in early January, but after a huge clean-up operation, it is once again ready to welcome visitors.

However, the Heatherslaw Light Railway, which was also affected by the rising waters, remains closed due to flood damage. Track repairs are continuing and the attraction is due to reopen on March 20.

Elspeth Gilliland, tourism manager at Ford and Etal Estates, said: “The miller had a mammoth job to un-silt and clean out the basement, waterwheel and all the mechanisms housed in the basement, but having done so has been milling ever since.

“He has also welcomed the first two groups of the year – one school and one cub-scout group – doing bread-making activities with one of them, so it’s a great recovery story.”

Following the retirement of Julia Nolan, miller at Heatherslaw for 17 years, there is a new miller in charge, Dave Harris-Jones. He was previously a miller at Little Salkeld, in Cumbria, and now lives at Laverock Law with his wife and children.

Thanks to the North East Museum Development Programme, funded by Arts Council England, and managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, a grant awarded before Christmas has allowed more baking equipment and a small oven to be installed.

This means that baking days will feature on the events calendar this season and on each of the three days the mill is open in February half-term. The grant also covered the cost of having the boards outside the mill and over the bridge rejuvenated.

From February 16 to 18 inclusive, the mill will be open to explore and visitors can try their hand at bread-making with the mill’s own flour. Sessions are at 11.30am and 2pm. Participants can also paint a pot for springtime and plant it with a strawberry plant.

On the same days at the Estates’ Lady Waterford Hall, there will be a light-hearted look at a Victorian school day in the original Victorian school.

Visitors can learn how children were taught in Victorian times and can try their hand at italic writing, look at old coins and do some sums on an old-fashioned slate.

Visit ford-and-etal.co.uk