Controlling and operating a 200 year old machine is not a task for the faint hearted. Apart from learning how to using the various controls for the sails and other machinery, they have to learn to observe the weather, especially the wind, as its direction and force are essential factors to the safe operations of the mill.
Everyone who ‘drives’ Heage Windmill undergoes a lengthy training period and then has to pass a practical ‘exam’ before he or she is permitted to be in sole control of the windmill. However those millers who seek to produce the renowned Heage flours, using the traditional mill stones, still has to continue to gain more experience. The miller is now producing a ‘foodstuff’ so, apart from learning how to operate the mill stones and the feed and processing gear, he/she now has to ensure compliance to numerous regulations, something which the old-time miller never even knew about.
Retired Rolls-Royce engineer Alan Eccleston, who lives in nearby Lower Hartshay, has just met all these exacting requirement and over the weekend was awarded his ‘Flour Miller Certificate’ by Piers Bostock, Chairman of Heage Windmill Society. In making the award Piers said ‘He was delighted to welcome Alan as a fully qualified person who could mill grain into flour –there are not many of them.’ Alan on his part said: ‘Ever since becoming a volunteer at the mill I have aspired to be able to mill and I am now delighted to join the elite group of qualified windmillers here at Heage’.
Don’t forget: Flour is normally on sale every weekend at the windmill, although sometimes lack of wind deems otherwise!