ALAN GIFFORD – Founder Trustee
With my strong engineering background, I became fascinated by the workings of windmills and so developed the windmill ‘bug.’ This led me to join the MMG – Midlands Mills Group – in 1974. I made my first visit to Heage Windmill in 1978. Frustratingly, I couldn’t get in! Although the mill had been partially restored by Derbyshire County Council in 1972, it was rarely open to the public.
In the 80’s, MMG were invited to act as guides for few planned opening days. We were overcome: we had about 500 visitors one day. However, we realised that the mill seriously needed TLC! At the same time, Amber Valley Borough Council’s Tourism Officer told us the windmill could become a great tourist attraction. Together, these acted as a spur to do something; but I never realised ‘doing something’ would nearly take over my life!
We formed Heage Windmill Society in 1996, sought grants and had her restored by 2002. Since then, my life has revolved around the mill through writing books, giving talks and handling all the publicity. I am proud to have seen her rise from its ‘ashes’ to become a real Derbyshire gem!
Kevin McDonald – Vice-Chair of the Trustees
I have worked for The Bowmer & Kirkland Group of companies in many guises for the last two decades and have seen the fabric of the Windmill every day from the offices which I am fortunate to call work.
Knowing the importance of community in this area, I had the pleasure to get involved with this wonderful windmill in 2021 and am now working as Vice-Chair of the Trustees.
My involvement with the windmill came at such a good time with the Hairy Bikers TV programme galvanising website traffic, flour sales and, better still, visitors to the windmill.
I always stand in awe of this windmill when I consider that it’s been on this site for over 225 years, and I am in even greater awe when I think of the work that went in to restore this iconic stone tower windmill, the only one of its type in this country.
It’s been a proud pleasure to know that my old boss at Bowmer & Kirkland, the late John Kirkland, was a great patron of the windmill. John often told me of the delight he felt just being able to view the windmill from his office window. John’s presence will be sadly missed but I’m glad to see that his son Jack has taken over as patron, thus continuing that Kirkland legacy.
Heage Windmill faces challenges as we look to replace the shears at considerable cost but I feel that my great passion for this windmill – which I know is shared with all the Friends and Volunteers – will overcome the difficult times ahead and see our windmill thrive long into the future.
ROGER HATCHER – Trustee, Chair of The Friends & Guide
Like many people I had driven past the windmill frequently over the years but never visited. It was only when my wife and I moved into Nether Heage in 2013 that we resolved to support this beautiful building by volunteering – but in what capacity?
Prior to retirement I had worked for 34 years as a teacher so it seemed sensible to train as a Guide. The existing volunteers were so helpful, friendly and encouraging that the training process was soon completed.
It is such a pleasure to meet the public and hopefully extend their knowledge of mills and milling. My IT background has also meant that I have been able to co-edit and produce the Grist newsletter for the Friends of Heage Windmill.
There are many areas in which volunteers can help with the upkeep and running of the mill which is so rewarding. You are always welcome and would be working alongside a great group of people.
Nigel Weaving – Trustee
I retired from the laboratory service of the NHS in 2010, moving to Derbyshire in 2012. Living in the Midlands for a while, Derbyshire was our playground and we brought our three children here, mostly camping. It was always on the cards to retire here. Having moved to this county, I visited Heage Windmill and was impressed by its history and the fact it was a working example of a windmill and supported and maintained by volunteers.
In 2016 I was co-opted onto Ripley Town Council and was chosen to be the Council representative at the windmill’s Trustee meetings. I found these meetings very interesting, as it involved balancing the running of the mill with maintaining the structure of the mill and surroundings for the enjoyment of the public, whilst also ensuring its longevity.
In 2019 I was invited to be co-opted onto the Board of Trustees which I thought to be a considerable honour. There is a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure the safe operation of the mill, the production and sale of its renowned flour and observing Health and Safety standards to ensure visitors have a trouble free experience.
Heage Windmill is an important tourist attraction in the locality and we all work hard to ensure its success.
ALAN ECCLESTON – Trustee, Miller
I used to pass the windmill twice a day on my journey to and from work, where I was in the agricultural supply industry as a Poultry Nutritionist.
When I retired, I checked out the windmill website and discovered that volunteers were always needed, so I signed up for maintenance duties mid-2016.
Since then, I have trained as a Freewheeling Miller and help out on visitor days. In time, I hope to progress and become one of the windmill’s Flour Millers.
I thoroughly enjoy the company of my fellow volunteers, have learnt new skills and would recommend the volunteer programme to anyone who has an interest in our industrial history.