Saturday April 22nd was a largely cloudy day but Heage Windmill’s bunting-clad sails turned, and the day felt brighter when our new patron Jack Kirkland, Chairman of Bowmer & Kirkland, officially opened our 2023 season.
The opening ceremony began – as is the custom of the last few years – by our special guest driving a vintage 1947 Fordson Tractor towards Heage Windmill where he was greeted by Trevor Ainsworth, Chairman of the Trustees.
Trevor spoke of the challenge facing Heage Windmill as it emerged from Covid but was delighted to be looking forward to another full season in 2023 comprising mill tours, special events and the milling of flour, continuing Heage Windmill’s standing as an award-winning visitor attraction.
‘However, we have work to do’ added Trevor, referring to the major repairs ahead that will eventually necessitate the removal of the sails, fantail and cap in order to treat wet rot in key structural timbers. He was confident, though, that when the repairs are completed, the windmill will endure long into the future.
Trevor thanked his ‘dedicated’ team of Friends and Trustees but hoped that more volunteers will come forward to help and support the windmill.
This was a point emphasised when he handed over to Roger Hatcher, Trustee and Chairman of the Friends of Heage Windmill. With the average age of volunteers being around 70, Roger was especially keen to see younger volunteers coming forward, adding that the windmill was aiming to widen visibility to a more diverse audience, involving a greater presence on Facebook and Instagram.
With the restored windmill in its 21st year, Roger reported that visitor numbers were back to pre-pandemic levels and pointed to nearly 50 five-star reviews on Google and Trip Advisor. As well as saluting the work done by the Friends and volunteers, Roger thanked the Mayor of Ripley, Councillor Nigel Weaving – himself a Trustee – and his Consort for attending, with special thanks to the owner of the land around the windmill, Richard Hallas.
Finally, Roger expressed his hope that the windmill’s long-standing relationship with Bowmer & Kirkland ‘will extend well into the future’ adding that ‘Heage Windmill has been here for 226 years and, as we are but temporary custodians, we must help ensure the windmill survives for another 226 years.’
Jack Kirkland, accompanied by his partner Thiago and children Eva and Max, said he felt honoured to be following in the footsteps of his father, John Kirkland, who was a long-time Patron of the windmill, and delighted that Heage Windmill is continuing its association with Bowmer & Kirkland, whose headquarters overlook the windmill. ‘I’ve got you in my sights’ he quipped to the assembled volunteers and visitors.
After cutting the ribbon, Jack was presented with a bag of the windmill’s own flour, and his children Eva and Max were gifted a windmill wind spinner each plus a small bag of flour to share. This was followed by the family enjoying a tour of the windmill.