Blue Flower

Thursday 28/12/23  On our way to the mill we saw the Swan and Cygnets in the river near the mill. High winds had blown our compost bins over, so our first job was putting them back and attaching the square one to the compost bay with screws to stop it falling over again. Eddie and Ryan got the fire alight in the railway wagon, Eddie brought more logs in and put them by the fire. We saw a Robin in a tree from the wagon window. 

Eddie brought paint stripper and scrapers, he spread stripper on the bench he donated and left it to react while he tidied up the wagon, filled the bird feeders and got nails out of some salvaged wood. Later he used the scrapers to remove the dissolved paint from the bench.

I brought my track saw so we could make another insect hotel. I cut a piece of plywood from an old chair to use for the back, it was a windy day so I wore goggles to protect my eyes from sawdust, Ryan removed upholstery and staples from the plywood. I got lengths of pallet wood out of the shed loft and cut all the pieces for the insect hotel frame which Ryan drilled and assembled. Eddie brought us a cup of tea while we were working.

Ryan pulled up dried hollow weed stems to use as canes in the insect hotel, he found the only way to cut them to length without crushing them was to carefully use the chainsaw. I filled the bottom layer with pine cones and split some wood to fill another compartment. While looking for the pine cones I found a box of wood which I had put aside for making an insect hotel a year ago, but we had already made the frame by the time I found the wood.

Ryan cut the wire mesh to size, this was from the Kingfisher tunnel we modified. I stapled the mesh to the front of the insect hotel to stop things falling out. Ryan cut logs from the wood store to length for the top section, he put screws in from the back to hold the logs in place, then drilled holes in the front of them for insects to go into.

I fitted the insect hotel to a stand made from a piece of wood we salvaged recently, then cut legs from another plank of pallet wood and fitted them to the stand. We put the insect hotel with the others ready to go in the wildflower meadow when it next flowers, which should be late May.

SUMMARY OF 2023  This year got off to a bad start as our riverside wall collapsed in January, we had to wait until late spring before we could clear the debris, various delays mean the wall will probably be repaired next spring, as we can’t get machines along the track in winter.

In February a Kingfisher nest tunnel was installed in the river bank, we have another which we plan to fit in the river wall when its repaired. 

The bird nest boxes were cleaned out and in April the cameras showed Jackdaws which took over the Barn Owl box again, and Great Tits which nested in the small bird box, so we watched the chicks being raised again.

The highlight of the year was our Wildflower Meadow flowering for the first time in late May. We put the picnic bench and insect hotels in the meadow and made a sign showing wildlife seen there. We cut paths through the meadow all summer and invited the public to join us to see the flowers, we had many visitors in the summer. 

We opened for Mills Weekend in May when we also celebrated the Coronation of King Charles lll. We held Heritage Open Days in September, both events were well attended with some excellent feedback from visitors. We had our water wheel turning at both events. 

June was a busy month, the railway wagon was rubbed down, filled and re-painted, 3 bone mill volunteers cleared Narborough Church yard of brambles & nettles, and cut back the public footpath next to the Church. We permanently covered the Blacksmith’s area with soil as we needed to go across it to clear debris from the river wall and it will deteriorate further if not covered up. We then removed debris from the fallen wall in the river. We repainted the bench seat on the footpath which walkers use, Eddie gave us another bench recently which we plan to paint and install on the footpath.

In July we had a stand at Narborough Fair with finds and displays from the mill on show including a video of the water wheel turning and a slideshow of the meadow in flower.

We put up a Kestrel box and several Bat boxes left over from our Green Grant in August. We kept grass cut on the footpath opposite the mill through the summer and cleared two fallen trees which were blocking the footpath. 

In September Peter Wilkinson, Breckland Council Chairman visited the mill with his group of walkers on a sponsored walk he organised for charity. Peter has helped the bone mill for many years including supporting our recent grant applications.

We gained another volunteer in September, Howard, a retired Fireman from Heacham, who plans to move nearer to Narborough next year. Ryan who helped us in school holidays has now started work so will only be able to join us occasionally, we’ve started having weekend work parties, so working people can join us. Anne Marie has planted many flowers in the various gardens, a new garden was made around a young Oak tree at the far end of the site. Barry who volunteered with us from 2016 to 2020 sadly passed away in July.

We extended our compost bay made of old pallets in October, this doubled the size of it, as it was always overflowing, we also added two small compost bins.

Two nest cameras stopped working in December, we examined the cables and found mice had chewed the main wiring loom, we are waiting delivery of a free replacement cable so we should be able to get the cameras working again soon ready for next season.

We are actively recruiting volunteers, if you would enjoy doing light work at our historic, tranquil riverside location with plenty of wildlife to watch, please see the volunteering article and contact us.

I would like to thank all the volunteers for everything they've done this year, we have achieved a lot. Happy New Year to everyone involved with the bone mill.

Graham Bartlett  

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