Blue Flower

All Narborough organisations are invited to report on their activities over the last year at the Annual Parish Meeting which is open to the public, this was on 4/4/22. 

NARBOROUGH BONE MILL ANNUAL REPORT APRIL 2022

The bone mill ground bones to make fertilizer between the 1830s and 1890s. It is a mile from the village and can be seen from the Nar Valley Way footpath which starts from River Close.

In 2015 an HLF grant was awarded to repair and conserve the water wheel and surrounding brickwork. Since then, a team of volunteers has worked there almost every Thursday, uncovering the site to find the original brick floors of the buildings and many features including tunnels. We have a visitor centre in the style of the original mill building where finds discovered on site are displayed including bones, clay pipes, a human skull bone and coins. 

We usually open to the public twice a year for Mills Weekend in May and Heritage Open Days in September. Mills weekend was cancelled last year due to Covid, but we had very successful Heritage Open Days, the model mill was on display which shows the mill in its working days and we had the water wheel turning which is an impressive sight. We open for Mills Weekend this year on 7 & 8 May.

In the last year we received two grants, a Greening Our Communities grant from Norfolk Community Foundation to create a Wildflower Meadow, and a Green Community Grant from Breckland Council for wildlife, re-cycling & re-use, solar energy and encouraging cycling.

Our wildflower meadow project includes replacing a large storage container with a wooden shed made by our volunteers under the guidance of Fred Munford. The mill is owned by the Munford family who helped volunteers with many of the projects and refurbishment of the site. We cleared out the old container as the new shed is almost complete and ready to take to site. We will then start earthworks to prepare the soil for sowing wildflower seeds, then carry out metal detecting on the area to look for finds. The wildflower meadow will have a picnic bench, insect hotels and paths mown through the area, it should attract various insects and birds which feed on them. Building foundations next to the wildflower meadow were exposed and a viewing feature with interpretation sign was made. 

Councillors Ian Sherwood and Peter Wilkinson visited the mill with the grant funders and presented us with the Green Community Grant cheque. We have bought most of the items including nest boxes for various birds, mammals and reptiles, most of which have been put up, some have nest box cameras. Narborough Museum and Swaffham Men’s Shed made most of our bird nest boxes. We also bought bird feeders and food which we top up every week, solar panels, display screens which should be ready by Mills Weekend for showing videos and slideshows of the water wheel turning and restoration of the site, a mini fridge, cycle rack, repair kits and tools. We also made a compost bay and wildlife habitat from re-used materials. Both projects will be completed by August 2022.

Other activity in the last year has been cutting tall nettles on the Nar Valley Way last summer as it was almost impassable and Norfolk County Council did not cut it, clearing fallen trees on the footpath and making habitat piles from the logs. We also repaired the bench with side tables which we fitted opposite the mill for walkers. A lot of the summer was spent cutting all the grass at the mill with a ride on mower kindly loaned to us by Owen Turner and Maria. 

A major find was discovered in the river, the iron anchor strap from the upper lock which held the mitre gate in place was found below the missing quoin stone where it would have been fitted, this is now on display. 

We had a stall at the Community Centre Open Day last June showing what we have done, we had photos of the restoration, a selection of finds discovered on site, video of the water wheel turning and the model mill on display.

Large numbers of trees have recently been planted at the mill, along the river bank and at The Maltings, most of these were from the Norfolk County Council & DEFRA free tree scheme.

We put a sign on our swinging footbridge inviting walkers to cross over and join us to view the site on Thursdays when volunteers are there and we have enjoyed seeing more visitors and showing them around, we also encourage visits from dog walkers.

We want to recruit new volunteers to help with our projects, so if you enjoy light, relaxing work in a beautiful tranquil setting with an amazing history, a good selection of wildlife and the opportunity to meet visitors, please contact us through our website to arrange to look round. If you would just like to visit the mill you can join us at the open days or any Thursday.

On New Year’s Day, David Turner gave us a picture of airmen from Narborough Aerodrome swimming in the upper lock in 1917. To see the picture and for more information or to contact us, see our website www.bonemill.org.uk

Graham Bartlett

Project Co-ordinator

Narborough Bone Mill