Sunday, 7 August 2011

VMCC barbecue at Nether Alderley Mill

The centuries old sandstone water mill, mostly steep-pitched mossy stone slab roof slumbering under the trees heavy with full summer foliage, looks as if its been part of this landscape for ever as it studiously ignores the adjacent upstart A34. The intense mid-summer sun radiates down from on high between occasional drifting cumulus and, lizard that I am, I sit on a warm stone by the mill entrance and raise my face to the heat. Barbecue smoke drifts across from the gazebo, the bells of Nether Alderley church are ringing out for a wedding, there's lots of motorcycle chit chat and of course those lovely vintage bikes to admire; what a super way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Bikes at the Mill, barbie under the gazebo

Every year Barry Cook, National Trust Mill Engineer at Styal Mill and a keen motorcyclist, organises a Vintage Motor Cycle Club (VMCC) barbecue at picturesque Nether Alderley Mill, south of Alderley Edge. This year the weather has cooperated and the Mill makes a delightful setting for the event. I arrive early on my 1979 Triumph Bonneville T140D but soon the small area in front of the mill is full of interesting motorcycles. Barry has organised a tasty barbecue which is excellent value at £3 (for a beefburger, pork chop, hot dog and a drink).

My Bonnie, second from right on front row

Nether Alderley flour Mill is a rare example of a 'tandem' waterwheel mill, with an upper waterwheel, the water from which then drives a second, lower, water wheel. It dates back many hundreds of years but is now in need of extensive refurbishment which it is about to get, in no small part due to Barry's efforts in the National Trust. The Trust own the Mill, but were reluctant to find the funds to carry out the repairs (I don't think they are at their best with industrial heritage; houses and gardens are more their 'thing'). The roof of the Mill is on the verge of collapse, and indeed would have done so by now had Barry not put up acro-props to hold up the rotted roof timbers. It would have been tragic if the Mill had fallen into ruin, and this was a real possibility until HRH Prince of Wales visited Styal Mill recently.

The Mill on the left, the gazebo in the distance

Barry is ex-Royal Navy, and served on the Royal Yacht 'Britannia', so knew the Royal family quite well. When he was first introduced to the Queen he described himself as "coming from Chapel en le Frith, a small town in Derbyshire".

"Oh", replied Her Majesty. "That's not far from Chatsworth is it? Do you know the Duke of Devonshire?"

Barry was tempted to reply that yes indeed, he often drank with his Lordship in the local, but thought better of it.

Barry was chatting to Prince Charles during the Royal visit to Styal Mill and happened to mention the parlous state of Nether Alderley Mill. Once it had 'royal attention', it was difficult for the National Trust not to act to save the Mill. Barry is retiring from the Trust soon, and I think the saving of Nether Alderley Mill will be a lasting tribute to his tenure at Styal.

Work is scheduled to start on the Mill in September, and I for one looked upon today's enjoyable event as a celebration of its far rosier future.

Well done Barry!

(Pictures taken with my 'phone, so apologies for their poor quality)


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