An initial hydrology report in the spring of 2009 was the first milestone. Its key findings were that the drop in water level at the weir and the volume of flow in the Cherwell will allow enough
electricity to be generated to make the scheme viable, given that much of the civil engineering works are already in place so that cost will not have to be covered.
During the summer of 2009, some 30 villagers and friends participated in volunteer work parties to clear the river and key parts of the banks. Over the years, willows, some 3 or 4 foot in diameter, had come down both into the river and where works are needed on shore. The ones in the river impeded the flow and would have reduced the amount of power generated.
In addition to the fallen trees, there were some breaches in the river bank and there was also a small dam, or ‘lasher’ upstream, built to control flooding of the mill by diverting flood water before it reached the sluice. This was in a state of some disrepair, broken by falling trees, and needed to be restored to its original condition. This work is now almost complete and a fuller feasibility study and detailed engineering plans have been commissioned. These are part of the process currently in hand of applying for the required permissions.
A small village business, Different Films, is following the progress of the project and recording it for a film to be used for promotional and educational purposes. (See Film Gallery). The project has been fortunate in receiving an award for funding the film from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation Grassroots Grants scheme.
The first phase involved a great deal of physical effort on the part of a large number of volunteers who gave up their weekends to work on clearing the river of fallen trees and preparing the site. Christopher Powles masterminded the weekends – which occasionally involved him and David Martin-Sperry ending up in the river intentionally and not! The project has been particularly fortunate in being able to draw on the generous services of a professional tree-surgeon, Rob Aubrey-Fletcher, who could be seen in various dramatic poses, wrapped with his chain saw round huge tree-trunks and sawdust flying in all directions.
We have also benefitted from the generosity of Smiths of Bletchington who gave us some essential materials free of charge (15 tonnes of clay to be precise!) and Brandon Hire of Kidlington gave us generous terms on the hire of equipment. Also Matt Giles, who runs a successful local building firm and whose family has a long association with the Mill, has generously given his time free to carry out various work that needed a more skilled hand.
All these contributions enabled us to get the river prepared without spending more than a few hundred pounds. For the next phase, however, we needed to raise a few thousand pounds to pay for the
essential permissions required before we can plan in detail for the installation of the turbine. Recent efforts have therefore largely focused on fund-raising. The village fete, a fund raising party
at the Mill and sale of timber from the oak tree donated by a local landowner have been successful. The focus is now therefore moving to the detailed design and other studies needed for the various
The scheme is supported by a grant from The Naturesave Trust.
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