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Milestone makeover for Windmill appeal

Milestone makeover for Windmill appealA historic windmill is set to launch a major appeal to give it a facelift in time for its 200th birthday.

Thurne Dyke mill’s white tower rises like a ghost from its working past above the watery landscape it used to drain. However the historic landmark is still very much alive as a tourist attraction linked to a museum telling the story of wind power.

But Thurne Dyke Mill near Great Yarmouth is in need of a facelift, as its chalk white torso turns pink through algae growth.

It belongs to a privately-run Wind Energy Museum, at nearby Repps-with-Bastwick, which is set to launch a £10,000 appeal to carry out the work in time for the mill’s 200th anniversary in 2020.

The project comes on top of the £15,000 a year needed to keep the sails turning at the main museum.

Owner Debra Nicholson said: “Thurne Dyke is one of just a handful of working windpumps left in Norfolk, so it is special."

“We need to remove the algae growth and to repaint it – which will cost £8,000-10,000 – so we will need a major campaign to find the funding.”

She inherited the mill and museum from the late Bob Morse who bought and saved it in 1949, two years after the engineer moved to Norfolk. His passion for wind power led to a personal collection which became a museum with a range of mills and fans from as far afield as Australia whose jobs were to generate electricity or pump water from farm fields.

But it was the beauty of the mill that first got bookkeeper Mrs Nicholson involved in the attraction. She explained: “When we moved to Norfolk in the mid-1990s my husband was working away from home, the kids were at school and I didn’t know a soul. I did an A-level photography course to meet people and asked Mr Morse if I could do pictures at Thurne Mill which I knew and loved from family holidays here.

“I passed the exam, we kept in touch and when I phoned him once he was ill and isolated - so I began calling him every day. He asked if I would take the mill and museum on when he died, but I said no – it was too much to learn when he died, so we would get involved straight away to learn from him.”

That was in 2003 and he died four years later, leaving her the mill. Mrs Nicholson, her family and a small team of volunteers now run the museum which normally opens on the last weekend of the month in the holiday season. It also hosts special events such as Heritage Open Days and private groups such as clubs, schools and corporate parties.

The mill, which also features in special events such as strawberry teas and walks linked to lunches and wherry trips, used to be maintained by the Norfolk Windmills Trust, but was handed back when the lease ran out in 2014.

The rest of the museum tells the story of 200 years of wind energy – sitting appropriately between the sails of Victorian drainage mills on the Broads and the modern turbines generating power off the coast at Scroby Sands.

The collection was amassed by Mr Morse and also includes a waterwheel from Whitlingham Lane, a steam engine from Hemsby as well as a range of scale models and memorabilia.

Mrs Nicholson said: “Wind power is not new and this 2.5 acre field charts its history. I love it. It is so powerful yet so peaceful. I find watching the Thurne mill sails go around so relaxing. “

The museum is one of the attractions in the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area, which aims to attract more visitors and spending power to the local economy.

Chairman Gareth Brown said: “This small but unique and fascinating museum shows the kind of hidden treasures there are in the Greater Yarmouth area. We would encourage people to visit and support ventures like this, run by a handful of dedicated people, which add to the rich tapestry of things to do a short drive from the main resort and seafront.“

Mrs Nicholson’s passion for the Wind Energy Museum is featured in a short film on the Greater Yarmouth tourism website under the Media Centre and Behind the Scenes Film sections.

The Wind Energy Museum is hosting Santa days, with a grotto, gifts and refreshments on December 3-4 and 10-11 from noon to 4pm in conjunction with youngsters from the Great Yarmouth based charity The Bread Kitchen.

For news on the mill repaint appeal, monitor the website www.windenergymuseum.co.uk
To offer donations, events or help as a volunteer contact Debra Nicholson on 07796 407864
Follow on Twitter @MuseumWind and @ThurneMill