Using rope access and steeplejack techniques to repair, maintain and paint a windmill may not be an easy task, but it is certainly more financially and visually favourable to scaffolding.
WallWalkers were recently contracted by Willesborough Windmill Trust to carry out the sympathetic repainting works to the stunning windmill sitting proudly on the hilltop.
The windmill is one of the largest smock mills in the South of England. A Grade II* listed building, the windmill was first built in 1869 and has a working life of around eighty years, until it was purchased in the 1950’s to be transformed in to a private dwelling.
This unfortunately proved to be ill-fated, as the windmill was not maintained, and it’s continued degradation lead to the mill falling in to disrepair over the subsequent decades.
In 1991, however, Ashford Borough Council finally recognised the impending loss of this cultural staple and piece of living history. They purchased it and oversaw the lengthy restoration project.
In 2002 the Mill was leased by Willesborough Windmill Trust Ltd, who are now responsible for its upkeep. The Friends of Willesborough Windmill have now fully restored it back to working order.
All the original machinery has now been restored and is now back grinding corn by the wind or by the restored single cylinder 14hp Hornsby engine.
The most complex aspect of the project:
WallWalkers were contracted to clean, sand, repair and paint areas including the weatherboard tower, cap, fan stage (including removal of all boards, sanding/painting and re-installation) and repairs to the tower windows and failed putty. Painting was to be of one coat half-rich Kreidezeit paint, and one coat full-rich Kredezeit paint.
Most difficult of all problem solving activities lay in manoeuvring our various network of crisscrossing rope access systems, so to sand and paint each area without our abseil ropes being covered in the process.
Another challenge was in accessing the most awkward locations, such as behind the sweeps, and the underside of the fantail.
Couple this with the fact that the team of four needed to be in constant flow, so to be most efficient with time and keep the project schedule on track, the pressure was on to complete all work to the highest of standards that both we and the client were seeking.
The timescales were tight, with a very definite deadline set by the client, which would see us complete our works on the Friday due to a wedding the following day.
Visions of the wedding dress whirling in the wind so soon after our paint works had us considering whether to leave huge “wet paint!” signs across the grounds.
Luckily, the weather was dry and beautifully sunny throughout, leaving the windmill dry on their special day.
Our maintenance team ultimately achieved stellar results here, finishing right on time whilst giving this stunning Sussex windmill, a quintessential piece of English heritage, a refreshing lease of life for many more years.
Following completion of the works, we even found we had a spot of paint left in the tin. Rather than leaving this to waste, the team continued to paint the railings surrounding the weatherboard walkway surrounding the windmill base!
Some kind words from our client:
We have since received a letter from a representative of the Willesborough Windmill Trust, of whom we had communicated with throughout the works. They have said;
“On behalf of the Trust, I would like to thank you and your team for the efficient way you have carried out the contract for painting the Mill, leaving the work site clean and tidy.
The volunteers at the Mill were very impressed with the respectful way your team treated the Mill.
A member of SPAB has been in touch with me about the work and I will try to get a small article into their Mill News publication.”
See photos below of the project, and the stunning drone video footage captured throughout the works.
We highly recommend a visit to the lovely windmill, where the surroundings beckon you to enjoy a long picnic in the sun, the opportunity to learn some interesting local history inside the wonderful barn conversion on the grounds, and of course an exploration of the windmill and the incredible machinery it houses.
Photos by Silvia Bellamy
Drone footage by Marco Briaschi