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Gibson Mill celebrates 10 years, OffTheGrid

Friday, 6 November 2015

Gibson Mill

Gibson Mill
Photo by Anthony Bowler

This year Gibson Mill, located within Hardcastle Crags on the edge of Hebden Bridge, celebrates 10 years of being 'OffTheGrid'. Owned by the National Trust since 1950, and open to the public for the last 10 years, the mill has operated without a connection to the outside world for energy, water and waste during this period. The 10 year celebration contributes perfectly with the National Trust's drive to use 50% renewable energy for all of its places by 2020, whereas Gibson Mill is the only place in the Trust's care which is 100% renewable and has been for 10 years.

Covering more than160 hectares (400 acres) the Craggs is home to the northern hairy wood ant, tumbling streams, glorious waterfalls and stacks of millstone grit, all criss-crossed by more than 15 miles (24km) of footpaths.

Brief history

Gibson Mill was built around 1800 and is located in a remote part of Hardcastle Crags next to Hebden Water. One of the first mills of the industrial revolution, it was driven by a water wheel. Initially producing cotton yarn, the addition of the weaving shed in 1840 led to the production of cotton cloth. At the turn of the century it started a new life as an Entertainment Emporium with roller skating and tea dances, until 1940 when it fell into ruin.

Ten years ago the National Trust's restoration of Gibson Mill began as a means to create a fully sustainable 'Off the Grid' building, to offer a cafe facility and visitor centre, telling the history of the mill. Due to its remote location at the heart of Hardcastle Crags – a place locally referred to as 'Little Switzerland' because its scenic woodland pathways - the development of the mill was based on making the best use of the available resources. It was a conscious decision by the National Trust to enhance the natural surroundings which are enjoyed by thousands of walkers and families throughout the year.

Energy from water, sun and wood

Today, as it was when it opened with a new lease of life, 100% of the energy at Gibson Mill is generated through water turbines and photovoltaic panels on the roof with no mains connection. This of course presents its challenges, but is one staff and volunteers at the mill share with great enthusiasm to all that visit the mill, proud of the green approach to operating a busy visitor attraction.

There can be times on busy days, especially if it has been cloudy and dry, when there is limited or insufficient water or light to provide the necessary power. Jonathan Brewer, General Manager of the National Trust's West Yorkshire Properties, explains how the Trust manages the mill:

"It can be a challenge to run the cafe and providing a warm welcome to our visitors if we get low on power! But we embrace this challenge and share our #OffTheGrid message with our visitors to Gibson Mill. As we aren't connected to the National Grid we store our generated energy in batteries and monitor their usage carefully. We tell the story behind our energy and thanks to newly installed signage and information on the Café tables, our visitors take interest in how we operate and have a greater understanding of the way we use our green technologies."

Hardcastle Crags

Hardcastle Crags in November © HebWeb

Nothing goes to waste

As well as generating its own power, Gibson Mill's water comes from spring water, that is naturally filtered. This in turn is heated by biomass boilers that are fueled by wood from the surrounding Hardcastle Crags woodland. Nothing goes to waste at the mill either, as Jonathan explains:

"We don't have refuse collections, so we recycle everything we can and our food waste is composted, going back onto the land. Even waste from compostable toilets is gradually turned over to the land thanks to the digestive work from the resident tiger worms!

By using #OfftheGrid as a message at Gibson Mill, we're helping our visitors to get a better understanding of what it really means to be 'Off the Grid' in today's technological age."

More info

During the winter, Gibson Mill is open weekends from 11am - 3pm. For more information about visiting tel: 01422 844518 or visit this National Trust webpage or follow on Twitter @HardcastleNT.