St Martha Parish Council, supported by the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group and Chilworth2gether have spent an intensive year exploring whether West Lodge might have a new purpose serving the community in a variety of ways.
The working group has approached potential partners, explored income streams, and worked closely with councillors and other interested parties. As previously reported, our conclusion was that, with the various constraints associated with the site, it would be impossible to guarantee future financial viability for the building, and as such would prove too great a liability for St Martha Parish Council to manage.
GBC has now responded to St Martha Parish Council’s conclusions. It has acknowledged the work that has taken place but has concluded it will revert to its original position, which is to sell the building with a view to it becoming a residential unit.
Whilst this is disappointing, in that the Lodge will be separated from the rest of the Gunpowder Mills site, the Working Group is resolved to continue to monitor the situation, and maintain dialogue with councillors and officers.
Chilworth Volunteers joined GBC Countryside wardens to construct the frame for a Mini-beast Hotel.
Based in the Picnic area of the Gunpowder Mills site, which is a family friendly zone, the Bug Hotel is a joint venture with Chilworth C of E infant School Forest School. It is placed immediately next to the Stag Beetle sculpture, a symbol for conservation and protection of nature.
The metal frame is constructed from recycled Flower containers, previously used in Guildford town centre, and will now have a new life as a secure frame for all the natural materials required by insects seeking shelter over the winter months. Quite miraculously, the new framework echoes exactly the Millstones, that have been adopted by Chilworth Village as their unique symbol.
Shown here are Chilworth Volunteers, the Countryside Wardens in the middle of the shot, and a young family in the foreground who came to see what was happening.
The volunteering session finished with a celebratory burger for all the participants, provided and cooked by Chilworth2gether.
It was a proud day for GBC Countryside Wardens, the Gunpowder Mills Group and Chilworth2gether as the Green Flag, a nationally recognised award, was finally unfurled in Chilworth Gunpowder Mills.
Shown here is Andrew Norris, Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group, raising the flag at the entrance to the site, with the Countryside Wardens to the left, who were instrumental in submitting the application, saluting the flag. A special thank you goes to Alison Boyce, now working at Merrist Wood, for her motivation and effort to achieve the award before she left GBC.
GBC entered the Chilworth heritage site for the award and fulfilled the many criteria required, including sensitive management, conservation techniques, and community involvement.
Here is a photo of the special Mill-stone biscuits made by Alison Boyce, one of our special Countryside Wardens.
We are making this photo into one of our permanent headers for the website.
These biscuits were one of the highlights of Millstone Sunday, part of Heritage weekend, and were on sale as part of the event. We were encouraging families to come and enjoy our local Scheduled Heritage site here in the village.
Alison is moving on to a new job at Merrist Wood College, but hopes to keep in touch with us all through Chilworth2gether. She is invited to speak at the Gunpowder Mills Annual Meeting, which will be held in the Village Hall in November.
When Guildford Borough Council Asset department announced they intended to sell off West Lodge earlier this year, Chilworth2gether, St Martha Parish Council and the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group each wrote a letter of concern to GBC and to our local borough Councillors.
West Lodge is an historic asset, integral to the Gunpowder Mills and situated at the entrance to the site on Blacksmiths Lane. Unfortunately when the rest of the site was recognised as a scheduled ancient monument, West Lodge was not included because it was being used for temporary accommodation at the time. However, it was Listed at Grade II. Selling it off separately would sever it from the rest of the site, and would mean the Gunpowder Mills site would forever lose the only surviving building (with power, water and toilet facilities) on the site able to provide for uses in support and appropriate to the site, as identified in Guildford Borough Council’s own adopted Conservation Management Plan.
Residents may recall that two years ago, Chilworth2gether hosted a well supported public meeting, when villagers came together to suggest how the little building could be used in the future. There was clearly plenty of support for finding a new purpose for the vacant building.
With St Martha Parish Council in the lead, the three organisations have now come together and formed a working group to see whether it might be possible to offer GBC another solution to selling it off. It has already signalled to GBC its intention to provide an alternative way forward, which would give the building a new lease of life and a new purpose, with a strong emphasis on heritage, community and education.
Here we are in action in the Gunpowder Works, coppicing straggly hazel and encouraging new growth.
We meet at the weekends several times a year and spend a good morning in the fresh air, doing something really useful and helping to preserve our heritage site as a peaceful place for a quiet walk, and a haven for wildlife, including dormice.
Do feel free to join us at our next working party. Come for as long, or as short a time as you can spare – you will be welcome. Meet at the picnic area at the bottom of Vera’s path.
Countryside Wardens Nick and Alison work with the group, provide tools and even a drink. They check on safety and ensure everything we do contributes to the Management Plan for this historic site.
Paul Wingfield has sent us this short video, which is available to watch as part of the picture gallery. Alternatively, here is the Youtube link
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HTdL8E4qZU where you can slect to view it