Calling all fundraisers: Are you brave enough to abseil from the top of Thurne Mill?

Rehearsing at AID in Great Yarmouth for the Thurne Mill charity abseil, mill owner Debra Nicholson.
Photo by Simon Finlay. Rehearsing at AID in Great Yarmouth for the Thurne Mill charity abseil, mill owner Debra Nicholson. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Saturday, June 21, 2014
11:48 AM

A fundraising ‘leap of faith’ should ensure one of Norfolk’s most photographed landmarks is safe for years to come.

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History of Thurne Dyke Mill

Thurne Mill was built in 1820 by millwrights England and Co, based at Ludham. Its job was to drain grazing land by pumping hundreds of gallons of water every minute into the River Thurne.

By the early 20th century it had fallen into disrepair but in 1947 local Bob Morse bought it from the internal drainage board. It wasn’t until 2002

that the wooden sails turned again.

The restoration was overseen by the Norfolk Windmills Trust who first leased the iconic mill in 1979, but in August will hand it back to Debra Nicholson who bought the property from her friend Mr Morse in 2007.

Members of the public are being invited to climb to the top of Thurne Mill next month, to take in stunning views of the Broads before abseiling or jumping off (attached by a harnesss) to raise vital funds for the former windmill.

It is the second time mill owner Debra Nicholson, who runs the Wind Energy Museum in the village of Thurne, has organised the charity abseil from the early 19th century water mill.

Last year’s inaugural leap raised £2,500 with 20 people taking part and places for this year’s fundraiser, taking place on July 26, are now open.

On Thursday, Mrs Nicholson and others got some practice in when they paid a visit to the AID Training Centre on the Harfreys Industrial Estate in Great Yarmouth.

A lone reed isolated against the blue sky with Thurne Mill in the background.

Picture: James BassA lone reed isolated against the blue sky with Thurne Mill in the background. Picture: James Bass

AID Rope Access, which provides training for offshore workers heading to North Sea oil and gas platforms, will run next month’s abseil as well as the aptly-named ‘leap of faith’ which will see fundraisers step off the top of the mill and experience a feeling of ‘free falling’ before being lowered to the ground by a harness.

The thought alone might make some toes curl but Mrs Nicholson, who tried it out at the training centre, said it was an exhilarating experience.

She is hoping others will feel the same and sign up for the abseil as soon as possible. The fundraiser will help keep the mill working and open to the public.

Due to funding shortfalls, the Norfolk Windmills Trust – which has leased and lovingly cared for the property since 1979 – will hand the keys to Mrs Nicholson in August.

Rehearsing at AID in Great Yarmouth for the Thurne Mill charity abseil, AID business development manager Simon Page and participant Scott Nicholson.
Photo by Simon Finlay.Rehearsing at AID in Great Yarmouth for the Thurne Mill charity abseil, AID business development manager Simon Page and participant Scott Nicholson. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Mill aficionado Mrs Nicholson, who said keeping the structure open to the public is paramount, said: “I was concerned we wouldn’t have money in the pot should something go wrong so last year I spoke to a friend’s husband, who works in marketing, about how I could raise funds and he immediately suggested an abseil.

“I contacted abseiling activity companies but they wanted £2,500 which we couldn’t afford. Then I joined EEEGR (East of England Energy Group) and I thought, just maybe, one of the local companies might be willing to help at a reduced rate.

“I struck lucky because the first company I called was AID Rope Access and they’ve been incredibly supportive.”

It costs £10,000 to repaint Thurne Mill, a task that should be undertaken every five years to keep it looking its best.

Money raised will also be for ongoing maintenance such as greasing the iron turbine mechanisms once a month, as well as insurance and wider security should the mill break down or be damaged by gale-force winds that sweep across the Broads.

HOW TO TAKE PART

The Thurne Mill abseil and leap of faith will take place at Thurne Mill on July 26.

Places are £25 for the abseil or leap, or £35 to do both. Participants are asked to raise as much as they can, ideally at least £50 in sponsorship.

To find out more or book a place, call Debra Nicholson at the Wind Energy Museum on 07796407864, send an email to thurnemill@yahoo.co.uk, tweet @ThurneMilAbseil, see the Thurne Mill Abseil page on Facebook or visit www.windenergymuseum.co.uk.
If supporters don’t wish to abseil or leap, they can still go along to watch or to take part in the sponsored teddy bear zip wire.

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