Being Green

Woodwick Burn is one of the largest in Orkney.

The present building of Woodwick Mill was built in 1873 to harness the natural power of Woodwick Burn to grind corn into flour. It had a fourteen-foot diameter waterwheel - the largest we have heard of in Orkney. Unfortunately the waterwheel had gone and the building and its environs had been ravaged by agricultural use, and then as a fish farm, before the property fell into disuse. The main advantage the property had was its dam with the potential for hydro-electric power. As a bonus we have also been able to use the turbine water as a source for the heat pump.

In renovating (or recycling) the Mill we have used the existing building making use of original timbers wherever possible. The gable wall nearest the burn was leaning 8cm away from the rest of the building leaving large cracks at the corners. We installed eight tie-rods and slowly pulled the wall back. A large steel beam which supported a mid-height hay loft in the Kiln building was raised to the ridge and re-used to carry a new slate roof.

Although the main roof of the building was in a poor state with many holes, the Sheafy wing had been roofed with corrugated fibre-cement cladding. We replaced this with natural Welsh slate and incorporated solar panels to provide hot water.

We have aimed to minimise the visual impact of the project by avoiding external fire escapes, also by restoring the old mill dam with natural materials and by removing all external concrete works remaining from previous uses of the property.

In the design of the hydro scheme we had the dam repaired using reclaimed flagstones from Robert Dickey's landfill site at Kingsdale. Many of the flagstones had seen previous duty in paving the streets of Kirkwall - some of the road  lines can still be seen. We installed a life ring as the dam is now attracting visitors. One can see fish jumping or an otter swimming, grey wagtails, kestrels or swallows flitting past. There are good views of the surrounding countryside. We also built a fish ladder to help trout reach upstream spawning grounds.

In building the turbine we used recycled materials such as a Ford Transit half-shaft and a second-hand motor for the generator. The body and propellor are of fibre-glass.

The building is highly insulated to maximise energy efficiency. Dishwashers, Ovens, Fridges and Freezers have Energy Rating 'A' and Washer/driers have Energy Rating 'B'. We have used the more enviromentally-friendly LED type lamps where possible.

In operating Woodwick Mill as self-catering accommodation we have a Green Policy and were awarded a Gold Award for Green Tourism.

We are keen recyclers - separate bins are provided for paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, tins and glass.

Woodwick Mill has an Hydroclear treatment plant, accredited to BS EN 12566-3 with high treatment efficiencies: Biological Oxygen Demand - 96.6%, Suspended solids - 94.7%, Ammonia - 85.8%,

E-cloths are used for cleaning glass - these cloths save water and work without chemicals or soap. We use eco-friendly products for cleaning surfaces.

We have planted Orkney native trees as well as gooseberry, fuchsia and other bushes in order to provide screening and bio-diversity habitat. We planted a herbacious border at the front of the mill providing colour throughout the year with mint and other herbs for use by our guests. A large area of grassland below the dam is left uncut to encourage wild flowers and also to provide cover for birds. Elizabeth is a keen bird watcher and member of the RSPB.

Within the grounds there was an old byre with kiln attached. Derek Manson repaired a large section of the kiln with reclaimed stone pointed with lime mortar. Here are before and after photos. J Bews & Sons have converted the byre to accommodation - now it is "Woodwick Cottage".

Please look at our Responsible Visitor Charter for having a green stay at Woodwick Mill.

After several stays in Sheafy, William Hershaw was inspired to name his collection of poetry Postcairds fae Woodwick Mill