Volunteer exodus puts future of beloved windmill under threat
- Credit: Archant
The future of a jewel in Dereham's crown could be under threat if the group which looks after it fails to find new members.
Dereham Windmill, off Greenfields Road, has been loved and visited by thousands of people over the years.
While it is owned by Dereham Town Council, the historic structure is run on a day-to-day basis by volunteers from the Dereham Windmill Charity.
But a sudden exodus in recent months has prompted concerns there will not be enough people to keep the landmark open or organise fundraisers - key to ensuring the mill is maintained.
The current chairman and secretary are due to step down at next month's annual general meeting (AGM), reducing the committee to just four members.
Ann Bowyer, a trustee and former mayor of Dereham, emphasised the importance of new blood coming forward.
"The worst-case scenario would be that the windmill has to close, because we would not have the people," she added.
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"What allows the restoration work to happen is people visiting. It gives us that little bit of money to keep the mill in tip-top order."
Mrs Bowyer also revealed the significant financial burden that comes with looking after the windmill.
While grants are occasionally available, much of the necessary funding comes from admission and public events.
She said: "The repaint, which we do roughly every five years, costs £20,000. Next time we might be looking at £25,000.
"Then there is the brickwork, which is soft Victorian red brick. Certain bricks crumble, so we have approached a listed buildings officer to see what we can do to stop that."
To prevent an impending crisis, Dereham Windmill Charity wants potential new members to attend the AGM on Tuesday, February 22.
Starting from 7.30pm, the meeting is open to everyone and will take place at the community hall beside the mill.
Mrs Bowyer added: "I would say there are three main landmarks in Dereham: the windmill, the railway, and Bishop Bonner's Cottage.
"A lot of windmills across the country have already gone into disrepair or been wiped out entirely.
"Dereham might not be seen as an attractive place for tourists, but we get quite a few at the windmill. We have got to hang on to what we have."