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Waterwheel turns again at Greenfield Valley Heritage Park

One of the mill ponds at Greenfield Valley, Holywell, by Sashyazz
One of the mill ponds at Greenfield Valley, Holywell, which nature has reclaimed

Visitors to the picturesque Greenfield Valley, which has been reclaimed by nature despite its heavy industrial past, could be forgiven for thinking they've gone back in time.

The new waterwheel added to a 19th Century wheel housing at Greenfield
The new waterwheel added to a 19th Century wheel housing at Greenfield

And that's because a waterwheel has gone back into use in the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park, Holywell, for the first time in a century.

And each year it's expected to generate enough power equivalent to the electricity needs of two homes.

The earliest waterwheel on the site is believed to have been used by Cistercian monks to grind corn in the 9th Century.

But it was in the 18th Century the valley was at its busiest, using the water from Holywell Stream to serve corn, paper and cotton mills, copper-rolling and wire mills, and a brass-making works.

Now, with winter trials of the wheel complete, the power harnessed - thought to be around 10 megawatts of electricity per year - will be used to heat exhibition areas within Greenfield Valley Museum.

Chris Wright, operations manager for The Greenfield Valley Trust, explained the waterwheel has been installed in an existing late 19th Century wheel pit which remains on the heritage site along with other remnants of the valley's industrial past.

"The planning and installation of the new wheel has encountered several challenges of an ecological nature," said Chris.

Unlike the early industrialists, Greenfield Valley Trust which runs the site has had to carry out environmental surveys and implement changes to accommodate local wildlife.

This includes a new sluice gate to enable a great Crested Newt breeding area to continue to flourish.

A heron on the hunt at Greenfield Valley Heritage Park, by Sashyazz
A heron on the hunt at Greenfield Valley Heritage Park

And, as there has been evidence of otters using the stream bed, a set of "otter steps" have been constructed to ensure they continue to have site access.

The new water wheel, funded with a renewable energy grant from E.on Power, also entitles the museum trust to receive payments of up to £2,000 under the Government's new Clean Energy Cashback project which launches in April.

The scheme requires energy suppliers to make regular payments to householders and communities generating electricity.

On Monday, the waterwheel is being dedicated to the memory of David Schwarz, a former councillor and trustee of the valley trust, who died in December 2009.

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