News ID: 167328
Published: 0233 GMT August 22, 2016

Power of water to drive a mill and break a bridge

Power of water to drive a mill and break a bridge

Sprint Mill sits in a small wooded gorge below a cascade of sinuous waterfalls on the river Sprint in the UK. There has been a cloth manufacturing or processing mill on this site since at least the 1400s, all dependent on water power provided by the river. The current owners have restored the 19th-century mill with the help of a grant from Natural England; the front wall had developed a worrying bulge. When work began, they found that this three-storey building had been constructed without foundations.

The Dales Way weaves around the most recent mill race, hollowed out of the earth like a small canal and used until the mill closed in 1954. Ahead of me, long-tailed tits fidgeted, tails flicking up and down as they moved on, their ratcheting, rolling contact calls traveling on the breeze, reported the Guardian.

I walked a narrow bank, the mill race on one side and a steep drop to the swirling Sprint on the other. I thought of last December’s floods — how high the water had come, scouring out a section of bank close to the house, and how it must have set the race flowing once again.

Since the floods, both the footbridge and Sprint Bridge — which connects the village of Burneside to the A6 — have been closed. For now, the path diverts across the river, passing above the huge pipes of the Thirlmere to Manchester aqueduct.

Giant burdock, with the sticky seeds that inspired the inventor of Velcro, could be seen in the hedge on the far side, and teasel, another locally abundant plant, whose flower heads would have been attached to cylinders to clean and comb the woolen cloth produced at the mill here.

At Sprint Bridge I could see three men were up to their waists in the river, creating a bund out of giant bags that were lifted in by a towering crane. Once the river is diverted, repairs can at last begin. All they need is a dry spell to get the job done, to rebuild the stonework that was washed away and take out the twist that the Sprint gave the bridge-arch last year. 

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