Sunday 8th July was one of the few fine days this summer, enabling 11 PLACE members to spend a fascinating day in Wensleydale. Our demonstration tour of Gayle Mill was full of detail about the mostly Victorian machinery and the characters who had been involved with the mill over its lifetime. For those who would like more detail about the machinery and the history of the mill – The Gayle Mill Story (available from the Gayle Mill shop) is a fascinating read. The end of the American Civil War led to the export of great quantities of cotton so it was originally a cotton mill, then a wool mill and by 1879 it had become the sawmill that it remains today. In its time, it has been used for domestic accommodation and for billeting soldiers. We saw the hand-cranked crane
for lifting tree trunks from the cart into the bottom floor of the mill for planking. We watched turbines (the original water-wheel has been replaced) be brought into action to create light and power for the machinery. We watched the different kinds of saws being used and learnt much about the various tasks to which they can be put. The mill is now run entirely by volunteers under the auspices of the Gayle Mill Trust and is funded by donations, by running tours such as ours and by commercial woodworking
Cheese has been made in Wensleydale for centuries now, originally by the monks in the monasteries and then later in the farmhouses as an extra source of income. The cheese demonstration tour at the Creamery saw Wensleydale cheese being made in rapid time with extra quantities of starter and of rennet. It all coagulated in the 8 minutes duration of the film about the
history of cheese making in the valley. The cheese was then drained to separate the curds and the whey before the curds were wrapped in a muslin bandage ready for standing. The whey usually is sent to a whey factory and, often after conversion into whey powder, can be found in chocolate, cereals, make-up, face-creams and protein drinks. Nothing is wasted.