ANYOME rambling over the South Downs this summer will have been saddened and dismayed to see Halnaker Windmill without its sweeps, its four sails.
On a clear day, they used to be seen for miles around. The windmill is the very symbol of the South Downs. Cicestrians even have a fond nickname for it: Winnaker Handmill.
I lead walks for Chichester District Council’s HeartSmart group. On almost every walk we used to catch sight of the sweeps just below the skyline. It gladdened our hearts.
But now Halnaker Windmill is bewildered and unhappy.
Why has it become so unloved by its owner, the West Sussex County Council, that it has been allowed to lose its four limbs?
What has it done to deserve this indignity?
Was Hilaire Belloc, the poet of Sussex, right when he wrote that ‘Ha’nacker’s down and England’s done’?
The irony is that in 1958 West Sussex County Council accepted Halnaker tower Windmill into its keeping from the Duke of Richmond to preserve examples in the county of the three main types of windmill, along with High Salvington Postmill and Shipley Smock Mill.
Until now they have done a good job. The wooden cap had decayed beyond repair, so, in 1985, it was given a plastic coating that makes it so visible from afar. But without its sweeps, it now appears neglected and abandoned.
Why has this come about? There are issues of health and safety, and, one suspects, council finances. During a bout of vandalism, an internal wooden spur fell to the ground, and caused injury. Some of the brick tiles are insecure and are a potential hazard. So the windmill has been surrounded and despoiled by unsightly fencing.
According to the council spokesperson Rowena Young, there is a need for ‘specialist recording of the tile hung façade, its elevation, banding and profile’. So has this taken place yet? If not, then these council statements are an exercise in stalling.
What we want to have is a statement, a pledge, that the sweeps will be restored. Is the council unwilling to give such
As reasonable Sussex folk, we do not expect instant action.
But we do expect the sweeps to be restored. Not to do so would be unthinkable. Let us give the council sufficient time to solve the issue.
In nine months it will be June, 2016. Sussex Day is on Thursday, June 16. Wouldn’t it be good if the sweeps were back in place by then, so that we could all come to the windmill to celebrate this, and thank
Please find time to contact Rowena – firstname.lastname@example.org – to insist that this must be done by then. The council needs to be made aware of the strength of local feeling. In his poem Belloc lamented that ‘the sweeps have fallen from Ha’nacker Mill’. They must be restored.