This week in Bristol and Me, we speak to Susan Smith, co-founder of Willsbridge Mill CIC
Willsbridge Mill is a little gem, both for people that live around here and visitors. I’ve lived nearby for a long time, but it was only when I retired 10 years ago, and started going down there for a walk, that I realised how neglected it had become. A group of us went about seeing what we could do and, in 2014, founded a not-for-profit community interest company to run it. The idea is to get all the buildings restored through grants, with the community café keeping the project sustainable long-term. We’re currently on a tenancy at will lease, but close to sorting terms for a 25-year lease – a lot more grants will open up to us then. Much of the surrounding area is ancient woodland, managed by Avon Wildlife Trust.
There’s been a mill onsite since 1712. It was built as an iron mill, later becoming a flourmill. It came to the end of its working life – by then, milling animal feed – after being badly damaged in the great flood of 1968, when the water was so high it went through the middle floor. Grants have enabled us to complete work on all three major buildings –mill, barn and stable block – but there’s a lot more to do. We want to put up a new stairway in the mill and make all three floors accessible to people in wheelchairs. The idea is that communities will be able to use the buildings for workshops, private hire, and community events. We already host lots of different family events, including a duck race on Easter Saturday and Easter bunny hunt
on the Sunday.
We’ve just started planting trees for a memorial wood, in which people can sponsor trees and benches; I shall probably have one planted there myself, but not for a while! We’ve got further than we thought we ever would. For example, the kitchen started out with all secondhand stuff and now employs six part-time staff. We’re always looking for volunteers, particularly for some of the outdoor projects. Anyone interested should email