Windmill stalwart Alan is flying high

Alan Gifford
Alan Gifford
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the volunteers at Heage Windmill could not have had a better start to the year as they gear up for re-opening of the venue next month.

Firstly, dedicated Alan Gifford has been named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ at the Visit Peak and Derbyshire annual Excel Tourism awards.

And secondly, the Friends of Heage Windmill group was a finalist in the ‘Team of the Year’ category.

The awards, which were held in the Carriage House at Chatsworth, near Bakewell, recognise excellence in tourism, culture, leisure and hospitality.

A popular tourist attraction on Chesterfield Road, Heage, the windmill re-opens to the public on Saturday, April 2. It will open every weekend and Bank Holiday until the end of October, between 11am and 4pm.

Yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur, who hails from nearby Whatstandwell, will conduct a formal opening at the windmill on Saturday, April 23.

At the awards ceremony on Thursday, March 10, Alan was shortlisted alongside Ray Marjoram, of Belper’s North Mill and Sarah Rolland, of Buxton Opera House.

Alan has been closely associated with the windmill since 1985. He has tackled most jobs there and is currently secretary of the charitable trust the Heage Windmill Society.

He said: “I was delighted when the compere read out ‘Alan Gifford’. I do, and have done over the years, all the activities for Heage Windmill because I love the mill and the crowd of people belonging to Friends of the Windmill, who operate it.

“It’s such a friendly place.”

A selection of the citation read out at the ceremony said: “Since Alan started volunteering at Heage Windmill he’s worn more hats than you’re ever likely to see in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.

“He’s a very popular choice – all his fellow volunteers, trustees and the Friends of Heage Windmill agreed he richly deserves this accolade, describing him as ‘absolutely outstanding’.

“Judges were impressed by Alan’s selfless commitment, for no financial gain, and also his willingness to turn his hand to any task. His achievements range from fundraising, working on the mill, providing the media with coverage of events at the mill, to battling through bad weather to make sure all was well at the windmill and assisting in developing a virtual computer tour that enables disabled people to visit without having to climb stairs.”

The windmill is going into its tenth year since its restoration, having re-opened in 2002. It originally opened as a working windmill in 1797.

Following on from Dame Ellen’s appearance, there will be events throughout the year, including Easter fun, vintage tractor day in May, flower festival in June, and a vintage car display in July. Visit www.heagewindmill.co.uk for more information.