Saturday, 8 November 2008

Letter to all well wishers

Dear Everyone,

As the owners of Otterton Mill we would like to express how touched and encouraged we are by the many expressions of support we have received from customers, suppliers, staff, volunteers and neighbour since the devastating flood of last week. We have been inundated with offers of help with the clean-up operation and we only wish we could take them all up. Due to the extensive nature of the flooding, most of the clean-up has to be conducted by a professional organisation, and that process has already started. Many people offering support have also enquired about our insurance and whether we are covered for flooding. At the time of writing we believe much of the cost associated with the clean-up and loss of business will indeed be covered, although we will loose some valuable preparation time for the important Christmas trade.

Since taking over the mill last spring we have faced a very challenging trading environment with the credit crunch, poor summer weather and lower than normal tourist volumes. This latest incident initially felt like another major set-back. However, the support we've received has been a massive boost and we are now looking for ways to turn this disaster into an opportunity. For example, we've decided to launch a charity called Friends of Otterton Mill as soon as possible. This charity will hold funds to support the ongoing restoration of the historic mill workings. With the support of so many regular customers, we hope a Friends of Otterton Mill fund will help us keep the mill and regular milling demonstrations available to the public at no fee.

We would especially like to thank the customer who posted a letter of support on the fence near the Mill entrance and we would like to assure that customer, and all others, that we are indeed looking to resume normal business as soon as possible .

With many thanks to all well wishers,

Caroline and Simon Spiller
Otterton Mill Ltd

Friday, 7 November 2008

Chicken Rescue

Our 5 ex-battery hens survived a traumatic ordeal in their hen-house after flood waters lashed against the walls throughout the night of 30th October. Our brave girls (Elena, Treacle, Rosie, Jasmine and Marmalade) had arrived in their new home only 2 weeks prior to the floods, having spent the first year of their lives in a cage with a floor area no larger than an A4 sheet of paper. They had taken to their new surroundings with relish and had already established the pecking order with Elena triumphing as hen-in-chief. Unluckily for them, the flooded River Otter left them stranded inside their new home as a torrent of water and debris battered the sides of the wooden structure. Thankfully, the house was built on 3 foot stilts which kept the floor of the coop just inches from the river as it peaked. The girls were rescued from their plight by a team of RSPCA wardens as the flood waters receded. They are now safe and dry in a temporary home in the care of Helen and Simon, their owners.

Otterton Mill Flood Update

On 30th October 2008, Otterton Mill was hit by the worst floods in at least 40 years. The entire complex was under water for about twelve hours due to freak weather conditions isolated to the Otter Valley.

Head Baker, Roy Hamilton, discovered the flood at 5am and alerted Ed Chester, Head Chef, who came in to help Roy reach the mill. Caroline and Simon were on holiday in Cornwall with Emily and after receiving word from Roy returned immediately. By 11am when they arrived the water was starting to retreat and the extent of the damage became apparent. All of the building had been flooded, up to depths of two feet in some parts of the original mill building, and standing water remained in the bakery and shop.

The clean-up, salvage and rescue (see chicken update on this blog) operations started immediately and we thank everyone for all their offers of help and support. We are especially grateful to our neighbours, Bruce and Jill Beacham, for providing us access to their toilets during the clean-up. We've also had great support from all of our staff, many of whom are working around the clock to help us open as soon as possible.

At the time of writing we are faced with a disaster recovery process which could take up to two months to conclude. However, the opening will be phased and at the moment we expect our Bakery and a temporary Devon Food Shop to be back in business by Wednesday, November 12th. We are also planning to open a satellite gallery on Budleigh High Street, starting the week of November 19th. Many thanks to Tom at the Dairy and Angela of the Brook Gallery for their help arrange this option.

Finally, we are doing our best to create opportunity out of disaster. We will be launching a new charity, Friends of Otterton Mill, shortly to generate funds to help with the ongoing restoration of the mills ancient workings and to help us keep the mill and regular demonstrations available to the public at no fee. We will also be using the down time to refit our shop and other changes to the restaurant and gallery.

Please keep an eye on this blog for details of our opening and the launch of Friends of Otterton Mill.

Best wishes,

Everyone at the Mill