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Trouble at mill? 12 Broads watermills undergo 3D lasers scans

PUBLISHED: 16:41 02 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:41 02 October 2017

A laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills. The points shown in the image indicate the different areas where the scanner was placed. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land Surveys

A laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills. The points shown in the image indicate the different areas where the scanner was placed. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land Surveys

Archant

Trouble at t’mill? That’s what is being investigated in the fields and marshes of the Broads as our weatherbeaten watermills are getting a 21st century examination.

A laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills allowing for accurate measurements to be taken. The points shown in the image indicate the different areas where the scanner was placed. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land SurveysA laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills allowing for accurate measurements to be taken. The points shown in the image indicate the different areas where the scanner was placed. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land Surveys

Twelve of the iconic buildings, which have helped drain marshy areas for centuries, are getting the ultimate close-up from state-of-the-art laser technology.

And the valuable historical and structural information gathered by the 3D scanners will be used to give the delightful dozen a spruce-up.

Broads Authority historic environment manager Ben Hogg said the programme formed part of the development phase of a project titled Water, Mills and Marshes, a Heritage Lottery-funded Landscape Partnership Bid.

He said: “There are 74 iconic, redundant drainage mills that are in various states of disrepair across the Broads Authority executive area.

A laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills allowing for cutaways such as this to be produced. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land SurveysA laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills allowing for cutaways such as this to be produced. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land Surveys

“I was tasked with identifying a series of windmills that the project could do some restoration work on, not necessarily to completely restore, but to get into better condition.”

He said the final 12 were selected for various reasons. “We were looking for mills that might be on footpaths, or ones that were key landscape features with significant heritage value.”

He added: “We found it was far more cost effective than doing traditional survey work and also provided us with highly accurate and incredibly detailed images on each mill.”

The scanner was placed around the interior and exterior of each mill to get a comprehensive picture of the structure.

A laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land SurveysA laser scanner has been used to provide detailed 3D images of 12 Broads windmills. Picture: Courtesy of Anglia Land Surveys

“It allowed us to complete the work in less than half the time. We’re getting info now that we have never seen in detail like this before. We can literally see if there is a crack in a brick.”

He said the information would be used to produce a set of architectural drawings that would be included in a planning application for the work that was needed.

“But what we’ve actually got for a fraction of the cost of a traditional survey is something of incredible value in terms of a resource. These scans will allow us to set up virtual tours of the mills which could be linked to a map on a website where you click on a point and open up these images.”

The project proved so successful that the Broads Authority has funded another 10 mills to be scanned by the end of the year.

Broads Authority historic environment manager Ben Hogg. Picture: Broads AuthorityBroads Authority historic environment manager Ben Hogg. Picture: Broads Authority

Mr Hogg said they would hear in October whether delivery phase funding for the work they wanted to carry out on the original 12 was granted.

Windmills of the Broads

Two Norfolk Broads windmills on the River Yare between Cantley and Reedham, a derelict mill and the restored Hardley Mill drainage pump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTwo Norfolk Broads windmills on the River Yare between Cantley and Reedham, a derelict mill and the restored Hardley Mill drainage pump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk has become synonymous with windmills as they form a significant part of the landscape.

Three types of windmill are commonly found in England: the tower mill, which consists of a brick or stone tower on which sits a wooden cap; the smock mill, with a sloping, horizontally weatherboarded or thatched tower; and the post mill, the earliest type of windmill known in this country that is supported by a post which pivots.

All three can be seen in Norfolk and were used for grinding corn and flour and for drainage, particularly on the Broads.

Broads Authority historic environment manager Ben Hogg said the earliest windmills on the Broads dated back to the late 18th century while the last were built early in the 20th century.

Windmills are an important part of the Broads landscape. Picture: ANDREW STONEWindmills are an important part of the Broads landscape. Picture: ANDREW STONE

He said the technology used in their construction and operation had evolved over the years.

“The evolution of mill technology is amazing and the scanning project has allowed us to really capture it in detail.”

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