Our volunteers carry out essential work around the site including maintenance of the grounds and repairs. You can see some of the work they undertake below.
We usually organise 3 Working Weekends a year - March, June and October. Working weekends start on a Friday evening from 17.00 onwards in the "snug" at the Mill. Directions can be found on this site.
There is London transport available which leaves from outside the main gate of the William Ellis School at 18.30 prompt.
Volunteers preferring not to rendezvous at WES for a 1830 prompt departure may elect to be picked up (and dropped back) from the following train or tube stations at the corresponding times
- Gospel Oak. Please arrive by 18.30, and expect the minibus to pass around 1835
- Chalk Farm (wait at the end of Prince of Wales Road). Please arrive by 1840 and expect the minibus to pass around 1845.
- Baker Street. Please arrive by 18.50 and expect the minibus to pass around 1900.
- Shepherd's Bush. Please arrive by 19.15 and expect the minibus to pass around 1930.
- Hammersmith. Please arrive by 19.25 and expect the minibus to pass around 1940.
- Barnes. Please arrive by 19.45 and expect the minibus to pass around 2000.
Please inform the warden of the Mill that you wish to attend the weekend AND travel from London by the London transport, indicating pick up point. Other pick up/drop back points are negotiable with David. It is also necessary to exchange contact mobile phone numbers with the driver – David Mayes – for updates on the evening of travel etc.
"KIT LIST" Please bring old 'scruff' gear for working in and robust footwear - welly boots can be borrowed from the shed on site; a change of clothes for the evenings; sleeping wear, towel wash bag etc; a sleeping bag and a pillowcase.
On arrival at the Mill, volunteers are allocated their (bunk bedded) room for the weekend and await the London passengers whilst chatting, nibbling and sipping the odd glass of wine/beer etc.
Around 2100, a delicious 2 course supper is served, with wines, beers and coffee/tea to finish.
Saturday morning begins soon after 0800 with a cooked English breakfast after which the list of jobs for the weekend is allocated.
Mid morning and mid afternoon on Saturday and Sunday there is a refreshment break with plenty on offer to replace the calories already spent.
Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes are equally enjoyable fuel stops.
Probably Saturday evening's supper is the most eagerly awaited meal as it is a chance to unwind and hopefully chase away the twinges from the day's labour, with more medicinal compound. A Table Tennis Tournament is always on offer for those game before climbing the wooden hill for a restful night's sleep.
Sunday morning is a slightly later start - 0830 - when a delicious continental breakfast awaits.
It is always hoped that the weather will be kind to us on these weekends as a lot of the chores are outside. There are always inside jobs on the list. Indeed no job or contribution is too small.
We look forward to seeing both familiar and unfamiliar faces again soon!
If you are interested in volunteering or would like to find out more please contact us
17th - 19th March 2017
23rd - 25th June 2017
6th - 8th October 2017
The third and last "working
weekend" of 2016 took place from 7th - 9th October ................... (extracts from Peter Woodman's Diary and Gallery follow)
Unlike the June weekend, we were
a little light in volunteers. Nevertheless, a lot of the scheduled work was
The London contingent was ferried
to the Old Mill by Omar who, despite having a serious back problem, kindly
drove the volunteers to site (and collected them on Sunday).
Fourteen of us were there
for dinner on Friday evening, before Omar drove back to London.
Early on Saturday morning we were
joined by Donya and Oliver and their delightful 2½ month-old baby boy, Luca.
Breakfast was cooked by Su, Jack,
Roy and David.
Jack then detailed the various
After breakfast we went about our
various tasks. As I passed the recently re-filled lake I was astonished at the
duck weed that now covers the entire surface. Considering that the water has
only been there since June, it is now another problem that we will have to
rectify. The small island is now also covered with rapidly growing vegetation.
This will be one of our tasks on the first working weekend of 2017 in March.
Photios and Peter removed the
cement screed that we had applied to the tops of the oil drum "stepping
stones". This had not been a success and we have now covered to drum tops
with artificial turf. Jack meanwhile attended to some repairs to locks and
water taps within the Mill.
Six of the volunteers spent a
couple of hours dismantling the long gazebo and cleaning tables and chairs for
storage. David, Oliver and Bambos erected the log splitter and commenced adding
cut branches to the fuel store. Bambos tackled the autumn leaves that had
enveloped the Memorial Garden, while Adrian immersed himself in the Cass
Building classroom, over-hauling the 14 computers.
Later Hayley, Ian, Jackie and
Lynette spread 4 tonnes of new gravel on the drive.
Our "elevenses" break
was marked by a presentation to Jack for his recent 80th birthday, in
recognition of all his hard work at The Mill during the last 10 years or so.
Later, Jack and Peter drove the
magnificent John Deere tractor back to the north-east corner of the
estate. Jack continued building timber platforms around the
low-rope-course trees, while Photios and Peter continued fitting ropes and
We had a delicious dinner that
evening, enlivened by baby Luca and his proud parents. Later, Ian and Jackie
left for home while Margaret retired to bed (before we noticed that the
dining-room wall clock was 45 minutes fast!
After a continental breakfast on
Sunday, we returned to our allotted tasks.
Jack has purchased a 6½
horsepower generator so that we no longer have to run electric cables right
across the estate to service our tools at the rope course area.
We made adjustments to some of
the ropes in order that children will not have problems using them. Photios
tested the first element of this 14 section course, then continued drilling for
cable fixings. This had to be discontinued when one of the new spade cutters
jammed in the tree trunk. Another problem to be rectified during a mini-weekend
to be arranged in a few weeks.
At about 13.30 we ceased work and
spent 30 minutes returning all the equipment to store and to Jack's car.
Omar returned to collect the
After cleaning up we had a light
lunch and by 15.00 had all left for home.
"Snippets from Peter Woodman's Diary and Gallery" June 2016 WESPA Working Weekend
This year's June"working
weekend" began early for Su, Jack and Margaret Watson and me.
We commenced work on Thursday
with the express task of constructing a concrete weir with removable penstock
boards, in order that when the the lake is re-filled, it can be drained easily
in the future.
Fortunately, the ground chosen to
form this weir is dense, mainly blue clay, fairly easy to dig once the old
concrete capping had been broken through, but incredibly heavy to lift clear of
the excavation.To break through the concrete we used a heavy-duty hammer drill,
its dis-advantage being that the on/off trigger switch remained "on"
and the tool had to be controlled by un-plugging from the electrical supply socket.
Jack and I completed cutting out for the wing walls and after excavating for
the base, we used the elderly cement mixer to make a 6:1 concrete base,
finished just before the threatening rain started.
We covered the work with a canvas
sheet, cleaned up and that evening had dinner with Margaret and Su in a pub in
Holmbury-St.-Mary, the Mill being occupied by 28 girls and their supervisory
staff from a London school.
After Su returned us to
the Mill, the three of us retired to the 2 bedrooms in the Cass
The rain that occurred throughout
Thursday night, had ceased by Friday morning. After breakfast, Jack and I
continued assembling formwork for the weir's abutments while Margaret and Su
tidied up after the departure of the London schoolgirls.
It is gratifying to see that
Sheila's walnut tree, over-looked by her memorial bench, is now
becoming well established.
It didn't take us long to fix the
shuttering and by mid-afternoon, all the concrete had been mixed and placed.
That evening the remainder of the
weekend's volunteers arrived from 6.00 pm onwards and we all sat down to Su's
tasty dinner at 9.30.
WESPA Working Weekend March 2016 (From Peter Woodman's Diary & Gallery))
The March working weekend started
with Jack and Margaret Watson joining Su early on Friday. Margaret and
Su soon applied "Forest Green" paint to eight redundant oil
drums that would be used as "stepping stones" in the low rope course,
currently under erection. Jack was already well into constructing a wooden
platform around one of the trees in the low rope course when I joined them
during the afternoon. There were two tonnes of all-in ballast and a quarter
tonne of cement needing to be moved from near the Mill to the rope course site.
Margaret and Su helped me shovel this material into the trailer and we
completed the task before darkness fell. Other volunteers would be arriving
later that evening, but we did hear that Ian had 'phoned in sick and Lynette
couldn't be with us. Even later we heard from Allan whose car had broken down
with a failed clutch, just as he was leaving Bath. Already we were three short
although a few new volunteers were expected.
We sat down to a nice dinner
prepared by Amanda and Jamie, soon after David arrived from London at 21.45.
Saturday breakfast at the Mill
Breakfast over, work
commenced in many areas.
The tractor and trailer was used
to tow the electric concrete mixer to the low rope course, together with the 8
oil drums and all the tools that were needed.Tony, Bambos and I commenced
excavating the foundations for the oil drums that would form the "stepping
stone" challenge. Although the ground looked quite clear, we encountered
lots of tough tree roots. Jack's chainsaw came in very handy to remove these
obstructions. Meanwhile Jack continued erecting platforms around the trees.
Back at the Mill, the two
marquees were erected by six of our regular volunteers. These serve as
classrooms and dining areas for the children when camping at the Mill. This
area is over-looked by the commemorative fountain in memory of Philip A. Wayne,
He was the inspiration for the Forest Green project in 1930, that gave us St.
Marylebone Grammar School boys so much pleasure during our weekly camps in the
Summer Term. He was head-master during my years at the school.
The Memorial Garden is in memory
of Old Boys who died while serving in the Second World War. Philip Wayne
would visit the Mill on summer Sundays to conduct prayers with the campers in
One of the on-going tasks has
been draining the lake to enable a mechanical excavator to remove the thick bed
of silt later this year. Several volunteers were detailed to clear the ditch
and dig a trench in the pond to assist the draining.
Many of the log piles scattered
around the site were transported to a level area next to the garage, to be
covered and allowed to dry out for winter fuel. Other logs that had been stored
for many months were reduced to firewood by David with the very efficient
log-splitter that was a gift from the Old Philologians (us Old Boys).
Jack and Margaret had to depart
late afternoon, but Jack kindly left his extensive set of tools for us to use
Concreting the foundation bases
for the eight oil drums commenced after lunch and the three of us completed
this, in the dark, at 19.15.
Dinner was served at 20.00 and
over a glass of wine, or two, we were entertained by our new volunteer, Adele,
dancing with her Columbian friends to a South American CD.
We were fortunate that the
weather had remained cool and dry. Ideal for working weekends. The log store
continued to grow while around the site many tasks were underway.
The stepping stone oil drums were
washed to remove cement laitance and topsoil raked over the exposed concrete
footings. Bambos held the levelling staff while I read the relative levels of
Adele came to see what our little
team had been up to and joined in the fun.
Hayley and friends continued
burning rubbish while Claudia and Susana fed the fire with twigs and leaves
gathered from all over the site.
The pond continued to slowly
drain through the deepened ditch, but Omar recalled that in his school days,
water supplying the former swimming pool could be cut off by removing a
penstock in a concrete dam in the adjacent stream., thus allowing the pool to
be cleaned. (In my last school camp in June 1951, we spent the whole week
resurfacing the base of the swimming pool with hand-mixed concrete).
Although this barrier had not
been opened for years, a lot of hard work with a sledge hammer finally broke
the dam and the stream level quickly fell well below the pipe that served our
former swimming pool. I do recall in the Forties, many of my fellow pupils used
to swim in the stream, that in those days was considerably deeper.
Over the years this water feature has been very neglected and much debris needs
clearing. The water cascade continues to deteriorate.
It was a very productive working
weekend. Hope to see all of you in June,
Working Weekend October 2015
I usually have a walk around the site early on the Saturday mornings, before breakfast, to see what jobs are needed to be done and to admire the beautiful trees with the early morning dew glistening on the leaves.
It was disappointing to see that the very enthusiastic tree surgeon had destroyed two of my favourite silver birches while cutting down trees around the pond. All that is left is a pile of logs!
Still, there was much to be done over the next 2 days. I returned to The Mill for breakfast, prepared by Su and Allan, then set about constructing a new reinforced concrete bridge, necessary to accommodate the width of the new John Deere tractor.
We had a tasty, full English breakfast on Saturday morning, then embarked on the day's work.
The priority jobs for most of the volunteers were the dismantling of the marquis in front of the Mill and stowing it away ready for next year and the gathering up of a vast amount of sawn-down tree foliage to be burnt on site. The sawn trunks were stacked ready for eventual distribution to the log store.
Allan and Peter commenced building a new reinforced concrete bridge, necessary to accommodate the width of the new John Deere tractor and were later joined by Photios and Bambos.
Saturday's work continued with by now four separate bonfires consuming the foliage.
The concrete mixer had been towed to the site of the new bridge together with one tonne of all-in ballast and bags of cement to produce a 6 : 1 concrete mix.
By nightfall the bridge was fully formed and the equipment towed back to the garage, past roaring bonfires.
We had a superb dinner prepared by Su and some of us retired to the cozy lounge to watch the World Cup Rugby match. Sadly, England lost to Australia 33 to 13!
Sunday - The fires from yesterday's efforts were still smoldering and soon yet more tree debris was being consumed in flames. Margaret, Susana and Claudia spread and levelled gravel to the Mill's access track while Hayley dealt with mountains of fallen leaves in the Memorial Garden.
With the bridge works completed, Photios, Allan and Peter, split logs to combustible size for the common room's wood-burning fire.
More of the felled trees were removed from the pond's island, using the ancient boat and Jack's chainsaw. Much of the stacked timber will remain in scattered piles around the site until the next working weekend in March 2016.
Jack and Omar discussed the best method to deal with the thick layer of silt in the pond and in the remnants of the former S.M.G.S. swimming pool. It will be necessary to break out the boulder and concrete dam at the south end of the pond to drain the water. This will be followed by mechanical excavation of the silt, dumped around suitable "fill" areas, yet to be determined.
Working Weekend June 2015
Waiting for the London contingent to arrive, but Jack and Margaret had already been on site for several hours and taking advantage of the fine weather, a lot of timber fences had already been re-stained.
We started the day with a "Full English Breakfast", prepared by Omar and Su. Adrian busied himself tidying up in the kitchen, deputising for Allan who couldn't be with us this time.
Having fed very well, the workers dispersed to their various tasks. About 6 tonnes of gravel was used to level the access road while others erected over 30 tents for visiting school children. Margaret continued with fence preservative and Ian strimmed encroaching weeds around the buildings and waterways.
Sheila's memorial walnut tree near her bench was in danger of being smothered by very tall thistles that have now been removed.
It had been noted that the hand rails on the link bridge to the extension block were becoming somewhat shaky, no doubt due to over-enthusiastic children testing their stiffness. Photios and Peter have remedied this by fitting rather un-sightly, but effective, timber braces set in concrete pads.
As the day progressed Su dispensed first "elevenses" and then a delicious lunch. Later that afternoon there were some quite heavy showers.
After the previous evening and night's heavy rain, Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. A lovely freshness to the beautiful grounds that is our Old Mill estate.
It is quite amazing how quickly vegetation takes over. What just four years ago was the bare earth, steep-sided excavation that surrounded the new extension, is now covered in a profusion of wild plants. This early morning there were squirrels foraging around the area but as I moved in to take pictures, they disappeared, leaving just a solitary slug making its laborious way across the damp paving.
In the kitchen Su was preparing a hearty breakfast while Adrian and Ian quietly waited in the master's former "snug".
Breakfast over, we resumed our tasks.
An on-going problem in this leafy location is the maintenance of rainwater gutters. Jack and Omar elected to tackle this daunting task.
While they were getting the extension ladder erected for this job, Ian cleared all the ditches as Claudia and Susana carted cuttings to the bonfire.
Tony and Bambos had by now maneuvered the ancient dinghy onto the pond to commence fishing for debris, often thrown into the water by ill-disciplined children staying in the camp. This job was to take many hours. The retrieved rubbish was carted to the bonfire, now supervised by Superman (Lionel, sometimes answering to Nigel!).
Photios and Peter had completed the cut-off fence adjacent to Sheila's Memorial bench, giving it a final coat of creosote. Hopefully by next October the grass will once more cover the little mound.
Having completed his concreting duties with the "civils" team, Adrian now widened his experience to plumbing and retired into the Mill to replace hand-basin taps. As Claudia and Susana continued carting rubbish to the bonfire, Omar threw caution to the wind and ascended the steep ladder to clean the top window of the extension! by the time this job needs repeating we have agreed to form a level platform, benched into the slope to take the foot of the access ladder. This is another concreting job (Allan!) that we will be doing next October, along with widening the bridge.
Our intrepid mariners had produced lots more combustible debris from the pond and seemed reluctant to come ashore!
As I walked around the bund that marks the perimeter of the ancient Mill pond, I took photos of large rabbit warren holes. I noted that the angry hornets that had attacked me last October from a nearby tree appeared to be dormant. I wasn't taking any chances and kept well clear of their nest.
As we prepared to clear our tools away, Adrian completed his plumbing task. Soon we were having a late lunch before departing.
Our next working weekend is in October but meanwhile, several of us "Old Philologians" will be re-uniting at the Annual Old Mill barbeque on Sunday, July 5th.
Working Weekend March 2015
The first working weekend of this year took place at the Old Mill from Friday March 20th to Sunday, March 22nd.
As is usual with these events, Jack and Margaret Watson had arrived earlier in the day on Friday. By the time that I arrived early that evening, they had unpacked and assembled the new log splitter and had creosoted the wooden guard rails around the new extension.
I joined them in the former Master's "snug" and we awaited the arrival of the other volunteers.
For the first time in a good many years, David Mayes from William Ellis School was unable to attend. He had taken on the task of bringing others to the Mill following the demise of the W.E.S. minibus. This led to Su Jones, the Mill's warden, travelling to London to collect 7 of the volunteers. They duly arrived at 9.30 pm.
Meanwhile, Allan Sensicle had arrived from Bath and Rob and Bridget Tims had journeyed from Golders Green. Rob, a regular volunteer, had not been able to attend during the previous 2 years due to health problems. He is now fit and it was good to see them again.
While sitting in snug before a cheerful fire, Adrian Morris telephoned to offer his apologies for non-attendace, due to recent eye surgery. He hopes to be with us by June's working detail.
Photios Demetriou had persuaded a fellow S.M.G.S. pupil, Tony Antoniou, to join us last October. Tony enjoyed the experience so much, he invited his brother, Bambos, also an Old Philologian, to join us this year.
That evening there were 16 of us for chili-con-carne dinner prepared by Su.
Representing St. Marylebone Grammar School were Rob and Bridget, Ian Collins, Photios, Tony, Bambos, Jack and Margaret, Allan and Peter Woodman. Representing William Ellis School were Claudia, Susana, Hayley and Lynette (who had brought along her daughter Natalia.
On Saturday morning we enjoyed a full English breakfast, prepared by Su and Allan. Jack then allocated the day's work.
Six members were required to erect the dining shelters. This is usually done during the June working weekend. Others were tasked with conveying two tonnes of gravel to level on the access drive, while Bridget weeded and cleaned the memorial garden. Allan, Peter and Photios were tasked with dismantling the rotting fence around the L.P.G. tank. It was replaced with new fence panels in a more suitable position. The new log splitter that replaced the machine that had failed during last October's working session, was set up adjacent to the log store. Rob quickly reduced dozens of sawn branches into logs for the Mill's wood-burning stove. The purchase of this new machine has been generously funded by the Old Philologians.
Over some years the former tent field has been gradually over-grown on the western boundary. A concerted effort was made to cut back this vegetation by some 8 metres. The cuttings were soon incinerated.
During the morning we received news that Omar Harmon, who had been due to arrive on Saturday, had not been well enough to attend. Omar has done more than anyone to ensure that the spirit of The Mill has been kept alive in the 34 years since the School's closure. We will see Omar at the next working weekend.
Two other volunteer stalwarts arrived that morning. Valerie and Robert from W.E.S. Robert attended to various electrical problems in the building and Valerie helped with the catering.
If you are looking to diet at Forest Green that has to be forgotten. Besides a large breakfast, lunch and dinner, the workers are kept going with elevenses and afternoon tiffin!
We sat down to dinner that evening, joined by Roy who does much needed jobs around the estate.
Later Roy, Claudia and Susana enjoyed a few games of table tennis in the Cass Building games room, while Rob and Bridget departed for home with Lynette and Natalia. Valerie and Robert also left. Eventually the remainder turned in.
We continued our tasks on Sunday morning. More clearing the site from fallen branches, tidying the log store, forming concrete around a loose fence post, erecting a screen around the macerator switch gear, clearing ditches, burning cut undergrowth and applying preservative to fences and handrails.
The weather had been good on both days.
It had been a very enjoyable weekend.
Please come and join us in June from the 19th to the 21st.
Working Weekend October 2014
It was a pretty good turn-out for the last working weekend of this year. In all 18 of us were at The Old Mill on Saturday, October 4th and nearly as many on the Sunday.
New to the work were Claire and her daughter Jezz and Old Philologian Tony Antoniou.
Although Saturday was generally drizzly, a lot of our allotted tasks were completed. Adrian worked his magic on Su's 14 computers, David and team dismantled the covered dining area and stowed it and the tables and chairs ready for next June, Ian donned waders and cleared much of the surface weed on the pond, Tony strimmed the excess vegetation from just about everywhere, Claire and Jezz tidied the memorial garden, Omar and Jack attended to the Cass Building windows and Hayley, Lynette, Suzanne and her sister ferried loads of timber to the wood store, following its sawing and splitting by Photios and Peter. Sadly, the log splitter developed a severe hydraulic oil leak requiring specialist repair, but not before sufficient logs had been split to fill the dry wood store.
Many other jobs were also carried out before we ceased work for the day, chatted over a few glasses of wine and dined on Su, Clare and Valerie's culinary delights. Bob meanwhile had busied himself all day on essential maintenance within the Mill.
Working Weekend June 2014
Peter, one of our regular volunteers and correspondent sent us this e-mail along with a selection of some of the photos that he took over the weekend.
"Despite much lower than our usual volunteer contingent, much essential work was completed this weekend. Wonderful weather and super food .... thanks Alice and Su.
Jack mentioned that there were 4 ducklings on the pond, but this morning, at 07.45, I only found two!
See you all at the next w/w in October and for those making it, at the Old Philologians annual barbeque on September 14th.
All the best,
Working Weekend March 2014
Here are some photos from Saturday, March 22nd. The day dawned bright and sunny (fortunately different from the weather forecast!) and the early morning walk around the estate before breakfast was stimulating.
Allan was assisting Su with preparing breakfast while Jack sorted out the various jobs for the 17 volunteers attending the first working weekend of 2014. A priority was given to erecting the two marquees to form the dining shelter for pupils from Primrose Hill visiting on March 26th to 28th. All the volunteers were engaged on this except Allan, Jack and Peter whose task was to demolish the old deteriorating wooden staircase at the Cass Building and erect a new flight. Jack, ably assisted by Margaret, had fashioned the stair and hand rails and their home and transported it to Forest Green in their trusty Skoda estate car.
Once the dining area had been erected and filled with tables and chairs, the other jobs proceeded. One of those jobs was cleaning chewing and bubble gum from the underside of the tables. You can see just how much of this multi-hued "gunk" had been hidden from view by last year's visitors!
Since our last working weekend in October there had been lots of fallen branches and a few up-rooted trees. These were sawn up in-situ and transported to the wood store while small twigs, and the old Cass Building stair, were burnt by Ruth, Hayley and Margaret.
Roy and Ian pitched numerous tents for the Primrose Hill pupils while Adrian wrestled with a recalcitrant door closer and an annoying water leak under the outside kitchen sink.
Other jobs were rubbing down and painting outside windows, correcting electrical faults, sorting rubber boots into pairs, rubbing down and treating several memorial benches and generally tidying up the site. Several interior maintenance tasks were completed.
Throughout the day Su and Cheryl, with the help of Margaret and Val, served tasty food and drink at mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon and evening meals.
That evening Ruth organized an enjoyable two-team quiz for eleven of us while others caught up with Match-of-the-Day.
The weather had been mainly fine all day with just a couple of quick showers during the late afternoon.