In 2014 our maintenance team discovered rot in one of the Sweeps constructed in 1982.
We decided to build a new Sweep using a Whip constructed from laminated larch :
whilst the rest of the Sweep components were to be made from Pitch Pine.
Following advice from millwrights and people in the timber trade, however, we were persuaded that Siberian Larch was of better quality than the current stocks of new Pitch Pine.
The initial search of sawmills in Sussex had borne no useful results at all and so we had turned our gaze further north. Eventually we tracked down Sykes Timber, hardwood and softwood merchants based in Atherstone, Warwickshire who claimed to have a stock of top-grade slow-grown Siberian Larch and, to that end, a small group of our volunteers were dispatched to Warwickshire to check out their claims.
The team were not disappointed. They were positively overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of much of the larch.
They therefore explained to the timber merchant the reason for the potential purchase, stressing how important it was, if the team (for maintenance work) were to safely climb the sweeps once re erected on the mill, for there to be no significant knot holes or other impairments in the timber. This did not faze the timber merchant at all and he undertook to select the best timber for Jill Mill once an order was received.
The team returned to Sussex, discussed what they had seen, sized up the requirements (including spare timber for future work) and placed the order.
Within the week, the timber was dispatched by lorry to the Mill and work started immediately to cut and machine the large planks into the sections required for the rebuilding of the old sweep that needs replacing.
What is really remarkable is the quality and weight of the timber supplied. Apart from a limited amount of sap wood at the edges of the planks, all of it looks like it will be of sufficient quality to be usable for the job in hand. And the weight of the timber confirms that it really was slow-grow, and thus very close-grained which is just what was needed.