Archimedes arrives at Osney Lock!

Osney Lock Hydro is the first community-owned hydro scheme to be built on the Thames.

Constructing a community-owned hydro scheme at Osney Lock has been a dream for local residents for over thirteen years. It started in 2001 with a survey of  Osney Island residents that revealed a shared concern about climate change and a desire to harness the power of the river that ran around the island to generate green electricity. A small island next to Osney Lock was identified as the best site for the hydro scheme. The island is owned by the Environment Agency so they were approached about the possibility of leasing the site. It was discovered that work was to begin on the weir in 2013 so the pressure was on for the residents to draw up plans for the Archimedean Screw and secure planning permission and then most importantly secure funding for the project.

Construction work prior to installation
Construction work prior to installation

There was extraordinary support shown by local people towards the project. The Osney Lock Hydro share offer raised over £500,000 in just four weeks. Without this swift and significant support the project would not have been able to go ahead. Over 40% of the investment came from within a mile of the project and 4 out of 5 investors live in Oxfordshire.

Osney Lock hydro installation
Lifting the 4.35m Archimedean Screw into place

osney lock hydro installation

On Tuesday 25th March at midday the dreams of the local residents came to life when a 4.35m-long, four-bladed Archimedean screw was installed at Osney Lock – the final construction phase of the Osney Lock Hydro scheme. The screw was designed by Mann Power Consulting Limited in the UK and manufactured in the Netherlands by Landustrie. Once operational, the 49kW variable speed Archimedean Screw turbine  will harness the power of the river to generate approximately 179,000kWh of green electricity per year.  When the scheme is completed it will generate enough electricity equivalent to that used to power around 60 houses. It will also generate an income of over £2 million over the lifespan of the project for the community to use for further environmental projects in the community.

Osney lock hydro installation
The four bladed Archimedean Screw being guided into position ~ Photo Credit: Andrew Watson

Over the coming weeks the power house will be constructed and then the gearbox and generator added. Once the Archimedean Screw is commissioned it will generate clean green elcetricity for the Osney Lock community – a long awaited dream that came to life 🙂

Update: Gear box and generator connected.

Gearbox and generator connected
Gearbox and generator connected
Medieval Water Mills in Ireland

A  presentation on Medieval Water Mills in Ireland will take place on Monday 10th March at 7.30pm at Engineers Ireland, 22 Clyde Road, Dublin 4.

This is a free event hosted by the Heritage Society, in association with the Civil division and the Local Government division.

Old Mill and Mill Wheel

Ireland currently has the largest corpus of pre-10th century water-mill sites (both horizontal and vertical-wheeled) in the world. These provide vital insights into the development of water-powered prime movers elsewhere in Europe, where sites of similar date are generally rare. Indeed, while the precursors of the modern reaction turbine can be found in late Roman Tunisia, the earliest excavated examples of horizontal water wheels with dished or scooped paddles (as found in Pelton wheels) have been excavated in Ireland.

Using recent archaeological evidence from Ireland, this talk will seek to re-evaluate the relationship between mills employing horizontal and vertical water-wheels, and will challenge the notion that vertical wheeled grain mills were necessarily more efficient and productive than mills with horizontal waterwheels.

Water wheel

Dr Colin Rynne BA PhD – Senior Lecturer at UCC’s Archaeology Department.

Dr Rynne has widely published on water power in medieval Ireland and Europe and on the post-medieval and industrial archaeology of Ireland.  His research interests include medieval agriculture, medieval and post-medieval iron working in Ireland and Irish industrial archaeology.  Current research interests include a study of the 17th-century colonial landscapes created in south east Munster by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork.  He is also completing a major publication on the archaeology of waterpower in early medieval Ireland and Europe, c. AD 600-1100.

Medieval Water Mill excavated at Kilbegley, Co. Roscommon.

One of the best preserved early Medieval Water Mills in Europe was excavated in Kilbegley, Co. Roscommon in 2007. The  beautifully preserved horizontal watermill dates back to between 650–850 AD. During the excavation the remains of the whole lower floor of the mill, with its flume (the chute that carries the water), undercroft, wheel-hub, paddles and a number of other features largely intact were discovered. Artefacts that tell us about the lives of the monks and millers, like ringed-pins, bracelet fragments and leather were also found.

The excavation revealed that the millwrights and monks had an incredibly sophisticated and talented ability to survey and understand hydrological techniques, as the water from the mill came from small springs and local ground water rather than a river.

All of the structural timbers from the mill have been preserved and are currently stored with the National Museum of Ireland until a suitable location to house and display them can be found close to the place they were discovered.

Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill ~ Photo Credit Neil Jackman author of 'The Mill at Kilbegley'
Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill ~ Photo Credit Neil Jackman author of ‘The Mill at Kilbegley’

A book on the excavation ‘The Mill at Kilbegley’  authored by Neil Jackman with Caitríona Moore and Colin Rynne and edited by Tadhg O’Keefe is now available.

You can also hear the story of the mill, and all the other fascinating archaeological sites discovered in advance of the construction of the M6 by downloading the FREE audioguide – The M6 A Route Through Time.

Thank you to Neil Jackman who very kindly allowed me to include the information and photo of the excavation of Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill.

National Tree Week 2 – 8 March 2014 ~ The Sound of Trees!

The theme for National Tree Week 2014 is ‘The Sound of Trees’ ~ ‘Fuaim na gCrann’

The launch of National Tree Week takes place in Powerscourt Estate Gardens,  Enniskerry, Co.Wicklow on Sunday 2nd March 2014.  National Tree Week is an annual week long fun festival about trees organised by The Tree Council of Ireland.  In celebration of National Tree Week individuals, families, schools and local communities are encouraged to participate in and support events taking place around the country during the week.

National Tree Week 2014 - trees at Eco Evolution, Wexford
National Tree Week 2014 – trees at Eco Evolution, Wexford

By doing something as simple as planting a tree, everyone can play their part in making a difference to our efforts to live more sustainably, bringing about huge  benefits, many of which will have long term impact in times of climate uncertainty. 

Despite great advances in the past 100 years, Ireland remains one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 11% of our land planted with trees compared to the European average of 40%.  Ireland has agreed a target to increase our forest cover to 17% by 2035.  This initiative will provide new jobs, build our forestry industry and help improve our environment.

On a global level, trees play a significant role in mitigating against climate change by soaking up carbon emissions and in the sustainable wood resource they provide.  Trees also improve air quality, providing us with clean air to breathe, and reduce the effects of flash flooding and soil erosion.  They give shade to make streets and buildings cooler in summer and improve the energy efficiency of buildings by providing shelter and reducing heat loss.  Without trees, life on earth would be intolerable.

Get involved!

It’s easy to get involved as an individual or as a group.  The Tree Council of Ireland invites you to organise one or more events for the week to celebrate trees. As well as tree planting ceremonies, the range of events can include forest and woodland walks, nature trails, workshops, woodturning displays, talks, tree hugging, tree climbing etc. the choice is yours.

Ferns Tidy Towns Group planting a copse of trees
Ferns Tidy Towns Group planting a copse of trees

What can you do to celebrate National Tree Week?

  • Check out the National Tree Week events programme and take part in an event near you.
  • Celebrate National Tree Week in your school by planting a tree or in the classroom by drawing pictures or making leaf prints or bark rubbings of trees, read or write poems or stories about trees, learn how to measure the height and spread of a tree, produce a class drama about trees.
  • Encourage your local residents association, tidy towns group, youth club, sports club or other local organisation to get their members involved in a tree planting or tree maintenance project (eg. clean-up a local woodland) in your area.
  • Volunteer in a local community tree-planting event. You’ll meet new people and make a difference in your community.
  • Organise a walk or trail to showcase and tell the stores of any large, unusual or historic trees in your community.
  • Commemorate an event of significance in your community by planting a tree and organise a community celebration or get together to mark the occasion.
  • Celebrate the week in a personal way by planting a tree yourself in your own garden.
  • Take some time to read a book about trees or find our more about their characteristics, their uses, folklore etc. Learn to identify trees in your neighbourhood.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. Visit a local forest or park or take a nature walk and enjoy observing and being in the company of trees.
  • Those in the business community could sponsor a community tree project.
Woodland area of native trees at Scoil Naomh Maodhóg, Ferns
Woodland area of native tree saplings at Scoil Naomh Maodhóg, Ferns

Trees are essential to our world and offer a wide range of benefits to our environment so for the week that’s in it we should also remember that recycling saves trees! Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution.

Celebrate with Gorey Library

If you live in or around Gorey, Co. Wexford why not celebrate National Tree Week with Gorey Library.  Email your photograph of trees before and or after the recent storms to display digitally in the library. If you wish to be accredited please place your name digitally on your photograph. The Digital Photographic Exhibition will run for the full week of National Tree Week. Please email photographs to