Walks to reveal Lancaster’s hidden Mill Race

The Mill Race. Photo by Louise Mullagh.
The Mill Race. Photo by Louise Mullagh.
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Lancaster University researchers are seeking help from the public to find out more about a hidden stream that is believed to have contributed to recent city centre floods.

With origins from the Roman period, the Mill Race is a stream flowing under the centre of Lancaster that has been fully concealed for around a century. Once feeding a mill near Dye House Lane, it starts near what is now Ladies Walk and empties into the Lune below the Millennium Bridge.

Because the Mill Race is underground and therefore unpredictable, it is difficult to use modern forecasting methods to predict what might happen in the city centre during periods of extreme rainfall.

As part of a project exploring how communities and businesses who experience flooding can contribute knowledge, experiences and memories of these events, researchers, from the University’s School of Computing and Communications and Imagination Lancaster, are organising free public walks, between Thursday July 12 and Sunday July 15.

The walks will bring people into the city centre above where the Mill Race flows to consider Lancaster’s recent floods.

They will also encourage people to imagine what might be done to prevent future floods, to create a new ‘weather lore’ about the city and build these findings into an archive that will be brought together into a website.

Louise Mullagh, one of the researchers, said: “As the Mill Race is now covered over, we need to use some imagination and historical maps and accounts to understand and remember it, which is why we are trying to bring this old part of Lancaster to life through thinking about its future in the city.

“We believe that walking is a great way to explore and think about the city, to look around and think about how water affects our daily lives in a city where it was once so important to its wealth and growth.”

No prior knowledge of the Mill Race is needed and walkers will be provided with kits containing maps and instructions. The walks take around 90 minutes and can be self-guided, however guided walks will be held at 1pm and 6pm each day from the 12th to 15th July.

The research project is exploring how information contributed by people who live and work in the city might be used alongside data such as weather and river flow to create a rich picture of Lancaster and its watercourses.

This work is funded as part of Lancaster University’s Professor Gordon Blair’s Senior Fellowship in Digital Technology and Living with Environmental Change as part of the Ensemble suite of projects. More information is available on www.themillrace.org.uk

More information on Ensemble is available by visiting www.ensembleprojects.org