AN ambitious restoration scheme centred on the dilapidated water mill and adjoining barn at Hestercombe has received the go-ahead with a £800,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The award and £400,000 from Viridor Credits last year, means that the long-anticipated scheme can now become a reality.

The complex of buildings will be restored to their 19th Century glory, when they operated as a timber mill on the Hestercombe estate.

Incorporated in the development will also be a display of the historic uses of sustainable energy sources in the past, plus demonstrations of 21st Century energy conservation methods.

Education and interpretation will be a crucial part of the scheme, and the Hestercombe Gardens Trust has linked up with the Genesis Project, at Taunton's Somerset College, to run joint learning activities.

Chief Executive of the Hestercombe Gardens Trust Philip White said: "The three-year project will include the appointment of an education development officer who will co-ordinate and expand the current education initiatives.

"It will include life-long learning; skills, especially those relating to heritage and traditional crafts; and maximising the tremendous learning opportunities Hestercombe can offer school and college students."

The mill and barn project is part of a much larger initiative, which includes the restoration and re-creation of four historic buildings in the landscape garden, together with an associated programme of visitor interpretation.

The Hestercombe Gardens Trust will be launching its first appeal in the summer to raise the £1.5 million partnership funding required to deliver the whole project.