AN ambitious project to restore an historic site in the Allen Valleys has narrowly missed out on a national award.

Volunteers have been working to clear out the site of the Allen Smelt Mill near Allendale for the last three years.

Rubble and vegetation had covered much of the site, which smelted lead mined from the valleys between 1692 and 1896.

In 2014 the North Pennines AONB Partnership asked for volunteers to help clear the site, due to a plan to investigate the mill as part of the £2.7m Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Volunteers uncovered various elements of the original structure over several weekends of hard work – and many stayed on and are still working at the site today, continuing to uncover and consolidate the vast smelting complex.

Their work was recognised earlier this year, when the Allen Smelt Mill volunteers were nominated for a Historic England Angel Award, in the Best Craftsperson or Apprentice on a Heritage Rescue or Repair Project category.

The volunteers lost out on the top spot to the Bulmer Brick and Tile company, but lead volunteer Helen Wilkinson said that the nomination had still helped to raise the site’s profile.

Helen said: “Everybody says it’s not about the winning. It would’ve been nice to win, but it’s the whole package.

“It’s been really good publicity for us, it’s just really raised awareness that there’s something at Allen Smelt Mill.

“I’ve had a long standing interest in lead mining, I got into it by exploring old lead mines.

“I’d been to Allen Mill before and it was so disappointing. There was nothing to see.

“I heard that there was going to be some vegetation clearance, so I volunteered to help.

“The vision has always been to put a new water wheel in there, so that’s the next step for us.”