Volunteers have issued a desperate appeal for financial support after broken paddles forced a mill wheel out of action.

An estimated £5,500 is needed to fund repair work on the wheel, which is based at Alderford Mill in Sible Hedingham.

The mill, which dates back to the 1100s, is managed by the Friends of Alderford Mill, who run monthly open days.

Volunteers’ milling demonstrations can no longer go ahead after four paddles on the mill wheel snapped.

Volunteer Owen Hawkes said: “It has come at the worst possible time. This coming weekend we would have been milling flour and running displays.

“There are two reasons why it could have broken. One theory is the wrong wood was used to build the wheel.

“The other is a possible fungal infection which has come from pollution in the river.

“If it is a fungal infection, we will have to lower the water level, take all of the wood off and remove it from the building. We still intend to keep the mill open and show people round. But it will be at least a year until it is fixed.”

The Friends, desperate to repair the wheel and keep visitors coming to the mill, have issued an appeal for donations and sponsors.

Essex County Council owns the Alderford Mill building but is not responsible for the mill wheel.

Mr Hawkes said: “We have secured the English elm wood we need but we need to pay for it and the repair work.

“We are asking anyone interested in historical mills to come forward and sponsor the project.

“It’s an important piece of history but we can’t preserve it on our own.”

Those willing to sponsor or donate to the project will get a certificate and be included on a roll of honour to be displayed in the mill.

To make a donation, call Mr Hawkes on 07939 372987.