THIS week, Ted McKie and Ross McGinn from Innerleithen Community Trust, turn the clock back on the the town's Mill Lade.

Known to Innerleithen folk simply as “the Dam” the mill lade follows a one and a half mile course from the cauld (weir) on Leithen Water at the golf course just to the north of the town down to where it enters the River Tweed just south of Tweedbank Farm.

The medieval part of the Dam, fed from a cauld opposite Kirklands Farm, turned the waterwheels of a meal mill, which stood at the west end of the Strand, and a waulk mill, a mechanical device for fulling newly woven cloth, situated in the area of the later Caerlee Mill.

In the 1840s, the Dam was extended northwards to supply power to St. Ronan’s Mill and the smaller Wilson’s Mill.

The original lade may have re-entered Leithen in the region of the modern road bridge but by the mid-19th century it had been channelled southwards, following a course roughly parallel to Leithen.

At one time or another, the Dam has turned thirteen waterwheels.

Added to those already mentioned above there were wheels at Kirklands Farm, Eckford’s Sawmill, the Coop shoe repair shop, Robert Smail’s Printing Works, Hogg & Robertson’s Engineering Works, Stewart’s Sawmill, Leithen Mill and Innerleithen Mains Farm.

During the later transition to other (less green) sources of power the Dam turned turbines at Caerlee Mill and at an offshoot by the engineering works where the town’s first electricity generator was put into service.

Long after the waterwheels were replaced or fell into disuse the Dam continued to be a consistent supply of soft water for use in the manufacture of woollen textiles.

The factories, which maintained the Dam (now a listed structure), have all disappeared.

Except where it flows through private property the old lade is showing obvious signs of wear and lack of maintenance.

Volunteers working with Innerleithen Community Trust have cleared debris from the water course to ensure a decent flow, particularly during the summer, and to reduce flood risk.

But much more needs to be done. The picturesque “Dam” is one of the few pieces of industrial heritage left to Innerleithen and merits some investment to ensure its survival.