Civic chiefs have launched a £1.7m bid to encourage more people to explore one of Hampshire’s most historic villages.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is being asked to finance improvements to ancient buildings in the centre of Eling, including Europe’s only operational tide mill.

Council bosses hope the scheme will result in more families visiting a picture postcard area that is being promoted as the ‘Eling Experience’.

The project enables people to tour the Grade II-listed mill before visiting Totton and Eling Heritage Centre, where exhibits include a 3,000-year-old dagger that was found at Testwood Lakes.

The town and district councils have already been awarded an initial hand-out of £56,500 from the HLF.

They are still waiting to learn if they will qualify for the rest of the cash but a decision is expected to be made either this month or next. The scheme will enable more visitors, particularly young people, to visit the mill and take part in hands-on learning.

Civic chiefs are planning to refurbish the 18th century building, improve access to the site and create a new learning centre that will include an interactive exhibition telling the story of the mill.

Other plans include an extension to a nearby building that houses the heritage centre and a waterside cafe.

A district council spokesman said: “The proposed extension is a key part of the Eling Experience project as it will allow the development of a multi-purpose education room.

“The extension will become the new seating area for the cafe.

“That will allow the existing seating area to be transformed into an education space as well as providing an overflow area for the cafe.”

The spokesman said the scheme would help preserve what he described as a valuable piece of local heritage that was of national importance.

He added: “It will also provide an outstanding interactive learning experience for local schoolchildren, residents and visitors.”

HLF spokesman Stuart McLeod said the funding application, if successful, would enable the councils to “transform” the Eling Experience.

He added: “The proposed new learning centre will provide a great insight into the heritage of the local area.

“It will enable people from near and far to learn about the important role the mill played in the local community.”