Living up to our club name, we rarely pass a windmill without stopping for a photograph – and sometimes even a visit. We have, indeed, been known to stop and admire one of those rare delights, a tidal mill. But never to my knowledge had we visited a watermill . . . until today.
So it was that some fifteen Windmillers stopped off at Alderford Watermill in Sible Hedingham where Martin had arranged for us to have a guided tour.
We were shown around by Owen, one of the volunteers who maintains and keeps alive this wonderful piece of 18th century engineering. Owen explained how parts of the present mill date from around 1720 when it would have been operated by a miller and one assistant producing coarse wholemeal flour. Over the years new power sources – steam, then oil, and finally electricity – were adopted to boost output and reduce the dependency upon river flow.
The mill finally stopped turning in 1957 and from then on the building was used for grain storage. Now owned by Essex County Council it is lovingly maintained (and continually restored!) by Owen and his fellow volunteers, the Friends of Alderford Mill.
Earlier at the White Horse, Ridgewell, fourteen Windmillers had gathered for our regular Thursday ride. We should have been fifteen but Simon was missing. We are used to losing him during, but not before, a ride and a quick phone call established that the poor chap had mixed up the meeting point with the ride destination. Yes, he was at The Blue Egg. We hung around until Simon eventually, and somewhat sheepishly, rolled into the car park. Now we were fifteen – and all off to, yes, The Blue Egg.
As ever, Maurice had chosen a wonderful route; 32 miles on quiet lanes and in perfect spring weather.
For the record the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Sandra and Simon.
Thanks are due to: Maurice and Andrew for planning the day; birthday boy Charles for buying the beers; Martin for arranging the mill tour; and Owen for his excellent guided tour of the mill.