We felt slightly giddy, standing on the mill floor as the entire structure – tower, sails, the lot – turned through all points of the compass. Propelled by our unseen friends outside, our little world was turning; twenty-odd tons of oak, cast iron and millstone creaked alarmingly about our ears as sunbeams and shadows danced across the internal walls.
We were on another of Martin’s marvellous outings. You may remember the last one involved crossing an expanse of open water in a small boat. This time we were getting up close and personal with some 17th century heavy engineering.
Setting out from Abington Pigotts earlier that morning, Martin had led the way – via Hatley St George and the Gransdens – to Bourn where he had arranged a tour of the mill. Our host Kate plus volunteers Derek and Claire were expecting us and gave a warm welcome.
Built in 1636, Bourn is one of the oldest windmills in England and a designated Ancient Monument. Perched in lovely countryside to the west of Cambridge it is owned and cared for by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future.
Derek and Claire gave us a fascinating insight into the ingenuity of millwrights – before splitting us into two groups: the innies who were to be whirled around inside – and the outies who did the pushing. Innies and outies then swapped over so all had a turn at pushing / feeling queasy.
Afterwards Kate invited us into her garden where we enjoyed tea, coffee and some wonderful home-baked treats. Delightful as it was, we had another 17 miles to go and so, thanking Kate, Derek and Claire for their hospitality, we saddled up and set off on the return leg.
Approaching Harlton, Martin led us off road and up hill on a rough track for a mile or so before before descending towards Orwell. Then it was on to Meldreth, Bassingbourn and eventually the home straight back to the Pig and Abbot.
Over a hearty lunch and a beer there was much talk of windmills followed by a fierce debate as to whether Landlady Pat’s meat pies were superior to her meat puddings; opinion was divided and we agreed to return and gather more data in the near future.
For the record our gang of cyclists comprised Martin, Andrew, Sandra, Ken, Howard, Roger, Ric, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon, Vernon and Brian – and we clocked up 32 miles.
Thanks, Martin, for another excellent outing; Andrew too for the logistics. And a special thanks to Kate, Derek and Claire for their hospitality. Great cakes, Kate!