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Five minutes with... Alison Yardy

PUBLISHED: 14:03 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 14:03 03 May 2016

Thurne Mill

Thurne Mill

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2014

who is regional co-ordinator of the mills section for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which runs the annual National Mills Weekend. Alison is also a historic environment officer with Norfolk County Council

Windmills and watermills, standing stark against huge cloud-scudded skies, are the epitome of a Norfolk landscape. National Mills Weekend, on May 14 and 15 this year, celebrates the heritage of these picturesque remnants of our industrial past. Marvel at the mechanisms by which wind and water are transformed into power through the sweep of majestic sails turning in the wind, or a river rolling through a waterwheel. Wind and water mills once provided the power to grind wheat into corn, make paper, extract oils and drain agricultural land.

Why is it important to preserve our mills?

As a traditionally arable county, the corn mills are a key part of Norfolk’s identity, plus we have a really special drained wetland landscape in the Broads, so overall we have more mills than any other county. Restoring and maintaining them helps preserve that landscape and keep traditional craft and engineering skills alive.

What should visitors particularly look out for at the Norfolk mills which are open?

A new (and rather unusual) addition to the Norfolk list is the site of Narborough Bone Mill (bonemill.org.uk) which has a really enthusiastic group of volunteers who have been involved in the recent Heritage Lottery Fund project to consolidate the remains and investigate its story. They will be offering guided tours and answering questions over National Mills Weekend. Another site very rarely open is the Little Cressingham combined wind and water mill which will be open on the Sunday, 11-3pm.

What are some of the highlights of the weekend in Norfolk?

On the Saturday, May 14, from 12-4pm, my colleague Amanda Rix and I will be manning Polkey’s Mill and Engine House on the Reedham Marshes on the River Yare which (wind permitting) will have its sails turning, so we would certainly recommend that one for those that don’t mind a nice 40 minute walk along the riverbank from Reedham village. As the theme of the weekend is vintage power, we are also planning to have the site’s 1941 Ruston and Hornsby diesel engines running.

The volunteer team at Wicklewood Mill also plans to have its historic paraffin engine running on Sunday, May 15, from 1pm to 4pm.

Do you have any personal favourites in Norfolk – and why?

Lots, and it changes all the time, but I grew up in the Broads and am particularly drawn to the drainage mills, which I have almost finished writing a book about. I love the Halvergate Marshes landscape but also Horsey (under restoration in 2016) and Stubb Mill, Hickling, where the stories of those who operated them in their working days come most to life. w

Norfolk mills open for at least part of National Mills Weekend include:

Berney Arms windmill, near Great Yarmouth.

Great Bircham windmill, near Fakenham.

Gunton Park sawmill, near North Walsham.

Hardley wWindpump, near Loddon.

Horsey wWindpump, near Stalham.

Letheringsett watermill, near Holt.

Little Cressingham wind and water mill, near Watton.

Narborough bone mill, near Swaffham.

Old Buckenham windmill, near Attleborough.

Repps, Morse Wind Engine Collection, near Potter Heigham.

Polkey’s and Cadge’s mills, near Reedham.

Stracey Arms windpump, near Acle.

Stow windmill, Paston, near North Walsham.

Stubb Mill, near Hickling, near Stalham.

Thurne Dyke drainage mill, near Potter Heigham.

Wicklewood windmill, near Wymondham.

For more details, see 
www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk 
and www.friendsofnorfolkmills.org

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