This weekend is National Mills Weekend in the UK, and so I decided to head off to one of the few working mills left in Cambridgeshire, in a village called Wicken.
Wicken was once home to my Bishop family during the 1800s, and it is most likely that they regularly looked at Wicken Mill, which stopped being used commercially in the 1930s. In the 1800s, it was cutting edge. Harnessing the power of wind to grind corn into different grades of flour.
Today, our guide showed us how a team of enthusiasts have managed to restore the mill to a working condition where they make (and sell) plain and wholemeal flour.
Climbing up through the levels, I arrived at the grinding level, where two large grindstones sit. Through an engineering feat, corn or wheat is steadily fed to the grindstones. The sails fly past the windows at a regular and fast pace. The stones were not grinding when I visited, but the corn that is hoisted up from the ground floor through trapdoors is fed to the hoppers above the grindstones.
The ground corn, then drops down chutes to the level below, where it drops into sacks.
The windmill, with its sails spinning round in the windy wet fens, felt like a machine charging up a tremendous power. Its wheels and pulleys working together, would have been the hadron collider of the day, but one that helped put money in pockets and bread on the tables of the entire village.
A couple of years ago, and only a few miles away, I visited The Great Mill of Haddenham. That mill is not a working mill but like many is steadily being restored.
Both are beautiful machines, harnessing an incredible power. I hope that the remaining mills of Cambridgeshire can be restored once again to full working order.