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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Windmill Wonder

Sometimes you surprise yourself and I certainly did that a couple of weeks ago when I found myself climbing to the top of this five storey tower windmill at Great Bircham in Norfolk. I don't like heights but they say you should do something that scares you every day and I've always thought that there's something magical about windmills. This one had me in its spell and I knew that I would regret it if I didn't at least give it a try.


This tower windmill was built in 1846 and is 52 feet high to curb level. The mill was still working in 1916 although it had ceased by 1922. In 1939 the mill became part of the Sandringham Estate when it was purchased by Her Majesty The Queen but it was sold in 1976 to Roger Wagg and restoration began the following year. Today the mill is not pristine inside but it is all the more evocative for that.

And when you get to the top it really is a thing of beauty.

And that's before you've even looked outside.

You can see for miles but I loved looking up at the sky and the sails even more.

But back down to earth there was another first for me - to experience sheep milking!

About twelve people, adults and children, crammed into the outbuilding and waited for the sheep to arrive. This is the milking platform:-


And then with a clatter and a bit of jostling for position, the sheep arrived. Their teats were cleaned and tested by hand, to make sure there weren't any blockages, before the equipment was fixed in place and the milk began to flow.


And the sheep looked so happy as they were milked. This one was almost in a dreamlike state.


The milk is used to make sheep's cheese. Unfortunately the cheese-making wasn't taking place on the day we visited but we could sample the two types of cheese - a type of Wensleydale and a sheep's feta. Both delicious! Bircham Windmill is a charming place to visit. As well as the sheep there are guinea pigs and rabbits which can be handled - if you can catch them! There are pony rides, a goat pen, a play area and of course a good tea room. You can even buy cakes and break baked on the premises to take away with you. There's more information at

A few more windmill facts:-

Apparently the first windmill was described in the first century AD by Hero of Alexandria.

Norfolk is famous for its windmills but other counties have them too.There are 12 windmills in existence in Leicestershire today.

There are 1150 workable windmills in Holland and that number is rising as the Dutch are undertaking extensive re-builds of their windmills.

Leonardo Da Vinci's helicopter design could have been inspired by a windmill toy with was popular in his time.

Longfellow's Poem The Windmill begins 'Behold! A giant am I!' I think he captures the essence of a windmill perfectly.

And to finish I leave you with this beautiful song.


Monday, 9 July 2012

Keeping Your Feet On The Ground

For the past few weeks I have been editing a children's novel which is due to be published by Templar in 2013. I have, for large chunks of time, been inhabiting another place and it can be difficult at the end of the day to leave my characters and their problems behind and to return to the real world. It was when training to be a reflexologist that I learned of the importance of grounding.
When giving a treatment it is important to keep your feet firmly on the ground in order not to feel disconnected or 'floaty'. After a challenging stint of writing it is important to re-connect, to earth oneself, to be able to talk to my family without feeling distracted. So here are some of the ways I have found to be useful for grounding:-

1. Drinking plenty of water. It can be tap water, filtered water or mineral water - it doesn't matter.

2. Walking barefoot around the house or with a thick pair of socks on in winter but basically allowing your feet to feel the floor beneath you. Even the softest pair of slippers are constricting to your feet.

3. Even better is to walk outside, preferably on the grass.

 Again barefoot is best but obviously that's not always possible. If my head is particularly 'buzzy' just going into the garden and standing on the grass calms me.

4. Gardening is extremely therapeutic. Either delving your hands into soil, weeding or sowing seeds or visiting some of the beautiful gardens we have in this country. One of my favourite gardens to visit is Coton Manor in Northamptonshire.

5. Eating root vegetables, carrots, beetroot, onions, parsnips, anything which has grown below ground. I also have a juicer and use that often. One of my favourite combinations is celery, carrot and fennel.

6. I love visiting a market to buy vegetables. We have a brilliant local open air market which sells a myriad of products. It is always vibrant and bustling. Recently I visited this market in Pollenca, Mallorca where I bought a kilo of French beans for about £2.00. Brilliant! But I loved the dislplay of flowers too.

Do you sometimes find it difficult to get back to real life after writing? If so, please let me know what you do to connect with everyone and everything around you.