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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.


1 comment:

  1. You're supposed to do something that scares you every day?!? Surely not, Alex. I'd be a wreck! Although I have been up a windmill once... A small one! I love the look on that sheep's face. She looks so peaceful. Wonder if she'd make a good pet.