This year, National Mills Day is being celebrated on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th May. This is an opportunity to visit some of the many wind and water mills that remain. Some are working mills and may offer flour or products for sale whilst others are still at various stages of restoration, often undertaken by volunteers. Information about mills and their opening times can be accessed via
To be inside a mill when it is working is quite an experience. The sound the of the mill stones grinding over one another makes you feel the mill is alive and there is constantly something going on as the grain drops into the hopper that leads to the stones and milled flour feeds into the shutes taking it to the sacks below. Even in the mildest wind, and it seems you do not need or even want a strong wind to drive a windmill, the mill structure moves with the action of the sails and the stones.
At one time the only flour available from these restored working mills was stone-ground wholemeal flour ideal for baking bread by traditional methods and with great flavour. Some of the more established mills now offer white flour as well and some have ranges of flour including a fine flour for cakes, cornflour and even oats depending on their available machinery and space. It would be wrong to assume that having visited one mill you had seen it all, therefore.
The mills themselves will date from many different periods of history. Some mills have simply been altered to incorporate new machinery and methods whilst others have seen continual replacement with newer and more sophisticated buildings.
One mill that has an interesting additional attraction is the Old City Mill at Winchester, run by the National Trust. Here the river running under the mill is the home to otters and a web cam has been set up allowing visitors to see footage of the appearances which generally take place at night.