For the past two months I’ve swapped California four-lane highways for country lanes for a Norfolk house sitting assignment. The weather can be hit and miss in the UK this time of year but it’s been exceedingly mild, which has added to the enjoyment of my long daily walks with the two West Highland Terriers I’ve been looking after.
These walks have taken me across the flat lands, beneath the big skies and along the muddy lanes of Norfolk river banks and fields. Barren trees dot the landscape and the crops are just starting to shoot up in across this arable land.
Each day gets progressively milder and I’m spoilt for the variety of different walks there are in this part of the county. One of my favourites is down a country lane and under the narrow gauge railway line to follow the bend and curl of the river as it leads towards The Old Mill.
The Old Water Mill
This white-washed grand old dame has lived many lifetimes. Most recently being coverted from a village watering hole and place to lay your head into private apartments in 2015, but before that it was the work-horse of the village grinding down locally grown grains using the power of the water flowing along the Bure River to drive three pairs of millstones to grind animal feed and flour.
The watermill was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1085, and was last rebuilt as a mill in 1754 by William Pepper, a local Buxton merchant. It’s been a prominent landmark in the village for many centuries. It has also been a tea house and a craft centre.
A fire in 1991 resulted in a 14-month rebuilding project that saw it restored to its original 18th century design. At the time it was the largest timber framed re-construction ever to take place in the UK. It was then opened as 19 room hotel, bar and restaurant before morphing into it’s current persona of nine individualy-owned luxury apartments (one of which is operated as a self-catering holiday location).
It’s a bit of a shame that the Old Mill is no longer a place you can pop in for a long cool drink on a warm summer evening. But the Norfolk landscape is peppered with old mills that have been converted into ideal locations for an evening meal or Sunday lunch – so there’s plenty more to choose from. For now, this building makes a stark and austere backdrop for my river walks and a constant reminder of this village’s past.