In March 2014 I was commissioned to shoot photos for Melton Mowbray Councils tourism department, & was sent out, with the aid of my cousin Mark, driving, around the Leicestershire countryside with a loose itinerary of places of interest to visit. The weather was mixed, as the fresh & unpredictable wind blew copious amounts of huge fluffy clouds around the bright sky, alternately scattering showers upon or bathing us in the warming rays of an unabashed spring-time sun. It was perfect weather for blatting about the countryside, sleuthing out gems of interest in the form of olde pubs, churches & ruins etc.
Having snapped a good amount of a variety of suitable images, towards the end of our journey we happened upon a great find in the form of a working windmill.
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This working mill in Whissendine, Rutland, is operated solely by miller Nigel Moon, who purchased the windmill in 1995, after it had been out of use for more than 70 years. Nigel had restored the mill to wind operation by 2009 & today produces several types of organic flour, including strong plain & wholemeal, spelt & barley flours, and rye & oatmeals. Middlings (coarse grain low grade flour) & bran for animal feed are also produced here.
When we arrived the windmill was in operation, & after knocking on the door to the building, were in no time greeted by the beaming smile of miller Nigel, adorned in ragged wizardesque overalls, tattered & caked in what must have been years of flour dust. His whitened face & dusty beard made him resemble a living statue as he cheerfully invited us in to have a look around.
Nigel kindly allowed us to freely explore the whole of the six storey mill, measuring 60ft (18m) in height, just as long as we were careful not to harm ourselves on any of the moving machinery.
It was originally built by the Earls of Harlborough in 1809 & passed through several owners, being re-fitted & modernised in the late 1800's, until 1922 when it was damaged during a gale. Not being repaired, it remained inoperable until Nigel restored it to its current working capacity, producing fine organic flours for sale countrywide.
Inside the wizards powdery tower we ascended pieces of rickety, wooden, spiral stairways, floor by floor, past ancient iron & wood machines, driven by leather belted cogs, chutes & chains, & other flour refining contraptions. In the air hung thousands of flour motes, illuminated in shards by occasional rays of brilliant sunlight piercing the building like KerPlunk straws.
Amongst the machinery in the mill are included 4 pairs of millstones for grinding grain, a smutter (to remove impurities from grain), a Wegmann porcelain-roller mill dating back to 1877/8, & wire sieves for refining.
After some time probing the internals of the mill & gleaning information about its inner workings from miller Moon, we were invited to have a look up in the roof, where great wind powered cogs turn the drive shaft which enables the grinding of the millstones. Although it was quite dark up there I managed to capture a couple of images of this primitive but awesome 'engine'. We then began our descent to ground level, but not before Nigel invited us to circumnavigate the mill via its balcony, about 30ft (9m) high, just above the 3rd storey. The circular balcony itself seemed a bit rickety, but we were told it was perfectly safe, & just to be aware of the moving sails. I took this opportunity to persuade Nigel (it didn't take much) to stand for a couple of portrait shots.
Of course, when we reached the ground floor I bought a bag of Whissendine finest organic flour for a bread-making enthusiast friend of mine, & we bid Nigel thank you & farewell.
Below are the address & contact details of Whissendine Windmill for those who may want to visit, or find out where to purchase Nigels flour.
Thanks for visiting the blog.
Nigel Moon - Miller
Phone: 01664 474172
Mobile: 07814 429109