Tilly Bourne River. 24th July

Shore leave whilst they have their morning Ding Ding is good. I normally like it when that happens because if I come back inside the next time I go outside it has usually been changed. However today it just changed into a hotter version of the earlier outside. I stayed inside for much of the day.

My road

Mick rang the Basingstoke Canal this morning. Sadly the navigation will be closing on Friday as their water levels are so low. So our trip there will have to be added to the ‘Next Time’ list. So once we reach Godalming we’ll gradually make our way back to the Thames a bit earlier than originally planned.

Summers day

Taking advantage of the second mate being on board we applied suncream and headed out with wide brimmed hats. A walk along the towpath back to St Catherines Lock. Here two of the electric launches from Daphne Dap Dune Wharf were coming up in the three foot deep lock, it was taking forever!

Something’s wrong here

Standing on the bridge we watched as a day boat came towards the lock to wait it’s turn to go down. In the photo above there is something wrong, we spotted it and tried for a while to get the crews attention. A day boat got the blame for leaving the bottom paddles up, yes they should have closed them, but you’d have thought the crew would have spotted them, especially on a length of river predominantly used by day boats with novice crew.

It must get muddy round here

We crossed over and carried on our walk through the meadows back down the off side of the river. The launches were being moored up at a landing a short distance along where the path heads across the fields and a dried up bog up to The Street. I guessed that the passengers were all heading to the same place as us, Shalford Mill.

Shalford Mill

The tour guides at the Mill were busy preparing for the trip boats. There was a choice. 1, we could wait for an hour and join in with one of the two tours around the mill, waiting would involve watching around 24 people tucking into a picnic lunch whilst we stood around with our bottle of water. Or 2, we could have a shorter tour than normal on our own ahead of the masses. We opted for the second option.

What used to be the mill pond

Tilling Bourne River runs down the valley fed by springs along it’s length. The river had around 24 mills along it’s fifteen miles, all working hard. A centre of industry between the 17th and 20th centuries. Gun powder, paper making for bank notes, iron and wire working, tanning and flour milling made the place less then idyllic. Today watercress and trout are farmed along with a gin distillery.

Weather boarded and tiled

Shalford Mill was re-built as two water powered mills in the 1750’s fed by the river and a large mill pond which would be left to fill over night for use the following day. The mill continued milling through the Corn Laws, Swing Riots and plenty more. By the 1850’s Shalford Mill could still only deal with one ton of wheat a day where as steam driven mills were pushing through 300 tons. The mill continued, changing hands and being leased until 1907.

The wheel

Around 1911 the water wheel became dislodged and ended up resting against one of the mill walls, no longer able to turn. Here it rested and still rests today.

Metal on wood cogs

In 1927 the mill was put up for sale, it eventually caught the eyes of Bill Stickers and Sister Agatha in 1931. The owner offered it to the ladies so long as they could maintain it. By the following year the ladies had raised funds for an endowment and the Mill was gifted to the National Trust. The east mill was converted into a home whilst the rest was open to visitors. The tenancy of the east mill is still in the same family, with the original tenants daughter, now 93, still living there with her daughter.

Period plastic chairs adding to the atmosphere

We were shown through the mill, where the sacks of grain were hoisted to the top floor, emptied down to be ground, full sacks of milled flour hoisted back up for storage. How the granite stones were cut for milling, how the flour and bran were separated.

Hot at the top

Steep staircases take you to the top of the building where the air was heating up nicely amongst the rafters. We were very glad we weren’t up there with another twelve people!

The string used to go here!

Our guide John did his best to shoo others away so that we’d get the best tour time would allow before he was due to show the boat trip round. He certainly knew his stuff, only stopping when the string that controlled the amount of grain entering the stones broke in his hand. Nothing hard to mend, just a length of sisal string that would be replaced as soon as we left.

The gang’s den

Finally we were shown the room that Bill Stickers and her gang kept for visits. Ferguson’s Gang was made up of five core members, all women with pseudonyms. They formed in 1927, their aim was to raise awareness of the need to protect rural areas and they supported the National Trust. The Gang raised huge sums to protect and preserve important buildings and land that could otherwise have been destroyed. They were eccentric ladies who made ‘swag’ donations to the trust, one time causing a bomb scare at an AGM when a metal pineapple was presented with a £100 note inside. The public loved them. The gang’s den a snap shot of 1930’s life.

Door stop
On a sandwich run from the garage

Despite being on a quick tour John gave us his undivided attention and knowledge for 45 minutes before having to mend the string. The mill is only open two days a week and for £17 you can enjoy a boat trip there and back with a picnic. We saved our money and headed to Snooty’s Groceries for supplies where we enjoyed the air conditioning.

Low. Will we glad we chopped the chimney down?

Our walk back to Oleanna brought us over the very low bridge. A few squirts of WD40 have been applied to the screws holding Oleanna’s horns, should we need to remove them to get under.

Noisy cooling down

The afternoon was spent watching people enjoying the river in the heat. Numerous people jumping in to swim.

The pill box

I had a visit to the pill box a short distance behind us. Sat on an old railway embankment it has views over the river. I couldn’t see any invading force so the country is still safe.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 boats neither going up nor down, 1 mill just in time, 5 or 6 famous and secret ladies, 1 wheel, three floors, 2 mugs, 4 ciabatta rolls, 9 slices salami, 1 tub coleslaw, 1 low bridge, 1 lotus, 1 Tilly Bourne, 8 swimmers, 1 pill box, 2 scooters, 33ish C, 27.5 C inside, 17 C minimum, 3 crew managing to stay coolish.

Panto prop scooters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.