Milling About. 6th July

Houghton EA Mooring to Hemingford GOBA Mooring to Houghton EA Mooring.

Last night we decided we’d head back towards Hemingford Grey to moor for the day and our visit to Houghton Mill. We knew where the mooring was and that it existed, where as if we’d have gone up the lock we might have been in a situation where no mooring opportunity showed itself.


After our cuppa in bed we rolled up the covers headed a short way up stream where the river was a touch wider. Mick then made use of the current and wind to help turn the bow round to face down stream. We pootled our way to the meadow and pulled in where there was maybe a touch too much goose poo, but it would do us.

Tilly checking out our mooring

With breakfast out of the way we set off to walk the mile and a half to the mill. On reaching about a quarter of the way Mick said he’d not got the National Trust cards, would they allow us in just with our booking confirmation email? Possibly, but he turned back to the boat. I said I’d walk onwards, we’d left just about the right amount of time to walk, would we make it in time?

I slowed my pace, took in the wild flowers on the verges. All the thatched roofs had straw finials, some quite amusing. Had Mick got back to the boat by now? Should I quicken my pace again, would we reach the Mill in time for the tour?

Across the field that had been cut yesterday

Mick appeared on the Brompton, I should have carried on walking at a normal pace and not slowed so he could catch me up. I had to quicken my pace now, the mill only open for tours on Wednesdays and the weekend, if we missed our slot then that would be it!

Thankfully we managed to arrive in time to stash the bike somewhere and have a quick comfort break, still with a couple of minutes to spare! Phew!!!

Houghton Mill

In 974AD the Manor of Houghton and the Mill were given to Ramsey Abbey, all the local farmers used the mill and a cut was taken off as payment, a mulcher, for the Abbey. The mill was kept very busy and the Abbey became very affluent. New sluice gates were added to the river to increase water headed to the mill, but this caused flooding in the village. After ten years of campaigning the villagers got their way and the river was returned to it’s old course.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, Ramsey Abbey was flattened, the mill was still seen to be very profitable and was taken over by the crown. Ownership passed to the Earls of Manchester who leased out the mill as a commercial concern.

In the 18th Century there was a rapid development in mill technology. The original mill had had one water wheel this was increased to three at it’s peak. Inside ten pairs of stones milled the flour operated by eighteen people. In 1850 the mill was run by the Brown and Goodman families and was producing a ton of premium white flour every hour. This flour supposedly improved if left for five to six weeks, just the right amount of time for it to have headed down stream to Kings Lynn, round the coast to the Thames estuary and in to London where it would reach the best price!

But in the later part of the 19th Century technology took milling away from mill stones and Houghton just couldn’t compete with steam driven mills. The repeal of the Corn Laws brought in cheaper foreign grain which was milled at the ports to help feed the growing work force of the Industrial Revolution. Houghton Mill moved to milling animal feed and the work force reduced down to two.

A corner showing how the YHA had looked

On the retirement of the last miller in 1928 the mill closed and the water wheels were removed. In 1929 the local council bought the mill, it was soon earmarked for redevelopment. In 1934 Houghton Mill Restoration Committee leased the mill and sublet it to the newly formed Youth Hostel Association, providing accommodation for fifty people. In 1938 the committee managed to buy the mill and then handed it over to the National Trust for £1, the same as the original mill had cost to build.

In 1983 the mill was opened to the public, repairs were made and milling could resume with use of the original stones powered by an electric motor. Millennium funding was then sought to reinstate the water wheel.

Quite a sizable mill

Sadly due to the mill having to close during the pandemic the water wheel was left idle for too long. The wood that sat in the water swelled soaking up the water and the wood at the top dried out. Once they got it started again the balance was seriously off! They were recommended to turn the water wheel as often as possible which had been helping, but sadly right now the wheel is in need of some tlc. The tour was very informative and well worth doing, thank you Sue from NB Cleddau for reminding me to check the days it was open.

A look around the village brought so many more chocolate box cottages and finials. Ducks, boxing hares, I couldn’t stop taking photos!


Then a round route brought us down Green Lane where both sides of the road were filled with fantastic Hollyhocks. Wow! We got chatting to a lady who is responsible for a third of them, they are wanting to rename the road Hollyhock Lane. She offered us some seeds, but the seed heads weren’t ready yet, maybe if we stop on our way back we might collect a few and leave them places to cheer up people next year.

Back at Oleanna we quickly pushed off again. The meadow as nice as it was really wasn’t suitable or Tilly with the number of woofers around. We winded and headed back upstream pulling in where we’d left five hours earlier, our end space still empty. In fact we had the island to ourselves for a couple of hours before three more narrowboats turned up, Tilly ended up having to share her kingdom with another black and white cat.

First read

Act 1 of panto was read, props and setting notes highlighted with my neon pens left from #unit21. I did have to stop just as Queen Rat was proclaiming that the panto was over and the audience should all go home, she’d crowned herself Queen of England and wasn’t budging. We watched the news and caught up on events in London. I think real life events may run a similar course to those of Queen Rats in Act 2, but without so many belly laughs. Tomorrow will tell!

Boris’s final sunset?

0 locks, 1.42 miles, 2 winds, 2 cards forgotten, 3 minutes spare, 10 stones, 3 waterwheels, 1 wonky wheel after the pandemic, I blog problem possibly solved, 1 Queen about to loose her thrown, 1 silent Whittington singing for the future, 1 country waiting.

Houses for Sale.

Houghton Thatched Cottage £550,000

Common Lane Hemington Abbots my favourite £1,500,000

Barnfield, Hemington Abbots £775,000, too boring to take a photo!