I had the good fortune to visit Winchester City Mill while in Hampshire last weekend. The watermill has been on the site for a very long time and is the oldest working watermill in the UK. The wheel is underneath the building, and we had to cross a little bridge across a place where there used to be another waterwheel. The water was racing through the gap which might explain why a channel leading to a waterwheel is known as a mill race. The gushing was very loud indeed and quite ferocious so I kept well back. I was a tad worried that I might slip through the railings and fall in.Further along was the big waterwheel, which just keeps on going round and round as the water runs through it and keeps it turning. I thought this would be a good place for a selfie.Just alongside it there were lots of big cogs and gears. They were powering the mill stone that was up above grinding wheat into flour. On the right of the photo below you can see a big white sack on a stool that was collecting up all the freshly ground flour.There was a sign with lots of interesting information about the workings of the water wheel. I spent a few minutes reading it. Winchester City Mill has an undershot wheel.The mill is on the River Itchen which must have very clean water as trout and otters live there. The otters often visit the mill area. There was a little ramp and a special hole in the wall for them to pass through. I didn’t see any otters while I was there as they tend to visit at night. You can find out more about Winchester otters here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill/features/see-our-inner-city-ottersThe mill stones were upstairs hidden in a special wooden case with the wheat being fed in from a hopper above. If the wheat runs out the bell rings to alert the miller as it isn’t good for mill stones to turn without anything to grind.There was also a pair of bear-sized millstones so I decided to have a go at grinding some wheat. It was very hard work and I only managed to produce a tiny amount of flour, certainly not enough to make a cake.I had a look at the the river Itchen as it rushed towards the mill while my human held onto my legs……just in case!I was delighted to find the flour being bagged up to be sold in the shop.I left the mill with a big smile on my face thinking about the scones that I would make with my stone ground flour.
Horace the Alresford Bear 25/8/16
To find out more about Winchester City Mill go to https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill