of the bright sunshine it was possible to see the clouds of flour dust rising
from the millstones. I was informed by the experts that the milling conditions
had been set perfectly but I was amazed by the acrid smell generated by the
millstones. I have been told that flour dust is explosive. A vivid mental vision
appeared to me of an imminent binding flash followed by a loud boom which at the
very least would have singed our hair and certainly make us jump!
I had assumed that the combined input of patent sail mechanisms and Watts
governor would keep the stones turning at a reasonably constant velocity. So
another surprise for me was how erratic the speed of the stones was, due to
variations in wind velocity. This
confirmed my opinion that the Hampshire watermills are a much more dependable
source of power than the windmills of Cambridgeshire!
we saw a very
innovative facility: this mill was
modified during its working life with the provision of an external shaft drive
to enable the machinery to be driven by a belt drive from an external engine.
The current owner had erected a small custom-built workshop, next to the
mill, housing a lathe, pillar drill and band-saw. These machines were driven by
overhead line shafting running along the apex of the workshop passing through
the end wall terminating in a pulley wheel. Now it is possible to power the
workshop machines using a belt drive from the existing mill external drive to
the workshop line shafting. This arrangement enables virtually all machining
operations, required to maintain the Windmill, to be carried out using renewable
wind energy from the mill itself. I was most impressed by this installation!
Also on the itinerary was the fascinating
Glebe (Organic) Farm at Kings Ripton,
where we learned
that the land is
now managed using organic methods; the
use of high nitrogen fertilizers is not permitted so the farm is managed on a
rotation system with a clover crop grown to "fix” nitrogen which enhances the
soil fertility; then a grain crop may be grown and any unacceptable damage to
the crop is limited by adequate pest control.
I felt that the surroundings were much more attractive than the vast
areas of huge sterile looking fields that we passed by during our tour.
conclusion I wish to thank SPAB for providing such a well organized visit. And
finally I wish to thank the many friendly knowledgeable mill enthusiasts on my
visit. They patiently answered the numerous simple minded questions posed by a
not too clever amateur that I am!