We drove down the narrow lane with trepidation … what would we find when we reached our destination. The sign, half hidden by roadside grass and nettles, pointed us in the direction of Sculthorpe Mill … we were hungry … looking for somewhere to eat … what harm would it do to go and have a look … I felt sure we would be disappointed and the only lunch would be a stale sandwich in a rundown pub that no one ever visited because they didn’t even know it was there.
How wrong could I be. At the end of the lane … there it was … in all its glory … an old water mill. A beautiful 18th century napped flint building …
We smiled at one another knowing that our original thoughts had been a little misguided. Most of the pub-turned-‘eatery’ places that we had visited had been modernised to within an inch of their lives – all very pleasant with scrubbed pine tables and floors, lots of artwork on the walls etc. but not a lot left of the original building. But the mill was like stepping back into another century … heavy oak beams, soft leather sofas, thick carpets and a congenial host.
The old fashioned dining area was a series of small intimate rooms, two or three tables in each with just the gentle background noise of diners chatting whilst enjoying their food. After a delicious lunch of sea food we left to go and explore the surroundings.
There were only one or two buildings in this little hamlet, both of which had once belonged to the mill, but were now private residences … there was nothing else but water, the mill race going under the mill building and the beautiful River Wensum, clear, shallow and fast flowing.
“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.”
― Laura Gilpin
Seeing all this lovely clear water really made me want to go wild swimming – see this quote I posted on one of my now defunct blogs
At the time of Domesday, three watermills were listed in Sculthorpe. By 1225 the mills belonged to Richard Botte and the de Hasseneye or de Hasseneia family with the latterday Sculthorpe watermill, along with ten acres of land becoming known as Hasseneia Mill.
The final structure of Hasseneia mill was built on a large strip of gravel and silt above an ancient ford that was once the river crossing point for the Romans. The building was made up of flint rubble with brick dressings that probably came from an earlier mill with a new Norfolk pantiled roof. According to a plaque on its rear wall, this new mill was built in 1757, possibly just after alterations of the river course.
Having ground corn for many years, the mill probably ceased working c.1947 and was becoming derelict by the 1950s.
“The Carmel is a lovely little river. It isn't very long but in its course it has everything a river should have. It ... tumbles down a while, runs through shallows, ... crackles among round boulders, wanders lazily under sycamores, spills into pools where trout live ... In the winter, it becomes a torrent, ... and in the summer it is a place for children to wade in and for fishermen to wander in.”
― John Steinbeck
It certainly has had a chequered history according to the website see here – but to me it was just an idyllic setting, a lovely old building and with a surprisingly beautiful garden.
“The river itself portrays humanity precisely, with its tortuous windings, its accumulation of driftwood, its unsuspected depths, and its crystalline shallows, singing in the Summer sun.” Myrtle Reed
I have to say that writing this post has brought back happy childhood memories of Dad taking us to the mill in the village where we used to live, on Sunday mornings, jam jar and fishing net in hand, to catch sticklebacks and minnows, whilst poor old Mum was left behind to cook the Sunday lunch – aah happy memories indeed.
So, if ever you are travelling on the Fakenham Road near Sculthorpe – look out for the sign, keep your eyes peeled, you might miss it – then see for yourself this delightful place.
“ Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver – glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated.” – The Wind in the Willows.
‘Til next time – take off your shoes, sit on the bank and dangle your feet in the water – I can’t think of anything better on a hot summers’ day. p.s. this is not a sponsored post.