Windmills are open for business

Windmills are synonymous with rustic charm, country idylls and romantic, nostalgic notions of family and home.Caractacus Potts lived in charming chaos in a windmill in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Jonathan Creek's is a house of magic.There are people, now of a certain age, who remember Windy Miller, of Camblewick Green in Trumptonshire.Cervantes' Dox Quixote tilted at windmills and a little mouse with clogs on went clip, clippity clop on the stairs of a windmill in Old Amsterdam.

Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 2:50 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 6:14 am
Oldland Mill at Keymer (Mid Sussex) 26.02.16. Opening it's doors again at the start of April. Pic Steve Robards SR1606372 SUS-160226-100659001

The windmills of our mind are not the wind turbines of the 21st century – but the stone or wooden structures with wooden sails set in acres of farm land.

Later this month, there is a celebration of these magnificent machines – as that what they are – on National Mills Weekend from Saturday, May 12 to Sunday, May 13.

This is run by the Mills Section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Polegate Windmill

There will be emphasis on the importance of mills to the natural world.

Owing to their setting, many mills are havens for wildlife – watermills by ponds, rivers and streams, windmills set apart to catch the gusts and gales to turn their sails.

Using natural power they do not pollute or blight the environment.

Throughout the weekend, many wind and watermills will be displaying images of the flora and fauna that can be found in the vicinity – from birds, fish and mammals to butterflies and bugs, native wild flowers and grasses, trees, moss and fungi. Even mills in an urban setting will be showing how they play a positive role in the local environment.

Hundreds of mills, including some not normally open to the public, will be taking part.

Some will be offering ‘colour-in’ hand outs for young visitors to help them identify wild visitors and species, along with family-friendly ‘I-spy’ checklists of wildlife that they might look out for.

Mildred Cookson, chairman of the society’s Mills Section, said: “The weekend is a wonderful family event – an opportunity for everyone to explore their local windmill or watermill, to learn about our rich milling heritage and its place in our landscape. This year, we focus on the way that wind and watermills offer a great opportunity to spot a variety of wildlife and explore the natural world. It’s also a chance to share our enthusiasm and passion for stoneground flour milled with green energy.”

In 2017 more than 320 mills took part in National Mills Weekend

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is Britain’s oldest heritage charity

The mills section of the The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was founded in 1931 to protect and promote windmills and watermills

A windmill is a structure or machine that converts wind into usable energy through the rotation of a wheel made up of adjustable blades

Windmills developed steadily over the centuries and achieved their most prominence in Europe during the 18th century

Windmills were originally used for pumping water then adapted for grinding grain

During the pre-industrial world, windmills were the electric motors of Europe. In addition to water pumping and grain grinding, they were used for powering saw mills and processing spices, dyes, and tobacco.

Development of steam power during the 19th century, and the uncertain nature of windmill power resulted in a steady decline of the use of large windmill structures

Windmills have changed little over the past 100 years.One basic design conceived in the 1870s is still sold today.

Oldland Mill, Oldland Mill House, Oldlands Lane, Keymer, Hassocks

This beautifully restored, award winning, working post mill within the South Downs National Park is in the heart of the Sussex countryside.

It is open on the first Sunday of each month between April and October.

In May, July and September, these are themed events with lots of special activities for adults and children.

A free shuttle bus runs from the Thatched Inn Pub in Keymer for these events.

For more information visit

POLEGATE MILL, Park Croft, Polegate

This historically, rich is the oldest working tower mill in the South East.

The mill is open on every Sunday afternoon between Easter and October from 2-5pm and there are guided tours for which a small charge is made. For more information visit