Day 293 Mile 293: Windmills and Toads

Day 293 Mile 293: Windmills and Toads. According to contemporary maps a windmill has stood on Cholesbury Common since roughly the 17th century. The Hawridge Wind and Steam Mill was a smock mill constructed in 1863 by the Norwich Wind and Steam Company, who also installed a steam engine and built an engine house with a tall chimney. The smock mill was bought and sold at least twice; on the second occasion, in 1881, together with the related properties it raised a heady £600. However it appears not to have been profitable due to; its design, faults in the construction, and the cost of coal. It was demolished in 1883. Another mill was built on the same site in1883. This was a tower mill, thought to be one of the last of its kind built in England. It was built by Hillsdon’s of Tring. The next year the tall chimney associated with the steam mill was brought down and grain store was added shortly after. The original mill owners struggled to make it profitable and it was leased as a going concern when a more experienced miller took over. He remained in charge until the mill finally ceased operation in 1912. It became a private residence in 1913.

After the mill ceased operation in1912 it was converted along with the mill house into a house. It was advertised in the spring of 1913 and was taken by Gilbert Cannan and his new wife Mary (née Ansell), who had previously been married to J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. In the 1930s the mill was used as an art studio and for classes by the artist Bernard Adams and during the Second World War it was used as a look out post for the Home Guard. It has been one of those places just down the road that is easy to take for granted and never really know about.

Today’s run took me from beside the windmill down one side of the escarpement and up the other side of the valley known as Ray’s Hill. It is one of those wonderful quirks of English place naming that the incline on either side of the steep valley seems to be known as Ray’s Hill. Which ever way you come at it you will encounter the hill, but being a valley seems to me to imply quite the opposite of ‘hill’ with two clearly defined and separate inclines, one on either side of the floor.

At the top on the far side there is a wonderful little pond where as a child we used to collect frog and toad spawn and watch it grow into tadpoles in a bucket before releasing it back a few days latter. You are porbably not allowed to do that these days but for me the transformation was nothing short of magical. Its also great to see that there is still a length of blue nylong rope dangling from the tree on the ‘Harrup Farm’ side of the pond, where generations of kids has slung out over the green and glistening duck weed and more than a few have got a ducking themselves.

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1664.3 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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