Just five minutes walk from us is a hidden National Trust gem. Bourne Mill is, according to the NT ‘a verdant oasis in suburban Colchester’. Heading south out of Colchester on Mersea Road, just on the outskirts of New Town, is Bourne Pond, a haven for birds, and sited on the eastern side is the mill.
The side fronting onto the ‘pond’ makes it look like a small cottage. But from the rear you can appreciate the height differential that made it perfect for milling.
According to ‘Growth and decline in Colchester, 1300-1525 By R. H. Britnell’, available on the amazing Google Books, in 1360 one Thomas Deynes the baker was amerced for taking excessive toll at Bourne Mill. And from that same source you can find that Nikolaus Pevsner thought it ”a delightful piece of Late Elizabethan Playfulness”. If you want a bit more info on mills in Colchester in this period click here.
The waterwheel is still operational, and evidently restored earlier in 2009 with the same steel as used in Antony Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’ (a wonderful sculpture which you have to go and see if you are in the North East).
And whilst not the longest visit you will ever make to a National Trust property, it is well worth seeking out if you are in the area. There is a trail alongside the river that leads you to Cannock Mill about a half a mile away. It’s not a salubrious start to this walk (down the redbrick steps by Brookside Close past the graffiti), but you’ll get to see a few squirrels. This walk is cared for by Colchester Borough Council with help from TCV and their own volunteers, and is very popular with walkers and dog owners (look out for us walking our black cocker spaniel!). It’s a bit of the countryside right in the middle of Colchester.
Once you get to the far end of the walk you will find yourself on Old Heath Road. Turn right, admiring Cannock Mill, and Cannock Mill House, and cross the road and take the unmade road that carries along the side of the river, and you will end up shortly at another hidden open water area.
If you carry on up the unmade road you’ll come to a road and if you cross that you’ll be on the banks of the River Colne, next to the famous red lightship. And if you want to go further afield, you can turn right and walk along either side the river. If you stay on the side of the river you are on, you’ll end up in Rowhedge. If you cross the river you’ll end up in Wivenhoe!
From 25th March 2015 to 1st November 2015 the mill is open from Wednesday to Sunday 11:00am to 17:00pm. Tea, coffee and cakes made at the NT tearooms at Bridge Cottage near Flatford Mill – which is just a short drive away in the Dedham Vale – or “Constable Country” as it is also known. There are trails around the grounds, and a chance to take part in different activities including pond dipping for children
More pictures and info at the National Trust website.