Britain: Herne Mill,
a smock mill in Kent

What?
A windmill, a smock mill to be precise. And it’s not Dutch. Herne Mill is one of about a dozen Kent windmills that are occasionally open to the public during the summer. 

Why visit?
To see a beautiful example of a smock mill. To gaze at the sea from the open windows. To go inside, climb to the top and hear the wind begging to spin the sails.

Where?
In Herne, near Herne Bay which is a coastal town in Kent, in the South East of England. Map


HERNE MILL MAKES a striking landmark and is visible from miles around; being located only three kilometres from the sea, it is only fitting that this windmill is also a ‘sea mark’ - a navigational landmark for shipping. Yet it makes an incongruous centrepiece to the residential area over which it presides (just up the road from the cemetery and less than a kilometre from the Premier Inn).
No prizes for guessing the name of the road the mill is located on. 
Herne Mill has been lovingly restored and its history is brought to life by dedicated volunteer guides who will give as much detail about the intricate workings of the mill as you like. If you are lucky (we were the first to arrive and had a wide-eyed eight year old with us), you will get to see the special rotating roof mechanism that makes Herne Mill a smock mill. The name ‘smock mill’ originates from these mills resembling the shape of people dressed in smocks. The wooden pegs of the rotating roof, huge like giant’s teeth, add to the anthropomorphic nature of the windmill so that when you are inside and hear the wind blowing, you are not sure if it is a gust of wind or a heartbeat.

You can also touch things. Big things, like giant millstones, engines and grain elevators. This is interactivity at its best; a great hands-on history lesson for both children and adults. Close your eyes and imagine yourself back in the 1800s; you are deafened by the noise and almost choke on the floury air. Herne Mill is where the agricultural and industrial meet.
You can marvel at the engineering miracle that resulted in the windmill being ‘raised’ on two storeys of brickwork in the 1850s, and see the transition to industrial power from the engine room. Model enthusiasts will also be impressed by the beautifully made working model of the windmill that was shipped back from South Africa – a miniature miracle in itself. There is even a small stall of souvenirs to be bought. Windmill mug anyone?

Because of the close proximity to the coast, your visit can be combined with a trip to the pebbly beaches of Herne Bay and Beltinge, where, if lucky, you may find shark’s teeth and other fossils. And what would a day trip to the British seaside be like without supper at one of the local fish and chip shops?
History, beaches and cuisine – British style. Make sure you bring your woolly hat and waterproofs.

Herne Mill is occasionally open during the summer. Check the website. It also opens its doors during National Mills Week in May and Heritage Weekend in September.

Useful links:
Website for Herne Mill: http://herne-mill.btck.co.uk/

About the author:
Vicky Turner was born and raised in West Yorkshire in the UK but has gradually been moving South (via the East Coast of the USA) for the last fourteen years. She currently explores in Kent.

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