The windmill was situated beside the River Bure and the A47 between Acle and Yarmouth, a stretch of road that I'd never yet been along as there was no reason to do so; I'd been told that the small parking area was right by the very busy road and to pull in there could be dangerous, but as the other alternatives to get to the mill were by boat or a walk of several miles along the riverbank I had no choice. Fortunately the road wasn't as busy as it could have been and with nothing behind me for several hundred yards I had no trouble pulling into the parking area.
Access to the mill grounds was by a gate and a short grassy path leading up to the riverbank where several boats were moored. A small shop-cum-tearoom and a couple of outbuildings were set back in one corner, part of the land had been divided off into a couple of small enclosures and half a dozen very friendly goats were wandering around. For a small entrance fee it was possible to go up to the top of the mill but as I'd already been inside Horsey mill and the inside of one was very much like the inside of another I decided not to bother; I think my brain must have gone awol at that point though as it never occurred to me that I could probably get some good photos from up there - definitely something to remember for next year.
Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink and reversed round in the parking area, then with a suitably large gap in the traffic I pulled safely back out onto the road and headed up to Ranworth and St. Helen's Church. The inside of the church was lovely and I spent several minutes looking round before going up the tower. A handwritten notice on the door leading into the tower gave visitors an idea of what to expect, with a disclaimer added at the bottom, and as I climbed I realised why. The spiral stone staircase running up the centre of the tower was very steep and narrow, getting steeper and narrower the farther up I went; with just one small square window set in each wall there was very little light and there was no handrail - this was certainly not a climb for the faint-hearted.
As I got higher up I could hear voices from somewhere above and just hoped that I didn't meet anyone on the way down as there was absolutely no room at all for two people to pass each other on that staircase. I reached the top successfully though and started the second part of the climb, a very steep ladder up to the next floor; this was followed by a second, almost vertical, ladder which went up through a trapdoor and finally out onto the roof. Unfortunately by the time I'd got up there the clouds which had been gathering from the west had increased rapidly until the blue sky of earlier on was almost obliterated by an overhanging blanket of grey - not really the best sky for taking photos.
Down below and in front of me I could see part of Malthouse Broad and the tops of the boats on the River Bure beyond; to my right was another stretch of the broad and even farther to the right was Ranworth Staithe at the end of the broad. In the far distance was Caister water tower, which is only a mile from California, and I could even see the wind turbines at Scroby Sands off the coast. The views were just as good as I'd been told they were - or would have been if the sky hadn't been so grey - and they were definitely worth the climb up the tower; in sunshine I could have got some really good photos so a return visit during my next Norfolk holiday will definitely be on the cards.
After spending some time studying the land and working out what was where I made my way slowly back down the tower. Going backwards down the ladders was no problem but descending the staircase wasn't easy; with a wall on one side only and no handrail there was nothing to aid the descent so it was a case of one step at a time, hoping that I wouldn't fall off and reach the bottom quicker than I intended. I got down safely though with life and limb intact and back on terra firma I decided that my little expedition deserved a coffee-and-cake break, so I headed to Latham's for the final Belgian bun of the holiday.
On my first visit there at the beginning of the holiday I'd been given a card which was stamped each time I bought a coffee, and with five stamps the sixth coffee was free; at the risk of getting an expanding waistline from all the Belgian buns I'd managed to get the five stamps so this final coffee would be the free one - and maybe it was my imagination but somehow it seemed to taste better. After a last look round the store I drove out to Clippesby for my second visit to my friends Eileen and Ron then returned to the camp site where the sun was still shining. Making the most of it I took the dogs for a walk through the heath at the end of the site then after a sandwich and a brew I spent a couple of hours watching tv. The bedtime dog walk round the site came early that evening; the following day we were going home and I needed to get everything packed up in time to leave at 10am, so it was an early bedtime for all of us that night.