“Behold! a giant am I! Aloft here in my tower…….”
These are the first lines of a poem, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, called The Windmill. Longfellow was born in 1807 in Portland, Maine. Why do I quote lines from this poem? Because on this tea towel are randomly written lines, unattributed, which I recognised from my schooldays. They are, in fact, the fourth verse of Longfellow’s poem. Longfellow’s poem is a powerful piece of descriptive writing about a windmill, about their imposing nature, the role they play in the landscape and very fitting for this tea towel. I often wonder if social media was around two or three hundred years ago whether people would have complained about the ‘blot on the landscape’ of the growth of the hundreds of windmills, as they are doing now about wind turbines. Windmills certainly don’t blend into the flat landscape of somewhere like Norfolk; they are imposing creatures.
I have been to Bircham Windmill on several occasions since I first went to Norfolk in 2001. I have seen the way in which Bircham Windmill has developed and changed and continues to attract a growing number of visitors. I admit I already have a Bircham Windmill tea towel, of a more traditional variety. When it comes to the top of the pile in my airing cupboard I will add the picture to this blog.
On my visit to Bircham Windmill this week I had no intention of buying a tea towel until I saw this one. It was the last one of its kind; I had to have it. I was struck by its vibrant pink hue, the naive drawing, the sense of movement, the bales of straw, the fields of wild flowers, the tractor wheels and the lines of verse. It sums up Bircham Windmill and it certainly sums up the work they are doing with children, introducing them to baking with bread making classes and learning about where the ingredients come from. You can tour the five levels of the windmill and on a windy day see the sails turn and watch how they operate the mill workings. There is a museum; children can feed the animals, mainly sheep and goats, and even watch sheep milking. Bircham Winodmill produces two varieties of sheep’s cheese. I bought some Miller’s Fancy which is a feta-style cheese and delicious. I watched two children queueing up excitedly to collect the bread they had baked (and it looked good). Seems to me a great way to introduce children to good quality food and maybe inspire them to continue bread-making which is a growing interest amongst adults and, of course, you can buy some flour milled at Bircham Windmill.
For me, windmills are a piece of history which can be brought back to life, as at Bircham, to their original usage. I think they are majestic on the flat horizon of Norfolk and I love being able to sample food produced by them. I recommend the ginger cake.
Using this lovely tea towel brings back great memories of my visits but also of the way Bircham Windmill has changed and is inspiring young people and it just makes me want to go back when I am in the area.
Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum