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Bembridge Windmill (Isle of Wight)

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Address: High Street / Bembridge / PO35 5SQ

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      11.04.2013 10:16
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      A small but interesting attraction to visit

      I am a member of the National Trust, so when I decided to visit the Isle of Wight I made sure to check the website to see if there were any interesting-looking places to visit. Bembridge Windmill wasn't at the top of my list, but I kept it in mind and when I had a free couple of hours during my holiday I decided to pay it a visit.

      *Location and Access*
      Bembridge Windmill can be found in the little town of Bembridge on the east coast of the Isle of Wight. I reached the town via the bus from Ryde; there is also a bus from Newport, and the Island Line stops at Brading which is two miles away. The windmill is a short walk from the bus stop: it's not particularly difficult to find, but at some points there is no designated footpath so you will end up having to walk on the road. Luckily it isn't particularly busy.

      *A Brief Summary*
      Bembridge Windmill is the only surviving windmill on the Isle of Wight. Built in the 1700s, it provided a valuable service for the local community at a time when the marshy land around Bembridge cut it off from the rest of the Isle of Wight. From the 1880s, Brading Haven was drained, ending the area's isolation, and the arrival of the railway eventually hastened the windmill's demise. It last operated in 1913, but most of the original machinery is still intact. The windmill was restored in the 1930s and again in the 1950s, before being given to the National Trust in 1961. It is now a Grade 1 listed building.

      The famous artist JMW Turner visited the windmill in 1795, and began a watercolour of the mill which also shows the sea at the bottom of the hill. A copy of this unfinished painting can be seen in the kiosk, and reproduction postcards can also be purchased.

      *My Experience*
      As mentioned, Bembridge Windmill wasn't my first choice for a place to go, but I actually really enjoyed my visit. The windmill looks pretty impressive for a wooden structure that has been standing for 300 years, and what's more, you can go inside. As mentioned, the majority of the original machinery is still here, and it's possible to imagine millers working away to grind flour inside the mill. A short video at the bottom of the mill demonstrates the milling process, and you can look at a working model to investigate how the windmill operated.

      This isn't a place for those who don't like climbing: there are several floors and the only way to travel between them is to climb up and down some steep, cramped wooden stairs. I am tall so found this rather difficult, but I didn't particularly mind. I enjoyed looking at the machinery and seeing how the mill fitted together.

      There was another family present when I visited, including several adults and a number of children, all of whom seemed to be enjoying themselves. They were very considerate when it came to letting me climb up and down (and I showed the same courtesy to them). I can imagine that if the mill was especially crowded, or if there were several inconsiderate people here, it might be difficult to travel round the mill seeing as the only way to do so is to climb up and down the wooden steps, and there isn't a great deal of space inside.

      *Facilities*
      Free parking (not owned by the NT) is available about 100 yards away from the windmill. On-site, there is a toilet and a shop selling souvenirs, ice-creams and drinks.

      It is possible to arrange tours and group visits if you contact the site beforehand. It is also possible to tour the nearby Bembridge Fort - check the website for details.

      *Accessibility*
      A mobility car park and drop-off point is available by the windmill. A Braille guide, a sensory experience and an induction loop are also available.

      *Prices*
      NT Member: Free
      Adult: £2.90
      Child: £1.45
      Family: £7.25
      Group: £2.70

      *Conclusion*
      I enjoyed visiting the mill: I'd never been to a windmill before and I enjoyed having a look round and seeing how it all worked. I also liked the history of the place, and enjoyed the fact that JMW Turner had sketched it! I wouldn't describe Bembridge Windmill as a must-see place on the Isle of Wight like Osborne House or Carisbrooke Castle, but if you have an hour or two to spare it's well worth a visit.

      For more information about Bembridge Windmill, see the website:
      http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bembridge-windmill/

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