windmills and walking haystacks..

The wide-open, flat terrain of the Fens lends itself to the use of windmills for harnessing the power of nature.
In recent years this has been evident in the growth of wind farms with their modern wind turbines, but, of course, in years gone by, the traditional windmill would have been a feature of most communities. The local miller would have milled the wheat and the local baker baked the bread for the inhabitants.

Most of these mills are now abandoned or have been turned into unusual dwellings but some have been renovated and returned to their original use.
One such is Foster's Mill in the village of Swaffham Prior between Cambridge and Newmarket.

The mill is open to the public on the 2nd Sunday of the month and if you are lucky, as we were, you are treated to your own personal tour of the mill by a very knowledgeable and friendly gentleman.

And you also have the opportunity, if you so wish, to buy locally grown, organic, stoneground flour.
Since attending The Sourdough School last summer, making a sourdough loaf has become a weekly ritual and I am looking forward to using this beautiful flour in my next baking session.

And talking of wheat and flour, the first Monday after Twelfth Night is commonly known as Plough Monday, when historically the agricultural year began after the Christmas festivities.
In some areas, predominately, in the East Midlands and East Anglia, this was marked by farm workers touring towns and villages with their plough, sometimes with dancing and singing and sometimes accompanied by a young man dressed as a straw bear.
In our Fenland town this tradition was revived in 1980 and is now a well known festival attracting folk singers and dance troupes from across the country and beyond.

One of the smaller straw bears. It's difficult to tell the front from the back!

This year the sun shone for the festival. There were several 'bears' large and small. (Presumably, encased in straw is a good way to keep warm as it was freezing)
And lots of dance troupes, with wildly colourful costumes.

A good way to cheer a cold January weekend and to mark the moving on of the season.

annjenny x


  1. Looks like an amazing event and a great way to keep traditions alive.

  2. I love the diversity of costume - what a wonderful way to celebrate. Our local mill sells wonderful flour, too. Bread-making is my favourite baking, especially the smell!

  3. I love the local traditions, Morris dancers, hobby horses...there is a tar barrel race in the neighbouring village which dates back hundreds of years. The participants carry a burning barrel on their backs! Even children participate. It is all a little mad and so much fun. Go one village further and you will find an ancient water mill that still grinds local grain into flour. I do envy your windmill, though. : )x

  4. What an interesting post, I love to hear about English traditions as well. How nice to see them carried on. Great photos, it sounds like you had a lovely day. Really good to see the windmill as well. I like to buy locally milled flour for breakmaking as well, it makes it extra special. Have a good Sunday. CJ xx

  5. What a lovely & interesting post, it's good to hear about the old traditions x

  6. I love so much windmills, I find them so beautiful and charming. Great event. Very important to carry on the local traditions. Thanks for sharing dear!
    Happy week ahead!

  7. Was a fun looking festival... And despite the cold lovely to have it at this time of year.

  8. Well done on all the sourdough bread making (it's not been attempted here.....yet!). Love the pictures of the Straw Bear Festival. I bet those straw costumes weigh a ton!

    1. Apparently, the costume can weigh up to 5 stone!

  9. I love these old traditions. And those pheasant feathers on that hat - I'm always on the lookout for a pheasant feather but have never found one yet...

  10. FABULOUS post and lovely photos too - I did a piece about Plough Monday a couple of years ago, and so it's lovely to see someone else share this traditional festival too! Karen PS: My paternal grandmother was a Fenland girl, originally from Swaffham she ended up in London before coming home to Norwich just before she died at 93 yrs old!


Post a Comment