High Life in a Windmill
We take our ‘wanderings-in-a-landscape’ weekends seriously at the Silent Eye! Last year, for our December pre-winter solstice weekend, the two organisers–Barbara, (my cousin), and I, dragged a dedicated group of folks up the rain-sodden slopes of the West Pennines in Lancashire to visit the ruins of what had been a glorious landscaped garden created by the founder of the Lever Brothers soap empire – now Unilever.
It rained all day on that Saturday, and, when we got to the top path, it blew a gale… December is like that. We tell those attending, please come equipped!
The day was saved by good planning – a pre-arranged (early) Christmas lunch at one of several pubs and a carefully (pre) parked, large car with which to rescue most of the drowning folk!
Learning from this, the ‘North-West team’ decided that it would be good to spend a couple of preparatory days in the geography of our chosen spot for the December 2016 pre-solstice weekend, – the island of Anglesey, last refuge of the Druids…
We thought it would be good to invite our long-suffering other halves and make a two family event of the planning trip. Bernie, my resourceful wife, embraced the challenge of where to stay with her usual enthusiasm and skill, and found us a… windmill.
No ordinary, windmill, this, mind, but a superbly converted dwelling capable of housing four people in great comfort, and lovingly converted over several years by the owner, Justin, who now rents it out, along with a nearby tower and a cottage.
He’s a man who appreciates the potential of fabulous views, as you can see from the above photograph of Puffin island – taken at full magnification from the ‘lounge’ which is at the very top of the windmill.
The location is near Beaumaris, on the north-east corner of the island of Anglesey, which, itself, lies off the north-west corner of Wales, separated from the mainland by the tumultuous Menai Straits – notorious for their high-speed tidal flows along its five-mile length. It’s a very beautiful place–and full of ancient history…
Above: the Menai Straits in the distance, with Snowdonia National Park beyond. Taken, with a long lens, from the top of Justin’s Windmill.
The downstairs of the windmill comprises just three rooms – a small but beautifully furnished, modern kitchen; a bathroom; and an alternative approach to dining.
Welcome to the ‘three-quarters’ dining room.
I will explain… The old iron shaft that transmitted the wind power from the windmill’s sails still runs down the middle of the structure. The whole building, of course, was really a giant grinding engine.
The circular glass dining table is built onto the black shaft (see above) with the gears still visible beneath its surface. If, as we were, your party is four people, when you sit down to eat – or drink wine, three of your party are visible to each other and the fourth is completely invisible behind the solid, black mass of the iron shaft…hence ‘three-quarters’ dining…
Stairs… Did I mention stairs? The central function of the windmill is delivered by the dark, iron shaft running through the centre. Human ascent and descent is via stairs – an inhuman number of them; “Your own built-in Stairmaster,” said Julian, handing us the keys… hmmm.
The never-ending stairs begin as a flight of the original stone steps which curl from just beyond the three-quarters dining table and lead to the first bedroom, which occupies the whole of the first floor. In fact, this room has two functions: one, to sleep two people, the second, to connect the floor above, with the floor below… So, if you’re if you’re in the bedroom floor above, and you need the bathroom during the night, you need to wave at the nice, sleeping people in bed as you pass through… and hope you don’t disturb them!
Upwards, then… To the second floor, via more stairs, of course:
Similar layout, same problem for anyone passing through and upwards from the kitchen or bedroom below. Having said that, you do get used to vertical communal living after a while.
At the top of which, mercifully, lies the superb loft, or ‘crow’s nest’ as it became known during our short visit.
The wonderful conversion didn’t end with the inside of the place. The outside has a very neat garden and… a hot tub, capable of seating four in perfect, bubbling comfort – even under the stars!
And yes, we did enjoy a couple of (plastic) glasses of wine in there, before the end of our short trip.
But what about our research into Anglesey’s ancient monuments? We had a very full day, even if it was mainly in the July rain, exploring sites for our December visit. We are preparing a separate post on that topic, which will be published later this week, under the workshop’s title, ‘Of Ash and Seed‘.
Of Ash and Seed will explore what it feels like to know that the peaceful existence of your family and tribe is coming to an end; that you are the custodians of an ancient and revered way of interacting with all life in a landscape you love.
Do you simply surrender and die, or can you do things to encapsulate and preserve what you know, passing them in a different form to those that may follow when your physical presence is gone? Based on the true, historical story of the Roman Army’s extermination of the last of the Druids on the island of Môn – present day Anglesey.
Put it in your diary and come and join us!
The dates of this exciting journey of exploration will be the weekend of 2-4th December, 2016.
You can find more details of the windmill by clicking here.
©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.