If Geoff Hoare could do it, I was pretty sure I could be a miller for a day at Moulton Windmill.
Geoff will not mind me mentioning that he’s 65 and weighs 16 stone.
I’m younger (let’s just leave it there shall we) and a lot slimmer, but it was still a bit daunting looking up the 100 feet (30.48 metres for those who work in metric) to the top of the cap.
“If you’ve done four tours you start to notice,” admits Geoff who is chairman of Moulton Windmill Project Group as well as being a guide and a part-time mill manager.
He adds: “Or if you get up in the cap and realise your screwdriver is in the car, you soon learn to plan everything.”
Having volunteered to be a miller for a... well, an hour actually, as that was all the time I could spare...I thought I had better just check with Geoff what the requisites are for other people keen to take part in the monthly Miller for a Day courses (which cost around £40).
Geoff says: “There are no restrictions on who can be a miller,” before adding: “You need to be able to climb 100 steps up and down. We go up two or three times a day – we don’t need a gym!”
In fact, a bit of extra weight is useful so you can move the chains that operate the shutters on the sails, says Geoff, although nobody would be expected to do anything on their own.
Apart from a basic level of fitness, Geoff adds: “You don’t want to be scared of heights or steps.”
Fitness levels covered, Geoff turned his attention to what miller days normally entail.
First, the mill’s history would be covered: the mill was built in 1822 and was a fully functioning windmill, grinding wheat and other products until its sails were damaged in 1894 and removed in 1895. New sails were fitted in 2011 at the end of a project to restore the Grade I listed mill to full working condition.
Prospective millers would then be given a tour of the mill’s nine floors (plus cellar and cap). The general public would not go any further up than level seven, and that offers great views of the surrounding countryside – including Crowland Abbey and Boston Stump. Geoff says they very occasionally find a bird of prey perched on a window ledge, mistaking it for a cliff.
Points would then have to be greased ready to get the sails working and millers would go through the procedure of slowing the sails and locking them for the night.
Finally, they would mill a sack of wheat, weigh it and take a bag of flour home. I may not have been a miller for a day but I made it up to the wallower wheel at the top of the shaft, so felt I deserved the bag of flour I took home from Moulton Mill.