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Watch out for wonderful windmills across Greater Yarmouth

If you come to Great Yarmouth by car and travel down the Acle Straight on a clear day, the flat landscape is dotted with around 20 traditional windmills and windpumps under the huge open sky as you head towards the sea.

This marshy wetland relies on drainage mills to pump water from marshes into dykes so that animals can still graze on the land in winter. Today these pumps are electric, but in the 1800's more than 240 drainage mills could be found all over the Broads. 74 mills survive today, although many are now in ruins. There were three very different types of drainage mill, a trestle mill, a hollow post mill and the more common tower mill.

Drainage mills had a fantail or tail pole with a mechanism to turn the sails into the wind and a mechanism to pump water, either a scoop wheel, plunger pump, or turbine. The mills transferred power from the turning sails through two sets of gears to an internal shaft. These shafts usually powered scoop wheels which scoop up collected water from low lying dykes and deposit it into higher level rivers which transported the water out to sea at Great Yarmouth. Later mills were often fitted with centrifugal pumps, known as turbines, which lifted water in a similar way to the effect of stirring a cup of tea very quickly.

In the area surrounding Great Yarmouth you can visit two tower drainage mills, one at Thurne and the other at Berney Marshes and a trestle mill at St. Olaves, to the south of Great Yarmouth. There's also a restored post mill at Thrigby which can be visited by appointment only.

To find out more about the history of wind power in the area, a visit to the Wind Energy Museum at Repps-with-Bastwick on one of their open days is a fascinating insight into the history of these amazing machines.

Many Norfolk windmills are open to the public during National Mills weekend in May, a rare chance to visit these beautiful buildings and find out more. 

It may be that our long tradition of harnessing of the wind to power machines is what inspired local residents to take the Scroby Sands and later Blood Hills wind farms to their hearts. Great Yarmouth was and still is proud to be the home of the very first off-shore wind farm in Britain.

Windmills to watch out for in Greater Yarmouth - not all open to the public

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill

Great Yarmouth

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill near Great Yarmouth is a drainage mill with access by 2 ladders to the cap showing the brakewheel and gears. Within the mill is an exhibition of the history of drainage mills and a souvenir shop & tea room nearby.

St Olaves Drainage Mill

St Olaves Drainage Mill

Great Yarmouth

The tiny, timber boarded trestle St Olaves drainage mill near Great Yarmouth with a scoopwheel is visible from road and river and can be approached by footpath from the bridge.

Thurne Drinage Mill

Thurne Dyke Drainage Mill

Great Yarmouth

Thurne Dyke Mill near Great Yarmouth once used for drainage is now privately owned by Morse's Wind Engine Park and holds special open days from April to September.

Thrigby Post Mill (courtesy of Jim Woodward-Nutt)

Thrigby Post Mill

Great Yarmouth

Privately owned and visable only over the hedgerows, this post mill of recent construction, almost complete, is on the site of an earlier mill dating from the 1790s. Only open on some Bank Holidays and by special request.

Horsey Windpump (Windmill)

Horsey Windpump

Great Yarmouth

An early 20th century wind powered drainage mill standing on the edge of Horsey Mere - part of the Broads an internationally important wetland.

Berney Arms Drainage Mill

Berney Arms Windmill

Great Yarmouth

Visit one of Norfolk's best and largest extant marsh mills, built to grind a constituent of cement and in use until 1951, for subsequently pumping water to drain surrounding marshland.

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