Despite the fact that I feel as if I have been locked in to Project Kitchen for months now, we did in fact have a brief break from it all when mil, fil and G came to stay for a week. It was a wonderfully mellow week, but as our 20th wedding anniversary happened in the middle of it all we actually dragged ourselves out for a little trip up the road to the tiny village of Llanddeusant. The village itself is no different from most other small inland villages on the Island, but it is made unique by having the last working windmill on the Island – Melin Llynnon, or Llynnon Mill.
Anglesey used to be known as the Breadbasket of Wales, its fertile soil providing plenty of wheat for bread. The Island used to have a lot of windmills, it is a rather windy place. Records show windmills on the Island as far back as 1303, but the majority of the 32 windmills that still exist today were built in the 18th century. Nowadays most of the mills are either derelict or converted into homes, but Llynnon was bought by the Council in 1978, and the following year work began to restore it. You can read the full story on the Anglesey History website.
The sails weren’t turning the day we visited, but when conditions are suitable the mill grinds wheat and sells the wholemeal flour, both from the gift shop and around the Island. Our local bakers sells a Llynnon Mill loaf. Regular readers of this blog know that I love bread, and love making it, but this flour was a little too pricey for me!
There are lots of informative plaques inside the mill, and the chance to try grinding flour by hand using a quern.
TNG was happy reading the Welsh and checking his translation prowess (getting quite impressive, I have to say), and mil was drawn by the Bara Brith recipe. For those who have not come across Bara Brith, it is a slightly spiced cakey loaf, often made with dried fruit, and there are as many different versions as there are people who make it, but here is the Llynnon Mill version if you want to have a go (for once clicking the image should bring up a larger, hopefully legible, version):
I should now know all about the various bits and pieces that make up a working mill, but I am dreadful at reading all those information boards, and tend to want to skip them and just wander around. I was entranced by all the machinery, and quickly clambered up to the next level on the steep ladder-like stairs. So I have lots of photos of fascinating machinery and no idea at all what all the bits are all called – fil, by contrast, probably still remembers it all! If any of you want to know more, the full details can be found on the Llansadwrn website
The grounds surrounding the mill are very pretty, there was a carpet of Brid’s Foot Trefoil buzzing with bees and some rather nice native hedging, but if you follow a hazel fence that curves around by the grass to the side of the mill…
…you are greeted by a strange sight…
Anglesey is littered with menhirs (standing stones) and cromlechs (stone burial chambers) which bear witness to the fact that the Island has been settled since prehistoric times. There are remains of Iron Age settlements in several places on the Island, but Melin Llynnon now plays host to a reconstruction of an Iron Age settlement that was built using the techniques and materials believed to have been used all those centuries ago. They even planted trees in the area to provide a source of materials for repairs in the future, which has created a lovely area of woodland.
The project was completed in 2007, and consists of two round houses, a small storage shelter with a green roof and a garden, all surrounded by a ditch lined with prickly shrubs and a hazel fence.
I loved the smooth, organic lines of the roundhouses, they very much reminded me of the traditional huts we saw in South Africa and Botswana. One of the roundhouses has been decorated with skins, tools, work areas etc. to illustrate what life was like, and a fire burns in the central hearth filling the air with the sweet smell of woodsmoke. In the summer volunteer actors from the Island dress up and demonstrate what living in these roundhouses might have been like, which must be great for children. The second is kitted out with benches as a classroom, and is apparently used by local schools. It also shows a very informative film about the construction of the buildings, explaining how the large porch areas added to the strength of the building and provided well lit work areas that were sheltered from the elements.
I loved the construction details, see the leather hinges? I enjoyed looking round the windmill very much, but something about the roundhouses had me smiling like an idiot, I really loved them, though I would hate to live in a building with so little natural light, however good the fire and insulating properties of mud and straw walls!
I mentioned that they had planted a woodland – with the help of local schoolchildren – surrounding the settlement. It was really pretty, and goes all the way down to the remains of the old bakehouse that used to be so conveniently close to the mill. I would have taken photos. But in a burst of incompetence I managed to leave my spare battery at home, so all I have is a photo of some of the wonderful wild carrot that graced the edges of the woodland – though at least it keeps the post shorter…