The Mill – click any image for full size
Friends Shakespeare and (SkinnyNilla) and Max (Maxie Daviau) are not only highly adept at finding regions to photograph (and poke me about visiting!), they also maintain their own exceptionally photogenic region, The Mill. This undergoes seasonal changes which not only match the passing of the year, presenting visitors with the opportunity of re-visiting throughout the year and see something new in the region’s layout, whilst retaining some familiar elements with each new design.
With autumn now on our doorstep in the northern hemisphere, Shakespeare and Max dropped me word that the latest iteration of their region is now open and available to visit, so as soon as the opportunity arose, I had to hop over to see what new delights await. And once again, doing so is more than worth the effort.
A visit begins in the south-eat of the region, beneath the slowly turning sails of the titular (and familiar to regular visitors!) mill as it sits just above the surrounding sea, quietly watching over the land under its care. A cart track winds westwards, passing under the great boughs of an ancient oak to lead visitors on to where two more windmills, tops thatched and walls whitewashed, standing like smaller siblings to the region’s primary mill. Horses graze both in the field occupied by these smaller windmills and on the far side of the track, a passing soul having left the gate open to leave them free to wander.
Beyond the field, the tracks meanders onward, splitting to pass either side of a copse before coming to where a greenhouse, converted into a cosy little café, sits by the western sea, close to a river which cuts its way through the landscape from west to east, slicing it neatly in two. The river, rich in grasses and reeds, is crossed in three places – one of them being an ageing wooden bridge a short distance away, although those feeling adventurous can use the logs which span the water alongside of the café.
The north side of the land rises gently to form a grassy backbone, studded with rocky outcrops. Another track winds its way around and up the hills to where and old industrial unit has been converted into a writer’s hideaway, typewriter awaiting its owner’s return. How you reach this little getaway depends on which path you take on crossing the river. Climb the slopes of the hill to the north-west, and you’ll come to an old shed which has clearly seen better days – although someone is clearly using it as a little snug -, an equally aged pick-up truck sitting close by. From here, another track winds up the hillside through trees and around shoulder to arrive at the aforementioned study.
Take the track pointing eastwards from the little market overlooking the river, however, and this will take you down back eastwards, following the dip of the river to where a deck has been built out over the water, kayaks drawn up on the grass beside it. It is here that the third river crossing can be found, another rough-and ready bridge of logs nailed together, and which takes advantage of rocks in the middle of the water to hold itself in place – not that any current here is particularly swift, thanks to the reeds and grass choking the water.
Just beyond the deck and bridge, and with a view back along the path of the river as well as to where the mill sits, is a cosy little Tuscan-style farmhouse, chickens and geese outside and washing on the line. The track turns sharply left as it reaches the farm, switching back on itself to climb the hill up to where the writer’s retreat lies, offering visitors the chance to walk full circle around the northern side of the island.
And this is a design intended for walking. The tracks offer routes through the landscape to all the major points of interest, and the trees with their reds and golds add a touch of autumnal romance to the setting. Perfectly set beneath the evening sky, The Mill offers places to tarry as you explore, not only with the riverside deck, encouraging visitors to loiter and take in the quiet beauty of the region.
The Mill is always a beautiful region to visit, and the current design is the perfect way to welcome a traditional autumn where the sun softly shines, the trees turn from green to rich hues of red, yellow, gold and brown, inviting us to amble through fallen leaves and relish that first wintery tang in the air.
- The Mill (Pale Moonlight, rated: Moderate)