As you wind your way downstream along the beautiful River Stort, you will be struck by the picturesque scenes along the river and greeted by the sound of chattering ducks and moorhens and the sound of reeds and grasses rustling in the breeze. As you drift along at a gentle pace, you’ll soon be struck by the sight of a grand, Victorian-esque building as Parndon Mill comes into view.
Should you choose to moor up and venture back on land. Parndon Mill is certainly worth a visit. It is steeped in history; and is more than your average flour mill. The site itself has existed in various guises since the Doomsday Book; and now; since the 1960s has become a central hub for creativity providing a prime spot for discovering local art, craft and design.
The current building, which was built in 1900, and overlooks the river is set against a backdrop of tall, willow trees and is arguably a spectacular site even from the water. It was first used as a flour mill, then a turbine wheel mill, before Sally Anderson converted it in 1968 to become a gallery and studio to sell pottery. Overall, the building comprises of four floors, each of which, boast a wealth of talent and creativity. Upon entering, you will find numerous items hanging from the walls, ceilings and the floors – both freestanding and on easels and pedestals.
Artists and designers often provide regular workshops on the ground floor, should you feel like creating your own masterpiece on site. Past programmes have included guitar making, ceramics and glass blowing, fusing and casting; metal and clay moulding, amongst others. There is also the opportunity to purchase items within the gallery itself or browse the extensive visual image library available.
Above on the first floor you will find painting, sculpture, weaving print making and calligraphy; and those wishing to explore further can find studios can be taken by resident creators working on anything from sculptures to experimental prints and graphics, fresh from the drawing board. Outside in the adjoining outbuildings and former stables others are working actively on creating jewellery, porcelain. Carpentry and woodwork also feature alongside a local blacksmith who in his spare time is restoring a Dutch barge.
Outside, there is ample opportunity to stretch your legs and take a spot on the nice clean green grass, that is behind the building. Visitors are invited to moor alongside the mill and are welcome to enjoy a spot of lunch, or simply soak in the scenery awhile – particularly in the summer months when kingfishers can sometimes be spotted by the eager bird spotter.
Parndon Mill hosts regular exhibitions; and is the perfect example of why talent isn’t only be found in the bigger cities of the world. With free admission, the space is a vibrant and rapidly expanding community hot spot and worth the visit, especially from the river. For details of current exhibitions and opening times, please visit the Parndon Mill website.
After your visit you’ll make your way through Parndon Mill lock before you continue to meander along the river Stort, and perhaps enjoy a drink or lunch on the foredeck as you continue your cruise.