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stolaves0059It’s National Mills Weekend, don’t you know? That this passed me by until now is, frankly, shameful. So, if you’ve got nothing to do with you Sunday, why not go see a wind or watermill? Many will be open and, weather permitting, working!

To honour the festivities, here are some half-finished models and scenes of St Olaves Mill, a cute little smock pump standing beside the River Waveney, and not the sea as envisioned here. Essentially this is the same structure as Boardman’s Mill; indeed it may have been exactly the same in infancy, and later encased in weatherboarding.

Built on the site of a former mill, it came relatively late to the party, erected in 1915 and working through to the sixties. Following a brief spell on its own, the mill was restored in 1980 and given a thick coat of paint. It’s still in good shape, and in a perfectly reachable spot, so is ready and waiting should you want to capitalise on the occasion.

The main reason these never came sooner is because of experimentation with using hair dynamics for ‘real’ grass. While it performed better than expected, I’m afraid I found myself becoming frustrated with the configurations after a while, sometimes going backwards rather than forwards. There’s potential there, though.

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For extra pertinent fun, here’s a look at all the mills I’ve built so far. Honestly, I was sure I’d made more than this! But it does me good seeing some progress.

sutton-01Whoa, that’s a big’un.

With the removal of Press’s Mill in 1905, this nine-storey marvel took the mantle of tallest windmill in East Anglia, and one of the largest to remain in the entire country. Sadly it hasn’t had the most fortunate existence, with a number of fires and lightning strikes over the course of its life – the last of which bringing its career to an end in the 1940s – and today it stands rather tatty and derelict, with a number of motions to renovate having fallen through. I remember being somewhat disillusioned by its state as a child, feeling that my namesake deserved better. Its sheer size gives it an undeniable pull, but it seems a bit of a shame when you think how even more magnificent it could look.

So, with all that, I thought I’d have a go at restoring to its former glory. I took a relatively recent reference photato and gave it all the bells and whistles of the heyday. It’s a quicker effort than usual, and the (improvised) sails are hardly my best, but it’s the sentiment that counts. Perhaps one day it’ll once again look like this!

storm-windpump-1I had no intention of drawing this evening, but after quite an eventful day felt the need to pass time. There are worse ways. Fortunately, just as said urge took hold, I came across another charmingly set photato of a drainage mill in South Walsham and had started really before I was aware – and, evidently, went in quite heavy. Though the caption mentions Fleet Dyke; I can’t seem to find much more about specific mills there, so her fate post-reference is up in the air.

There’s not really much more to say, I suppose, other than how pleasingly right it seems for me to once again be enchanted by windmills, drawing windmills and turning to them for comfort. It’s one of the many good things I owe to this blog. As I’ve previously mentioned, it was always the way as a little boy, so I shouldn’t be surprised about the return as much as why I ever stopped in the first place!

littlesnoring-1I thought the village an appropriate subject to bring life to what has, of late, been a rather sleepy place!

There’s probably something to be said for the state of the windmill, too, but we shan’t go there. Standing on the border of Little Snoring and neighbouring Great Snoring, this trestle mill, replete with its trendy porch, worked producing flour from 1805 to at least 1922, ultimately being dismantled in 1950. Curiously, the trestle foundation was left in place and remains apparent, though the site itself is now overrun by vegetation.

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A landmark about Little Snoring that you can see today is St Andrew’s, yet another round tower church, a trademark of East Anglia, and subjected to numerous cosmetic changes over the centuries. The Norman tower of flint actually stands a few feet detached from the present building, and is capped not by a traditional spire but a nineteenth century conical cap, complete with lookout gables and spike. It certainly captured my eye.

Many thanks to the wonderful website of Tricia Booth, whose extensive knowledge on the Snorings made an unplanned voyage most interesting. I should quite like to visit one day.

With that, we wake – one hopes!

broads-burghcastle4I felt that a natural next step in this impromptu series would be to look at some ruins – what’s more, ruins almost immediately adjacent to sites looked at previously. While we’re here, and all that!

Just a short walk south of Burgh Castle’s Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is what remains of a Roman fort. An imposing site it most certainly is, the walls some fifteen feet of crumbly flint, stone and tile construction, dating back to around 300 AD. One of a series of strategically placed shore forts, its main duty was to watch over and fend off assaults on both Breydon water – which was not so much water as vast inland sea at the time – and the North sea. After the Romans had left Britain, it was reoccupied, believed to be the site of an early Christian monastery and later a Norman castle.

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The western wall has long since collapsed, tumbling down the hill and into the water and unveiling a breathtaking view across the broadland, now dominated by Berney Arms Mill and passing leisure craft. Needless to say, as if the area weren’t attractive enough to me as a child, this sealed the deal! And it remains quite gripping as an adult, I’d say – coupled with the birdsong, the wind rustling through the trees and a warm, spring sun, one of the most peaceful retreats I know.

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Large pieces appear precariously askew, but nevertheless are stable – an enduring testament to the skills of those who built them. Many of the wonks were caused by the Norman castle, whose construction entailed breaching several sections of the fort’s south wall, and erecting a giant mound upon which it would perch. While very little trace of the castle itself is evident, the mound is clearly identified, as are the consequences of such a project!

broads-burghcastle3More good playtime. Some of the experimental scatter brushes I made to help with the wall’s make-up are a bit iffy, especially in the last one, and I probably won’t use those again, but it’s been quite invigorating trying to capture some of this landmark’s striking energy and mystique. I may yet return to it!

clayrack3-20bBack to resplendence for a moment, as this model has been sitting around for about a month now, waiting to say hello. Here is Clayrack Drainage Mill, a small but very impressive hollow-post pump which dates back to the early 19th century, with its career ending in 1903. Though it spends retirement beside the River Ant in How Hill, Ludham – just a short walk north of Boardman’s Mill and Turf Fen Mill – it was situated in the village of Ranworth until 1981, when it was moved and fully restored.

With three different mills so close together, it’ll come of no surprise to anybody reading this that I loved How Hill as a child, and indeed still do. It’s a really lovely place; you not only have these on a nice riverside walk, but also the Edwardian How Hill House and the Toad Hole Cottage, a tiny museum set in what was a marshman’s house.

These are the fruits of my playing around with Vue. It’s been something of a mixed bag. While the skies and vegetation look incredible, integration of my Cinema 4D models has proven harder than expected, with a couple of crashes here and there, though I’m quite sure that’s down to my machine not getting any younger. What’s more, the free program stamps even more watermarks over you once you’ve used it for thirty days, as you can see in the above renders. That’s totally to be expected, but they are bothering me, and I have a viable alternative in C4D, so I’m probably going to revert to that. Vue is a great looking programme, though, and comes much recommended.

clayrack3-3The sun sets on Vue, for now at least. It’s been fun!

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broads-3-1Yet more of this old timey Broads stuff. I’m really rather engrossed at the moment, even more than usual, so I sat myself down with some Jelly Babies, turned the music up and got going, once again aiming for brisk.

I didn’t think too much of my river on Black Beauty, so began with a view to tackling that. The water of the above image was created with the same brush, but below I took a thinner, tapered brush also used for grasses and reeds, but with its ‘head’ rotated. The rather more agitated, turbulent look is I think fitting what I’m going for; it even compelled me to add a spot or two of drizzle…

broads-3-2…which promptly escalated to full-on storm! Curses. But – excuse my fanboy screams – look what’s peering over those thrashing reeds…

broads-3-3…that’s made it all worthwhile! And we got there, eventually, the filthy weather proving decidedly brief. Hmm, maybe it looked prettier in the stormy dark?

broads-3-4aIt’s a skeleton mill; furthermore, a specimen heavily inspired by Boardman’s Mill, which I tried to build in 3D last spring. After a number of bloodbaths trying to briskly draw sails, I instead opted for creating them with Photoshop’s Lasso Tool and erasing sections. A little conspicuous, but vastly better than what came before it.

These weren’t initially intended to be sequential – it rather took its own course as progress was made. It’s nice when that happens. Success or not, rivers are definitely flowing from the overarching theme and archival sources. What fun!

burghcastlechurch-0These two churches actually bookend my previous post within my latest pursuit of old Norfolk material, with the last above and the first below. So, really, I’ve posted the three of them in entirely the wrong order. Oh well!

I didn’t have much time to draw, but really wanted to get something out today, so took that as the push to go stark raving mad. Above is a drawing of the church of St Peter and St Paul, of Burgh Castle, replete with its round tower. While much of the building’s fabric is of medieval age, it most likely originated in the late Anglo-Saxon period. Small wonder, then, that it has such a presence; while I’ve always adored Burgh Castle and the ruins of the Roman fort, the church unsettled me as a youngster. Besides summer visits, we would go annually on the Sunday before Christmas for a carol concert, and naturally it would be pitch dark and freezing, the winds howling around you. Scary. Thankfully, I can say that, on revisiting in 2013 for my sister’s wedding, I’ve got over this apprehension and was just able to enjoy it for the evocative wonder that it is. I’m even tempted to go back out there at night to see what’s going on!

Coming in at under thirty minutes, it was chaotic by my standards, putting me in mind of the Wheel of Time (one for the long-standing readers, there!) It’s really pretty mediocre, but at least the restrictions produced a different outcome, and there’s semblance of energy there. Above all else, it was fun.

St Mary’s of Somerleyton is a treasure for me – mostly, I confess because it was on that Norfolk episode of Interceptor, which I’ve probably referenced more on this blog alone than anybody else has the entire series in the past twenty-five years. Oh well! I don’t think I’ve ever been inside, but it’s a most pleasant little church, and dates back to the 1400s. It sits not too far away from the splendid Somerleyton Hall.

somerleytonchurch-1I think the above a bit stolid for the structure. Uninspiring. I enjoy working quite meticulously, as you’ve probably gathered, but I got to feeling that churches demand far greater atmosphere than is tendered here with or without the Photoshop trickery, so took the opportunity today, with the results you’ve now seen. While not completely convinced, I feel there is perhaps a happy medium in lurking in there somewhere – it’s not like there aren’t a wealth of other churches with which to practice. I suppose I’ll have to try some more and see where it goes!

wherry-3I’ve been spending a lot of time recently viewing various old clips of life on the Norfolk Broads. My noseying into these broadcast and personal films isn’t uncharacteristic, as you’ll probably have summed up by now; each choppy, flickering and often silent clip is gripping in atmosphere and thought-provoking in narrative, a total joy when you’re a Broads boy like I am. Explorations did lead me to the above drawing, subsequent Photoshop adjustment, and the prominent subject.

You won’t have to go through many historic snippets to catch sight of a classic Norfolk wherry, for these were just as prolific as the windpumps they sailed past on every cut. The tough jet black sail waving some sixty feet into the sky, busier routes would be teeming with these boats, and indeed it wasn’t uncommon to be circled by several, each transporting vast amounts of goods with far greater storage space and maneuverability than other, earlier options. Dating as far back as the seventeenth century, trading vessels were produced in the county right through to the early 1900s, by which time they had generally fallen out of favour for the quickness that rail distribution offered. On this lull, and noting the potential of the area, they were revamped for recreational means, adopting the name ‘pleasure wherry’, with some swapping the black sail for a white one to give greater distinction. Nowadays there are only six surviving wherries on the Broads, the oldest being two trading wherries, Albion and Maud, who are both approaching two-hundred-and-twenty-years; along with a couple of her pleasure wherry peers, Albion is in fine fettle for her age, still available for charter.

Learning those stats, it’s less of a surprise that I’ve rarely seen them save for some fortunate glances in the distance, and it’s mostly been restricted to old photographs and that Norfolk episode of Interceptor. I hope to see some more, for they are quite the hypnotic sight!

I had to throw in a windmill, too – of course I did. It’s the law.

cottage0040Wandering around these vast expanses of broadland, there’s always the chance that you’ll come through the reeds and trees only to uncover the hidden retreat of someone despicably fortunate. Amidst the awe and reward is a spot of panic, hoping that said fortunate person isn’t in, and hasn’t spotted you foraying into their quarters before you can make yourself scarce. This has been me a couple of times – apparently, I’m blind to ‘PRIVATE’ signs. What can I say? Ever curious!

Naturally, you’ll often find these just beside the mills I’ve been focusing on. They were the shelter for the millers now long gone, and so they surely hold as much historical value as the twirling towers beside them. With that in mind, and in yearning for something a little different, I set about focusing on this. This isn’t any particular cottage or mill, more a collation of various inspirations and references, with some personal touches to make for a (hopefully!) grand design.

It looks in pretty good nick, but I don’t see a ‘PRIVATE’ sign anywhere, do you…? Why, then, let’s try the door! I wonder what it’s like inside? What can you see from the upper windows?

cottage0043I only have a pair of fully-rendered, hi-res shots for you, for this was a truly arduous render session. It’s the tree’s what done it, coupled with, probably, a great deal of inefficiency on my part. The close-up took ninety minutes, the wider one three-and-a-quarter hours, with much of the first freezing the computer completely. I was seconds away from shutting it down and abandoning the idea when it kicked back into life and showed me what it’d been doing!

Slightly wary of these extended drags, I thought better of running any more out. I’ve removed the greedy trees for a simple render below, just to give an idea of what the garden looks like (without its trees, of course!). You aren’t really missing that much:

cottage0094aWhat of the gated pathway in the foreground? That was going to wind through some trees, crossing a stream to get to the mill. I didn’t bother rendering even a simple shot of this area, as it really isn’t anything without the realistic vegetation. But I was going for a similar look to this shot from my Old Mill scene:

waterway58_0061Appropriately enough, when activating the renderer – and before its mammoth freeze – I headed to my music library to pass some time. What should the shuffle function plump for to kick off? It’s Going To Take Some Time, of course! How prescient. Naturally, it was the cover by The Carpenters, but there’s the original by Carole King if you’d prefer. Both are marvellous. But I digress! For all its torment, it was great fun building my own little cottage on the Broads.