Woodbridge is a fine small Suffolk town with two distinctive faces: the interlocking communities around the church, the market square and the Thoroughfare; and the Quay area along the tidal River Deben. The Quay has its own elegance focusing on the white weatherboarded Tide Mill and the wonderful river where curlews call, swans dabble and oystercatchers pipe away. It also has workaday activities in the station, the boatyards, chandleries, warehouses and venerable boats, activities that give it life and character.
The Tide Mill is the fascinating focal point. Not only is it a beautiful vernacular building, it’s a lesson in the use of renewable tide power energy (from the days before we worried about such things) and its robust wood and stone mechanics over three floors are a refreshing reminder in the digital age of once simpler lives.
Visitors are welcomed by friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, who explain how the Mill works with the aid of a beautifully detailed model in the reception area. Efforts are made to describe and show the history and working of the Mill in ways that suit all ages. However, like most mills, access to the upper floors is by steep steps, so care must be taken with children and it is not suitable for people with mobility problems.
The mill grinds flour, which is sold at the shop. The Mill is open every day Easter to October, but because it can only operate at low tide if you want to see it in action it’s important to check the turning times on the web site at www.woodbridgetidemill.org.uk.
After a decade of dereliction and uncertainty the Mill was saved in 1968 and has undergone regular improvement and restoration since. It’s to be hoped that the rest of the lively riverside life has a future too.
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