It’s a lovely warm summer’s day and you are taking a leisurely stroll through the village of Lemsford in Hertfordshire. Walking along the same road beside the river is a beautiful young lass on some urgent errand.
As you cross the bridge you see before you Lemsford Mill. Painted black the timber building fits into the landscape as if it has always been there.
The river is clear and the fish swim in abundance through the weed beds.
It’s 1905 you are Harry Armstrong, you stand and dream, and as you dream, these words tumble into your mind…
“There’s an old mill by the stream, Nellie Dean,
Where we used to sit and dream, Nellie Dean,
And the waters as they flow, seem to murmur sweet & low,
You’re my hearts desire, I love you, Nellie Dean.”
Henry W. “Harry” Armstrong (July 22, 1879 – February 28, 1951)
There has been a Mill in Lemsford since the 12th Century, 800 years of milling corn until it stopped in 1900. The property was turned into a private dwelling and the old mill wheel was put to use to power the home with electricity.
Later as the war clouds gathered over Europe the mill building became an engineering works and helped the war effort.
In 1800 the wooden structure that was the mil collapsed and was rebuilt into the part brick part wood structure there today. In 2005 Ramblers Holidays took over the site and rebuilt the wheel to generate electricity to power the offices and to sell the surplus to the ‘grid’.
The wheel has been working ever since and provides the heartbeat to the office and all of us who work there.
30th June 2013 (Sunday)
The day begins full of promise with clear skies and that feeling of summer that we used to have as kids when we just smelled a good day coming.
Members of staff arrive early to make a buffet and set up chairs, tables and umbrellas on the lawn behind the mill. The early morning sun kisses the garden plants and fills them with vibrant life.
The car park is empty; a lonely figure in a yellow jacket patiently waits as the first guest arrives.
Soon a stream of cars, kicking up dust from the drive way, is neatly tucked away and their occupants have wandered in anticipation into the Mill house.
The scene on the lawn behind the house is on of gaiety where the bright coloured clothes of the clients are set against the vivid red polo shirts of some of the staff and the blue and white outfits of the wonderful ladies who are keeping us all fed and watered.
The introductions over 3 groups of people divide and are shepherded to the first sessions of the day. They learn about the tours we can provide all over the world and specifically about parts of the Rhineland Palatinate where German hospitality is second to none.
One group takes a leisurely meander round the gardens looking at the Moorhen and her chicks on the Mill Pond and the Grey wagtails hopping from leaf to leaf on the marsh marigolds floating on the mill pond.
The morning slips away with everyone in turn going to the lectures and the tour of the grounds and the water wheel.
Lunch is a great affair with succulent chicken and salads and cheeses and bread and … too much to mention. People are animated, and strangers are in deep conversation with strangers. This is what makes group activities so pleasurable, getting to know new friends.
The day is very warm and the sun beats down but there is no time to succumb to drowsy seat slumping. The Rambling leaders are calling for people to decide on the long walk or the short walk. After much discussion they all opt for the long walk through the Hertfordshire countryside and the Brocket Hall estate.
About 2 hours later the first of the walkers appear and the tea urn is again pressed into service. Cake appears as if by magic and there is something about being offered cake and tea after a walk, it’s nice!
The event was kindly sponsored by the Rhineland-Palatinate Tourist Board.