Discover Britain’s milling history at the Broads Outdoor Festival this weekend

Thurne Mill

Thurne Mill - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

They did much more than make flour! Mills were used for everything from grinding cement ingredients to moving water, and we can find out more during an annual milling celebration.

Berney Arms Mill

Berney Arms Mill - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2010

The National Mills Weekend is the yearly festival of Britain's milling heritage and offers people the chance to visit a mixture of mills, including those normally kept under lock and key.

Horsey Mere Drainage Mill

Horsey Mere Drainage Mill - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

The weekend, on May 11 and 12, lands with perfect timing in the middle of the Broads Outdoors Festival, when Broadland mills are ready to welcome intrigued visitors.

Discover how the drainage mills worked on the Broads and exactly where the water went; explore a mill used for cement clinker; and discover why wind turbine technology is nothing new!

There's the chance to join a special Rails, Trails and Sails experience, too, and truly enjoy the beauty of the marshes and mills of the Yare Valley.

The idea is to catch a train from Reedham to Berney Arms on May 11 and wander back to Reedham along the Wherryman's Way.

Walkers will learn about the management of the marshes and its famous mills, both past and present.

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There will be tours of the restored wind, steam and diesel pumps too, thanks to the Norfolk Windmills Trust and English Heritage.

The pumps to be explored include Polkey's Mill and Berney Arms, with the latter only reached by foot or boat. The walk is about five miles and suitable for ages eight upwards.

Those under 16 must be accompanied and walkers will need suitable clothing, sturdy footwear and a picnic.

Dogs are welcome.

The event is from 11-45am-3.30pm. Cost £4 (including rail fare), £3 children. Book at Whitlingham Visitor Centre, 01603 756094.

Mills and pumps open during the National Mills Weekend include:

Berney Arms: One of the giants of the Broads, this towers seven floors above the River Yare, about three-and-a-half miles from Reedham.

The tallest mill in the Broads area, it's one of the finest Norfolk tower mills and up to about 1880 it used to grind cement clinker. After that it was used for marshland drainage, finishing in 1951.

A fascinating mill to visit, visitors are invited to learn about its construction and work. Discover why it was ideal for grinding cement ingredients and why the work changed. During National Mills Weekend it's open on May 11 from 11am-3pm.

There is no access by road to Berney Arms. Walk from Berney Arms station, from Great Yarmouth (six miles); or Halvergate (three miles) or go by boat.

There will be boat trips to the mill every Monday during July and August from the Haven Bridge, Great Yarmouth.

Horsey windpump: Near B1159, about two and a half miles north east of Potter Heigham, NR29 4EF

This restored brick windpump is a tower drainage mill with impressive views over the surrounding area. With its sails and boat-shaped cap, it's a well known landmark and stopping off point for walkers and boaters.

It was wind-powered until 1943 when it was severely damaged by lightning.

A popular spot with wildlife watchers, it's on the Horsey estate, and a small shop and refreshments are close by.

Restored by the National Trust, it's now open every day April to October 10am-4.30pm.

Reedham Polkey's and Cadge's Mills: Polkey's Mill was built sometime before 1880 and has been fully restored. It's thought it was originally an octagonal wooden smock-type mill as used smock mill beams are reused on the first floor.

It's been recently restored with a new cap and sails. Polkey's Mill used to drive a scoop wheel which is a paddle wheel in a brick channel, which lifted marsh water through a hinged gate into the river.

Cadge's Mill was built about the same time and last worked in 1941. Its cap was restored as part of the Land of the Windmills restoration project.

The site here includes Reedham Marsh Steam Engine House and Seven Mile Diesel Engine shed.

The mills are open May 12 1-4pm. Guided tours of Polkey's Mill are available when it's hoped the sails will be turning.