Buy Of The Week: A Kent windmill

Windmills aren't just striking additions to the landscape - they're serious space-savers too
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The Independent Online

Don Quixote attacked them, John Constable painted them, Noel Harrison sang about them and a generation of children were captivated by the other-worldly figure of Windy Miller whistling for the wind to turn the sails of his. Although their presence in our towns, villages and fields is no longer a practical one, windmills still add charm to the coucntryside.

The Windmill, a black weatherboarded smock mill perched on Borstal Hill near Whitstable, overlooks the town's rooftops and the sea beyond. It was built in the early 19th century to a traditional hexagonal design and, a century later, gained a large house, also finished in shiplapped wood, next to it.

This windmill is not just decorative; it seriously enhances the building's accommodation. It is joined to the house and has five open-plan floors, including a sitting room and a family room. These rooms still contain the beams and columns that have supported this industrial building for the last 200 years, as well as much of the iron machinery that clanked and turned through its dusty floors.

These pulleys and bars hang down from the ceiling, seemingly ready to spring back into life should the sails start turning again, but, unfortunately this is not a working mill anymore. Dreams of producing your own Whitstable flour will have to remain floating on the wind.

All together the house and mill have seven bedrooms, three receptions, a kitchen/breakfast room, utility, three bathrooms and a good-sized garden - plenty of space for most people to spread out and escape the daily grind.

This north Kent coast is easily within commuting distance from London, and Whitstable is most definitely on the map now thanks to the re-establishment of the town's oyster beds and the success of the famous oyster restaurant. Spotting a celebrity or two on Whitstable's quay is now a regular pastime.

Windmills were introduced to this country around the 12th century and were small, inefficient structures that sat squattly across the hills of England. Some of these early post mills still survive, such as Britain's oldest working mill at Outwood in Surrey, but they were really only powerful enough to drive one set of millstones. Smock and tower mills came later and were designed with more height and built of stronger materials. This resulted in longer sails and therefore, more power. Mills were now spinning several stones at once and producing flour faster than Windy Miller could swig his cider.

But by the end of the 19th century, steam and later electricity were becoming a more predictable form of energy and these picturesque mills began to see the wind falling from their sails.

Today, there are 90 or so windmills in existence with some, such as the Union Mill in Cranbrook, still producing bags of flour, but only for the tourists.

As you look out from Borstal Hill across the Thames estuary, you can see the Kentish Flats where 30 wind turbines spin in slow motion against the fierce winds of the North Sea. It's heartening to see that this ever-present energy, so ingeniously used by the original windmills, is now being harnessed again at the beginning of the 21st century. It seems everything that goes around, does eventually come around.

The Windmill is priced at £675,000 through Kent Estate Agencies (01227 274 220, www.kent-estate-agencies.co.uk)

Wind-up: other mills for sale

* Thrigby, Norfolk

This peaceful, late Georgian house has a rather special form of outbuilding. Nestled behind the vegetable garden is a restored 18th-century windmill that is so pretty, it takes your breath away. The property is made up of a collection of cottages with five bedrooms, three receptions, a kitchen and one bathroom, all surrounded by well- manicured gardens that include lawns, orchards, a Tudor knot garden and potager set in just over two acres. But it's the windmill that's the star, providing a sanctuary like no other in which to contemplate the next job that needs tackling in the garden.

£600,000, Savills (01603 229 229, www.savills.co.uk)

* Wendover, Bucks

This huge brick windmill cuts a striking figure in the village of Wendover near Aylesbury. Dating to the late 18th century, it's reputedly the second largest windmill in the country. Its five levels contain five bedrooms, three receptions, three bathrooms and a kitchen. And, with space for a landing on every floor, you don't need to go through rooms to access the stairs. Wooden floors, white walls and beams give the interiors a modern edge and there's a good-sized garden outside. Another nifty touch is the verandah running around the windmill's cap - a great spot in which to drink in the views.

£1.2m, Hamptons (01494 863 134, www.hamptons.co.uk)

* Brighton, East Sussex

High on the South Downs with wonderful views over Brighton towards the sea, is this picture-perfect windmill. Built in 1885, it has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a sitting room, kitchen and conservatory. Half the house is sited in a Sixties extension, but the octagonal sitting room and three of the bedrooms are stacked up in the windmill itself. Remnants of the original machinery exaggerate the quirkiness of this house and all floors are accessed by various spiral staircases. The garden is a delight with semi-tropical plants, a summer house and a triple garage. Living by the sea has never been so much fun.

£910,000, Strutt & Parker (01273 779 649, www.struttandparker.co.uk)

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