Thursday, November 06, 2014

Beauty and Heckington windmill

click photo to enlarge
It's good that Heckington windmill, the last remaining 8-sail windmill, is undergoing a restoration, and that the buildings around it are being refurbished and remodelled to make the site into a place that can better welcome visitors. It's good too that the rear of the premises will no longer be the eyesore that it has been for many years. And, it's good that the sails that were succumbing to rot have been replaced and are as they should be. All this is a testament to the hard work and selfless effort of the volunteers who have made, and continue to make, it happen.

However, as I view the mill from the A17 when I'm driving past, or when I stop off in Heckington and have a closer view of the building an unfortunate yet inescapable thought always occurs to me - Heckington mill is undoubtedly the least visually pleasing English windmill that I know.

I recently saw, on successive days, Heckington windmill then Boston's Maud Foster windmill. The temporal proximity of my viewings brought home the agreeable elegance of the latter (probably my favourite windmill) and the ungainliness of Heckington. Where Maud Foster has warm, subtly coloured brickwork contrasting with the white of sails, cap, gallery, windows etc and visually interesting subsidiary buildings, Heckington has cold, stark black and white and seems to tower in an awkward way over a disconnected jumble of sheds. I'm sure the redevelopment will improve the latter aspect. However, it is Heckington's main distinguishing feature that I find most displeasing - eight sails. It is simply too many, makes the mill look top heavy and gives the building something of the character of a whirring desk fan - even when it's stationary! By contrast, the five sails of Maud Foster seem to be the ideal number offering visual interest, pleasing angles and less visual weight.  Four sails are very common on English windmills and usually look fine, six sails are less common and that number is beginning to lose the coherence that characterises fewer sails. Five sails are also less frequently seen than four but that number is definitely - to my mind - the optimum: eight is simply far too many!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (30mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On