Three Mills Island is where we find the world’s biggest tidal mill. Approach it from along the cobbled street and it’s possible to feel you are walking back in time – and the history of this place goes all the way back to the Saxons.
These were the earliest recorded tide mills in England – originally there were eight mills here which were recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 along with every piece of land and building in the kingdom.
For over a thousand years the grain that was milled here was used to bake bread for the people of London, and in the sixteenth century, gunpowder that was needed by the Royal Navy to fight the Spanish Armada.
By the eighteenth century the grain was also used to distill gin – a very popular drink in London.
Now the mills have a very different purpose as this location is popular with film makers – no wonder as the buildings and cobbled streets are so perfectly preserved and they provide such an interesting and attractive scene as well as an authentic historic backdrop.
Behind the mills lies the meads and around the perimeter of Mill Meads there is a ridge.
Climb up its steep slope and look back at where the mills are – but they have disappeared behind the trees. It really is quite extraordinary how so many remarkable sights are hidden away and you only find them by exploring nooks and crannies around the capital.
The paths that lead out from the meads confirm that you have really spent time on an island as you cross the bridge over the water and find yourself following a path along the Bow Back Rivers.
With such an enigmatic name, these smaller watercourses are worth exploring and lead you into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the walls of the canals have become green over time.
Close up they resemble a microscopic forest and below the walls all along the edges of the water grow bulrushes where waterfowl build nests. A lone cormorant or a heron may be sitting, quite still, by the side of the canal.