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Discover the grounds at Bourne Mill

Visitors in the garden at Bourne Mill, Essex
Visitors in the garden at Bourne Mill | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Enjoy a stroll around the peaceful grounds at Bourne Mill, where you can fully admire the exterior of the 16th-century mill. Spot wildlife on the millpond, from fish to waterfowl, or take a moment to enjoy the serenity of the gardens while you relax on a bench. There’s a bug hotel, stumpery and giant rhubarb plants also to enjoy.

The millpond

Still and tranquil, the pond at Bourne Mill is spring-fed. The spring can be seen to the far left of the water, helping to keep the pond full.

In spring the pond really comes to life as wildlife emerges. Familiar bird species return, including tufted and shoveler ducks and the traditionally British white Aylesbury duck. Mallards and coots begin to nest on the banks of the pond, tending to their young in summer.

In previous years, cormorants have also been spotted, attracted to the pond by its good supply of carp. Rarer spots include herons and kingfishers; their bright colours seen darting across the water.

On warmer days, carp can be seen basking close to the surface whilst dragonflies and damselflies flit across it. The water itself is teeming with pond life, including the freshwater ‘swan mussel’ which helps to keep the pond clean and healthy.

View across the pond of Bourne Mill, Essex
View across the pond of Bourne Mill | © National Trust Images/John Miller

More to explore

Make sure to visit the bug hotel, built by the gardeners to provide a safe haven for bugs and insects such as ladybirds, woodlice and bumblebees.

Further into the garden you’ll find the stumpery; another natural feature that supports the local wildlife, providing food and shelter.

Then follow the boardwalk through dense vegetation to cross and appreciate the marshy environment. Interesting marsh plant species found along here include the Gnnera manicata or giant rhubarb plant, which has extremely large leaves and can grow up to 15ft high.

Facts about the grounds

  • In 1597 the Elizabethan herbalist book Of the Historie of Plants by John Gerard was published. In this book Gerard wrote: 'Marsh cinkfoile groweth in a marsh ground adjoining the land called Bourne ponds from where I bought some plants for my garden, where they flourish and prosper well'.
  • In the 13th century it was reported that there was a witch ducking stool in the grounds of Bourne Mill.
  • An uncommonly large pike from the millpond was sent to Queen Victoria. This is detailed on page 40 of Dr Chris Thornton's 2007 Bourne Mill historical report: 'Mrs Legerton recalled large fishing parties being held at the mill and on one occasion an unusually fine pike was sent to Queen Victoria'.
Visitors exploring the garden at Bourne Mill, Essex

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