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Chinese Visitor to Topcliffe Mill


A chance encounter with Ralph Betts enabled Miaolijuan, pictured below, a Chinese student interested in conservation, to see inside Topcliffe Mill. I had arranged a visit to some local conservation sites with Rob Mungovan, the SCDC ecology officer. The end of the trip involved exploring the River Mel near the Mill to check the flow and investigate whether there was any sign of trout spawning. As we were leaving, Ralph arrived and kindly offered to show us around the mill.


This was a very special experience for Miaolijuan as the machinery has been kept in very good condition and she was able to get a very clear idea of how ancient English watermills functioned. Seeing the inside of the mill gave her a full understanding of how mills worked and she could relate it to smaller watermills she has seen in in China.


Miaolijuan was visiting the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at Cambridge University as a visiting scholar. However, despite the fact that her main research area is in China, she said that a trip around several conservation sites in the neighbourhood of Meldreth was one of the highlights of her visit. Although it was a typical cold and slightly wet English day she didn’t want to stop the exploration. She was very impressed with the idea of local conservation groups. She said that this was a brilliant idea as there is now very little green space left in Beijing. She came from a rural area, but had not experienced the idea of people giving up their spare time to help with the conservation of their local environment. She was also very impressed with the support given by the local authorities.


The visit ended with tea at my thatched cottage in Rose Lane in Melbourn. Miaolijuan was ecstatic about the charming thatched cottage, but wondered why people would still want to live in houses with grass roofs. She said that in China this would be seen as very old fashioned; everyone in the countryside now wanted a modern look! She carefully took some pictures on her mobile phone to show how primitive we are in England!


Bruce Huett 18


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