Duddeston Mill is a little known Midlands gem. Powered by the River Rea since around the fifteenth century, it is a fully operational water mill in a semi-bucolic setting. It produces a variety of stoneground flours from its traditional slow-moving grinding wheels, both from ancient grains and organic wheat. The tour is a fascinating glimpse into the past, but don't be misled, this is a commercial mill producing flour for many bakeries in the Birmingham area.
Some of the flour from the mill is baked into artisanal loaves by the Gregg family a few minutes away from the mill on Mainstream Way (with excellent cycle parking just to the right of the front door). These can be bought from their shop and café, where a very jolly Mrs Gregg served me a cup of Earl Gray and a delicious Wensleydale on spelt sandwich, with a generous dollop of traditional Branston pickle. I chose to sit outside in the early spring sunshine, watching the wagons from the mill going in and out of the bakery yard.
The mill is only a couple of minutes ride down a quiet lane from the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal, which is how I got there. This quiet backwater is suffused with exotic aromas from places unseen beyond the dense greenery that lines it. The narrowness of the path and the occasional eccentric character taking a constitutional means this is not a fast ride, but it is a charming ride, and safe from motor traffic. In one direction lies Bordesley Junction, which connects with the Grand Union Canal, the Digbeth Branch Canal, and of course the quaint back streets of the ancient settlement of Digbeth itself. In the other direction lies Salford Junction, where it meets with the Tame Valley Canal and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. If you're there on a warm day, I recommend heading up to Salford Junction, where you can relax on the golden sands of Birmingham's famous beach, and maybe go for a swim. But since it was not particularly warm, I chose to bumble around the area looking at the public art works and wild havesting the culinary herbs that grow in abundance along the towpath, herbs such as Urtica dioica and Taraxacum officinale.
As I said, the mill is a working mill, so tours are necessarily limited and you should check their Facebook page for availability. However, children are not only welcome any time, but can be left for as long as you like to experience first-hand the operation of heavy machinery. Greggs are open as a minimum all year round, though don't expect Mrs Gregg to be serving all the time.