Park in the Tide Mill Car Park. At the entrance to the car park is a board giving details of various walks around Bartley Water (what is, in effect, the Mill Pond). Ignore this, however, and take a look at the stone plaque on the other side of the car park entrance.
Cross the road and go down the track to the left of the bungalow. As you cross the road, look up the hill to the church, St Mary's Eling, and marvel at the perfect position that the medieval builders chose. Then marvel at the crass insensitivity of the Electricity Company who have covered this view with poles and cables.
The track brings you out on a large area of public open space, with lovely views of Southampton Container Terminal (no, honestly, it's better than it sounds). Walk along the shore until you get to a large day mark; ships use this and its brother nearer the church to ensure that they are in the deep water channel.
Technically the footpath ends here, but there is a well trodden path along the shore, which eventually climbs up the bank and through some delightful old woodlands before eventually petering out by the salt marshes.
This path has, presumably, been made by the residents of the static caravan park (an area perhaps better avoided).
Retrace your steps to the day mark, then head up the hill along the path through the churchyard. The church (which has its own web site) is normally kept locked (again a reminder that this is a largely industrial area). Walk down the steps and back down the road to the car park.
Eling Tide Mill is one of only two remaining operating tide mills in the United Kingdom. The other is Woodbridge Tide Mill in Suffolk.
The current mill dates from the 1770s when it (and the dam) were completely rebuilt after a bad series of storms and floods.
However there is mention of two mills at Eling in the Domesday Book, although we cannot be certain either was on this site.
The milling machinery was last replaced in 1892, when the old wooden undershot wheels and main gearing were replaced by cast iron Poncelet wheels (which increased the efficiency) with cast iron axles and gears. The mill was abandoned in 1946, and just left to rot.
Then in 1975 the mill was bought by New Forest District Council mainly to secure the causeway and bridge. Once they realised the importance of the mill, and began work to restore it, in conjunction with the newly formed Totton and Eling Historical Society. The mill reopened in 1980, and was run by the Eling Tide Mill Trust until the beginning of 2009 when Totton and Eling Town Council who took over the job.
It has to be said that the restoration was not entirely sympathetic; the glass panelled partitions and yellow metal barriers are more 1970s than 1770s but, that said, enough of the old mill survives to give a good idea of what it might have been like in its heyday.
Due to problems with the sluice gate, the mill was out of action at the time of my visit (2014) and was looking a bit sorry for itself. Check the official site for the latest news along with details of opening times, milling times, admission prices, etc.