Sunday, 29 May 2011

Blowing in the wind

It takes a fair bit to stop me getting out into the French countryside if I have the chance.I love it. There's always something interesting, no matter how modest.

Really quite sick with a nose, throat and ear infection I visited a doctor in Gallardon which is a village near to Jean-Claude's village. The usual french doctor experience. I managed most of the necessary discussion with JC chipping in where useful. She is one of his neighbours. It's not easy to find a doctor on the weekends. There's nothing like I had in Auckland- 24/7 service so it was a big relief to be seen at short notice. Armed with anitbiotics I seem to be improving so I toughed it out and we drove about 20kms south of Chartres to see an ancient windmill.

Le Moulin Pelard-Bois de Feugeres is on the N10. It's unusual in that it's a pivot windmill where the whole thing pivots, not just the top section. It's typical of the Beauce region and dates from 1796. Until 1941 it belonged to the Pelard family who had been millers for generations. It was then bequeathed to the local authorities when the family line died out.

It was abandoned for several years before volonteers began renovating in 1976 with the help of gifts and grants. In 1977, before the renovations had been completed, it was destroyed in a violent storm. Fortunately, work resumed immediately and it was completed in September 1990 when the red sails were put in place. It's in full working order and is open to the public. Though it has no commercial activity it does mill wheat. The flour is sold in the mill itself. We climbed up the stairs which are somewhat unsteady as the whole thing responds to the wind. Standing inside is like being inside a boat with the constant motion. It has an anchor which is used to position it in the best angle to catch the wind.

Two of the arms have half sails otherwise the wind whould get too strong for it- a bit like the situation for a sailing ship. There's an old-fashioned bell to sound the alarm when the wheat supply is running low and brakes too. There remain some of the original timbers from the eighteenth century with some names carved in by those slightly literate in the nineteenth century. The engineering is rather clever for its time, I thought. The wheat box shakes the grains down to the milling stones, one only of which turns, the other remains stationary. The flour comes down into a long vertical box. There's provision for sacks to be lowered to the ground instead of humping them up and down the narrow wooden stairs.

Everywhere there is dust and flour particles so it's not good for your lungs or camera. Imagine the health problems of the ancient workers! We were guided in our little tour by one of the old volonteers who immediately forgot to speak slowly so I will have missed a bit of interesting information but I've come away with two plastic bags of whole wheat flour. Just alongside the mill are fields and fields of various types of wheat. This Beauce region is famous for cereals.

There are other windmills in the district but many are ruins now. I wonder what I'll discover in Brittany next weekend. JC is taking me to the family home in Binic where I will meet his 90 year-old father. I always enjoy Brittany.

Photos show the mechanism attached to the sails which turns the stone grinder, the flour box where the milled wheat ends up ready for bagging, me and our guide, the wheat fields.


Post a Comment

I welcome your comments, contributions and feedback.