First of all my apologies to everyone who was looking forward to the follow-up post about the windmill in Saint-Chinian. I got so carried away after my visit to Gruissan that I just had to write that post about the salt!
Until about 12 years ago, the windmill of St Chinian was all but a distant memory and a romantic ruin. Then someone on the town council had the idea to rebuild and restore, and up it went. Now the windmill once again proudly surveys the valley, and at least once a year it is put to work.
I arrived just as the last sailcloths were being put onto the sails. On the St Chinian mill the sails are built like ladders, and the sailcloth is tied to the top and then woven in between the ladder rungs, until it’s fastened at the bottom. Of course the mill is stopped for this operation, but I don’t think I’d be all that comfortable climbing up the sails! Once the sails are in place the brake is taken off and if there’s enough wind the sails will start to turn,
It’s pretty spectacular to watch the mill crank into action, both inside and out!! Space inside is somewhat tight, but on the first floor I got a good view of the workings of the mill. The drive shaft which is connected to the sails must have been a massive oak tree! The craftmanship is superb, and it all functions beautifully!
Unfortunately the wind was not very even, so the mill would start and stop.
The wooden “hat” can be turned so that the sails face the wind head on, and all the mechanisms including the millstones are located on the first floor of the mill. The miller had to carry up all the sacks of grain and the flour would arrive by a chute on the floor below.
On the ground floor the miller had a small fireplace, despite the fire risk, to keep warm and to heat up his food. When the mill was turning there was no way of leaving it unattended, anything could have happened, so I guess you couldn’t blame him for wanting a few little comforts. There’s also a small sink set into the wall – was that for washing up after meals?? Can you find the chimney for the fireplace on the outside of the mill?? I’ll give you a clue – it does not come out through the roof.
When you come to visit St Chinian be sure to stop by the windmill. The views are superb, and it’s also the starting point for a walk called the sentier des capitelles. The walk is well worth doing and I’ll write about it in another post, promise! I hope you’ve enjoyed the guided visit of the windmill!