WINDMILLS AND WATERMILLS OF THE VENDEE

 

 5. LES HERBIERS AND LES EPESSES AREA

 

 

LES EPESSES

 

Moulin Godet. Private watermill, near Les Epesses

 

 

 

 LES HERBIERS

  

Outside Les Herbiers, the road climbs steeply to a high ridge (231m) overlooking the wooded hills of the "bocage". On one side of the busy Les-Herbiers-to-Cholet road stand the last of around eight windmills; opposite is a small, 19th-century chapel erected in memory of the dead of the Vendée Wars by the Duchesse d'Angoulême. A newly-created "sentier des meuniers", or millers' path, leads walkers around a 3km signposted circuit.

Shortly after the Revolution of 1789, the Vendée's inhabitants rose up against the new government. Supporters of the monarchy and of the church - the first of which had been brought to an abrupt end, and the second radically altered by the revolutionary council - they were finally roused to action by enforced conscription (see history section) and taking up agricultural tools as primitive arms against they took on "les bleus" - as the Republican soldiers were known.
The sails of the mills at rest - especially those grouped on the MONT DES ALOUETTES (Larks' Hill), near Les Herbiers - would be set by sympathisers in positions that indicated to the rebels the degree of revolutionary activity. For example X showed the all clear; + was a call to muster stations, the dog-leg position slightly clockwise meant danger at hand, and anticlockwise conveyed danger past. This use as a semaphore brought down the anger of the Republicans, and by the time the Vendée Wars finished in 1796 many of the mills had been destroyed in retribution.

Today, one of the site's two remaining mills, left, has been given a weatherproof shingled roof, and dedicated as a memorial to Vendean writer Jean Yole, whose image appears in a medallion on the outside wall.

Photograph by Angela Bird

 

The other mill has been restored to activity. In keeping with its ancient origins, the sails, left, are canvas-covered. As the mill is not very tall, they sweep particularly near the ground, so it is essential to keep behind the protective wooden fence at all times!
Guided tours are available   Tel: 02 51 92 92 92.

Photograph by Angela Bird

 

 

 

LES LUCS-SUR-BOULOGNE

 

Privately-owned Moulin de la Vergne, a watermill near Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne.

Photograph from http://perso.wanadoo.fr/dannenhoffer/guide3.htm

 

 

 

LA RABATALIERE

 

The Moulin de Bel Air, outside the village of La Rabataliére, stands on top of the hill above the extraordinary Sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-Salette. Built in 1700, destroyed in the Vendeé Wars, rebuilt in 1800 and eventually abandoned in 1943, this windmill originally had canvas sails that were later modernised to take the slatted, wooden Berton type. Today, it has been rescued from oblivion and gradually restored. It can be seen in action, using windpower to grind corn, on the Journée des Moulins (usually in around June), and on the Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) in September.

Photograph from Hébdo-Vendée newspaper

 

 

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