VIDEO. The Moulin de Lautrec is the last working mill in the Tarn
Touch the sky, majestic, above the village of Lautrec. The La Salette mill is one of the few in Occitania that still produces flour. And to attract thousands of tourists…
From the village we see only him. “There, in front of you, with those big arms, some of them nearly two leagues long,” as Don Quixote described it. “Come on, sir, what we see over there are not giants, but windmills; and what you take for arms are their wings, which turn the millstone when the wind drives them,” replied his squire Sancho Panza.
Far from the plains of Castile, in Lautrec, you can still put yourself in the shoes of this old La Mancha hidalgo, who suddenly imagines himself a chivalrous hero. Marion takes us there with a firm step. She takes the stony path up the rocky outcrop to reach her work. And there is work!
Here the miller does not sleep as in the famous nursery rhyme. First of all, he sucks. Then because Marion also has to take on the role of tour guide to give a guided tour to the 5,000 visitors who flock there every year.
“It has regained all its former glory,” he says. Built in 1688, it fell into oblivion in the mid-19th century. “In the 1960s it was even used as a shelter for a rabbit farm”. Under the impetus of the town hall of the village and the tourist office, in 1990, it was restored according to the rules of the art by a carpenter-amoulageur (specialist in the construction of paddle wheels for windmills) Lautrécois.
Cers, essential wind
Here we are. From the outside, a circular building supporting the 4 tons of chestnut roof and oak structure. There are also the magnificent four wings. “With the wind, they start to spin.” She takes the wind at her back, neither too weak nor too strong. What blows in the Lautrécois has a name: the cers. A lowland wind, blowing from the northwest more than 250 days a year.
It passes between the Massif Central and the Pyrenees through the Naurouze threshold. It is essential to proceed with starting up the turbine, orient the wings facing the wind, taking care to cover them with the surface that corresponds to its intensity. Orientation is achieved by rotating the entire roof, which can be done 360°, by means of a rack.
Inside, Marion takes control. “The wings drive the wheel, the latter turns the lantern which triggers the movement of the grindstone”. The grain flows from the hopper, is crushed and ground, between the rotating and fixed millstones. Thus flour was born. Using the sieve, Marion sifts it to remove the husk of the grain, the bran and thus obtain an ever finer grind.
“We receive school groups, the elderly and families curious to know how a mill works,” explains Marion. You remember the apprentice bakers of the CFA de Cunac who made the journey to immerse themselves in the place where their predecessors, for centuries, stocked up on flour.
The windmill is the ancestor of the wind turbine. It was the first invention that used the wind as a driving force to work. While 15 kilometers away the Cuq-Servies wind farm produces electricity, in Lautrec the grandfather resists… for our greatest pleasure.