Monthly Archives: January 2010

How the Watermill used to Work

The Watermill of Tourteron has been built as a gristmill in the early 19th century, in 2013 200 years ago. In 1808 the French government did a country wide research and discovered that the mills were not all producing the same quality of flour. Because of this the government developed a new law to control the quality all over France. It’s probably why they built the mill of Tourteron. Maybe on top of a previous one – we don’t know.

The Watermill of Tourteron used to divert the water from an impoundment between Tourteron and Guincourt. The force of the water’s movement drove the blades of the wheel, which in turn rotated an axle that drove the mill’s other machinery. The water leaving the wheel drained through the tail race what is now the stream running next to the house. The passage of water used to be controlled by sluice gates that allowed maintenance and some measure of flood control. The mill-pond, the wheel and the sluices are all gone. Now only the fountain that runs from underneath the mill fills the tail race.

The mill

The Mill and appending houses

The watermill has probably had a breast-shot system .. meaning the water fell half way the axe on the wheel and rotated it downwards. The horizontal rotation of the wheel was converted into the vertical rotation by means of gearing. This big wheel was based in the basement room behind the current kitchen.

The breast system

The breast-shot system

The waterwheel turned a horizontal shaft on which is also mounted a large pit wheel. This meshes with the wallower, mounted on a vertical shaft, which turned the (larger) great spur wheel (mounted on the same shaft). This large face wheel, set with pegs, in turn, turned a smaller wheel known as a stone nut, which was attached to the shaft that drove the runner stone. This took place on the first level of the mill, the current bedroom 1.

The way the first floor might have looked 200 years ago

How it must have looked 200 years ago

In the 19th century it was common for the great spur wheel to drive several stone nuts, so that a single water wheel could drive as many as four stones. Each step in the process increased the gear ratio which increased the maximum speed of the runner stone. Adjusting the sluice gate and thus the flow of the water past the main wheel allowed the miller to compensate for seasonal variations in the water supply. Some research shows that this mill must have had more than two stones. The smaller stones and other machinery were placed on the second level , the current bedroom 4.

The different levels of the original mill

Section explaining the mill

Another pulley drove the sack hoist. To set it in motion, the miller tightened the belt on the pulley – not unlike a slipping clutch – by pulling on the hoist rope which passes through each floor. The end of the chain was looped round the neck of the sack of grain which was then raised by the hoist from the ground floor, through two sets of clapper doors to the bin floor for emptying into the storage hoppers and bins. The clapper doors were to prevent from falling in. One set of clapper doors is still visible at the attic.

The original clapper doors at the attic of the mill

The original clapper doors still at the attic

The living room has probably been two small houses and some flour storage at the attic. The two sided chimney is the proof. One next to the mill with the monumental door that show the year * 1813 * must have been the miller’s house. The house at the front must have belonged to the blacksmith who used the barn for his job.

Bedroom 2 and 3 have certainly been a bakery – so we were told by the older people in the village.

The whole placement of the mill, the small houses and the barns are called an hameau (hamlet). That’s why the whole Supergite feels like a small village all to yourself.

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Eating nearby: “Pretty Food and tasting even Better”

You have places where you eat and places where you have dinner. To our big surprice we discovered one in Mouzon. For sure we’re not the first: Les Échevins is in Michelin’s Guide Rouge and deserves this BIG time.

Each year, on my birthday, right between Christmas and New Year, we go hunting for a good restaurant in the French country side. This year we bumped into Les Échevins (the Aldermen) in the center of Mouzon, a peaceful quiet town with a huge church and an old city gate. It used to be of some importance but lost this stature centuries ago.

Les Échevins is an absolute MUST go if you stay around. The food does not only look pretty but it’s a feast for the taste buds.

A Taste Bud Melting Starter

Restaurant Les Échevins
33 r. Charles de Gaulle
F – 08210 Mouzon

Téléphone : 03 24 26 10 90
E-mail :
Website :

19€ (weekday lunch),
26€/51€ – Menu: 32€/46€

Cuisine – à la mode. A welcoming rustic restaurant in a 17C half-timbered building. Well-priced, daily-changing menus with precise cooking and direct flavours. Impeccable service.

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Crazy weekends

Image by Michiel Wijgmans via Flickr

The past weeks have had some crazy weekends. With the ongoing renovation the constructor needs more and more materials. Most of it we have him ordering from French suppliers. There’s absolutely no reason to get concrete or drains from the Netherlands. But as soon as it comes to shopping for style … this northern part of France is not the place to be. We’ve tried several Monsieur Bricolages and Castoramas. But with little result. There was always something wrong with the model; too thick, too small, too wide, not in brushed metal .. whatever. It’s really hard to find good design in the French country side.

So we bought the lights and the bathroom stuff simply here in the Netherlands where we know our way to design for good prices. One problem though: We have to deliver everything only some 400 km south wards. And we totally underestimated this ‘tour de force‘.

We need over 4 hours to pick up the goods from Nijhof, the Dutch supplier, including picking up the ‘Boedelbak‘. And more serious; we need over 5 hours to get to Tourteron due to the overweight trailer and the lower speed limit for cars with trailers. Apart from the drive itself it also feels quite uncomfortable knowing people actually see you drive one of these yellow trailers from hell.

And we still need to deliver the other half of the kitchen tiles and ALL the bathroom tiles – three trips to go – Jolly Fun! 🙂

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Starting to Campaign

Thermometer with Fahrenheit units on the outer...
Image via Wikipedia

At the Mill of Tourteron everybody is working hard on the renovation. Deliveries of equipment and materials create a continues coming and going of trucks and vans. And even though it’s minus 3º Celsius the workmen don’t care and arrive at 7 in the morning to leave at 6 in the evening. Almost like ABC’s ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition‘ people are working around the clock.

The current severe winter is not helping much. Due to the freezing temperature we can’t pore concrete for the drainage nor for the bathrooms. First we’ll have to insolate the old wooden structure to start getting it a bit more cozy inside the mill. Stephane bought 4 heat blowers but in my modest opinion … i would even heat my bathroom with those. Too small for King Frost.

But nevertheless there’s improvement. The downstairs bathroom has a new wall. The ceilings have glass wool insulation. The new walls are built. We can’t wait to make new pictures.

So it’s time we start to communicate the Supergîte concept and spread the word: “A Supergîte has the comfort of a star hotel with the privacy of a home.”

With one of the biggest Dutch tour operators we added our publication (in Dutch – I know – it’s a start).

“Hot chocolate any one?”

Publication at D-Reizen

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One Flower makes a Difference.

One Flower for Tourteron


To our big surprise, Tourteron has been awarded with ‘one flower’ by the Village Fleuri committee. Of course we’re delighted about the news! There are special guided tours offered through the Flower Towns of France–though sometimes it’s not more than some cranesbill next to the city name sign.Still, we wanted to thank and show our appreciation to the town of Tourteron, so we sent this letter to the town hall:

Dear Town of Tourteron, 

On our arrival in Tourteron for Christmas we noticed the ‘Village Fleuri’ sign for the first time. Is it true our lovely town  is awarded with one flower? We’re really happy about it since we had the wish to help our city with this. How is it organized? Is there something we can do to help maintenance? Is there a budget to make Tourteron look better with the flowers? If there’s anything we can do to support, please let us know.We have one suggestion for Christmas next year. In Brandeville (Meuse), the town offers electricity for the decorations and the town gardener places all the Christmas trees. The community helps decorate the trees. We’d love to help.Your new and proud inhabitants,

Marco and Hugo.

In French it’s translated like this: 

Chers ville de Tourteron,

A notre arrivée à Tourteron pour Noël, nous avons remarqué le signe «Village Fleuri» pour la première fois. Est-il vrai que notre belle ville est récompensée par une fleur? Nous sommes vraiment content de ça depuis que nous avions le souhait d’aider notre ville à la présente.Comment est-il organisé? Y at-il quelque chose que nous pouvons faire pour aider à l’entretien?Yat-il un budget pour faire Tourteron plus belle avec des fleurs? S’il ya quelque chose que nous pouvons faire pour soutenir – s’il vous plaît nous le faire savoir.Nous avons un sugestin pour l’an prochain Noël. En Brandeville (Meuse), la ville offre l’électricité pour les décorations et le jardinier de ville place tous les arbres de Noël. La communauté aident décorer les arbres. Nous serions ravis de vous aider.Vos nouveaux habitants orgueilleux,

Marco et Hugo.

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Mud and Christmas

For all those who dream about owning a lovely old house that needs “just a little work”: There are moments that you just think, “What were we thinking?” One of these moments came right in the middle of our Christmas vacation.

A few days back, Stephane sent us fantastic pictures of the mill in a romantic winter landscape and we were really eager to see the beauty of the mill covered in snow. Even though we knew there was work waiting for us. “Who cares about a bit of cold when you can see such a superb, white scene while you’re working?”

The two days of Christmas we spent with friends. The snowy weather had changed into long and hard rains. It was really raining cats and dogs in the hills of the French Ardenne. So by the time we arrived at Tourteron the day after, the cranes, trucks and cars in combination with the ‘permafrost‘ had turned our loan and garden into one huge swamp and deep craters filled with mud. Slipping from the fence to the front door was the way to go over the next couple of days’ work. We were not so happy.

The first day we had to dig out the larger stones to make sure they didn’t break the new sewer system. We also had to transport white sand for the foundation in the pouring rain. Then we had to move one pile of 150 plasterboards in between the rain storms. They are not supposed to become wet since they’ll fall apart if they soak in water. The plates, sized 1,20 by 3,00 meters, weight 32 kg, had to go to the first floor and second floor. Eventually they’ll become the new walls and ceilings of the rooms. There we went in our muddy boots, feeling like double our normal weight, up and down the mill leaving a trail of dark-brown, slippery wet dirt. It was a French hell. 🙂

But in the end… we did lend a hand, and that makes us feel good.

This is how it looked:

Mud, septic and some kind of garden.

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