Monday 25 November 2013

Catching Up!

Goodness I've not done very well this year at writing this blog. My apologies, I shall try to do better!

As so much has happened through the year I thought I'd start with a bit of a retrospective, so the first few blog posts will be "things wot we have done this year"

In March we went to the Historical Markets in Piacenza Italy and then the following weekend Orange in the Vaucluse. This gave us an opportunity to have a few days break and investigate the area around Avignon.

One of the rivers flowing through this area is called the Sorgue and many of the towns and villages along the river have waterwheels - which historically used to run factories. We went into various villages and Tourist Information Offices to ask about the water wheels, no one seemed to know what these factories did! As luck would have it the last village we tried the lady in the TI said - oh they used to grind garance here so that's what the water wheel was doing!

(picture is the source of the river at Fontaine de Vaucluse)

I'm sure you could imagine how our ears pricked up at this - Garance is the French name for Madder.

 According to Dominique Cardon "Provence one of the main regions of production, 50 water mills along the small river flowing from the Fontaine de Vaucluse were turning day and night for 8 months of the year, grinding 40 million kilos of roots brought from all over France and Italy and producing 33 million kilos of powdered madder"


As we stood on the bridge photographing the water wheel someone came out through a french window in the mill on the opposite bank. (We later discovered that the water wheel has been moved and was actually once the working wheel to this mill) "Here duckie, duckies" was definitely not French!! We obviously started a conversation and got to learn a little more about the mill and then were told that as the plaster was being pulled off the walls inside (it was being converted into a lovely home for the couple who had recently purchased it) madder powder was falling out from the gaps left.........oh my!!! We spent a very happy time talking to the couple and admiring the mill and all the work they were doing there and I'm pleased to say came away with a little pot of madder to play with!

At Summer School in August I gave some to my students to sample - the result I think you will agree is a beautiful colour

. For a powder that has been sealed up in a wall for over 100 years I think it deserves to be admired!