Summertime - windmills of your mind

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Rhona Wells rgb smallBy Rhona Wells - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Driving around the Xàbia /Denia area you will probably have noticed the watchtower structures that dominate the scenery. These are actually abandoned windmills known as Los Molinos.

Windmills have been a feature of Spanish landscapes for years, including the ones in Consuegra, which inspired Miguel de Cervantes to create the famous episode of the battle against the giants in his work 'Don Quixote'.

Our local Xàbia mills were built because the llebeig (southwest) wind blows almost constantly here. As you fly into Valencia, you will notice the proliferation of modern wind turbines also strategically situated to take advantage of our unique weather conditions.

The local mills have different levels of preservation, with some in better condition than others. Collectively, they are considered to be the largest set of flour mills in the Valencian Community, unique in the territory. La Plana or Les Planes is the plateau where the Montgó descends towards the sea, until it ends on the cliffs of Cap San Antonio, the area designated a local natural park.

Xàbia's economy in the 14th century was largely based on agriculture, especially rain fed crops such as wheat, almond trees, vines, olives and carob trees. Wheat was the driver for the development of these mills, which are large cylindrical structures about seven metres high and six metres in diameter. The mills mainly consist of two floors: the ground floor was used as a warehouse, while the upper floor was where the wheat was ground.

Some buildings also had an intermediate room, which was usually designated as the miller's room. The upper level was supported by a rough vault that housed the hollow wooden mechanisms that moved the stone millstones and supported the blades. All this disappeared when they ceased to function due to industrialisation, the increased importance of the raisin trade to the local economy and the abandonment of wheat cultivation in the region.

Ferran Zurriaga i Agustí in his work "La Plana. Terra del llebeig", (La Plana, Land of the Wind) describes them as "the guardians of La Plana". The author explains that it is not known exactly when they began to be built, but points out that, from existing documents in the Denia municipal archives, the origin of the mills were linked to the settlement of the Jeronimos brothers in La Plana (the inhabitants of Calas Santes, who later founded the Monastery of La Plana). The last testimony of the functioning of the mills dates back to 1911, thanks to a local dignatory Vicent Ribes’ testimony.

Some, though not all, of the mills are public, some are privately owned, others have been restored and are inhabited. One of them even has a garden on two levels.
Public or private, all are classified as Buildings of Local Relevance (BRL); they are protected, controlled and subject to regulations. They are currently in the process of being declared BIC (Assets of Cultural Interest) by Unesco heritage. Signs and symbols can still be seen on some of the stones of the mills, which "had the symbolic value of sanctifying the house and ridding it of witchcraft", according to Zurriaga, a celebrated historian and author. In the mills, especially in the one that seems to be the oldest, there are a series of signs that serve to put the stones in order.

If you want to make an easy excursion, there is a signposted route between the recreational area of Cap de Sant Antoni and the mills. It is short and very easy to negotiate. This is one of the best places to contemplate the Pla de Xàbia, the plain on which the municipality is located. From the river Gorgos to the west and the sea to the east, and also by Cap de San Antoni to the north and Cap Prim o Cap de Sant Marti to the south; early evening before sunset is the best time to go.
From Los Molinos, you can see the Puig de la Llorença and the ridges of the Sierra de Bèrnia, Migdia and Peñón de Ifach.
For the more intrepid, there is a much more demanding route, which goes from the port of Xàbia to the top of Montgó, passing the mills of La Plana. For more details go to the Wikiloc Trail.
It is also worth contacting the local tourist information bureaus as they organise occasional guided excursions.