Chasing water wheels in Madeira’s north.

High up on the mountainside of Sao Jorge are two working water wheels; the Moinho a Agua (a 300 year old working flour mill) and the Serragem de agua da Achadinha ( a water saw mill that is run for tourists on a donation basis).

Moinho a Agua

We went first in search of this working flour mill but when we arrived the place was boarded up and no water  from the Levada do Reis was flowing through it.  I am guessing that it caters mostly for tourists during summer months which is a pity because it is the last working watermill on the island.

I found this video of the mill working on YouTube (opens in new tab) from 2012.

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The mill house

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The grinding stones.

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Stairs up to the levada

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We were definitely at the right place

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The Water wheels’ mill building

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Serragem de Agua da Achadinha

So instead we went looking for the Serragem de agua da Achadinha instead.  It is only about 1km up the road and thankfully they were open and happy to show us the sawmill in action.

As the girls weren’t very interested in coming, only three of us went and it was lovely to spend time with the boy by himself. He loves all things mechanical and engineering, so this was a great time for Rich to explain the physics behind the movement of water.

Turning on the water

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The water powering the wheels

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Watching the water being turned on

Understand How The Wheel Works

Rich was in his scientific element explaining how the water wheel was energised. Our boy loves everything science based so he lapped this up.

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Watching the noisy saw

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Rich explaining how the water wheel works to power the saw.

Sawing the wood

The saw is very noisy and in order to cut succinctly, it is painfully slow. They can cut much quicker but the result would be messy!

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Watching the saw, saw through the wood

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Watching the saw pass through

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The saw’s blade

Inside the hut

The hut has a collection of olden day paraphernalia; including the sleeping section. Let’s hope they didn’t try to sleep whilst the saw was sawing because it’s very noisy!

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Inside the bedroom of the water wheel

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The bed inside the hut

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The bed

Other paraphernalia

Decorating the walls were lots of old tools and objects that had previously been used.

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An old axe

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A wood plainer and kettle.

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An old nail

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Outside the hut

The hut is very well presented and these two gentleman were very knowledgeable about explaining (in English) how it all worked.

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The two men who were running the water wheel

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The outside

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As a small child my favourite book was 'People of the World' which featured Inuits from Alaska, children from China and farmers from Peru. It was a glimpse into another world that would inspire me to wander the globe in search of something special.


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