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12 November 2018

Expensive maintenance for the Kinderdijk World Heritage mills

Presently, several windmills across the Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage grounds are undergoing extensive maintenance. Fixing these mills costs money – a serious amount of money, in fact. Part of the expenses are covered by the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation.

‘If you fancy spending your life knee-deep in debris, try living in a windmill’. The words of his now-deceased neighbour Jan Hoek still ring in the ears of miller Cock van den Berg. “And you know what? He wasn’t kidding when he said that”, Van Den Berg says jokingly. “One year it’s the bricklayers, next it’s the thatchers, and the year after that, you can be sure that the painters are coming around again.”

Delayed

Van Den Berg and his wife Joke have been down on their luck all year long. The windmill in which they live, Nederwaard number 3, has been wrapped in scaffolding ever since June. For months now, the miller couple have been looking a blue tarpaulin sheets, largely obscuring the monumental structure dating back to 1738 from view. The jointing and masonry of the mill’s brick hull are currently being reconstructed. The job has been delayed by several months now, because the quality of the structure turned out to be even worse than expected. The work is expected to be complete by the end of this year. Van Den Berg: “That’s a big disappointment, sure enough. Then again, I don’t really care if it takes another two months or six, as long as it gets done properly. I fully trust the workers to do an outstanding job. After all, if we can fly to the moon and back, then surely we can fix this too, don’t you think?”

Nederwaard windmill number 3 wrapped in tarpaulin.

Nederwaard windmill number 3 wrapped in tarpaulin.

Moisture issues

Due to the poor quality of the brickwork and jointing, Nederwaard windmill number 3 is facing some serious moisture issues. The same applies to its neighbouring windmill Nederwaard 4, which is also in the preliminary stages of a renovation makeover by now. The real work on that structure is set to commence by the beginning of 2019. Overall costs are estimated to be about 250,000 euros. Of this amount, 175,000 euros are made available by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science; the rest will be at the expense of the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (SWEK). Overall costs for fixing up the mill of the Van Den Berg family are expected to rise to anywhere around 140,000 euros. SWEK will cover one hundred thousand euros of this amount. “Fortunately, we find ourselves in the favourable circumstances where we actually have a budget for these kinds of maintenance activities these days”, says Henk Bronkhorst, SWEK Governance and Maintenance coordinator. “That certainly hasn’t always been the case.”

Fortunately, we actually have a budget for maintenance these days.’

The precision job of replacing the windshaft of the Blokweer museum windmill has been completed according to plan. “This is much better than simply chucking out the entire axle”, explains Ad Wisse, the man responsible for all maintenance activities at Kinderdijk World Heritage. Due to minor deformities, the front bearings supporting the windshaft of the polder mill built in 1630 weren’t working as they should. This issue made milling difficult. The Spijkenisse-based firm Goltens Rotterdam BV came up with a custom design for a device placed along the length of the windshaft. It got the job done by serving as an oversized pencil sharpener, meticulously shaving the elliptical axle back to its original round shape. The bronze bearings were replaced. Repair costs amount to about 10,000 euros. Over the coming weeks, the Blokweer mill is scheduled to be recommissioned, but it will be a slow and careful process of bringing the giant wooden machine back into full service.

High Mill

Another interesting job is the restoration work carried out on the High Mill. This special windmill received a brand-new sail stock; a job that made for some unusual views. You just don’t get used to the sight of a windmill without – or, in this case – with only two sails. The new stock measures 28 metres across and weighs in at just under two tonnes, Costs: approximately 40,000 euros.

Something was missing at the High Mill for a while.

Something was missing at the High Mill for a while.

The author

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