Picture: Damse Vaart in Hoeke.
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Location: Natiënlaan 21, 8340 Hoeke [gps]
If you take the N49 highway, a few km before Knokke you can't miss the mill of Hoeke. He stands right besides the highway and kind of welcomes you to the Belgian coast.
On this place, there already was a wooden standardmill in 1481. However, there already was reference to a mill in the town of Hoeke (yes, Hoeke used to be a real town) in 1324. This one is presumed to be lost during a flooding after which a new windmill was erected on the spot where the current mill is.
The current one was built in 1840, after the previous one fell to the ground in a storm. The mill-irons still carry the year 1772. The mill was used for the grinding of cereals until 1936, the year it was put out of operation. When the new road Maldegem-Knokke was constructed, chances were great that the mill had to dissapear, but fortunately he still defies the wind with great pride. The windmill was property of the Belgian government, when it became a protected monument in 1981. A first renovation was carried out in 1969-71; a second one in 1985. Since this second restoration, the mill can grind again.
From 1985 on, the mill has also been used as a space for exhibitions of works from the artist Charles Delporte. In 1999, it was sold to the Flemish Community and since 2001, the mill is managed by the foundation "Erfgoed Vlaanderen" (a foundation that protects our cultural and architectural heritage); for sure a good cause and a guarantee for the future of this beautiful piece of industrial (or agricultural is you wish) heritage.
Curiosity: watch the weathervane! It's a mermaid. She refers to the legend of mermaid Cassandra who was captured by fishermen from Damme. You can find her on numerous windmills in the Zwin area.
The mill is open to the public every sunday from 10 till 12. More information can of course be acquired at the Office for Tourism.
© Hendrik De Leyn - www.damme-online.com