on May 5, 2013
Much like many of the islands in the Caribbean, there's a large number of sugar and wind mills scattered about everywhere in Antigua. Some are in reasonably decent condition, others have been restored while most are in various stages of disintegration. These mills have withstood wome of the fiercest elements of nature such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and yet they stand tall through the decades.The most famous sugar mill and wind mill on the island make up part of a small National Park known as Betty's Hope. Situated in the village of Pares, this park was once the largest plantation in Antigua. It was passed around to several owners until it finally became the property of Christopher Codrington who maximized it's potential and became one of the most prosperous plantation owners in the Colonial age.In 1674, Christopher Codrington used the plantation for large scale sugar production, whereas the previous owners were involved in tobacco etc. The land was worked by the island's ancestors of African slaves and over 100 sugar mills were erected to meet the high demands. The wind mills were built to generate the power needed to crush the sugar cane, and boiler rooms were constructed to aid with the extraction of the juice.Today, Betty's Hope is no longer in operation, but has been refurbished and promoted as a historical site, where several tours are held and the story of the mills are told. On my visit, I battled the very rocky path leading to the site, and tried my best to avoid the sheep which called the nearby pastures their home. The very rural landscape provided an interesting change of scenery, from other parts of the island, and after a while, I had to park the vehicle and walk the rest of the way.The windmill and the sugar mill stand side by side, and all of the mechanisms where still in tact, including the metal gears which were used to spin the wooden blades. Apart from these two mills, most of the other buildings in the park are in states of disrepair, but proper signage is available to inform visitors about what they were once used for.There is a small museum on the grounds, which gives a detailed discription through paintings, photographs and models, about what life was like on the plantation centuries ago. The painful history has been sufficiently documented, and the entire National Park serves as a memorial to the slaves which worked the very fields on which I stood.I learned quite a bit during my trip there, and earned a greater sense of respect for how far the country has come from since then. Betty's Hope is a flag ship of Antigua's past, and history buffs would be very interested in a visit.
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