We spent a week in England visiting family and friends this month, and on the way back to the ferry we took a detour to visit the beautiful old watermill at Bacheldre, a traditional stone-ground mill in Powys, Wales. There has been a mill on the site since 1575 but the current mill dates to the 18th century, still using water from the mill race to power the water wheel and turn the stones, though this is now supplemented by a motor to allow the wheel to turn when the water flow is low.
When Matt and Anne Scott bought the mill back in 2002 it was primarily for the attached campsite. The mill at that time was a working museum, still grinding flour, but in small batches for display purposes. With no previous experience in the milling field they threw themselves into restoring the watermill and creating a viable business, but using the traditional methods of stone-ground flour production. They now produce award-winning flour, in a variety of styles and flavours, and supply large retailers such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis as well as a myriad of smaller artisan stockists. Amazon even deliver their full range, including 25kg sacks. Many of their flours use locally grown Welsh wheat, just like the old days…
We had intended to buy a 25kg bag of white bread flour to bring home with us on the ferry, but in typical Jack and Ruby fashion happened to turn up just after the owners had left for a holiday, the two mill workers had a day off, and there were no ready-filled large sacks of flour in the shop. In fact, the mill was pretty much closed that day. But the caretakers were very friendly so we had a quick look around and bought a small bag of bread flour and a bag of Oak Smoked malted flour to try out.
It was such a treat to see an old mill so lovingly restored, eager to welcome visitors and tourists who take up time and only buy a small bag of flour, happy to share the traditions and methods of an age-old profession – and yet still be relevant and vibrant in the modern fast-paced flour-producing industry that has tended to remove itself from its customers – us, the bread-makers and bread-eaters. On returning home, to our surprise we found out that Bacheldre Mill is up for sale. We hope its future custodians treat it with the love and respect that the Scotts did.