It’s an odd thing, but no one I seem to meet on my foraging expeditions ever seems to have started out doing what they ended up doing. Matt Scott is no different. After 15 years with the Post Office, he had had enough. In 2002 he and his wife Ann decided they needed a change of direction. “We bought a campsite in Montgomery in Wales with buildings suitable for holiday accommodation and an old water-powered flour mill attached. To be honest we weren’t terribly interested in the mill, until we discovered that no one camps in winter and we needed another source of income.”
So began a crash course in learning the miller’s art.
Let me tell you something about milling (and I can tell you because Matt Scott told me): the slower wheat is ground, the better it is for the flour, because the slower the grain is ground, the less hot it becomes, and heat is the great enemy of the goodness in flour. And nothing grinds slower or cooler than a water-driven mill.
To be strictly truthful, the mill doesn’t work on water all the time. There is enough in the pond (complete with white ducks) above the mill to drive the mill wheel that drives the French burr mill stones to keep it going for about 40 minutes. Such is the demand from the likes of Fresh & Wild, Harrods, Harvey Nicks and Waitrose, not to mention Dan Lepard, Claude Bosi and Giorgio Locatelli, that Matt and Ann need to keep the stones turning for rather longer, so electrical motors are used to take up where the water leaves off, milling at the same speed that water power would produce.
Not that there’s anything remotely cutting edge about the outside of the small, stocky, old-fashioned building of grey stone with a small, white-painted brick addition to one side, tucked away off a winding lane beyond Church Stoke (or Churchstoke, as the sign outside the village says). Go into the warm, floury interior, and you find the space crammed with wooden ducts and joists and beams and bits and bobs and bits of machinery, such as the Eureka Scouring & Separating Machine and Gardner’s Rapid Sifter And Mixer, that between them run up a couple of centuries of hard work alongside gleaming, stainless-steel, state-of-the-art vacuums and sifters and other such, all covered in the fine, white dusting of the products. That’s the secret of the mill’s success – the way the Seatons blend ancient and modern technologies to produce their award-winning flours .
Bacheldre Watermill, Churchstoke, Montgomery SY15 6TE
Telephone: 01588 620489. http://www.bacheldremill.co.uk/