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The daily grindstone

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 08:57 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Where do you buy your daily bread?

Chances are, it's in the supermarket which is where most of us by now reach for a loaf of sliced white during the weekly shop.

But imagine a time when you could stroll down to your local shop and buy bread baked locally using flour ground in a local mill. Well it's still possible in the village of Llanrhystud in Ceredigion where I visited Felin Ganol mill this week.

Ann and Andrew Parry bought the mill five years ago and set about lovingly restoring it to its former glory - wading through layers of flour dust and cobwebs as they went.

The machinery was mostly in good order and Andrew who previously worked in IT took on the huge task of refurbishing the woodwork and mending the millstones to bring the mill and all its workings back to life.

As luck would have it, Ann is a retired cereal pathologist (both worked previously at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at Aberystwyth University) so her background was also put to good use as they sourced wheat to start their work at the grindstone.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is still a hobby' Ann told me as the machinery chugged along gently in the background.

It's a very hypnotic process to watch - from the water wheel gushing outside with water from the River Wyre to the cogs turning, the grain going into the hopper and eventually the soft, powdery flour pouring down the chute into large white paper sacks.

The couple got a bit frustrated trying to source wheat, so joined forces last year with Aberystwyth University to take part in a wheat-growing trial, which produced its first harvest this time last year and led to the 'Ceredigion flour' that the mill now produces.

This coincides with a recent article in the Welsh Government's 'Gwlad' magazine encouraging more farmers to consider growing wheat in Wales.

There was a time when there would have been many mills across the country, all grinding local grain but it's another tradition that seems to have disappeared.

When you think about it, there is something slightly insane about importing wheat from Kazakhstan to make bread in Wales - something that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago.

But then there are people like the Parrys who are both indulging their passion and embarking on a mission to bring food production back to its roots and drastically reducing food miles at the same time.

They had a lot of help and advice from the Welsh Milling Society and are hoping to gradually expand their output, while spreading the word through their mill tours.

Because at the end of the day, there's nothing more basic than our daily bread.

You can hear more about my visit to Felin Ganol on Country Focus this week on BBC Radio Wales this Sunday at 7am.

You can also visit the mill by prior appointment. Email miller@felinganol.co.uk for more information.


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