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The man behind Bacheldre Mill

Eight years ago, Matt and Anne Scott left Portsmouth and their jobs at Royal Mail with a plan to start a new business in the country. Keen to break into tourism, they looked at campsites in Devon and Cornwall, before falling in love with Bacheldre, a charming patch on the Welsh border being sold as a campsite - with a 427 year old watermill attached.

With no milling experience the Scotts set about transforming the mill from a working museum grinding a paltry tonne of grain a month into a fully fledged business, currently producing 50 tonnes of award-winning stoneground flour for Waitrose, Sainsburys, John Lewis, Harvey Nichols and many more small delis across the country.

This month, as Bacheldre Mill launches a new range of sour dough breads in time for St David's Day on 1st March, we caught up with Matt Scott to find out more about the life of a modern day miller.

It was love at first site...
We were looking down in Devon and Cornwall, but there were only campsites for 17-21 year olds… Bacheldre had a campsite, three holiday apartments and a little mill, that was used more like a tourist attraction. There was a little white cottage to live in - very picturesque - and we just thought "brilliant."

It was a big change...
Running your own business and being responsible - all of a sudden the buck stops with you. It was a case of getting hands on and learning the milling side. At first we concentrated on getting the campsite and holiday apartments going, but Wales isn't really known as a holiday destination and come winter… We just had the mill left out of the three little businesses and thought "we've got to make this work."

We had to get our customers back...
Flour that had come from here before wasn't really the best quality, so we thought: "Ok. We need to buy the best quality grain and get our customers back. Then we need to look at our packaging to show there's a change of ownership." We did Ludlow Food Festival which gave us quite a bit of focus and made us realise that we had to get our product into London.

It started taking off...
By 2004 we had quite a clear vision of where we wanted to be: our packaging had been re-done, we got ourselves into Harrods and the delis around London. We were winning awards like the True Taste Award for Best Organic Product. Then, in 2005, we won the Waitrose Supreme Champion Award, so that was £10,000 and loads of pr. Now we've got seven lines with Waitrose.

We re-fitted the whole mill...
This has really brought it up to modern day standards, with metal detection and in-line packing machines, to pack all our flour. It was very basic before with one girl coming in on a Monday or Tuesday evening to pack for two hours. Now we've got three full time people working in the mill. It's totally different now.

We are always adapting...
We have worked really, really hard and changed our business model as we've gone along. You've got to be constantly adapting to the market place to keep stuff interesting. We never stand still, which is the exciting part, but then on the other side, you've got a hell of a lot of responsibility.

Stonegrinding makes for a better tasting flour…
It's a much better slower process, which helps to retain the natural goodness of the wheat germ and all the different flavours there. It doesn't overheat it too much and that's the core of our business. We're now trying to get in to bakeries on the basis that everything is stoneground, rather than just being organic.

The best part of the job is…
The satisfaction of building a brand, and people starting to recognise it. We're really proud of some of our partners that we've picked up along the way - Aardman and Wallace and Gromit, Yeo Valley and Pyrex. We've worked really hard at building the base of our business and now we just want to get it out there and enjoy it a bit.

The worst part is…
Living on site is becoming a bit of a pain, because you're living on the job and as much as some people say "that sounds lovely," it's not all it's cracked up to be. Now we're moving into the camping season, you start having campers turning up and you're still running the flour side of the business.

I do most of the baking…
It's done mainly at weekends really. I really like a nice wholemeal and our five-seeds loaf, which has got fennel in it.

In ten years time…
I'd like to have sold Bacheldre and moved onto my next project. It was an investment opportunity and we've done a lot of the work. Now we want to be able to grow the business and hope that someone who likes buying brands will come along and have us.

My favourite website is…
I really like the Tyrells website. Yeo Valley is quite nice as well. I like foodie sites like Dan Lepard and seeing what all the bakers are doing - it's all to do with work really!

To taste and buy one of Bacheldre Mill's new range of sour dough loaves, visit The True Taste Welsh Food Market, taking place in London's Golden Square on Friday 26th February in celebration of St David's Day. For more information, visit www.walesthetruetaste.co.uk

Visit www.bacheldremill.co.uk

Emily Jenkinson

22 February 2010

2013