At the beginning of 2014, I was privileged enough to spend a day at a working mill in Wales. We were just on holiday - spending a week away in the beautiful Brecon Beacons and I happened to notice that Talgarth Mill was running a 'Milling Experience'.
The mill is mainly run by volunteers and has been completely reconstructed in the last few years. Now they have lovely tea room on site and wood burning oven - which I'm particularly jealous about.
We visited Talgarth Mill several times before, but I never had the time to join them, so this time I didn't want to miss my chance. I arrived in quiet and sleepy Talgarth in the morning and joined Gez for the day. First of all we took care of some basic maintenance - checking that every wheel (and not just the main one!) is securely fixed and all the wooden wedges are not lose.
Next up was to get some wheat ready for the milling. The wheat comes from a local farm and is fairly clean, but it still needs to be cleaned and any stones & chaff separated in this 'blower'
So after we oiled everything, got our wheat ready, inspected the grinding stones, aligning the water wheel with the grinding stones, we were nearly ready to start the milling.
I obviously knew that we needed to get the water to start turning the water wheel, but what I didn't realised how fairly sophisticated the whole system is.
You can control the water flow and depending how quickly or slowly the wheel turns the grains comes out fine or coarse. (Which is what you want to control for different types of flours and their uses). How genius!
In the next hour or so, I found myself running up and down to the sluice wheel and fine tuning the flow of the water.
Until the water was turning the wheel the way we wanted it.
Today we were milling a type of flour called AB Barry which is a type of Canadian wheat grown locally in Hereford. It has about 17% protein (gluten) which is quite strong compared to native English wheat. In the end we milled about 50kg which dully went on to the record sheet. I was chaffed to bits when Gez put my name as the 'miller' and my name was recorded on all flour bags that will be sold in the shops later.
What an achievement!
Apparently I should come down more often, because it's good to have such a 'posh' name on the bags...
I had a great day, learning the art of milling and it was a brilliant feeling to be able to say 'I milled my own flour!'
I've enjoyed this experience so much that I decided to share it with others. The Milling experience is part of our 5 day Bread Baking Course, that it's being run in March 2015 in Wales. I can't wait to bring a group of budding bakers back to the mill and show them how to mill their own flour.
Inspired to bake bread? I've put together my best 10 tips on getting your loaf right every time' and you can download it for free just here: