7 November 1997


NATIONAL Bread Making Week ends today (Nov 7) but at Heatherslaw Corn Mill at Ford, near Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, bread-making was celebrated a month earlier.

The mill, a fully working Victorian water-powered corn mill, staged a Use your Loaf exhibition together with a display of childrens paintings, and held a bread making competition as part of the Secret Kingdom Festival of Food.

The term Secret Kingdom refers to north Northumberland, an area fought over by the English and Scots for three centuries and which is now quiet and beautiful, rich in castles and fortified houses – and promoting its food and hospitality.

Heatherslaw is among its attractions. While flour is ground there, the mills principal role is that of visitor centre for it too has a long history. The present mill, which is a double mill – two complete water mills under one roof – is thought to date from 1830 but there have been mills on the site since the 14th century. The last commercial mill ground to a halt in 1949.

Without use the property silted up and began to deteriorate, until 1972 when a charitable trust, the Heatherslaw Mill Trust, took on the task of restoring it and developing it as a living museum. It opened to the public in May 1975.

The upper mill has been restored to working order and produces 7t of flour a year, some of which goes into the bread, cakes and biscuits made at the on-site bakery and sold in the mill gift shop or served in the Granary Tea Room. The lower mill is not operational but used to demonstrate the way in which a water mill is operated. Display boards and further exhibits fill out the picture of days gone by when the life of a small community was centred on the mill.

In those days lackel meal, also known as crowdie, which is roasted oats and peas scorched to customers requirements, was the staple breakfast meal for rural workers, explains the miller-cum-guide, speaking against the gentle straining sounds of moving machinery and pointing out the low kiln in which it would have been prepared.

Nowaday muesli is one of Heatherslaws products. And while the mill closes its doors to the public at the beginning of November and will not open again until just before Easter 98, it will continue to grind corn throughout the winter to supply its small band of regular customers.

Ann Rogers

&#8226 Inquiries: (01890-820338).

Heatherslaw comprises two complete watermills under one roof. Above right: (L to R) Livvy Mason, one of the Secret Kingdom Festival organisers and miller Julia Nolan discuss the Use your Loaf exhibition.

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