South Cumbria-based Heron Corn Mill has received a National Lottery Grant of £52,500 to help it celebrate 800 years of milling.

The Grade Grade II-listed 18th century working watermill in Beetham, near Milnthorpe, will use the funds towards a ‘1220-2020’ project to showcase its medieval past.

Local community groups and members of the public will be given the opportunity to learn how to bake in the way their ancestors did, grow flax to create linen and take home a modern loaf made using the mill’s flour as part of the activity, which will run for two years.

The watermill, which operates on the first Friday of each month, processing approximately 150kg of wheat and spelt, still mills with traditional dressed stones.

It is manned by two people, who also control the flour-making process

As well as using the flour in their community bread-making schemes, the historic property supplies spelt flour to Peace & Loaf Bakehouse in Barrow-in-Furness. 

“Their spelt loaves have won awards,” Audrey Steeley, the mill’s creative projects manager told British Baker.

“We don’t supply anyone else at present and, as a registered charity, we don’t wish to become commercial – we sell our flour for souvenir sales and for use in our community bread-making, as well as to bake artisan breads for sale at our events.”

In 2015, the mill converted a Shepherd Hut into a baking facility, with bread ovens and kitchen equipment, and set up its Bread of Heron bread-making collective.

“We began with one group, led by Nell Dale, and then expanded,” Steeley added. “We now have self-taught bakers Kate Maddock and Pete Taylor, who all run their own Bread of Heron groups from here.

“We teach local people to bake bread, and Kate also teaches cake-making. Pete’s speciality is sourdough and he runs specific courses each season for this. We have so much interest now in baking from the community; Nell teaches bread-making to mental health groups and looked-after children, and we are about to start another group due to demand.”