Bread Matters emerged from Andrew Whitley's experience of starting and running The Village Bakery from 1976 to 2002. Andrew left a career as a BBC Russian Service producer for a life of greater self-reliance in Cumbria. He converted a stone barn next to his house into a small bakery and tearoom and grew organic fruit and vegetables on five acres behind. A wood-fired oven was built because the village electricity supply was inadequate, there was no mains gas and oil was very expensive in the mid-70s. It turned out that baking with renewable energy was fully consistent with the main aim of the bakery - to make tasty and healthy bread and cakes using organically grown English wheat locally milled by water power. By the end of the 1980s, the bakery and restaurant (for that is what it had become) had achieved a certain reputation, but the premises were woefully cramped. So a new bakery was built in 1991, incorporating a French wood-fired oven with a capacity of over 500 loaves.
The new bakery began to supply wholefood and organic shops in various parts of Britain. Then, as the importance of an organic approach to food and health became more widely recognised, the bakery was asked to supply Waitrose supermarkets.
A chance invitation to revisit Russia enabled Andrew to research traditional methods and he returned with a sourdough culture which was then used in a range of rye breads that really put the Village Bakery on the map. Various awards followed culminating in the Organic Trophy - the highest accolade of the Organic Food Awards - in 1998.
That same year, neighbouring bakers Bells of Lazonby, wanting to join the organic revolution, acquired a majority stake in the business. Production, which was uncomfortably cramped at Melmerby, was moved to Lazonby eight miles away and Bells installed an innovative modern wood-fired oven to keep consistency with Village Bakery values. Space and time were once again available at the Melmerby bakery and Andrew launched Bread Matters baking courses, aimed at people who shared his fascination with what really makes good bread.
At the end of 2002, Andrew handed over the running of the bakery and restaurant completely to Bells and started a new company - Bread Matters Ltd - from his home a few yards down the road from the Melmerby bakery.
In December 2009 Bread Matters moved to Macbiehill – 17 miles South of Edinburgh in the Pentland Hills. Here in a converted farm steading on a five-acre organic smallholding, courses resumed in July 2010. For more details, read on...
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