Bedale Community Bakery is the culmination of the “Big Bread Experiment” (made into a three part series for BBC2 in 2011), a unique social initiative to reunite a once thriving farming community through making bread.
The journey began when local women set up a bread-baking group in the church hall to help bring community spirit back to the town. The group discovered quickly the therapeutic benefits of kneading dough in the company of friendly folk who were determined to have some fun!
One of the group’s objectives was to source all ingredients from the nearby area. A local farmer grows the corn. Crakehall watermill has been restored to mill the corn into stoneground flour that is delivered via the heritage Wensleydale railway to Bedale where it is turned into delicious, fresh bread at the bakery. The food miles are reduced to just five miles “from crop to crust”.
The bakery is going from strength to strength and is a focal point for the local community. Volunteers give whatever time they can to assist three paid bakers. Locally produced Wharfe Valley cold pressed rapeseed oil is added to some recipes as a natural preservative and freshly baked loaves are delivered to a number of businesses in the area.
Volunteer and team leader Carol says “Everyone here is committed to producing wholesome, tasty bread using the slow proving method improving taste and digestibility. We are all passionate about producing quality, local food and want to persuade others that this, together with community activity, is the pathway to good health and happiness.”
“In return for a free loaf, Bedale residents bring us their surplus vegetables and herbs which we add as ingredients in some of our breads. We donate any surplus bread to a food bank so everybody benefits and we reduce food waste.”
As well as a wide selection of freshly baked loaves, ciabatta and bread buns, the bakery offers tasty pasties, scones and muffins. While the baked products change regularly, you might be lucky enough to get your hands on a marmite and cheese loaf, a leek and potato pastie or a Wensleydale and blueberry muffin! You’ll also catch them at Bedale market on Tuesdays and the bakery is a regular supporter of local community events.