Ancient spelt grain milled at Dunster watermill

A RARE example of a working watermill at the National Trust’s Dunster Castle has begun producing its own spelt flour, made from organic spelt grain grown by Sharpham Park near Glastonbury. Visitors will be able to see the fully operating 18th-century watermill in action on the first Wednesday of every month, and other selected dates throughout the year.

Dunster has a long tradition of milling which dates back to the Doomsday Book of 1086. The surviving 18th-century mill is a very rare example which has double overshot waterwheels.

Spelt flour makes a welcome addition to the 10 tonnes of whole wheat flour milled there each year, allowing visitors to have opportunities to see the mill producing flour as it has done for centuries. Bags of flour milled there are available for visitors to buy at the shop. It is also used to make bread at the Watermill Tea-room next door.

Spelt, an ancient grain, has a distinctive, nutty flavour. Unlike common wheat, spelt has not been hybridised or chemically altered, and it remains as simple and hardy as it was when it was first introduced thousands of years ago.

Stephen Hayes, mill operations and projects manager, said: “While our first waterwheel and its millstones have been producing wholemeal flour ground from organic wheat for many years, the mill team has often been asked by our visitors if we sold spelt flour.

“Recently we replaced our second waterwheel and repaired all of its associated machinery so that we’re now able to mill spelt for the first time. Now the machinery is fully operational, we’ll be demonstrating how we are keeping this ancient tradition alive.”

Pictured: A volunteer inspects grain at Dunster Working Watermill, photograph © National Trust/Dave Wood; the watermill, © National Trust/Megan Taylor