Category: News

Bakery goes back to the future with retro wheat

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A bakery is going back to the future after planting and harvesting 50 acres of retro wheat.

The Village Bakery will be using the flour milled from the wheat to bake a new range of speciality bread to be launched in the Autumn.

The crop was grown at a secret location in Flintshire.

They planted Hereward wheat which was popular in the 1970s and 80s but has now fallen out of fashion with scientists developing other varieties with a higher yield.

The idea is the brainchild of Village Bakery managing director Robin Jones and it’s all being filmed so customers will be able to watch a video of the whole process.

The sourdough culture for the new range will include honey from hives kept on the heather-clad slopes of Ruabon Mountain by his father, Alan, who is a beekeeper as well as being chairman of the family firm.

The wheat is being milled by Rank Hovis in Manchester.

The new range will be baked at the company’s state of the art bakery on Wrexham Industrial Estate.

If the pilot is successful the bakery is aiming to plant 200 acres of the Hereward wheat next year.

Robin Jones explained: “We are very proud of our heritage as craft bakers and these skills are at the heart of everything we do at the Village Bakery.

“So, we are going back to our roots by planting the Hereward wheat which was famed for its wonderful taste.

“It was extremely popular in the 1970s and 80s but was largely superseded by newer, high yield modified wheats.

“We had a chat about how we could create a new signature range of loaves which was like the wonderful bread I remember when I was growing up.

“By using the Hereward wheat we are going back to future to get a better tasting loaf.

“The main ingredient of bread is flour so in a sense the answer suggested itself.

“The inspiration for this was Dad who pioneered the idea of local sourcing in the 1990s, long before it became fashionable.

“You can’t get much more local than wheat grown in Flintshire and heather honey from Dad’s eight hives on Ruabon Mountain.

“The whole aim of it is to improve the quality of our bread, the provenance, the local sourcing side of things, and it’s a Welsh first.

“It’s Welsh wheat with great provenance, grown in Wales, baked in Wales and sold in North Wales.

“After it was harvested, the wheat was taken from the field direct to the mill in bespoke lorries. The grain is going to be milled but we’re not going to adulterate it in any way. Then we’ll start using it in our slow dough which is our method of getting flavour into our bread.

“We started the sourdough culture around eight months ago and we used Dad’s honey to provide the sugars and extra taste.

“The speciality range we’re launching in the Autumn will be totally unique to the Village Bakery.

“In year one we will be making white bread and if it goes well we will be planting 200 acres next year and then we will also bake wholemeal bread with it.

“Our belief is that this old-fashioned wheat can give us the very special taste that we are looking for.”

“I can’t wait to taste the new bread, it’s all very exciting.”

North Wales travel firm’s £1m store refurb


A FAST-GROWING North Wales travel firm has completed the next phase of a £1m store refurbishment programme.

Bosses at Hays Travel North West, which has its head office in Wrexham, have finished a £200,000 transformation at three branches including the Mold store which was the first travel agency to be opened by Managing Director Don Bircham back in 2000.

Don’s travel firm empire now has 30 branches spreading across the North West and North Wales, having just signed a lease on his latest acquisition at Church Square shopping centre in St Helens.

The latest branches to receive a facelift alongside the Mold store in The Cross are Oswestry and Ellesmere Port and they form part of a rolling £1m refurbishment programme for the financial year.

The group’s three Bolton branches have already benefitted from a £250,000 makeover and there is a remaining £500,000 to be spent before the end of the company’s financial year in November on four Wirral branches – Birkenhead, Bebington, Prenton and Wallasey.

Don Bircham, Hays Travel North West Managing Director, said: “I know our customers are going to notice a huge difference when they visit our newly refurbished stores which we are really proud of.

“The major investment in the stores is all part of our commitment to the communities and customers we serve. Their support of our stores is helping our business to thrive.

“We are keen to reinvest to make sure our stores are modern, inviting, light and clean places to visit so people can relax and enjoy the experience of booking their holiday with us. We are spending quite a bit of money at each to ensure the refurbishments are robust and stand the test of time.”

For Don, the refurbishment of the Mold branch has marked a milestone in his successful business career.

The father-of-two of Padeswood said: “Without any shadow of a doubt, transforming our Mold store has been a highlight for me. Mold was the first store we opened, back in 2000, without two ha’pennies to rub together. I went with my wife Ruth to Ikea to buy the desks and we painted it ourselves and put some shelves up. It was absolutely a DIY job and I am proud of where we have come since then.

“It probably cost us no more than £5,000 to get up and running at Mold and we have just spent closer to £70,000 on the latest refurbishment.

“It has been a very successful site for us. The manager there Lydia, who is off on maternity leave at the moment and has just had a little boy called Noah, is very well thought of and people will queue up to book their holidays with her.

“We have also just taken on three new members of staff, who all bring a wealth of experience with them in the travel industry. Two have joined us following the closure of the Thomas Cook store in Mold and we are delighted to welcome them and their extensive travel knowledge to the team.

“The store has always been popular and now the team there books upwards of 3,000 holidays a year for people from the community.”

News of the refurbishment comes after Hays Travel North West launched a major recruitment drive to find 20 new apprentices.

The firm’s bosses started a comprehensive apprentice scheme three years ago and it has been so successful that they are looking again for a new wave of fresh intakes.

This comes on the back of a general 60-job recruitment drive launched at the end of last year as the company started expansion plans to open 12 new shops by the end of 2018.

To find out more about recruitment opportunities call 0800 2155045 or go to

New dementia app harnesses power of music

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An innovative new app is triggering musical memories for people with dementia to help them cope with the challenges of daily life.

The program for mobile devices is being developed with the help of residents at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham who specialise in providing dementia care.

The Memory Tracks app is the brainchild of business development expert Gordon Anderson.

He is working on it with Manchester Metropolitan University’s Stuart Cunningham, who is also a visiting professor of affective computing at Wrexham Glyndwr University, alongside Mark Brill, Senior Lecturer in Creative Advertising, and Harry Whalley, Lecturer in Music Composition and Technology, at the University for the Creative Arts

Dementia symptoms include memory loss which causes confusion and agitation, and the app aims to help people overcome these challenges posed by the cruel condition by linking their daily tasks to their personal choice of reminiscence music.

According to Mr Anderson, Pendine Park were the ideal partners for the project because they had championed the use of the arts in social care for more than two decades.

He said: “We hope to see a real and measurable improvement in the mood of residents who use the app, and a much happier care environment within the home.

“Initially care practitioners will play songs on tablets from a list of tracks tailored to the individual resident.

“Those songs will act as triggers, for example; one song may mean it’s time to get dressed another may mean its medication time or time to eat or exercise.

“The idea stems from the fact that music builds long-term associative memories which are often tied to emotions which are proven to be more resilient to loss of other types of memories.

“Dementia results in steady deterioration of the brain function causing a wide range of daily issues for sufferers such as anxiety, disorientation, anger, fear, irritability, depression, and withdrawal.

“The use of reminiscence music can significantly decrease many of these behaviours and improve the lives of those living with dementia and their carers.”

He added: “When we introduce Memory Track music we hope to see an improvement in the mood of dementia patients. We have built up a large database of songs from the 30s, 40s and 50s. It’s not about trying to find favourite songs but songs that people will instantly recognise.

“Research shows that people remember the songs from their early childhood best. It’s as if when they get to their teenage years their interests become more specific or there are perhaps so many it becomes more difficult to remember.

“The hope is that, in time, the dementia patient will recognise the connection between a particular song and an activity.”

Professor Cunningham said: “The initial part of the trial will involve care practitioners observing and recording the moods of dementia patients without any Memory Tracks music being played.

“We will only know if the app works if we have a base line and know what the mood of residents was before the music was introduced via the app.

“We chose Pendine Park care organisation for the trial as I know from my time at Wrexham Glyndwr University that there is a strong connection between the organisation and the arts and particularly music.

“We know how good care is at Pendine Park and we know how passionate everyone is about the power of the arts. It seemed to us that Pendine Park was a natural partner for the project.”

He added: “The further development of Memory Tracks will utilise behavioural or physical triggers and sensors to create a contextual, more immersive user experience.

“The framework is that of song, association and task coming together with the robust emotional association providing the ‘glue’ between song and task.

“Memory Tracks is a care platform that provides a personalised selection of music tailored to an individual dementia patient’s routine, their family, carers and needs.

“Further development of Memory Tracks will utilise behavioural or physical triggers to create a contextual, more immersive user experience.

“Through these tools we can help those living with Dementia remain more independent in the early stages of the illness and in later stages, to be more connected to their environment.

“The expected impact will be that patients suffer lower anxiety, depression and agitation in addition to making the care process easier. Their Memory Tracks will also serve as a constant connection between the patient and their family, assisting recognition and shared experiences.”

The research at Pendine Park is partly funded by the Consortium for Research Excellence, Support and Training (CREST).

Sarah Edwards, who has been the artist in residence at Pendine Park for more than 20 years, is working closely with the Memory Tracks team to develop the app and oversee the trial.

She said: “We are really fortunate to have the opportunity to play a part in this important study. The Memory Track app has huge potential and could open the door to many other areas within the wider care environment or even in mental health.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the study develops and witnessing first hand if we can use the Memory Track app to help residents with their daily routine.

“We believe this is the perfect project for us to be helping because the arts provide the golden thread that runs through everything we do and led to the setting up of the Pendine Arts and Community Trust which supports artistic endeavour and community groups across North Wales.

“We are passionate about enriching lives across the generations, for our residents and staff alike.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Cindy Clutton, the manager of Pendine Park’s Hillbury Care Home, who believes the Memory Tracks app and study is an innovative and exciting development.

She said: “We know our residents get a real lift from music and despite living with dementia many can remember songs from their childhood. We have lots of activities centred on music and I’m fascinated to see how this project will develop.

“The project and study couldn’t work without having our care practitioners playing a full and active role and I have to say they are all on board with the study.

“We have even had staff coming in voluntarily on their days off to learn how the Memory Tracks app works. Staff are eager and enthusiastic about the project and keen to play a part.”

Bakery clinches major deal for gluten-free products

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A booming bakery firm has clinched a deal to supply a leading retail chain with its new gluten-free range.

The products are being rolled out by the Wrexham-based Village Bakery to a total of 60 Spar stores in North Wales – with another major announcement expected before the end of the year.

The family-run company is now receiving enquiries about their own-label Gluten Freedom range from across the UK and a number of European countries.

As a result of their expansion, they are now in the process of recruiting 20 new apprentices to become the new generation of bakers.

According to the Village Bakery’s managing director, Robin Jones, the “uber positive” response to the new gluten-free products has been beyond their wildest dreams.

They were already on sale at a string of independent stores North Wales, Cheshire, Merseyside and Shropshire.

The reaction of customers has justified the company’s £12 million investment in converting the former Caparo Wire factory, close to their two existing bakeries on Wrexham Industrial Estate, into a state-of-the-art production facility for a new range of gluten free goods.

The building has been re-clad and extended from 55,000 sq ft to 75,000 sq ft and is due to be up and running before the end of the year.

It will be the most advanced bakery of its kind in Europe and will cater for the explosion in demand from customers.

The first 10 products in the own-label range are being made at the family firm’s original but much smaller gluten free bakery on the industrial estate.

Until now it’s been a wholesale operation making the gluten and wheat free products for other customers.

Existing staff will be transferred to the new bakery when it’s ready and the company is confident the expansion will eventually create more jobs in addition to the apprenticeships.

Mr Jones said: “We’ve had an absolutely fantastic response to the Gluten Freedom range from our customers.

“The consumers love it. They can’t believe the texture of the products which are on sale alongside our traditional range.

“They are telling us things like this is the best ever gluten free bread they’ve ever tasted and that they had to double check it was in fact gluten free

“That is the best compliment we could ever have because that’s exactly what we were aiming to do.

“We tried to replicate our Village Bakery products in a gluten free manner and coeliacs and our wheat-free consumers now recognise that they are getting something a bit different.

“We’re setting a new benchmark in gluten free products so everything is now set fair for the opening of our new gluten-free bakery in December.

“This is a step change for the business in many respects and why we are taking on 20 new apprentices.

“We’ve been delighted by the demand from the UK and also now from across Europe with enquires from Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium and France.

“We’ve been baking gluten-free products now for 10 years and we’re also using our knowledge and skills as craft bakers to make the products better and better.

“Thanks to the new bakery, we will have the capacity to grow with all our customers, and also the capability to make new products.”