Producer of the Month: Mildred Cookson, Miller at Mapledurham Watermill
Mildred Cookson is the only female watermiller in the UK. She rents her Grade II-listed mill from the Mapledurham Estate in Berkshire and produces wholemeal flour and its by-products, semolina and bran. She may be in her seventh decade but that does not deter Mildred from shunting 30kg sacks of flour beneath the fifteenth century beams of her beloved mill. She has been Miller at Mapledurham for nearly thirty years and has only recently enlisted an enthusiastic apprentice, Corrie Starling. Mildred is also a highly respected member of the Corn Millers Guild.
The mill is the only surviving watermill on the Thames. Traditionally, the miller would have been one of the wealthiest people on an estate. This is no longer the case. Currently in the UK most bread-making flour is imported and there are few artisan bakers to supply and even fewer craftsmen with the skills to repair and make milling equipment. At Mapledurham the millstones turn at 120 revolutions per minute, whereas most industrially produced flour is crushed between electrically powered rollers at 750 revolutions per minute. Mapledurham flour, milled from local wheat, has the advantage that the natural and highly nutritious oils are retained, making it a far superior product.
- Why do you do what you do?
I have a genuine love of wind and watermills, which use only natural water power. I am tremendously fortunate in that I work completely without stress.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
I am the only lady watermiller in the UK. I am also proud to have been part of the history of the mill for the past twenty seven years and maintaining it for future generations to enjoy.
- What is your most memorable moment?
From a career point of view, being presented with the prestigious SPAB certificate for the maintenance and care to mills. Otherwise it would have to be when I saw two Kingfishers circling the mill pond.
- If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
I would ban the importing of fruit and vegetables from abroad just because they are out of season in the UK and encourage more local food sourcing.
- What is your favourite food and why?
Homemade pasta, made with my flour, with homemade sauce based upon whatever is growing in the garden.
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
That we will all grow more of our own food and start supporting British farmers.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
- Recession Tip?
People should cook simply from local seasonal ingredients rather than buying ready-made meals. A simple omelette or soup is very cheap, easy to make and so much healthier.
- What's on the menu this evening?
Beef from my local farmer, yorkshire puddings made from my flour and home grown vegetables.
- How can people get hold of your produce?
Telephone: 01189 723359, the Mapledurham Estate Office. Mapledurham flour is also available at local Farmers Markets.