A year after they appeared on a major BBC TV series, three Welsh community enterprises funded with over £400,000 each in National Lottery Community Fund cash reveal how they have weathered the economic downturn and the washout summer to ensure the survival of their community led business ventures.
In May 2010, the Melin Talgarth Mill project in Powys was one of three Welsh projects awarded £400,000 in National Lottery funding through Village SOS, a scheme by the National Lottery Community Fund and the BBC which aimed to inspire a rural revival across the UK.
In the second of three blogs, Chris Blake, a Member of the Board of Directors at Melin Talgarth Mill reveals how the project workers have been working hard within the community of Talgarth to make a success of the business. . . .
We used our funding to renovate the old 18th century watermill in the town and reinstate it as a working flour mill with an adjoining cafe where bakery products are produced and sold in the local area. Visitors are now able to enjoy guided tours of the mill and the old mill cottage has been transformed into a shop which is now let out to a local business as part of our objectives to encourage small, local businesses to develop.
We had a huge boost from the TV programme which lasted us about three months and we were completely swamped. We also reached the finals of the Powys Business Awards this year.
We didn’t get as many visitors this summer as we thought but we didn’t know what to expect and we had no idea what an ordinary summer without the TV programme would be like. We are slightly down on what we budgeted this year but just over a year after we opened we have welcomed over 17,000 visitors to the mill.
We now use the flour we mill to produce a range of baked products in the café and the flour and bread are also sold to visitors, restaurants, cafes and farm shops. We recently featured in the World Travel Guide magazine, making a good impression with our range of baked products.
It’s wasn’t a good summer for tourists but it was a very good summer for milling with all the rain turning the water wheel. However, we have employed a new Manager and now have big plans for the future including paid for baking and milling courses and plans to enhance the use of the venue as a conferencing and meeting facility.
We’ve had successful Film and Pizza evenings working with the Town Hall next door. It was ten pounds for a film ticket and a pizza – a recession proof offer which has been very popular. But when it boils down to it, we are a tourist venue and we need to make money in the summer. Building up the off peak revenue is a challenge but we get a lot of coach tours coming by us now. There’s more we can do there but it’s working well.
We now have to meet the challenge of building a long term sustainable tourism business in a small town. This is what the next ten years is about- getting the marketing right and developing more and more business links. It’s been hard work but it’s what we expected. We’re now looking forward to next summer and hope it isn’t a complete washout again.
For more information on Village SOS log on to www.villagesos.org.uk