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Lockdown Loafers: The professionals

A snapshot of how Real Bread bakers have been adapting to the current situation.

This is a brief roundup of what some microbakers and other Real Bread business owners have told us over the past few weeks. Things are changing continually and they may well be doing things differently since they wrote to us.

More than ever, small, independent food businesses need us all to keep buying from them. Please be for them now so they can be there for you throughout the current crisis, and still be there for you afterwards as we all recover.

Chalk Hills Bakery
The lockdown saw Chalk Hills Bakery lose 70 out of its 90 wholesale customers and shut its retail shop. They have since set up an online shop, taking orders by 3.30pm for next day delivery. As well as Real Bread and other baked goods, they also sell a range of other goods including eggs, milk, butter, flour, yeast, tea, coffee and beer.  “Sales are very strong for the remaining 20 wholesale customers that run shops, and through our new online shop. We're currently running at 50 deliveries a day since we started it on Monday this week and expect the demand to increase. We may well have to set a limit orders as getting enough ingredients and stock is an issue." Chris Robinson, Horley, Surrey

La Bonne Parisienne
 “I run a home-based microbakery with a Rofco oven, a spiral mixer and an electric bike. With the exception of a little unskilled help and a delivery guy, I am pretty much coping on my own. It has now gone exponential overnight. I have even had to start an additional emergency pack style delivery of bread, milk and eggs for vulnerable people in the area.” Alison Jones, Copthorne, Shropshire

Crumbs of Capel
“I managed to get 100kg flour from infinity whole foods. It did require a 1.5 hour drive to go and get it but my bakery is safe now for a few weeks. The lockdown has coincided with the final stages of my dedicated bakery in the garage.  People who have never shown an interest in their local bakery are now ordering bread.” Dineke van den Bogerd, Dorking, Surrey

Canterbury Baking School
“The flour shortage has had a devastating impact on my baking school. I am now doing videos at home to encourage people to make their own bread at home, especially sourdough, but not being able to get flour is proving a problem. I have a home stone mill and I still have a very small quantity of grain but I am not able to buy any more.” Victoria Feldman, Canterbury

The Hampshire Real Bread Co
“I run a microbakery alongside my day job and have been swamped with orders to deliver. Last weekend for the first time I delivered to customers’ doors, covering over 70 miles and 35 drops. We were able to make a tidy donation to an NHS charity. Supplies are critically low and I have had to beg, borrow and steal to cover my existing farm shop order for the week but beyond that I am going to let down many new and existing customers. I have been waiting over a week for a flour delivery.” Darrin Romp, Waterlooville, Hampshire

Daly Bread Isleworth Microbakery
“The good news is that everyone wants to shop local. I have never had so many enquiries, requests or orders bread, biscuits and buns as in the last two weeks. It has been overwhelming but wonderful. Customer feedback has included: ‘Thank you so much - one good thing that’s come out of this horrible situation is that I’ve found you!!!’ and  ‘I wanted to also say thank you so much for managing to continue to bake during these testing times - it really does make such a difference to get treats like these when day to day ordinary shopping is such a challenge.’” Brenda Daly, Isleworth

Sourdough 101
“I used to run a microbakery and many of the members of my choir bought from me each week.  We now have a WhatsApp group and one of them mentioned her concern at not being able to access yeast during the lockdown. I suggested she try making a sourdough starter and it snowballed from there.  Now we are a class of nine with other, more confident, bakers following the instructions alone.

I’ve sent them all out an information sheet to follow, and, while we build the starter, I am doing daily WhatsApp videos to show them what mine looks like each day.  On Tuesday and Wednesday we have several Zoom meetings set up to make up the levain and dough and then bake the loaves.  Never having done this, it’s quite a challenge to work out how I’m going to make it all visible for them, but it’s fun.  Keeping away from the keyboard with doughy hands could be difficult. All being well, we’ll be able to sit down to a (virtually) shared cup of coffee and slice of sourdough next week. Keep up the good work; these are really the skills that people are suddenly realising they need!” Alison McGrath, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

East Sheen Microbakery
“I’m baking double my usual amount. I ask customers for ingredients - flour, etc. Neighbours help to deliver (I train them in the hygiene requirements). At least half the people I supply are self-isolating. Lots of new customers are very local. I’m baking hot cross buns as a present for my surgery and pharmacy. Must run - stretch and fold to do.” Julia Farkas, East Sheen

Becws Crefft ANUNA Craft Bakery
“Thank you Chris. It’s a real boost to have you and the Campaign looking after us. Great letter to Boris, which covers the concerns we have as a craft bakery in rural West Wales, covering Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. We are still baking from our farm and are setting up hubs/collection points across the counties as well as supporting local shops.” Liz and Andrew Neagle, Ceredigion
Ruth's Little Kitchen
Running baking sessions on Instagram every Tuesday and Thursday. “I have been overwhelmed with the emails and response whilst I had set this up for a children’s activity I had not factored in its appeal to people who are lonely. I have deliberately chosen recipes which need few ingredients and build on basic skills.” Ruth Macintyre, Betchworth, Surrey

Ma Baker
“As I can’t teach, I’m now afull time baker. I’ve tripled my customer base and am delivering bread to people in self-isolation, or who are vulnerable. Lots of lovely feedback with many people saying it is the highlight of their day. My husband, a sound engineer by trade, is now my apprentice baker!” Liz Wilson, Fulham

Robin Smith
“I am baking Real Bread at weekends for my neighbours who can’t get out either due to isolating or being high risk. The first weekend I was asked for six loaves, and then the weekend just gone I made 22. So far I have offered sourdough batards, focaccia and split tin loaves. I have posted what I can produce this coming weekend on our local Facebook page and had to turn away orders after ten minutes as I reached capacity. Before the coronavirus lockdown, I was in the process of buying a property to enable me to run a bread school, but I had to pull out because of it.” Robin Smith, near Horsham

I'm just a one man baker, producing sourdough and other handmade bread for individuals, restaurants and shops in Olney. For the last four years, from a small back street workshop in the town where the hymn Amazing Grace was written, I had built up a viable Real Bread bakery from scratch. Then, on 20 March, half of my orders were cancelled overnight as restaurants closed. The following week, however, turned out to be the busiest ever as our shop customers started ordering bread to be delivered along with a box of fruit and vegetables, as well as taking up our offers for home delivery. We're still trying adapt and cope with these new demands and at the same time struggling to secure deliveries of flour, and even considering taking staff on to satisfy the new demand.” Gareth Roberts, Olney, near Milton Keynes

Pain de Dilay
“As you probably know, the government here in France acted quicker than in the UK and schools and non-essential services were shut several weeks ago. Breadmaking of course goes on, and my work has more than doubled these last few weeks to keep people provisioned. It's hard but rewarding work, and I've changed my production to prioritise nutritious staples, wholewheat, country loaves, mixed grain, einkorn and cut out the specials.”

People are also making bread at home, and shops suffered from panic buying, so I have been selling organic flour, too. I’ve also been providing some free online or direct message teaching to help people make something decent, rather than an over-yeasted, sugary ball of fluff. I hope that after this intensity of the virus has reduced many more people will have got a taste for choosing to buy and or make better bread. I certainly believe right now the bounce back will be an interest in the consumption and production of more natural, local foods. Interesting times, but here there is a real spirit of let's do this together (even whilst apart) and nearly the whole village is getting bread from me once a week and stocking up each time.” Marc Rawcliffe, Ardin, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Bob's Bread Bakery
"We have been dropping off loaves by cargo bike to many new customers who are self isolating or unable to get to shops. We are also selling loaves on a neighbour's front garden cake stall, much frequented by people passing on their daily exercise." Bob Wright, North Walsham

Milling about

This article on where to find flour includes what some independent mills are up to.

We are still collecting and publishing lockdown tales from the bakery that will hopefully help to inform and inspire other business owners, as well as to feed into various governmental (and other) consultations, reviews and policy work. Please either email yours to or add the details to this form.

Please also send your photos of what a Real Bread bakery looks like right now, which  clearly show the new things you have in place. For example: Bakers at work with masks on and space between each other; cafe cleared for queuing; customers waitng in a well-spaced line; screens in place; cake counter turned into a general grocery; your team making deliveries - photos that tell this chapter in your story. As always, we prefer photos with people in them.

Published Wednesday 22 April 2020

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