The West

Flour power
Callington Mill. Supplied picture

The place is buzzing. Outside you could bowl a few overs down the charming main street without so much as hitting a cat, let alone a person. Everyone in Oatlands, it seems, is in the bakery-cum-cafe.

And why wouldn't you be? Companion Bakery owner Graham Prichard, a man as passionate about fermentation as the Kardashian clan is about publicity, turns out bread with an alluring scent every bit as effective as the Pied Piper's tune.

There's an art to making great bread, as any member of the Artisan Baker Association will tell you, and Mr Prichard is one of this band of brothers and sisters bonded in their mission to produce only the tastiest loaves using the best traditions. One mouthful of his organic sourdough will have you swearing never to let another garden-variety white slice pass your lips again. Certainly, he would not dream of producing such ordinary fare in his specially designed beast of an oven.

Mind you, few bakers could boast such a world-class supplier on their doorstep. Across the road in this picturesque little village, 80km north of Hobart, is the Callington Mill, a 19th-century Georgian beauty that is far more than its fabulous facade.

While its undeniable presence draws the tourists, impressive 21m sails atop a 15m tower acting like a beacon for travellers heading along the Heritage Highway, Callington is again producing some damn fine flour using local grain - thanks to a marathon community-led restoration.

John Jubilee Vincent, the innkeeper who built the mill in the 1830s, was better known for his forays into sly grog and run-ins with the local constabulary than his yen for yeast but at that time Van Diemen's Land was "the Granary of New South Wales" and Vincent clearly saw gold in those wheat fields.

Oatlands, which now boasts the biggest collection of sandstone Georgian buildings in the country, was at the heart of this thriving industry, supplying wheat and flour to mainland colonies.

Vincent is thought to have named the mill for a town in Cornwall, England, where he was born, though the father of nine appeared to have little affection for the business of flour beyond creating a building to the finest standards of the day, importing the best available machinery from the UK.

After being palmed off to Vincent's son, John Jr, the mill went through a succession of owners and a series of disasters - a new railway bypassing Oatlands and taking trade with it, the bank foreclosing on the owner in the depression of 1892-93, a storm blowing away the sails in 1909, fire ripping through its heart in 1913 and destroying the remaining machinery - before it was finally bricked up and turned into a water tank.

Fermenting yeast. Supplied picture
But Callington Mill is a testament to real enterprise, past and present, with locals long campaigning to have the sandstone sentinel restored to its former glory. Work began in the 1970s, though it wasn't until almost 40 years later that, just as in the beginning, the machinery arrived from the UK that would return it to a going concern.

A miller soon followed to train locals how to use methods long since forgotten in this part of the world, not the least of which is being able to adjust the sails to ensure a regular pace of production.

The beauty officially opened for business in October 2010, with its artisan flour steadily finding favour among bakers, restaurants and the general public. Surrounded by the historic granary, stable, miller's cottage and mill owner's house, Callington Mill is yet another example of Tasmania's clever knack of bringing the past to life.

There's something rather poetic and certainly enriching in being able to sit opposite the mill's turning sails and savour bread made by artisans from Callington flour.

Julie Hosking was a guest of Tourism Tasmania.

The West Australian

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