19th December 2017 by Larchfield Community
In the early years the bakery's main focus was bread with four types being made including the Larchfield Loaf, a recipe which Chris created. Deliveries of fresh organic bread were made to numerous outside businesses including Nature's World, the 'Waiting Room' restaurant in Eaglescliffe, Piercebridge Farm Shop and Acorn Deliveries who delivered the fresh bread to individual houses. Larchfield bread was also sold by Val and Chris at the Saltburn and Nature's World Farmer's Markets each month and Peter Head, Roy and sometimes Jeremy manned a Larchfield stall at Guisborough Market each Thursday.
The Larchfield cafe and shop was known as the Wheelhouse Cafe and was in the area where the shop is now. Other baked goods were also made but at that time there was more emphasis on 'plain' cakes with date and walnut, ginger and rice cakes on offer plus, of course, biscuits and scones.
Val and community member Jonathan Meacham both started work in the bakery on the same day, Jonathan is a regular in the bakery and you don't have to be in their company for long before you realise what a deep and affectionate bond they have.
In the early years of the community everyone met in the cafe for lunch and all happily tucked in to the meal provided until the day it was mentioned that 'Malcolm' the cow was the main ingredient of the Shepherd's Pie and it was down with many of the knives and forks!
Over the years Val and Chris's support of the community members extended well beyond the bakery and they had three, separate eighteen month periods of filling in as house parents when there was a vacant post - twice in Sylbury and once in Le Boite which was one of the original houses on site before it was rebuilt as Teyva. Val has many fond memories of the times she and her family lived at Larchfield, particularly the cricket matches over at the Grange in Great Ayton where great loads of sandwiches and cakes would be taken over for the cricket teas. They also did the catering when Peter and Jeanne got married over at Botton and made the wedding cake using the same cake tins as had been used for their own cake.
Quite a bit of physical strength and stamina was needed for the work in the bakery as well as super organisational skills; Val used to order all the SUMA products for the cafe, shop AND all the houses and when the orders were delivered she got stuck in and carried it from the delivery lorry with the bags of flour weighing 25kg!
Val has nurtured many young people throughout her years at Larchfield, be they community member, day placement, apprentice, volunteer, staff member or the volunteer co-workers who were far from their own families. Many of those volunteer co-workers still keep in touch with Val and she now has bonds with their children.
Larchfield has seen many changes in recent years; it is much larger now but Val remains at the heart of the community, famed as much for her encyclopaedic knowledge of the community and its individuals as for her range of pies. Nowadays nearly all the goods produced in the bakery and food production are sold on site and in the cafe and shop; the number of pies made has increased hugely, fancier iced cakes are popular as is the legendary tiffin bar; biscuits too have increased in the amount sold and the bread varieties available has expanded. The number of community members and day placements working in the cafe, bakery, food production and shop has also seen a big increase with a huge demand for places.
Ask Val what she likes best about her job and it is the same as the first day she started 25 years ago - working with and spending time with the community members and day placements.
Thank you Val from all of us for the love and care you show us in so many ways.