Thursday, 21 November 2013

Keeping our heritage healthy


I’ve always eaten porridge for breakfast. No milk, no sugar, just a few tablespoons of rolled oats cooked in water until it looks, as my family rudely describes it, like sloppy concrete.

It sounds simple but I’m quite particular about my oats. Mornflake Oats, milled in Cheshire by 15 generations of the same family firm since 1675, is the brand I recommend. Moving from Northamptonshire to the Budleigh area six years ago I had some difficulty finding a stockist. A supermarket’s own brand was disappointing, with a taste not much better than the cardboard it came in.  And then to my great delight and amazement I found what I was looking for: packs of Jumbo Porridge Oats filled from big sacks marked with the Mornflake logo which are regularly delivered from the longest established miller of oats and cereal in the UK to a small shop housed in the oldest building on Budleigh High Street.  


A plaque outside the shop tells you that it was owned by the Osgood family, known to have owned land in Salterton from 1422

Mornflake’s origins may go back even further. Although the firm’s founder William Lea began milling at the Swettenham Mill in 1675, his family connection with agriculture dates back to the time when parts of North Wales were in the ancient Kingdom of Mercea, 'Lea' being the Saxon word for 'Meadow'.


Proprietor Jane Long is just as proud of the ancient origins of the building which houses her shop Orchard Wholefoods. She and her husband, who runs Richard’s Menswear next door, were the first tenants of 14-16 High Street after it was restored by Fairlynch Museum co-founder Priscilla Hull in 1999 in consultation with local architect Christopher Briscoe. They’ve been trading there happily ever since. The original building was thatched, made of timber including the thin strips of wood used in traditional construction.  It was then coated with the mixture of straw, soil and water known as cob, one of the most common building materials dating back at least 300 years.  

“It was originally a fisherman’s cottage,” explains Jane, pointing out old features that have been kept, like the rather low back door. “Budleigh fishermen seem to have been pretty small in those days.” The front door is also on the low side and customers are warned to duck their heads. But little quirks like that, and the occasional jam when two or three customers meet in the narrow aisle are all part of the shop’s unique atmosphere.  “It does get a bit hot in the summer with the low ceiling, but in the winter it’s really cosy,” says Jane who travels in to Budleigh every day from her home in Newton Poppleford.    


Orchard Wholefoods doesn’t just sell porridge oats of course.   Organic vegetables, herbal and homoeopathic remedies and a range of unusual speciality foods fill every shelf you can see. Jane owned a health food shop in Ottery St Mary before moving to the Budleigh premises. She specialises in quality and ethical brands and is always ready to give help and advice on any health or dietary concerns that customers may have.  “Naturally I’m in favour of organic products and wholefoods rather than ready meals and processed food.  I think people should look carefully at what goes into what they eat,” she says. Although a vegetarian herself, she would not want to force anyone to follow her views. “I’m quite happy to cook meat for the family.”

The shop is often described by its loyal following of customers as an Aladdin's Cave with its diverse range of stock and the way it cleverly uses every bit of space available.  And just to show that even the oldest shops in town can adapt to the 21st century it’s now online with a website at  There's a Facebook page at  
Richard’s menswear shop is about to follow suit at

Orchard Wholefoods is at 14 High Street, Budleigh Salterton. Tel: 01395 442508. 









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