A special, limited-edition, Help for Heroes tri-seeded loaf will be tickling taste-buds in Plymouth during June.
As part of the annual Bake for Heroes event, Column Bakehouse in Devonport have risen to the challenge to create the Hero Loaf which will help raise funds for the charity. The white sourdough bread contains pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds and linseeds, to reflect the Tri-Services and the ongoing need for support for those wounded, sick or injured in Service.
But it won’t be around for long. The first batch of loaves will be available to buy for donations from the Column Bakehouse stall at Flavour Fest in Plymouth city centre from Friday 31 May to Sunday 2 June. It will then be stocked every Friday at the Column Bakehouse in
Devonport Guildhall and Ocean Studios in Royal William Yard. The final batch will be available at Armed Forces Day on Plymouth Hoe on 29 June.
It follows a recent YouGov survey, commissioned by the charity, that revealed many people are turning to baking to fight stress and to improve their wellbeing. The findings show that one in five in the South West (20%) say that they find the process of baking therapeutic, but this benefit is felt particularly strongly amongst Millennials (18-34) (26%) in the UK. It also revealed the favourite sweet bake in the South West is lemon drizzle cake (15%).
“Food becomes more important when you are deployed because it’s one of the stable things. You know it’s Saturday if there’s steak on the menu and quite often you’d count down how many weeks until the end of deployment by how many Fish Fridays were left. It does become quite a part of deployment.”
43-year old Natasha Mason, from Plymouth is a keen amateur baker and when she was invited to bake her own Hero Loaf, she jumped at the chance: “I came down to the Column Bakehouse in Devonport a few weeks ago and did a day of baking with some other veterans. We all went away really happy. It was something completely different. Took you away from the mundane thought processes, gave us something else to focus on and brought us all together. We loved it."
Natasha served her country for 19 years in the Royal Navy. She began her career in the Naval Reserves in 1993 and fell in love with the Senior Service, joining full-time in 1994. She started off as a Communicator before becoming a Weapons Engineer.
She served onboard some of the Royal Navy’s biggest warships, including HMS Invincible, and saw conflict in Former Yugoslavia, served on ships supporting operations in Afghanistan & Iraq and took part in the evacuation of British personnel from Beirut.
But her career was cut short after a knee injury showed up a more serious condition: “During my rehabilitation it was found I had osteoarthritis and that was probably caused throughout the entirety of my career rather than just the one injury. But that coupled with an earlier back injury spelt the end of my career.”
“It was obviously a shock being told you have to leave. I was a single parent. You think ‘I’ve got a mortgage to pay. I’ve got my son to feed, bills to pay’. This was all happening 3-4 years earlier than what I’d planned. It was quite daunting.”
But Natasha had a dream: “I quite fancied being a lawyer. Lots of people told me that I should aim my sights a lot lower. I was a Junior Rate for all of my career, and I kept being told that was not a job that a Junior Rate does. But I thought ‘yes I can’. I left the Services in June 2013 and started at Plymouth University in September 2013.”
"I’m a trainee solicitor now. I’ve completed my law degree. I did a Master’s in legal practise and I’m now a trainee solicitor at Wolferstans in Plymouth.”
Natasha initially got involved with Help for Heroes with physiotherapy and hydrotherapy treatment but soon realised she needed extra help to begin her training – which the charity was able to provide: “I was talking to Help for Heroes about needing to do a Master’s Degree. I had a bit of shortfall in the funds for that. The course was an extortionate amount of money, but you can’t actually be a solicitor without doing it. So, I was able to apply for a grant to help me fund the remainder.”
Natasha says food is very important to keep everyone focussed while on deployment. However, the bakers could be persuaded to part with some: “I was very fortunate on HMS Invincible, we had quite a large bakery and the smell of fresh bread at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning around the ship was amazing.
“I worked in the main communications office and you’d be able to do a little trade-off sometimes. They could bring in the fresh bread at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning for an additional phone call home. I’m talking 1995 when you couldn’t just pick up an email and ping one back home.”
She says the ovens on board weren’t always off-limits: “You are supposed to keep out of the kitchen. But you might be able to bribe a chef or two if there was perhaps a birthday in the girl’s mess a couple of people might go and bake a cake. Or you might be able to bribe some chefs to give you a platter of cheese and biscuits.”
Andy Stuart from Column Bakehouse said: “We believe Help for Heroes is a really important charity that does a lot of good work, especially here in Plymouth. We are neighbours with Help for Heroes, which is in the Naval Base, and we felt it was a positive step to be part of the work that they are doing.
“Baking is very much a therapy with a lot of different aspects. Some of it’s to do with the physical act of kneading and manipulating the dough, sometimes it’s about having that opportunity to work to a specific process. People are going to take different things out of it depending on what is really important to them. Of course, they always know they can enjoy something delicious afterwards which is a real bonus.”
Bake for Heroes is a nationwide call for Britain’s bakers to host a bake sale at home, work or school to raise money for Help for Heroes during Armed Forces Week 22 - 30 June.
To sign up for a free fundraising pack visit www.h4hweb.com/bake or call 0300 303 9888.
Help for Heroes offers support throughout the year from its Recovery Centre in Plymouth and community locations across the South West. To get support or give support visit helpforheroes.org.uk.
For more information about the Column Bakehouse visit: columnbakehouse.org
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,498 adults, of which 449 were from the South West. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th - 30th April 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).