Adventurous couple learns on the job to fire up Old Dunkeld Bakery 

A VALUABLE piece of Dunkeld’s history has been brought back to life by former Melbourne couple Paul Sanders and Pauline Yule.

From 1887 until about 1976, the Old Dunkeld Bakery was a place where the community would gather and purchase wood-fired sourdough bread.

In 2001 Mr Sanders, a former church minister, and his wife were searching for space in the country where he could offer retreats.

“I brought my mum and dad for a drive on a wet, cold July day and saw the notice for the old bakery in a shop window,” Mr Sanders said.

The bakery was used as a residence and the pair recognised the building and  picturesque block as an ideal home and accommodation facility.

“It was run down and very tired looking, but it did have plenty of space,” he said.

The purchase was made and the couple travelled from Melbourne every weekend to renovate. In 2008, they moved in.

They later bought a second home on the edge of town with views and decided it was more appropriate for their ventures. Plans were in place to sell the old bakery building until Mr Sanders was awakened to its potential.

“A gentleman from Melbourne who was a businessman had asked to see the ovens. The next day he asked if I’d sell him the bakery and I thought ‘why did he want my bakery?’ and that was the spark,” Mr Sanders said.

“We had previously ignored the ovens. We just used them as a mantelpiece in what was our bedroom … they were full of cobwebs.” Mr Sanders later had them assessed by a baker, who said they were “pretty good-looking ovens” and in working condition.

Without a skerrick of baking or hospitality experience, the Old Dunkeld Bakery was reopened in 2012, along with the Wild Plum Cafe.

“There had been some community feedback that it would be a great bakery. Because it was (once) a community hub, bit like a pub — a gathering place. 

“It seemed to be a nice thing to have it as a place that reinvigorated the community again,” Mr Sanders said.

“We were somewhat inspired by the idea of what it used to be and its memories and nostalgia.

“It’s the only wood-fired sourdough bakery in the state west of Geelong and Ballarat.”

Mr Sanders said the move from city life to the country had been positive.

“The atmosphere of the place has a resting and calming influence,” he said. 

“Something about the mountains and landscape anchors you. You feel well situated and even if you’re busy,  you’re not travelling home half an hour in traffic.”

He said the town, with about 500 residents today, had grown during his 12 years there. “I think there’s at least 50 new homes in that time and at least another 50 or more renovated. 

‘‘Numerically it may not be growing fast but it’s attracting young people and you see a lot of babies and mums around.” 

While Mr Sanders and Ms Yule plan to remain in Dunkeld, they are considering selling the bakery.

“Someone in the region or Melbourne, perhaps a young couple, will recognise this is a historic home with charm and it’s in a very sought-after area and offers both accommodation and work. 

‘‘We think it will eventually attract the right people.”

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