AS job titles go, Emma Hall is a member of a pretty unique club.

There are just a handful of traditional working watermills still producing flour in Wales today and Emma has the privilege of running one of those at Y Felin at St Dogmaels.

She celebrated a year in charge at the end of January, when she took over from her dad Mike but her route back to the family business has certainly been an unusual one.

“I was a cardiac nurse in Bangor but had been toying with the idea of coming home,” said 52-year-old Emma.

“Dad was getting to an age where he could not do it anymore and either the mill would have to close or me or my sister Claire would come to help out.

“I made the decision to come home. I was at a stage where a change of direction seemed a nice idea and dad taught me how it all works and how to mill.”

Mike, an aircraft engineer by trade, and wife Jane bought the dilapidated mill back in 1977 and began to restore it.

What is now the mill pond was then a field with planning permission for building. The water wheel was missing and the mill itself was in a state of disrepair and all the woodwork had to be replaced, though most of the machinery was in place.

It was a massive labour of love to restore the building but on Easter Saturday in 1981, the pond was flooded for the first time in 60 years and the Hall family has been milling ever since.

“The mill dates back to the 12th century – the bottom floor was built at the same time as the neighbouring abbey – and only last year we found out that the entrance doors date back to the 16th century and are covered in apotropaic marks to ward off evil spirits and witches,” said Emma.

“We did actually have permission to replace the doors but we’re so glad now we didn’t.

“I am so pleased and proud that I am able to keep alive a family tradition

“I am still learning all the time but I now don’t need to ask my dad about things so often.”

Much of the machinery inside the mill dates back to the mid-19th century and was made by Timothy Thomas – who is buried in the local church yard – at his foundry in Cardigan.

“It’s great to wake it all up in the morning and you very much get used to all the creaks and grinds and its very distinctive characteristics, though you also then hears things you have never heard before,” said Emma.

“The maintenance side is daunting but nevertheless it’s very exciting.

“As a nurse, I am also very interested in the benefits of stone-ground flour. There has been increasing awareness around wellness and stone-ground flour can have a big part to play.

“We use heritage grains so the gluten in the flour is more tolerable because of the way it's grown. We also use spelt and many people can tolerate that. It keeps GI levels low and is good for the cardiovascular system.”

The mill produces a variety of different flours. Wholemeal "has everything in it - the bran and the wheat germ - and you don't strip away any of the good stuff when it's stone-ground," said Emma.

"The stone rotates so slowly that you don’t heat up the grain and it is all totally natural. There are no additives, unlike in commercial flour.

"Once we have made the wholemeal flour we take it back to the top of the mill to grade it, putting it through what is basically a giant sieve with different sized mesh."

That produces unbleached white flour, semolina and bran. The mill is also now producing more speciality flours and mixes for pizzas, soda bread, pasta and shortbread.

Lugging the heavy sacks is physically demanding work, though they can be raised up the mill using water power. However, as Emma admits, she often carries the sacks of flour herself as she still does not have a lot of confidence in the knots she ties around the neck of the sacks!

To celebrate her first year at the mill, Emma is staging an open day on Saturday, February 16 (10am-3pm), which is close to one of the feast days of St Winnoc (February 20), the patron saint of milling.

He was believed to be Welsh in origin and is reported to have had the ability to grind corn using his bare hands.

"I was brought up here and so many people know my mum and dad over the years but have never been in the mill,” said Emma.

“I think if you live here it's important that you should get to see what's in the village and take pride in what is here.”