GP’s business bakes up special help for people in chronic pain


A class at the School of Breads

The long drive home after a French skiing holiday was the inspiration for GP Rachael Watson to change her life – and set up a school teaching people to bake bread.

Having worked as a GP in surgeries since 2001, including practices in Abergavenny, Eywas Harold, and Blaenavon, and now in Ebbw Vale, Rachael became inspired by the couple she met in the bed and breakfast where she and her husband stayed.

They had given up hectic lives as a singer and singing teacher in Paris to follow their dream and buy and run the B&B.


Rachael Watson (left) teaching a student

“I thought how happy they were because they had made that decision and I knew I wanted to do something as well as being a GP,” Rachael, who lives in Abergavenny, said.

She and her husband joked about opening a health spa.

Then, she said: “I thought how wonderful it would be to teach people how to bake bread.

“I had 830 miles on the drive home to think it through. I thought about what I would need to do to run it from home – organise the kitchen, for example.

“Then, I took a course in Cardiff.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

How the School of Breads was born

Rachael held her first class on October 9, 2015, and the word soon spread on Facebook and among local groups in Abergavenny to make her artisan bread baking school a success.

People who visited the town for the food festival began booking in for classes at the Abergavenny Baker School of Artisan Breads, including visitors from as far afield as Australia.

She has now taught hundreds of people the art of making breads from around the world, from sourdough to ciabatta or focaccia.

Rachael shares her knowledge of the chemistry of breadmaking, tips on kneading, shaping, and baking fresh bread.

Her students can choose from classes in the popular Italian breads, Middle Eastern, Continental, and Great British breads. There are also seasonal classes baking breads for Christmas and Easter.

Teaching people with chronic pain to bake bread


Now, the GP is combining her medical background with classes aimed at helping people in chronic pain.

She said: “The aim is to help people talk about managing their pain in a far more relaxed way than at a GP surgery. There, the doctor will have only 10 minutes for an appointment.

“The process of making bread is something which helps people take in information. It is something physical and there are smells of the ingredients and the breads which are associated with the information. It also takes place on a non-threatening environment.

“There is a primeval safety message about making and sharing food which helps our nervous system to relax.

“I use my knowledge and experience to explain the nerve pathways and risk factors for developing chronic pain. I also explain the skills and practices people can use to feel less pain and enjoy life more.”

The sessions will help people with conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis.

The first open session for people living with chronic pain is on May 24. Read more about the baking school here.

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Purple Shoots

How microfinance charity Purple Shoots is creating businesses – and transforming deprived areas

Purple Shoots

Katie Davies of Cwmbran who set up Pretty Little Paws, a dog grooming salon, with a loan from Purple Shoots

Entrepreneurs helped by innovative microfinance charity Purple Shoots told politicians and business leaders the lending is transforming lives in deprived areas of Wales.

The charity, which is now more than five years old, was showcasing its work to Assembly Members at the Senedd in Cardiff in the May 1 event entitled Does Poverty Mean Exclusion?

Ethical lender Purple Shoots, which is based in Pontypridd, helps people on benefits or a low income to start their own businesses. It lends to people who are excluded by traditional lenders such as banks.

Since 2013, Purple Shoots loaned more than £1.2 million to people across Wales to create businesses and transform communities.

Founder Karen Davies said too many entrepreneurial people were trapped by a benefits system which drains them of all funds before they can claim benefit. That includes funds to establish a new business.

Many people from deprived areas also found a “Got nothing? Get nothing…” attitude from traditional sources of business funding.

People who claim benefits are stigmatised despite recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation blowing apart stereotypes like the idea benefit claimants have lots of children.

“In fact, the study found that just 8% of benefit claimants have more than two children,” Karen said.

Instead of looking at stereotypes, Purple Shoots understands people within communities know better than anyone else how to transform their economies.

Jane Hutt, the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, praised the work of Purple Shoots. She pledged to look at how the Assembly could support the charity.

What Purple Shoots borrowers say…

One business which began with Purple Shoots’ help was Tiff’s Cleaning Angels, a Cardiff-based business established by Tiffany Bramley.

At the event yesterday, she said: “After the death of my daughter five years ago, I needed time to grieve. But, it meant that I forgot to pay a few bills and it affected my credit rating.

She wanted to rebuild the business but the bank highlighted her credit history.

She said: “I met Karen and she became my angel.”

Tiffany creates strong relationships with her vulnerable clients. She offers them cleaning and general household tasks.

“The aim is to be a domestic angel, helping to give people respite if they have elderly parents, for example,” she said.

Experienced dementia nurse Dr Jane Mullins also attended the event to outline how Purple Shoots has helped her.

She had dealt with financial struggle after family illness and her own ill health, yet knew she wanted to start a business to transform her family’s lives and help educate people about dementia.

She attempted to get funding to start a training programme to teach people to care for those with the condition but found no funding available from several official sources.

Jane talked to Purple Shoots and the charity gave her a loan to establish Duet Care.

“It’s named after dignity, understanding, and empathy training (DUET). We train family members, in particular, on how to support people with it,” she said.

She was also able to complete her PhD, and wrote and self-published her book, Finding the Light in Dementia.

Purple Shoots

Purple Shoots gives the Welsh economy a £12 million boost 

Purple Shoots estimates the impact of their lending has seen a benefit of around £12 million to the Welsh economy over the past five and a half years.

The businesses it has helped create include a café, a cake maker, a dog grooming parlour, a kayak angling business, a training programme for families whose loved ones have dementia, a stonemason, a pottery, an embroiderer, and a jeweller.

The average loan size is £2,700 and 70% go to the bottom 50% of deprived areas in Wales.

Other statistics since 2013 include:

  • More than 370 new businesses started
  • More than 460 loans granted
  • 96% of borrowers were on benefits when they were given a loan
  • Around 400 people have been able to get off benefits

Purple Shoots also helps like-minded people to set up self-reliant groups in their area. They look at ways of creating income for their members and often lead to the establishment of community businesses.

The charity’s success has sparked interest in Scotland. It is in talks about how to create a similar initiative there and Purple Shoots has established self-reliant groups in the west of England.

Purple Shoots is looking for more corporate donors and sponsors to help more people to get out of poverty.

Its Purple Spoon Club encourages people to give regular donations to the charity. Find out more here.

Would you like to become a Purple Shoots donor or find out more? Please call Karen Davies on 07726 599267. You can discover more about Purple Shoots here

Read more about unusual businesses.

small business

Want a Star Wars wedding? Former registrar’s business will help you celebrate

small business

Fancy a Star Wars wedding? You’ll need the right celebrant…

Would you like a hand-fasting, a zombie-themed wedding, or a non-religious funeral?

Then you need a celebrant who will help make your day reflect your personality.

Former registrar Jane Grayer set up her small business Create Ceremonies because of the desire to give people the individual ceremonies they need.

Monmouthshire-based Jane, 52, carries out weddings and commitment ceremonies, funerals, and naming and family ceremonies.

Recently, she created a special ceremony to mark the adoption of a child.

“It was a lovely day,” says the former stage manager and charity worker.

“I haven’t heard of anyone else creating ceremonies like that for when adoption becomes legal and the process in the courts has ended.

“The ceremony marked a welcoming of the child into the family.”

Supportive adults, a non-religious version of god-parents, were chosen. They help and support a child throughout their life.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my four years as a registrar, but registrars are bound by the law. They can only carry out a ceremony in a permanent structure with walls and a roof,” Jane says.

“I can offer ceremonies outdoors, or in places which haven’t been licensed for marriage such as a number of castles in Wales.

“The couple would have to legally have a Register Office ceremony too, but some people like to have their own ceremonies afterwards in places which are special to them. They can write their own vows, and make their commitment in their own way.”

Non-traditional ceremonies can also create special roles for people such as step-parents and step-siblings.

People feel increasingly confident to ask for something different for their family ceremonies, Jane says. Her clients come from all faiths and no faith.

Some of the commitment ceremonies she offers are perfect for those who want to show their commitment without having a legal marriage. They include hand-fasting and broom jumping.

What’s behind the business?


Jane Grayer

Jane is a member of the UK Society of Celebrants. She gets to know her clients and their personalities and offers them a bespoke and personalised service.

More people are asking for non-religious funerals so Jane works with the families to create ceremonies which reflect the life of the person they have lost.

She also creates non-religious baby naming ceremonies for parents who prefer to welcome their child into their family without a traditional christening ceremony.

Jane, who lives with her husband and two teenage sons in Monmouthshire, carries out ceremonies across South Wales.

To find out more about Jane’s work, go to Or you can call 07733 201158.

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