The village bakery in the North York Moors that has become a lifeline in troubled times

North York Moors baker Fiona Clacherty has found her Danby Bakery shop at the heart of the village has become a lifeline for local residents.
Fiona Clacherty outside Danby BakeryFiona Clacherty outside Danby Bakery
Fiona Clacherty outside Danby Bakery

“Everyone from my team to our customers has been absolutely brilliant,” said Fiona, who founded her business in 1993.

“Local residents have genuinely appreciated what we have done offering a greater range including essentials such as eggs and milk, but they also come because they love what we do week-in, week-out like our Bakewell tarts and carrot cake.

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“It’s always lovely to hear people say how amazing they think our baking is and it has been particularly heartwarming during this past year.”

Fiona has remained open as an essential business and enjoyed a boom summer of trade after a tough lockdownFiona has remained open as an essential business and enjoyed a boom summer of trade after a tough lockdown
Fiona has remained open as an essential business and enjoyed a boom summer of trade after a tough lockdown

Fiona, who grew up on the family’s Finkle House Farm in Fryup, which is now run by her sister, Jane, said she knew she would never be a farmer.

“I used to help with the hay and watch the hens lay their eggs but I was making bread with my mum from the age of five and she was a really good baker.

“I remember eating the bread warm with her homemade orange Seville marmalade. Mum would always be making batches of jams, marmalades and chutneys. We used to sell them in the shop and she’s only just stopped making them.

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“My thing has always been making cakes and I make the best Bakewell tarts!”

Fiona comes from a local farming familyFiona comes from a local farming family
Fiona comes from a local farming family

Fiona found herself baking alone when the first lockdown came almost a year ago. Having initially shut the shop completely she said she decided to open Tuesdays and Fridays but with her five team members furloughed she needed to spend her time in the kitchen.

“I would bake all day on Mondays and take delivery of bread. On the Wednesday I’d look after the paperwork and then bake all day again on Thursday to be ready for Friday.

“I grafted like I did when I first started the business and it was like Christmas Eve in terms of trade on the days I opened. I also benefited from the good weather at the time.”

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Fiona said she was also really well supported by the local community.

“I realised that although Danby is a relatively small rural community and it was still lockdown, there were many people who were working, either as electricians, plumbers, builders or farmers who still wanted to buy a pie or pasty for their lunches and they were all coming here.

“We were supported massively by farm workers and other customers from Castleton, Fryup and Lealholm as word got around that we were open.”

When summer arrived and lockdown was lifted, Fiona said they really benefitted from the trade brought by walkers, cyclists and holidaymakers.

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“We had an amazing summer and having initially gone to Monday, Wednesday and Friday opening with staff coming back from furlough we then went to six days.

“Even though we couldn’t have all of the café side of our business open people were enjoying picnicking on the Court Leet land opposite the shop.”

Since then Fiona said she has worked out the best way to deal with the following changes in guidance and lockdown restrictions.

“This lockdown I made a conscious effort not to go solo again.

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“I’ve made sure, using flexible furlough, that I’ve always had one person in, which has also been better for health reasons, but because of the time of year and the weather it has been a lot harder.”

Due to the time of year, Fiona said footfall has dropped on what it has been in the previous lockdowns but sees it as a temporary setback.

“Because of the exercise limitations we are not getting the walkers and cyclists and we are not getting the visitors who would normally come and stay in January and February.

“The harsh winter weather in recent weeks also means we’ve lost the local people who would have normally been out walking, but the milder weather will help.”

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Fiona also received a small business grant which she said has allowed her to invest in a walk-in freezer which she said makes a big difference to the operation.

“It’s amazing. I can now make my scones, fruit pies, curds and tarts, then blast freeze them raw, so that they can be baked fresh when we need them. For me, personally, that has been something that has really helped.”

Danby is a small village which still has some good amenities including its only other shop, Danby Health, which is run by the nearby Esk Valley Camphill Community and sits next door to the bakery.

“We complement each other,” Fiona said.

“Danby still has its railway station, pub, doctor’s surgery and village hall. Danby Bakery is also still here, as I have been for the last 27 years."

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