13 MAR 2018: David and Alison Lea-Wilson were university sweethearts who had fallen in love with the Island of Anglesey in Wales off the mainland’s northwest coast. In the past forty years they have created opportunities to live and work in this area of outstanding natural beauty and visitors to the area as well as the culinary world have been the benefactors of their ingenuity.  

The young couple started selling oysters, and that evolved into a wholesale fish and game business, which they ran for 12 years. When people questioned them as to why the lobsters were blue and not red, David saw an education opportunity and opened the Anglesey Sea Zoo in 1983. Among other creatures, they bred seahorses that require a quality saline environment.

The attraction was a popular one over the summer months but the Lea-Wilsons were looking for a business opportunity that was more sustainable and that is how they came upon the idea of harvesting salt from the sea, knowing that they were working with exceptionally clean water.

In 1997 they put a saucepan of seawater on the kitchen Aga to boil; whereupon bright white crystals began to form. Halen Môn (Anglesey Salt) was established and within two years they were supplying their sea salt to a local butcher in the area and now their product goes to every corner of the globe.

In just one day, the factory uses 10,000 litres of seawater to produce 200 kilos of glistening white salt flakes. The process is complicated to ensure an eco-friendly recycling of steam to heat the water and a return of the cleansed water to the sea.

We recently did a tour of Halen Môn, where we checked out the process and saw for ourselves the bright white salt as it was being harvested. We were told that the Lea- Wilsons purchased machinery to make an employee’s work easier, but refused to buy machinery that would eliminate the job of a worker.

We had a salt tasting, where each of us had a placemat with samples of salts, including table salts and rock salts as well as smoked and flavoured ones (chilli and garlic). The complicated process of the Halen Môn rinsing process eliminates the bitterness that typically accompanies salt. In fact, when you bite into it the texture is also a pleasant surprise, more like grains of coffee than the rock hard characteristic associated with salt.

Our guide pointed out that the new building that the manufacturing process takes place in can be completely taken apart after its use, making it environmentally favourable.

She also pointed out that after the muddy move to the new building in 2015, every employee was given a voucher to have their cars cleaned with their pay slips.

Knowing that some staff members have spent decades working with the owners of Halen Môn her message was clear. David and Alison Lea-Wilson are what you might call - the salt of the earth.

 

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Pam Stellini

Pam Stellini is an original. Her quirky outlook and wry humour defy categorization. Readers have compared her to Erma Bombeck and Art Buchwald with a travel spin – and we're not about to argue. 

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