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If you feel like a change from those Christmas cheese-board classics, then one
Derbyshire couple from Hathersage may just have the perfect alternative
Tucked away in the foothills of Stanage Edge is a small artisan cheesemaking business run by James and Sophie Summerlin. Distinct and flavoursome, local Derbyshire cow’s milk is used to create a soft creamy cheese – the bloomy rind ‘Stanage Millstone’ as well as ‘Stanage Curd’.
Back in the harsh winter of 2013, with thick snow covering the hills of Hathersage, Sophie and James moved into Cow
Close Farm, a smallholding that arguably had one welly still firmly set in the 1940s. This young couple were keen to get started and make the Cow Close into something incredibly special.
The couple’s original aim was to make artisan food that was good quality with no additives. They started to look at all kinds of food but having researched the market discovered that there were very few cheese producers in Derbyshire. ‘We wanted to make a cheese that we enjoyed eating ourselves, but a variety that would not tread on any of our neighbouring producers’ toes,’ explains James.
The couple hadn’t always planned to have their own business. Originally from Hathersage, Sophie had met James at university and after graduation they followed the normal path of ploughing straight into their respective professional careers, living at the time in a renovated old cottage in Wilmslow. Sophie’s heart, however, was always in Hathersage, where her family had a small farm near where she lived as a child. Having persuaded James to move there, the couple started their new adventure. With ambitions to make artisan food, the farm provided the ideal opportunity. ‘Soon after moving to the farm, we started out on our cheese mission, and began applying for planning permission to build a creamery. It wasn’t an easy process but we finally got permission to convert an old sheep shed into our dairy premises and maturing rooms. We built a highly-insulated, hygienically-clad building inside the original building and started production in April 2016,’ says Sophie. This decision proved crucial, according to Sophie and James who cite their base in Derbyshire as key to their success. ‘Derbyshire is really foodie. There are so many small producers and restaurants doing great things. Many of these have been hugely supportive to us since we started.’