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Derbyshire Life - - Fitness - WORDS: Claire Bore PHO­TOS: Marc Barker

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.’

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