A tale of cheese - made by a family run dairy farm in Yorkshire

Back in April I was delighted to visit the beautiful North Yorkshire Dales to photograph Whin Yeats Farm owned by The Noblet family. The unpasteurised cheese that Clare and Tom Noblet produce is a variety of Wensleydale cheese, which is unique to their area. They called the cheese Felstone, named after the limestone side of the fell where the farm is placed, perched on high on top, with beautiful steep views of the dramatic Cumbrian landscape surrounding them. Clare showed us around the milking parlour whilst the cows were being milked for the second time that day, explaining that the quality of the milk taken at the 6pm is different from the morning milk. We need to be very quiet in the milking shed, as the cows are very sensitive to our presence. One cow comes right up to me and breathes out heavily, curious as to why I am there, with a glint of gentle cleverness behind her huge eyes. Both Clare and Tom, who have four young children, come from farming backgrounds and have always dreamed of running their own farm. Its a job that requires both stamina and determination; the past few years have been the wettest on record but luckily the soil drains well due to their elevated position and the limestone in the soil. Clare makes the Felstone every Tuesday following a traditional recipe, which was developed with the help of local cheesemongers Andy and Kathy Swinscoe of The Courtyard Dairy. The Noblets are one of only two farms in Yorkshire still producing unpasturised cheese- historically there used to be six thousand. The raw milk cheese, unique to their farm, is essential to their survival, as unpasturised milk is sold at only 14p a litre….producing their Felstone cheese is essential to the farms survival. This is not mass production….unpasturised raw milk cheeses like Felstone are the product of good animal husbandry and welfare, twice daily milking and scrupulous hygene.

Kathy and Andy Swincoe (pictured above) run the award winning Courtyard Dairy shop and cafe near Settle, North Yorkshire. They help many local farmers like the Noblets develop their own cheese based on traditional recipes, bringing genuine British Northern farmhouse cheeses back on to our plates. Andy regularly visits the farms of the producers of the local cheeses he sells in his shop. Indeed busy dairy farmers like the Noblets greatly depend upon passionate cheesmonger Andy to tell their story and sell the cheese for them. Visiting Andy and Kathy’s shop, its clear to see how they have won awards- the shop sells over 30 of the best British farmhouse cheeses, whilst the cafe and museum educates visitors where the food and produce on their plate comes from. Andy and Kathy’s enthusiasm for bringing back traditional cheese making to the area has brought with it a resurgence of traditional farmhouse recipes, whilst securing the survival of dairy farmers in Yorkshire despite the low cost of milk.