Why cheese-making is part of the culture of Malpas
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 September 2017
Emma Mayoh meets some of the people making a big impression in this beautiful corner of Cheshire
There must be something good about the countryside around Malpas. This rural area is bursting with cheese makers from small independent producers including the award-winning HS Bourne, to large scale creameries like Reece’s Creamery on the pastures south of the village.
But there is one local farmer’s wife bringing a taste of Italy to this lush corner of the county. Anne Connolly spent almost two decades living and working in Italy for hotel groups Trusthouse Forte in stunning locations like Sardinia and Livigno.
But it was after she met her husband Peter, whose family have farmed for generations, that she moved to Larkton Hall Farm, just outside of Malpas village. It was he who encouraged his wife Anne to give cheese making a go.
‘I was looking for a job and he asked why didn’t I have a go at making cheese,’ said Anne, who then enlisted on a cheese making course at Reaseheath College. ‘We had lots of milk on the farm and he thought it made sense.
‘I knew a man from Livigno called Benny who lived in the Italian mountains and has cows, sheep and some pigs. He made cheese for fun at the end of the day. He said he would help me. He drove over with some other friends of mine and brought his huge copper kettle with him.
‘He had only intended to come for a week but ended up staying much longer. He is fantastic; he’s such a brilliant person. He comes over every year now.’
Anne, who lives on the farm with Peter and daughter Amy, produces Federia cheese as well as a Crabtree variety. Her cheeses have won awards and she stocks many shops and delis up and down the country including the exclusive Neal’s Yard.
‘I’m so pleased with how it’s all developed,’ said Anne. ‘It has been such a good experience for me. I love making the cheese and people seem to really enjoy what I make. I think because they are a bit different people like to try them and to get a contract with someone like Neal’s Yard is incredible. I’m really proud to be doing something I love. Malpas is a fantastic place to be based, too.’
Showcasing fantastic local producers, including Larkton Hall Cheese, is a dedicated group of locals who run the Malpas Mini Market. The village farmers’ market was once a thriving part of the community. But over recent years its popularity has dipped. But Andrew Powell, owner of Powells Pies, along with Jane Mullock from Honesty Soap and Caroline Waterhouse who runs Caroline’s Pesto, are determined to make this local event a success again.
‘It’s been a great success for me,’ explained Andrew, who originally set up the market. ‘But we do need to drum up more support as the demand has dropped off in recent years. We really need the Malpas community to get behind us. We’re also hoping that with new houses being built in the area we will get new visitors. We’re determined to make it work.’
The trio, who run the market on the third Saturday of the month at Jubilee Hall, are using the event as an opportunity for local food producers and craftspeople to have their own shop front, selling the goods on behalf of the different local companies.
‘We have changed and adapted to try and suit the demand,’ said Andrew. ‘We hope by selling other producers items for them that it will give them a valuable way of getting their products out there - yet they don’t have to spend a full morning out of their schedules.
‘It’s hard when you run a business on your own or with a small team to get to the different events. We hope by providing this option we’re helping and it will also encourage more small businesses to take part.
‘Malpas is a super place and we want to be able to make the market a real focal point of the community.’
One business at the centre of village life is The Old Fire Station Café Bar. Owned by Jake and Sara Polmear, the eatery is popular with locals and visitors. The couple, who moved to Cheshire from Newcastle, decided to start the business as a way for Sara to bake cakes to sell to the general public. But it has developed considerably since then.
‘The business became available and we decided to go for it,’ said Sara. ‘It was something to do for ourselves as well as be a place for me to look at in the future for doing the cake decorating.
‘Malpas is a fantastic place to be and it’s a really friendly village. We moved here to be near good schools for our children. But we have got so much more out of being here. We love being in Malpas.’