Join the campaign to save Cheshire cheese

PUBLISHED: 15:58 11 August 2011 | UPDATED: 12:04 28 February 2013

Cheshire Cheese board

Cheshire Cheese board

Britain's oldest cheese is under threat. But a group of Cheshire producers are campaigning to change that WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH

The print version of this article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

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Ever since the Romans set up camp in Chester, cheesemaking has been part of life in our county. As Cheshire exports go there are none more famous than Cheshire Cheese. For centuries it has been made by hundreds of producers. But today, there are just five left in Cheshire. This group has now launched a campaign to help safeguard its future.

This includes campaign organiser David Williams, who runs David Williams Cheese as well as a shop, Godfrey C Williams & Son in Sandbach.

He said: Cheshire Cheeses heritage dates back to Roman times and it is even mentioned in the Domesday Book. It is a famous part of the countys heritage and it is really important we dont let production of this great cheese disappear.

His family have been in the cheese industry for generations since his grandfather, Thomas, set up shop in Holmes Chapel. The family has gone on to produce award-winning cheeses and David has created a special range of eight blended cheeses for the campaign.

He has joined forces with a handful of cheese makers including Joseph Heler in Hatherton, Malpas-based HS Bourne, Reeces Creamery in Hampton, near Malpas and Belton Cheese in Whitchurch. Their sole aim is to stop the dramatic decline of this important local food.

And the figures are startling. Cheshire Cheese is Britains oldest cheese and before the Second World War there were more than 200 Cheshire Cheese producers in the county. But then, these numbers went into freefall. Tragically, some producers didnt return from battle, others decided to give up the business but it was the growth of cheaper, mass-produced cheeses and an increase in the varieties available that have delivered the biggest blow. In fact, just over 50 years ago 40,000 tonnes of Cheshire Cheese were being produced in the UK every year. Now, its just 7,000 tonnes.

It was during a planning meeting for this years Cheshire County Show that action was taken.

David, a chief steward of the shows cheese section, explained: We knew we needed to do something. There was a time when the cheese tent would be packed with truckles of cheese lined up, hundreds of them from each producer. You couldnt get it sliced up fast enough. Its not like that now.

People have fallen out of love with Cheshire Cheese. We want to get it back on the dinner table, not just locally but all over the country.

Officially, Joseph Heler in Hatherton have been making Cheshire Cheese since 1957 but the tradition goes back another 50 years to Josephs grandmother who used to make a block of it every day. Now, they are the largest independent regional cheese maker with Cheshire Cheese playing a bit part of the business. The loss of Cheshire Cheese would be a devastating blow.

David Wells from Joseph Heler, said: Our passion is cheese and we originated through making Cheshire Cheese and it has been passed down through the generations.

It is so important we keep Cheshire Cheese going. It is a part of our county and part of our identity. We need to show people now how versatile it is and to get them buying it again.

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