Nettlebed Creamery, an exciting new venture
Well first off, apologies for a long absence. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing worth writing about, it’s pure laziness. However to remedy this, it’s time to put pen to paper or rather fingers to keyboard and talk about something I’ve been superstitiously not blogging in case of jinxing the operation…. Nettlebed Creamery.
So what has changed? Well, it’s fast becoming the worst kept secret in my life anyway as I talk about it to everyone I meet and progress is being made, so it’s time to set it out on the world wide web for all to see.
What is Nettlebed Creamery I hear you cry? Well, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Back in the winter of 2012 as I sat surrounded by snow up a hill in Cumbria, I began looking for my next cheesemaking venture. The time had come to move on from Holker, Martin and Nicola needed someone local who would be able to be a more permanent fixture and believed they had found someone, I wanted to try other types of cheesemaking. A couple of possibilities presented themselves, Old Hall Farm in Cumbria which as we all know now didn’t work out, and the tantalising possibility of cheesemaking with Rose Grimond in Oxfordshire.
I had met Rose on a number of occasions through my sister Jane who while working on the Mons Cheesemongers Borough Market stall way back in about 2007, had been introduced to the stallholder next door and got chatting. Rose, at that time, was acting as a representative, promoter, wholesaler and retailer of produce from Orkney including the sweetest, juiciest scallops ever (‘as big as yer heeed’ as Jane remarked) and fresh sea urchins. We had many a delicious weekend seafood treat courtesy of the Orkney Rose stand. However, fast forwarding about 5 years, Rose had wound up her retail and wholesale business, moved to her family home of Nettlebed in south east Oxfordshire and had her first little boy. Surfacing from new motherhood as her son grew a little older, Rose began to look for another business to get into.
Nettlebed Estate, the family estate run by her mother and her aunt, has an organic dairy herd of Friesian Holsteins crossed with Montbeliard and Swedish Red. The milk of this carefully managed and farmed herd was and is being sold to Dairycrest for drinking milk. Dairycrest began reporting that the organic milk market was at capacity so they would cut the organic premium they had been paying and would be looking at further cuts in future. The farm and estate owners met to discuss how to proceed. The wisdom in farming is that to succeed you have to get big, get different or get out. Options A and C didn’t appeal but getting different did.
‘We should be making cheese!’ Rose opined.
They met up with a local lady looking to change career and make cheese but ultimately parted company due to different ideas of what to make. Around this point, I entered the scene.
Initially, I contacted Rose because I was looking to arrange a month or so perhaps, working at Grimbister Cheese on Orkney making Seator’s Orkney cheese. I wondered if she had contact details and any recommendations of somewhere to rent for the duration. During those enquiry emails we skated around the topic of cheesemaking:
‘Oh so you’re making cheese, how interesting….’
‘Oh so you want to make cheese on your estate and need a cheesemaker, how interesting….’
Finally, after meeting the family and farm managers, Rose and I began work in earnest to get the cheesemaking enterprise off the ground. We looked at potential sites for a creamery and chose one, then changed our minds, then changed our minds again, then again. Each had its advantages and disadvantages. Finally we are back with the one we first thought of and that Rose had always had her eye on. Planning permission applications are being drawn up and a business plan is being created. I am pretty confident that we won’t change our minds again. Maybe that is what prevented me putting fingers to keyboard before. This time the choice of site is for keeps… unless the council say otherwise.