Visit to Hill Farm Dairy in Somerset, UK
Last summer, immediately after attending the Science of Artisan Cheese conference, I had the chance to visit Will and Caroline Atkinson at Hill Farm Dairy, located in Somerset in the south west of England.
Neither Caroline or Will came from farming backgrounds. The concept for a goat dairy and cheesemaking facility developed as a result of Caroline's passion for cheese, ignited after working at Neal's Yard Dairy in London. Both were keen to move to the countryside and, in 2007, after an 18 month period where Caroline apprenticed with Mary Holbrook at the nearby and highly regarded Sleight Farm, while Will continued his job as a lawyer in Bristol, the couple decided to quit their respective jobs and move to the heart of Somerset with a view to making cheese from the milk of their own goats.
After looking a many different properties, they purchased Hill Farm and embarked on an ambitious initiative to convert several existing outbuildings and construct an entirely new dairy and cheesemaking facility. The first goats arrived in 2008 - a mixed herd of British breeds; Anglo Nubians, British Toggenburgs and British Saanens - and now numbers approximately 100 milking does.
Hill Farm Dairy's signature cheese is Stawley. Made from raw goat's milk, it is based on the French Chabichou du Poitou and has a semi-soft, dense texture and geotricum rind. Flavors are rich, clean and lactic with a mildly goaty tang.