Women in Cheese
By Livvie Newman
Mar 7, 2023
As Shania Twain once said, “Let’s Go Girls”, and by “ Let’s Go Girls” we mean let’s go female-led cheese producers in the UK. Women have, historically, played a large role with the world of cheese production and we can see why. In the spirit of International Women’s Day we thought we would chat a little about some of our favourite cheeses that have been produced, or created, by women. We have also decided to create a limited edition box to showcase some of these fantastic cheeses. It’s simply got to be done, right?
Rose Grimond - Nettlebed Creamery
In 2015, Rose decided to found (or re-found, depending on how you look at it) Nettlebed Creamery. Here she started on the production of three exceptional cheeses - Bix, Witheridge and Highmoor. All of which are award-winning. We pay particular attention here to Witheridge, the first hay-wrapped cheese of its kind in the UK (this is not to say that Nettlebed’s other cheeses are not utterly delicious). In 2020, Rose was awarded the Sue Ryder Women of the Year Award for Best Business. Nettlebed has a particular focus on the importance of local produce, with the dairy supplying their milk being only a couple of miles away. It is clear that in all that Rose does, care is at the fore. Be this in regards to the creation of the Cheese Shed (where the toasties are to die for), her work with HMP Huntercombe to provide employment for ex-offenders, or the quality and consistency of the cheese that she produces.
Catherine Mead - Lynher Dairies
Master maker Catherine Mead supplies Cornish Kern, Cornish Yarg, Garlic Yarg and Stithians - all absolute belters, we’re sure you’ll agree. Stithians in particular happens to be a constant favourite here at Cheesegeek (a big accolade considering the quality of its company). Lynher Dairies is located in the village of Ponsanooth and all of their cheeses are made by hand in open vats with milk produced by their own Ayrshire and other meticulously selected herds. Catherine herself is definitely an absolute legend - with Kern winning Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards in 2017, and Catherine herself earning an OBE in the 2019 Birthday Honour List. Alongside this, she is the Chair of the Specialist Cheese Association, Chair of Cornwall Food Foundation, Deputy Lieutenant for Cornwal and Trustee of the Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund. Pretty darn impressive stuff all round, we’d say.
Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce - Hampshire Cheese Co.
Hampshire Cheese Co. was founded by Stacey Hedges and started in her kitchen. Teaming up with Charlotte Spruce, Hampshire Cheese Co. produce the utterly exceptional Tunworth and Winslade, both excellent soft cheeses. Tunworth, a camembert style cheese, in particular is one that truly deserves the numerous accolades it has been presented with. Quoted to be “the best Camembert in the world” by Raymond Blanc, its rich creamy flavour is something to be sung about from the rooftops. Each cheese made by Hedges and Spruce is lovingly done so by hand. From the first ladle of milk, the specialist team uses traditional methods to create their expertly delivered award-winning artisan cheeses. Accolades include: Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards, Best Soft Cheese at the Great British Cheese Awards, Super Gold at the World Cheese Awards and Gold at the Artisan Cheese Awards. That says it all really, don’t you think?
Judy, Katie and Caroline Bell - Shepherds Purse
If you’re on the hunt for some beautiful Blues then look no further than Judy Bell and Shepherds Purse. Shepherds Purse began in the 1980s when Judy Bell discovered her passion and gift for cheesemaking, with a focus on creating quality dairy alternatives for all those that suffer from cow’s milk allergies. Since then Shepherds Purse has gone on to create a number of quality Blues including Yorkshire Blue, Bluemin White, Buffalo, Harrogate, Mrs Bell’s and Northern Blue. All of which are utterly delicious. Today, Shepherds Purse remains a proud, independently run family business, headed up by Judy’s two daughters, Katie and Caroline. Around this time of year, Harrogate is one of our particular favourites - and deservedly so, having won Super Gold at the World Cheese Awards in 2017, placing it among the top 15 cheeses in the world. It also just so happens to be the first cheese co-produced by Katie and Caroling upon their taking over the running of the dairy.
Anne Wigmore - Village Maid Cheese
How do you solve a problem like Anne Wigmore? You can’t. There’s no problem. Supplying beautiful cheeses from their dairy in Heckfield Place, Hampshire. Anne started Village Maid Cheese in 1986, after she began working for the National Institute for Research in Dairying. Initially, not having a farm meant that supplying the milk with which the cheeses would be made would prove difficult, however, Anne remained undeterred. In 1987, the Duke of Wellington approached Anne to make a cheese for his estate in Stratfield Saye using the milk from his pedigree herd of Guernsey Cows. Here, Anne developed a Cheddar-type cheese called Wellington. Following the Duke’s retirement, the production of Wellington ceased, however Anne continued to work on developing semi-soft washed curd cheeses. The creation of Waterloo came to fruition, a semi-soft washed curd cheese made with the milk from Guernsey Cows (you can read more about Waterloo here). Other Village Maid cheeses made today include Wigmore, Maida Vale (developed by Anne’s son Jake and partner Kayleigh), Heckfield and Spenwood. Spenwood in particular is a cheese to take note of here - though this is not to say that Village Maid’s other cheeses are not noteworthy, trust us, they absolutely are. Spenwood was created to resemble Pecorino Sardo, a cheese that Anne encountered whilst sailing in Sardinia. A culmination of years of trials, Spenwood is a cheese to which changes are continually made to maintain the quality and flavour that has been remembered from Sardinia. With good reason, too. In 2023 Spenwood was awarded Best British Cheese at the World Cheese Awards, as well as being voted the 8th best cheese in the world. Not too shabby,eh?
Now, we could go on and on and on and on about female-led cheese producers, but we reckon we’d best put a pin in it there before we get carried away. But wait, there’s more - for a limited time we have taken over our Lionel box to showcase some of these superb cheeses. We hope you will take the time to try, savour, and enjoy these truly exceptional female-led cheeses.