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We meet the Fletchers, makers of Berkswell Cheese.

The Warwickshire way of making cheese is to have the dairy downstairs and to mature it in a southwesterly facing upper room,” Stephen says, “it takes all the sun but it’s also the direction the rain comes in from. The windows of the old cheese room would have been bricked up with sandstone so it would have been quite damp in there.

Back then the vats would have been wooden. The formers (for molding the cheese) would have been wooden too. Although we use stainless steel and have the luxury of being able to use controlled heating and modern rennets, which makes the process more reliable, everything is still made by hand in the traditional way.

If the milk comes up from our dairy at 9am the cheese is made by 12pm. It’s that quick. But because it’s all done manually, everything has to happen at the right time to trigger the next process. We have three ladies who make our cheese – Julie, Sue and Beth. They have about 40 minutes per vat to take the curd from the whey and put it into the mold. If the curd starts to dry you can’t get it into the molds.

It’s not just the traditional process that gives Berkswell cheese its award-winning taste and texture.
A lot of thought goes into the whole process.

The flavour of the milk depends on the time of year, what the weather’s like, what field the flock has been grazing or if they’ve been indoors,” Stephen tells us, “So each batch of cheese is different.” “We’re confident in the flavour of our milk,” adds George, “so we can use less starter culture than normal, which means the flavour can really come through. Plus the milk’s raw and not pasteurised so it retains a lot of its unique taste too. That’s one of the biggest advantages of being an artisan producer. People don’t expect you to have a standard product.

“I was brought up with a ‘Dig for Victory’ mentality,” says Stephen. “The changes we’re bringing in are similar to practices grandad saw on farm as a child, so he can relate to them,” George explains, “he sees a lot of sense in the ideas because that’s how he remembers growing up, even if it’s not how he actually ran the farm during and after WWII.”

“My great great grandfather and great grandfather were the first to live and work here in 1881,” Stephen tells us. “My grandfather joined from school. As did my father. Although they were predominantly dairy farmers, they would have had other animals and grown root and cereal crops. Really, the industrialisation of farming is just a blip. Ram Hall is working its way back from it.”

“When we need to make significant decisions that concern the farm, like changes to the way we do things, we have a meeting out in the grainstore and talk things through,” explains Stephen. “But day to day we split responsibilities up. On some farms, people try to do everything together. I’ve always felt it’s important for everyone to have their own area of expertise. That’s how we make progress.”

“I was brought up with a ‘Dig for Victory’ mentality,” says Stephen. “The changes we’re bringing in are similar to practices grandad saw on farm as a child, so he can relate to them,” George explains, “he sees a lot of sense in the ideas because that’s how he remembers growing up, even if it’s not how he actually ran the farm during and after WWII.”

“My great great grandfather and great grandfather were the first to live and work here in 1881,” Stephen tells us. “My grandfather joined from school. As did my father. Although they were predominantly dairy farmers, they would have had other animals and grown root and cereal crops. Really, the industrialisation of farming is just a blip. Ram Hall is working its way back from it.”

“When we need to make significant decisions that concern the farm, like changes to the way we do things, we have a meeting out in the grainstore and talk things through,” explains Stephen. “But day to day we split responsibilities up. On some farms, people try to do everything together. I’ve always felt it’s important for everyone to have their own area of expertise. That’s how we make progress.”