My Grandfather first started farming at Church Farm, Offham which historically was held by the brother of King Harold in 1066! During 1946 Grandad then expanded and set up our dairy farm for my father, a short distance from Offham, on top of the North Downs of Kent, overlooking the historic village of Wrotham.
Cheese making was an idea Carla (my wife) and I had back in 2000 and it has been a long journey to where we are today. Building the cheese dairy and raising our family has been an adventure set hard with the inevitable challenges and highs and lows along the way.
The dairy was just finished in time to start cheese making on 3rd January 2006, this was when our cheese consultant, Val Bines was booked in to mentor us on our first production.
Cheese making began in earnest and our first “Trial Batch” was produced and to our amazement, received a Bronze Award in the World Cheese Awards in June 2006. A great start for a novice start-up cheese making business, especially as we became new parents to our son Oliver at the same time!
The Winterdale cheese dairy is housed within a traditional oak framed barn located at the head of a picturesque valley on the Northern edge of the family farm, which old local maps identify as ‘Winterdale Shaw’.
This has always been one of my favourite areas. As a child growing up on the farm, I used to play in this area with my brothers & sister, so it’s great for me to look out from the dairy to see my own children running around this lovely spot.
A little local research revealed the history behind the “Winterdale Shaw” name.
“Dale” is the old Kentish name for an open-ended valley and Winterdale remains open all the way to the Thames estuary some 20 miles away.
I imagine the “Winter” half of the name reflects the fact that some pretty awful weather can be funnelled up the North facing valley in the colder months.
As children, this was always our favourite sledging spot as the steep slopes seemed to collect the best of any snow.
The ‘Shaw’ part of the name means ‘ancient woodland’ and rather appropriately, the cheese barn sits proudly within a copse of fine mature Kent oak trees.
I like to think the oak trees stand guard around the cheese barn, and they certainly provide some excellent screening, although many locals feel that screening is the last thing this splendid building needs.