Trethowan's Dairy, Hewish near W-s-M
Gorwydd Caerphilly is an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese made to a traditional farmhouse recipe. It is made by Todd and Maugan Trethowan and their team on Puxton Court Farm in Hewish, North Somerset. The cheese has not always been made in North Somerset, however. When Todd originally started to make it over twenty years ago, he converted old farm buildings on the family hill farm in West Wales, and it is there that the business began to grow.
A few years ago, it became clear that the business had outgrown the small dairy at Gorwydd Farm, and they decided that if they were to continue to make cheese, as they really wanted to do, then finding a site for the new dairy would be purely about where they could find a really fantastic milk supply.
North Somerset was chosen as the ideal location. The region has a strong tradition of cheesemaking, including such renowned names as Keen’s, Montgomery and Westcombe, and though often thought to be a Welsh cheese, Caerphilly has historically been made throughout the West Country. With a quicker maturing time than cheddar (anything from a few days to a couple of months), it was common for cheddar makers to make Caerphilly in order to aid cash flow. This was especially true during the post-war period.
After extensive investigations, where Todd says he became familiar with every barn and every herd in Somerset and the surrounding area, talks began with the Mead family at Puxton Court Farm. They were keen to build a dairy right next door to their milking parlour and the barn where their 100-strong herd of Holsteins and Jerseys is housed. Once Todd had tasted their milk, he knew it would suit his cheese. Further microbiological testing revealed the milk to be of stunning quality, and the clincher was when he did an old-fashioned souring test and discovered that the milk still tasted great after being left out for three days at room temperature.
Works began in January 2014, and by August 2014 the brand new dairy had been built and was ready to move into. It required a huge amount of effort on the part of everyone involved, and the detail involved in getting things right was overwhelming at times. Moving the dairy was always going to be a tricky endeavour - not only did equipment and stocks of cheese need to be moved, but also the precious bacteria and molds that give Gorwydd Caerphilly its distinctive look and flavour. It was important to create the right environment in which the cheese could mature, and this was successfully done.
Gorwydd Caerphilly has won many awards in the past, including Best British Cheese at the World Cheese Awards, and Best Territorial Cheese at the British Cheese Awards. Validation of the move came in November 2014, when cheese made at the new dairy, with the new milk supply, won a Super Gold in the Specialist Cheesemaker’s Association category at the World Cheese Awards, making it one of the top 62 cheeses in the world!
The dairy currently employs nine people, making approximately 100 cheeses a day. The number of employees will grow over the coming months and years as the business expands. Trethowan’s Dairy is proud to supply Waitrose, and a number of wholesalers, such as Neal’s Yard Dairy, the Cheese Cellar, Bath Fine Cheese Co. and A. Rowcliffe. They are equally happy to deal directly with small specialist cheese shops and delis, and Gorwydd Caerphilly can be found across the length and breadth of the UK. Further afield, it is exported to Europe, the USA, the Far East and even as far away as New Zealand.
Relocating the business to North Somerset has been the start of an exciting journey for Trethowan’s Dairy. And in fact, the move brings the cheese full circle, because not nine miles away from the new site in Hewish is where Todd first learnt to make Caerphilly some twenty years ago from a third-generation farmhouse Caerphilly maker. Says Todd, “To my mind, Somerset is the hub of a strong and growing British cheesemaking tradition, and I am really proud to be a part of it. It feels great to return to where I first learnt to make Caerphilly twenty years ago. We are really looking forward to a long and productive relationship with the Mead family, and I am overjoyed to be working with such skilled and quality farmers. We have a world-class product, for which we need just one really high quality ingredient: milk. We couldn’t wish for better quality milk than we have found at Puxton Court Farm, and we feel we’ve really landed on our feet.”