The gentle law of gravity

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Our milk won’t have to travel more than 100 yards from cow to cheese vat and it will be making that journey very slowly and gently.

Yesterday, with the help of an amazing team from Barvick Engineering, we spent a terrifying few hours lifting a 1 tonne bulk tank on to a frame so that the milk can be gravity fed from there to the cheese vat – with minimum upset to the molecules.

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The vat arrived on site today!

 

Today was an amazing day – and we worked with the most skilful brilliant people. Alan Hayes from Capital Refrigeration choreographed the day beautifully. The two Gregs from specialist lifting company  Wheelers Transport made the impossible possible by fitting very large heavy equipment through very small spaces with enormous heavy duty machinery. Their team work was phenomenal.

More pictures to follow. What a relief. The big kit is in place.

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Todd and Maugan – hearts in mouths

 

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Todd and his new best friend – two tonnes of stainless.

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How can that possibly fit through that door?

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Two and a Half Tonne Fulton Steam Boiler

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Alan Hayes bringing it all together with the tele handler and a 2 tonne cheese vat

 

 

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Relief! The base of the vat is in. Just waiting for the gantry.

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Wheelers Specialist Lifting Company performing a bit of magic with a terrifyingly large tele handler in a worryingly small space

Progress Continues Apace!

The sixth of May had long been in the calendar as A Very Important Day -  the day we took over the shell of the building that had been constructed at Puxton Court Farm, and began to transform it into our very own dairy. This is how the building looked last Tuesday, 6th May:

The space looks huge!

The space looks huge!

That very same day, wall and ceiling panels arrived on site.

The first delivery of cold room panels is offloaded on site

The first delivery of cold room panels is offloaded on site

When we visited the building yesterday morning, the place had been transformed. There were internal walls and ceilings, corridors and doorways.

A corridor

Clean lines

 

 

Doorways

Doorways leading to spacious store rooms

In just two more days, all the internal partitions will have been installed. To see the drawings come to life is incredibly exciting… a little bit too exciting are words that have left Todd’s mouth on more than one occasion!

The make room is taking shape

The make room is taking shape

A large, high-ceilinged make room will sit alongside three maturation rooms large enough to house hundreds of rounds of cheese as it ripens and matures into delicious Gorwydd Caerphilly. We can’t wait to start filling this brand new building with our 150 year old cheese presses, old wooden cheese stands, and most importantly, the beautiful 4.5 metre long stainless steel Dutch cheese vat.

Even the cows, recently let out to graze in the pastures surrounding the dairy, couldn’t hide their curiosity!

Curious cows looking on from their field, adjacent to the new dairy

Curious cows looking on from their field, adjacent to the new dairy

First batch of Gorwydd Caerphilly made with new supply of Somerset milk

It was an operation coordinated with military precision. Stuart would drive through the night, down from Neal’s Yard Creamery in Herefordshire, trailing a borrowed milk tanker. We were to meet him in a lay-by on the A370 at 4.30am.

Todd and Stuart, who transported the milk to Wales, looking lively at 4.30am.

Todd and Stuart, happily chatting away at 4.45am while the milk loads onto the trailer.

From there, we drove in convoy down country lanes to Puxton Court Farm, where pump and hose were swiftly attached to the milk tank that had been holding 1500 litres for us overnight.

Waiting for the milk to be pumped from the tank onto the trailer.

Waiting for the milk to be pumped from the tank onto the trailer.

 

37 minutes later, Stuart’s tanker was full, and without delay he departed for the three hour journey to Gorwydd Farm where the milk was loaded into the vat in time for a 9.00am cheese-making start.

The milk is delivered into the dairy at Gorwydd Farm.

The milk is delivered into the dairy at Gorwydd Farm.

An old man that lives up in the Hereford hills near Hay-on-Wye, who knows a thing or two about cheese, once told Todd: people get hold of a cheese-making book, and they’ll skip the first chapter that tells you how important it is to get the best possible milk supply, and go straight to the techniques and recipes.

We have spent 18 years honing our cheese-making skills, and were determined to make milk quality our number one priority in relocating. Wherever an excellent supply of milk was found, that would be our destination. All our testing and tasting told us that we’d found a fantastic source of milk at Puxton Court Farm, so to make our first batch of Gorwydds with the very milk we will be using from July has been extremely exciting.

The Puxton Court Farm milk enters the Gorwydd vat.

The Puxton Court Farm milk enters the Gorwydd vat.

As the day progressed, the signs were good. Maugan’s dispatch from Gorwydd Farm that afternoon read:

Milk tastes great. Curd during scald tastes great (milky and clean) (Rufy agrees). Just about to do texturing.

Rufus is Maugan’s two-year-old son, and a discerning critic of curd!

 

First batch of Gorwydds made from Somerset milk... in the press!

First batch of Gorwydds made from Somerset milk… in the press!

 

In two months’ time, the cheese will have matured, although we will start tasting it much earlier to see how it’s coming along. The early signs are that it’s going to be a truly delicious cheese.

Freshly pressed and on the racks.

Freshly pressed and on the racks.

 

Digging for Victory!

Yesterday morning we made the trip out to Puxton Court Farm to have a meeting with Alan, the dairy refrigeration expert we are working with.

Steve relates the story of the Great Escape!

Chewing the cud with Steve

We came across Steve, the herdsman, moving calves around in a specially made calf pram. We had never seen anything like it! Last time we visited, we gave Steve a chunk of Gorwydd, and he said he was looking forward to having it on his doorstep.

We began our visit in the cow shed, to take another look at the lovely herd that will be producing all that beautiful milk which will be turned into tasty Gorwydds. The cows are still being kept indoors, and will be released to outdoor living next month when it dries up a bit.

Todd is so happy to have his own herd!

Todd commooning with the cows.

It’s always exciting to arrive at the site and see what progress has been made since the last visit. This week, though the fog had lifted, the progress wasn’t as visible!

Groundworks underway as the build progresses.

Groundworks underway as the build progresses.

This is in no way to say that the build hasn’t moved forward, but rather that the work has been occurring at ground level, and below… Lots of digging! We talked drains, drains and more drains. The groundworks require a large number of drains in all the rooms of the dairy. As Todd was keen to point out, there’s more washing up and washing down goes on in a dairy than cheese-making!

A view of the dairy construction underway, seen through the entrance to the cow barn.

A view of the dairy construction underway, seen through the entrance to the cow barn.

The proximity of the cows and the milking parlour (just off to the right of this picture) to the place where the cheese will be made mere metres away is always exciting to see.

 

Roof goes on as fog descends

We’ve been subjected to an awful lot of rain this winter. January and February both saw seemingly never-ending storms and downpours, and anyone with half an eye on the news will have seen the devastating flooding on the Somerset Levels.

Flooded Somerset Levels seen from the top of Glastonbury Tor, January 2014

The flooded Somerset Levels seen from the top of Glastonbury Tor, January 2014

When we’ve mentioned to people that we’re having a new dairy built in Somerset, we’ve been asked more than a few times: have you been flooded?

The Somerset Levels lie to the South of the Mendip Hills, and the drainage of this low-lying land has been carried out since before the Middle Ages. Yet, as we have seen this year, man’s attempts to control nature do not always work, and water levels remained very high during the winter rains. Our thoughts have been with our friends to the South for the past few months. Puxton Court Farm lies to the north of the Mendip Hills in an area known as the North Somerset Levels, where flooding has not occurred (touch wood!). We are happy to say that the site of the dairy was spared the inundation!

Nevertheless, stormy weather did hinder the build at the very start, so we are pleased and very excited to see real progress being made now that the weather is settling down. On Friday last week, Todd and Alan, our project manager from Capital Refrigeration, made a site visit in order to check floor levels and make some final measurements now that the steel columns are up.

Alan Hayes, our project manager, measures up to finalise his drawings.

Alan Hayes, our project manager, measures up to finalise his drawings.

It was exciting to see that the building now has a roof! The foggy weather made for some very atmospheric conditions and great photographs, although the damp air and water droplets played havoc with Alan’s laser measure.

It's exciting to think that in a few months time Gorwydd Caerphilly will be made underneath this roof!

In a few months time, Gorwydd Caerphilly will be made underneath this roof!

The whole move is beginning to feel very real and while Maugan is busy making cheese back home at Gorwydd, he and Todd are also sanding down 150 year old cheese presses ready for use and planning how to move the cheeses and the recipe with minimum disruption to supply, as well as, importantly, our precious bacteria and moulds!

Exciting future for Gorwydd Caerphilly as Trethowan’s Dairy moves to Somerset

We are excited to announce that we will be moving to a brand new purpose-built dairy at Puxton Court Farm in North Somerset this coming July.

We will be very sad to leave Gorwydd Farm, the local area and Wales altogether. We’ve been making Gorwydd here for 18 years since Todd took over the old barns and sheds, and turned out a few Gorwydds in a borrowed cheese vat.

Todd with the Puxton Court Farm herd.

Todd with the Puxton Court Farm herd.

In lots of ways however, the move to Somerset is bringing the cheese full circle. We will now be making it just over 10 miles from where Todd originally learnt the recipe. And funnily enough, we will also be making it closer to Caerphilly than we do now!

There’s been a long history of caerphilly making in Somerset as between the First and Second World Wars, cheddar makers turned to caerphilly as a quicker way to turn their milk into money than cheddar.  Lots of farmers we’ve spoken to in the Somerset area have told us it was usual to make a batch of caerphilly every Sunday.

Our main driver in our quest to do one thing well – make beautiful Gorwydds – is finding the best possible milk – and the quality of the milk at Puxton Court Farm is second to none. Our new dairy is just across the yard from the milking parlour so this is an amazing opportunity to work with beautiful milk from a fantastic pedigree herd. We are really looking forward to working with Steve Hearn, the herdsman, to develop our understanding of the variations in the milk and the effect they have on our cheese, without having to change supply, as we do currently, throughout the year.

Steve Hearn starts the afternoon milking of the 100-strong Holstein herd at Puxton Court Farm.

Steve Hearn starts the afternoon milking of the 100-strong Holstein herd at the farm.

The facilities will be brand new and we will have the capacity to produce more cheese, but we will still be making Gorwydd in exactly the same hands-on way we always have, using the third generation recipe that Todd learnt 20 years ago.

It’s a real end of an era leaving the family farm at Gorwydd but we are excited about the move and the fantastic long-term future it secures for Gorwydd Caerphilly.

Moving Gorwydd Caerphilly is simply continuing the itinerant tradition of this type of cheese. Its name and its roots will continue to be Welsh, just as ours are. We think that our grandmother Eleanor Lewis would be pleased. We will continue to make cheese at Gorywdd up until just before we move into our new dairy.

Construction of the new dairy has begun, seen here with the cow shed and milking parlour just behind.

The new dairy goes up, seen here with the cow shed and milking parlour just behind.

Construction of the new dairy has just begun. We will be updating this blog regularly with news of progress as the building goes up and the new dairy takes shape.

If you have questions do get in touch.