Tom and Clare Noblet started to make cheese in 2015 on their dairy farm on the edge of the Lake District. Based on a traditional old ‘dales’ recipe of the north of England, Fellstone is aged for three months by which time it has the fresh lemony-lactic flavours of a good Wensleydale, with a supple, firmer texture.
This is farmhouse Wensleydale how it used to be, and it’s still being developed – Fellstone is one to watch.
Cheese was made on Whin Yeats farm before the Second World War but production then ceased for decades and Tom and Clare have revived Whin Yeats farm cheese-making. In 2010 Tom and Clare Noblet moved Whin Yeats Farm, perched on the steep limestone crags that look to the Yorkshire Dales on one side and the Lake District on the other (at Hutton Roof near Kirkby Lonsdale). They had found this 250-acre family farm that they could gradually take over (the current owners, Max and Jenny Burrow were looking to retire), and set about becoming dairy farmers, with 80 Friesian cows and 200 sheep, improving the farmland and biodiversity as they went (they've planted 350m new hedgerows, over 2000 trees and 2 new ponds). It would be a few years before Fellstone cheese (also called 'Whin Yeats Wensleydale') was created.
But their lifelong dream of being dairy farmers soon hit cruel reality as the low price of milk meant that economically they were struggling to survive. So in 2015, Tom and Clare visited The Courtyard Dairy to ask about the potential of adding value to their milk and making an unpasteurised farmstead cheese. With much encouragement they went on a course and Tom set about building a complete dairy by hand (from walls, to plumbing to refrigeration and flooring). By November of that year they had a fully-functional dairy and they started to make cheese based on a simple ‘smallholder’ recipe (like a mild Cheddar), using warm milk straight from the milking parlour next door.
Seeking to develop a cheese unique to their farm they spoke to Andy of The Courtyard Dairy, who suggested branching out into a Wensleydale or traditional ‘Dales’ style of cheese. This would traditionally have been made in the Lunesdale valley where they are located, is fast and easy to make (so it could fit around their farming routine), and unpasteurised farm-made Wensleydale was unique.
Taking the basic old recipes from Andy (including the main basis: a 1933 recipe for Wensleydale from an old MAFF book), Clare set about re-creating a traditional Wensleydale … and Fellstone was born – a three-month-old traditional Dales-style cheese. Continuing the age-old traditions of farmers’ wives, Clare now makes Fellstone every Tuesday, when her mother comes to look after the next generation of farmers and cheese makers – their four young children!
Fellstone (or Whin Yeats Wensleydale!) is still being developed, as changes are made to the recipe gradually to further improve the cheese, to make it even more evocative of the traditional Dales-style northern cheeses that would have been found in their area.
The mini-truckle weighs around 1 kg.