EXPANSION: Allison and Jonathan Raper
EXPANSION: Allison and Jonathan Raper

AN award-winning dale cheesemaker is moving to larger premises to keep up with demand.

Teesdale Cheesemakers, which is based at Rokeby, will move in January and has applied to Durham County Council for planning permission to convert a former byre into a cheesemaking dairy.

Allison Raper and her husband Jonathan, took over Teesdale Cheesemakers two years ago, and say they are unable to keep up with demand for their range of eight cheeses. They are moving to Pond Farm, in Copley Lane, Butterknowle.

Mrs Raper said: “We’re really pleased with the way things have gone over the last couple of years. We’ve won lots of awards, but we’ve had to turn down orders as we just can’t keep up with the pace.

“Space is quite limited where we are and as it’s a tenanted property we don’t have the ability to expand.

“At the moment all the cheese is made in our home and garage and there just isn’t the space.”

“We’ve got a lot of plans for the new place and it will allow us to grow. It’s got 20 acres and we’ve got lots of ideas for that.

“Because of the demand for the cheese we’ve made more of a switch to wholesale selling this year because we simply don’t have the time to attend all of the farmers’ markets and events and make the cheese.”

Mrs Raper said by converting a disused byre in Butterknowle into a cheesemaking dairy, it will allow the company to try new things and triple the amount of cheese it can produce.

She added the increased space will allow them to be more interactive with customers. She said: “We hope to be able to have open days when the public will be able to come along and see how the cheese is made from start to finish before it goes down for curing.

“Once we’ve made sure that the new cold room is right and hasn’t affected the curing process, then we will be looking to organise the open days and will probably be looking for more staff to help out.”

The plans include a cold store, office and packaging room as well as the dairy where the handmade cheese would be prepared.

Mrs Raper added: “We will be living in the house and it will take time to get the dairy up and running, but in the interim period we will have three containers fitted out to allow us to keep up with production.

“It’s going to be a busy Christmas and New Year for us, but it’ll be worth it.”