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House of Cheese

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Frost on the fields - a low wintry sun shining through the trees – the last berries and golden leaves – autumn is leaving us and winter is on the horizon …

There's just time to walk round Tetbury and the surrounding fields for an hour before opening the shop!
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… are nothing new. Back in 1709 the abbey church in Sherborne, Dorset, experienced a “Great Hailstorme” on 16th May “between the hours of one and four in the afternoon; which stopping the course of a small River West of this Church; caused of a sudden an Extraordinary Flood in the Abbey-garden, and Green; running with so Rapid a stream, that it forc'd open the North-door of the Church, displac'd, and remov'd about 7222 foot of the Pavement, and was 2 foot and 10 Inches high as it pass'd out at this South-door.”

All traces of the torrent are long gone, and the floor of this beautiful medieval and Norman church has been restored, but the south aisle still displays the monument erected “by Mr Thomas Mansel of this Towne” to commemorate the event. Most of the original abbey, founded by Saint Aldhelm, who came from Malmesbury – just down the road from Tetbury – has also disappeared, but the honey-coloured church, with the superb fan vaulting of its ceilings (dating from the 1400s), is rightly considered one of the most magnificent in England.
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In the Belgian region of West Flanders, where some of the worst slaughter in World War I took place, visitors to small towns such as Ieper, Veurne, and Passchendaele can see 60 paintings by Filip Cardoen displayed on the facades of buildings. The talented Filip began these commemorative works in 2014 and will continue to add to them until 2018. We thought we'd share some with you for Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday …

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… on a sunny autumn day – medieval colleges, coffee houses, shop windows – something for everyone!
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Winter may not be far away, but there is still plenty of colour to delight us on these short November days. Mild days and very few frosts mean that flowers are still blooming, the trees are still decked in autumnal hues, and farm shops are selling late-ripening gourds and pumpkins.

Enjoy the gallery!
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It's always great to know that a customer is happy with our products or service.

Recently we had a lovely e-mail from a bride who was buying cheese to celebrate her first wedding anniversary. We'd provided the components for her wedding cheese cake a year ago:

“Dear Philip and Jenny

This is only my second order from you, but I thought I'd drop you a note as it's almost exactly a year since our last one which was for our wedding on 5th November 2016.

Aided by a marvellous stand created by one of your other 2016 wedding customers we and our guests gorged on your lovely cheese on the night and for quite a while after! Thought you might like a photo. We have an unusual circular sink in the kitchen (taken out of a washroom in a 1950s factory) at home which proved the perfect location for the cheese and associated goodies.”

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It may seem a strange question but, yes – cheese really does get bored, although these days cheesemongers would normally say that a cheese gets ironed. Ironing is not a bizarre way of flattening and melting cheese at the same time – it refers to the process of inserting a small gadget, similar to an apple corer, into a cheese to remove a plug of the inner paste which can be tasted to ensure that the cheese is ageing well, or to offer a sample to a customer.

Cheese used to get bored in a big way at the small market town of Devizes, over the border from Gloucestershire in the county of Wiltshire. The surrounding agricultural land used to produce large quantities of both corn (wheat) and cheese, and both the Cheese Market of 1752 and the Corn Exchange – decorated with sheaves of wheat and with a large statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, on its roof – testify to this rural heritage. Indeed, the corn market held here was the largest in the country in the 18th century, trading not only in wheat, but also in hops, cloth, cattle and horses.

Devizes itself takes its name from the Latin phrase “ad divisas” (on the boundaries) as the town was founded on the boundary line between two ancient manors.

Other interesting sights in Devizes are the statue of the Roman god of medicine with his serpent and scroll which adorns the house of an eighteenth century surgeon, and the statue of T H Southeron Estcourt above the fountain in his memory, surrounded by griffins.

The rules of the Cheese Market at Devizes are now displayed in the Shambles (once the poultry and butchers' market) and include strict instructions about boring cheese; however, the Cheese Market itself, which once housed the first commercial telephone in Britain, is now occupied by a building society, while the Corn Exchange is used for conferences and as an entertainment venue.

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“Before 21st October 1966, there was nothing to distinguish Aberfan from scores of other communities in the south Wales coalfield” wrote one of the residents some decades later.

Those of us who remember that terrible day have never forgotten the media coverage of the morning when one of the slag heaps (tips) on a hill five hundred feet above the village, destabilised by the spring beneath it and the rain which had fallen for weeks, came down on the Pantglas junior school and many of the nearby houses. It contained 360,000 tons of colliery waste and moved at between thirty to forty miles an hour as it bore down on Aberfan, with a roar which some said sounded like a crashing jet and others like the end of the world.

Indeed, it was the end for 144 people, 116 of whom were young children, suffocated in the deadly black sludge. The papers next day carried pictures of the devastation and of parents digging for their children with their bare hands. Five of the school's teachers died, one found cradling several of his pupils in a vain attempt to protect them.

Today, rows of graves, white against the dark valley sides, and brightened by daffodils each St David's Day, remember the lost generation of children who died on that tragic morning.

On the evening of 21st October 1966, the newsreader Cliff Michelmore said: “Never in my life have I seen anything like this. I hope I shall never see anything like it again.”

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What happens to the milk not used in cheese-making? Usually, it ends up in other dairy products such as yogurt, cream and ice cream, as well as being drunk either plain or in flavoured drinks. And, nowadays, it's always transported by road, in giant tankers, but from the 1860s until the early 1980s, it often travelled by rail, in milk tank wagons pulled by steam – and later diesel – locomotives.

By 1923 about 282 million gallons of milk was transported annually throughout the UK, most of it travelling by the Great Western Railway (GWR – sometimes affectionately called “God's Wonderful Railway”) from the predominantly rural areas of south-west England and south Wales to large cities such as London. On arrival the milk would be drained from the milk tank wagons through underground pipes to nearby creameries at Vauxhall, Kensington and Morden. Each wagon would hold enough milk to supply around 35,000 people.

Because the milk was collected from the small rural creameries in Cornwall, south-west Wales, and Cumbria by the first morning train, the phrase “catching the milk train” passed into the English language to describe catching a very early train, or even to denote rising early in the morning.

Milk trains no longer exist, but sometimes you can be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the wonderful old steam locomotives which pulled them!

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Is there such a thing as too much cheese?

Apparently police officers in Cambridgeshire think so. Last Monday they stopped a van transporting a load of cheese and found that the van was 41% over its legal weight limit. In the back, the driver had 2,882 lbs more cheese than his van was allowed to carry. Officers said that the cheese had to be “removed or eaten”.

As 2,882 lbs of cheese is more than most people can eat at a sitting, the van driver had to telephone for another van to help him out of his pickle …

And some of you will remember that, back in May of this year, I wrote about a new trend which involved pairing cheese with – not wine – but various blends of tea. It seemed bizarre … but not nearly as bizarre as cheese tea. Yes, cheese-topped tea is now all the range in Asia – there is even a cheese tea company in Indonesia called – you guessed it – Cheese Tea.

The trend has now apparently spread to the USA and may hit the UK shortly …

So, if you fancy jasmine tea, or a cup of the finest oolong, you will soon be able to order it topped with cheese foam. The foam is supposed to detract from the bitter taste of the tea, giving it a “milkshake vibe”.

Is there anyone else out there whose immediate reaction is: “Ugh!”?
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