Godsell’s Artisan Cheeses
Liz Godsell, Master Cheese Maker
I first came across Liz’s lovely face with her piercing blue eyes whilst queueing in our little Budgens’ food shops, once keen on selling the produce of our local farmers. Her photograph lit up the wall in the Broadway branch, and I longed to meet her. When I heard that The Guild of Food Writers was planning to visit her farm, I immediately signed up.
Alighting from a small coach on a bright autumn day, we found Church Farm in the ancient village of Leonard Stanley with the Cotswold Escarpment looming up behind it. The farm is on the banks of the Severn, England’s longest river, south of Gloucester. Traditionally this great river and its flood waters ensured lush grass on loamy rich soil for miles around. Liz’s family have farmed here for 200 years.
In 2001, when the price of milk dropped to 16p a litre, she and her husband Bryan knew that they had to diversify, so she began to experiment with cheese from their grass-fed cows, rising to the production of an excellent Single Gloucester, taken to Brussels by the indefatigable Charles Martell to achieve PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).
Church Farm also makes an imaginative range of award-winning cheeses, which can be found in nearby shops, Guy Warner’s Budgens (until July) and on both sides of the M5 at the famous Gloucester Services, barely five miles away.
Liz is a Master Cheese Maker. She uses her perfectionism and patience to wait for the responses of the milk and curds, during the various stages of cheese-making, which are always different, never the same. But Liz combines these qualities by running the happiest cheese shed. In fact, she said, her blue eyes sparkling, ‘I won’t take on another assistant if he or she doesn’t have the right sense of humour’. A golden rule observed during thousands of years in thousands of dairies, the mood in the dairy has to be ‘just so’ when making cheese.
On the rare occasion when cheeses do ‘go wrong’, by ‘happy accidents’ they are turned into yet another good seller by careful tasting and the astute addition of e.g. chives or chilli, thereby saving litres of milk and curds.
To-day Godsell’s is still a family business - making and delivering the cheeses, and selling at the nearby famous Stroud Farmers Market, where they get helpful comments, criticism and requests first-hand from the public for new cheeses and flavours.
The whacky names of some of her cheeses bear out her commitment to creativity and local legends. An example is ‘Village Gossip’ made using her Single Gloucester and chives. It is appreciated by those who like a strong cheese – quite sharp and oniony, very good indeed. In the painting by Sir Stanley Spencer ‘Village Gossips’ the woman in the foreground is wearing a skirt which resembles the chive-flecked cheese, hence the name. Stanley Spencer lived in the local pub for a couple of years after the war and painted this in oils in Leonard Stanley – it now hangs in The Wilson (previously the Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery).
The Cheltenham Trust and Cheltenham Borough Council/ © The Estate of Stanley Spencer/ Bridgeman Images
With a rich, nutty flavour, Godsell’s Double Gloucester has been a Gold Medal Winner in the British Cheese Awards. Once made in Gloucester, from the milk of Gloucester cows, its origins date back to 1498 and has always been coloured with South American annatto. Godsell’s Double Gloucester has a particularly good fruity fudge flavour after its four month maturation.
Tricky to make, Single Gloucester requires some milk from the small, rare-breed Gloucester cows (who do not provide much), is made from skimmed milk, after the cream is traditionally taken off for butter-making, and whole milk, so is slightly lower in fat. Maturing in only 12 weeks, cloth-bound, and pressed into 10 kilo rounds, it has a fresh, slightly acidic, milky taste with a firm texture. Only 6 cheesemakers make this highly sought-after cheese.
What nicer gift to celebrate Gloucestershire than the two Gloucesters with a jar of local honey, which can be posted to you, collected from the Farm, or from Stroud Farmers’ Market by arrangement. Enough for 10 people, there are two large wedges, of at least 500g of both Single and Double Gloucester cheese and 1/2lb jar of Uncle Jim’s honey, which goes very well with both.
£29.85 incl p&p
Church Farm, Leonard Stanley, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10 3NP Telephone 01453 827802
Local Hero Stephen J Torode, Head Gardener of Sudeley Castle and Gardens
Stephen began his gardening life at Greenwich Palace, then trained at Kew Gardens. His outstanding career of Head Gardener has included the National Trust Gardens at Polesden Lacey, Dorking and the Edwardian Botanical Garden of Dyffryn, in Wales. Stephen is a Member of The Linnean Society, and an authority on historical garden design and plants of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
Local Hero Isaac Nixon at Prior's Tipple Cider
Isaac Nixon making his cider with the natural wild yeasts which thrive on the apples and remain on his press, giving his cider its distinctive flavour.
Isaac gathers his apples from neglected orchards around Winchcombe which ensures their crops are not wasted, and his cider is organic.
In spring and summer, Isaac is a Cotswold dry stone waller and landscaper: a poet in Cotswold stone