PART of Teesdale could affectionately become known as Cheesedale in the coming months as one business has set its sights on massive expansion.

Award-winning business duo Allison and Jonathan Raper, who own The Teesdale Cheesemakers, started making cheese in the utility room of their home in 2016.

The couple, having never made cheese before said they were shocked when they started to win awards, including Great Taste Producer 2017 and winner of the Great Yorkshire Show 2016.

They now have 18 accolades under their belts. Mrs Raper has also been crowned regional winner in the North-East Business Awards for Woman of the Year – a title which helped the couple secure their new premises at Pond Farm, in Butterknowle.

The duo acquired the 20-acre plot last Autumn and moved in this January. They have big plans for the site which they said they hope will build on their reputation.

The couple have submitted plans to Durham County Council to convert the farm’s old byre into a small shop, cafe and event space so they can host cheese experiences.

A viewing platform will allow visitors to watch the cheese-making process, as well as enjoy the site which will have animals such as pigs, heifers and bees and its own Raper’s Wood with wild flowers.

Those wanting to immerse themselves in the experience will also be able to stay on the camping and glamping area on site, which the couple hope to make carbon-neutral.

They will be inviting their neighbours to the site to see the plans and get some feedback. Mr Raper said the business was getting so big that the couple had to find larger premises or face closing, so they were overjoyed to find the former farm.

He said: “Getting this place has changed direction for us and we want to preserve the quality of the cheese and keep it artisan.”

Mrs Raper added: “It’s quite exciting. It’s our little bit of heaven.”

The couple are hoping to break ground by July and open by October, if their plans are approved.

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