The Sharpham Cheese story
Nestled in the beautiful valley overlooking the River Dart in South Devon, Sharpham is the realisation of Maurice and Ruth Ash's vision, which began with the slump in milk prices during the 1970s, prompting Maurice to find a way to make his favourite cheese, Brie, using milk from his herd of Jersey cows.
Sharpham Dairy is now owned by Greg and Nicky Parsons, who are both hands-on at the Dairy. Their small team of cheesemakers have over 100 years of cheese making experience between them. The newest member of the team is Peter Haworth who joined as Production Manager in 2020.
Greg has spent his career in the food industry, much of it in dairy and he and Nicky share a passion for Sharpham, for artisan cheesemaking and British cheese. They’ve taken over the responsibility for Sharpham Dairy from Mark Sharman and Debbie Mumford who remain key members of the team, so the business is going forward in safe and expert hands.
Dartington Trust image.
Cheesemaking began at Sharpham around 40 years ago in the coachyard of the 18th century Sharpham House. It was the idea of environmentalist, writer and Chair of the pioneering Dartington Trust, Maurice Ash and his wife Ruth, who bought the Sharpham Estate in 1962. Legend has it that when milk prices slumped in the 1970s, Maurice transported his herd of Jersey cows from Essex to Devon by train, with a plan to try his hand at making his favourite cheese…and so around 1981 Sharpham Brie was born.
Family member Mark Sharman and partner Debbie soon took over the running of the dairy and new vineyard. In 2003 they moved cheesemaking to its present home in a purpose-built cheese dairy next to the winery. New cheeses were introduced, and exceptional goats’ and sheep’s milk varieties launched over subsequent years. Maurice Ash’s vision is still at the heart of the process; traditional techniques and an environmentally-sound philosophy where pasture, grass, animals, milk and cheese lead naturally from one to the other; so much so that we believe you can truly taste the lush Devon pastures in our cheese.
Today, Sharpham Dairy remains a small, artisan producer making around 70 tonnes of cheese a year, using the rich milk from our own herd of cows and sheep and goats’ milk from local, trusted family farms. Our eight main cheeses are winners of many awards, some several times and over numbering a UK’s Supreme Cheese at the Global Cheese Awards among them. We supply mainly through wholesalers to delis, restaurants and cheesemongers in the west country, nationwide and internationally but we’re proud to say that 70% of our production is still sold within Devon.
Sharpham Dairy still shares its home above a beautiful bend of the River Dart with Sharpham Vineyard. Now separate businesses, the two have grown and prospered side-by-side and the many visitors to Sharpham can watch cheese being made, walk through vines, explore the Estate and enjoy some of the most outstanding British cheese and wine being produced today.