SPECIALIST cheesemonger The Courtyard Dairy has beaten off stiff competition from all over the UK to be named Cheesemonger of the Year.

The Settle business won the title at the Farm Shop and Deli Awards, held at the NEC in Birmingham last week - and also picked up the award for Best Food Retailer in the North West at the same time.

And, Keelham Farm Shop - which opened an outlet in Gargrave Road, Skipton last year - was runner-up in the category for best large farm shop.

Nigel Barden, chairman of judges and food and drink journalist/broadcaster, said: “The entries this year were outstanding – judging becomes harder every year. I think what stands out the most from the businesses we visited this year was a passion for customer service and continued innovation. There are some very driven and talented food retailers in Britain and they deserve to be recognised by awards such as these."

The Courtyard Dairy was started in 2012 by Andy Swinscoe and his wife Kathy, after working for some of the top cheesemongers and affineurs - those who age the cheese - in England’s south-west, London and France.

Their ethos is to offer only the best cheeses that can be found, limiting the range to just 30 so that every one is absolutely at its prime. They champion cheeses being made traditionally and by hand on small farms, mainly from unpasteurised milk.

And their quality-first approach has seen them win many awards, including Best Cheesemonger at The World Cheese Awards and being finalists in the BBC’s prestigious Food and Farming Awards. This is the first time they have won Cheesemonger of the Year at the Farm Shop and Deli Awards.

Kathy said: “We’re delighted that the judges recognised the extra effort all the staff at The Courtyard Dairy go to, so that our customers receive nothing but the best. Every member of staff takes the time to really get to love and know our cheeses, and this is reflected by having so many local and regular supporters – we would not survive without you, so thank you.”

The Courtyard Dairy’s crusade to help keep alive farm-made cheese and age it to perfection has long been Andy’s prime driver.

“We’ve been trying to open people’s eyes to what fantastic cheeses are still being made out there on farms, even though they are hard to find, with just a handful of cheeses made on the farm in the north of England,” he said. "I love working with these small, traditional cheese-makers and once we’ve aged their amazing cheese onsite at The Courtyard Dairy, I think the quality of the product really shines through

"I was told the judges picked up on this – the difference our onsite ageing makes to our cheeses.”

Meanwhile, Keelham Farm Shop was highly commended in large farm shop category, just losing out to Dart Farm based at Topsham near Exeter.

Run by brother and sister James and Victoria Robertshaw, Keelham has also been shortlisted in the 2016 Family Business Place Red Ribbon Awards, with the winners being announced in July.