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A Pinta For The Office Feast!

It was dark, damp and muddy November when Julian and Steve, the office workers from Rolls Royce, drove up to Tideswell before dawn on a strange mission. Firstly they had to meet up with Maria from Peak District Online and myself, who had ‘fixed it’ for them and arranged for the experience to take place.

With a rendezvous outside the village pub, the liaison almost failed at the first hurdle with the city lads sat in the dark outside the Horse & Jockey and the girls in front of The George!

What had attracted two young white collar workers from Derby into the heart of the Peak District, dragged from their cosy beds so early in the morning? A request to milk a cow and bring home the proceeds!

Julian and Steve work in an open plan office where last year Julian had a yucca plant on his desk that died and was initially thrown into the bin. One of his colleagues was aghast and said that it just needed fresh compost to revive it. It would seem that compost is only available in decent sized bags and there was plenty to spare, so to make good use of the leftovers it was decided to plant a few tomato seeds. Hey presto, a crop of germinating plants erupted and an idea evolved to grow veggies for a ratatouille!

The Ratatouille Club was duly formed and by harvest time its members had grown tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, garlic, onions and so on, culminating in a grand cook-up to enjoy the fruits of their harvest.

This year the harvest was repeated but stepped up to include someone supplying a goose, pheasant, fruit and potatoes, whilst another member of the club also managed to personally deliver the olive oil from a friend’s farm in Montenegro. Even more amazingly, the salt was made by filtering and boiling down sea water from Bigbury Beach by Julian on a visit to his in-laws!

With a feast organised for the end of November, Julian and his colleague Steve were given the task to provide milk and cream – not purchased from a supermarket but ‘for real’! Not an easy quest in this age of rapidly dwindling dairy farmers and health and safety legislation but a novel idea all the same.

Julian sent an SOS enquiry to Peak District Online in the hope that they could help. With such a quirky request, and not a normal visitor enquiry, Maria contacted me to see if I could help, and with a ‘Jim’ll Fixit’ approach I began a search amongst local Farmers.

So it was that after eventually meeting up Julian, Steve, Maria and myself drove to Heathy Grange Farm in the heart of the White Peak, owned by Richard Walker and his wife Sue, which is also home to Peak District Dairies, an expanding business operated by their son Robert.

Richard, a jovial and generous character with over 40 years experience, was keen to give the young men an insight into farming life - a cold milking parlour where 185 cows line up to be milked twice a day, every day and in all weathers with no time off at weekends, no days off for fun and frolics but a life-time career of milk, muck, udders and underpaid milk prices.

/images/pddairiescow.jpgJulian and Steve descended steps in the shippon to the pit where Richard walked them down between the neat lines of monochrome mammaries ranging from a FF-cup old girl to a B-cup heifer, sidestepping swinging tackle and jumping out of range from jets of pee and poo – nothing like the workplace back at Rolls Royce then!

After some brief instructions the lads were allowed a little hands-on experience, their arms reaching between the kick bars to the soft sensitive udder of a patient old girl who would not flinch at their fumbling and there were giggles all round as squirts of milk were deftly extracted. Even the cow had a smile on her face, especially when she deposited a nifty ‘dollop’ onto Julian’s arm!

A tour of the bottling plant and cold store followed, brimming with equipment in a sea of stainless steel – Richard and his son have invested a small fortune in their family businesses. Five thousand litres a day have to be pasteurised, skimmed, bottled and distributed from the dairy which offers a full range of milks as well as cream, butter, ice cream and yoghurts.

Emerging back into the yard, dawn had arrived and cast a rosy glow over the Derbyshire hilltops, illuminating fields of pasture and shining onto an impressive fleet of Peak District Dairy vehicles including a trio of ice cream vans with MOO and COW personal plates, parked up for the winter.

Laden with traditional bottles of milk, cartons of cream and bonus tubs of ice cream, Julian and Steve staggered back to the car, hoping to arrive at their desks as normal, having minimised their carbon footprints but leaving muddy footprints on the office carpet! In the evening they would savour the flavour of locally produced and home-made cuisine amid laughter and merriment, no doubt reminiscing and recounting their experience to wives and colleagues, whilst back in the milking parlour Richard would be happily stuck into the evening shift – poles apart in profession but united by a pint of the white stuff!


Sally Mosley