18 months, 15,000 tonnes of soil, 100,000 tonnes of concrete (give or take a few thousand) and more rebar ties than any of us want to remember later, our cheese cellar is finally taking shape. It's been a hell of a journey getting to this stage – the walls and roof up and ready for us to start back-filling the soil, and the floor starting to be laid ready for shelving – but we're more excited about this project than ever.
It hasn’t been easy, but such is the trial of tackling something of this scale (that’s never been done in this country before) and deciding to project-manage it ourselves! While the main structural elements of the cellar were cast and brought over from the French Alps (because no-one is making these types of structures in the UK), we’ve used our own builders here in Somerset, who’ve worked with us for years on various farm projects. And a very fine job they’ve done too.
From the initial dig back in the autumn of 2014 (read about the beginning of the project here), through a winter of muddy discontent waiting for the site to dry out, to a year digging and laying foundations, co-ordinating deliveries of enormous concrete structures (and rescuing French drivers from our Somerset roads), erecting pillars, setting rebars, building shutters, pouring cement, checking and re-checking plans, dealing with roof beams and cranes and arches, to even buying a cheese-turning robot from Switzerland… but we’re nearly there.
And for all the headaches of managing the project ourselves, it’s been so much more rewarding as a result. Yes, there have been more decisions than we ever thought possible, but each one means we’ve been able to tailor the cellar exactly to our needs. One development I’m particularly excited about is a system we’ve developed that will let us use our own water spring to cool the cellar, letting us maintain the delicate atmosphere we need to mature our cheeses for less energy consumption than a domestic fridge.
So it’s really starting to feel like we’re over the hardest part of this massive construction project and will soon be getting stuck into the more enjoyable parts, like kitting-out the interior, putting up the shelves, bringing in the cheese, setting up the robot and generally incorporating this momentous development into our day-to-day production. It’s a very exciting time, and we can’t wait to show off the cellar when it’s finished.