LAKE District-based St. James Cheese has been awarded an artisanal food award by food and drink journalist and broadcaster Nigel Barden and premium cooking appliance manufacturer Britannia.

St James is a washed rind soft sheep’s milk cheese, produced by Martin Gott and Nicola Robinson who farm at Holker Farm Dairy, Cark. They focus on regenerative agriculture, with the aim of reducing inputs, improving soil health, and building biodiversity.

Their Lacaune ewes are only milked once a day giving them more time to graze the rich diverse pastures of the Holker estate, which delivers better quality milk and places the animal under less stress as a result. Instead of producing a commercial product in vast quantities, the pair focus on producing a relatively small amount of cheese of the highest quality, in a variety of interesting and unusual flavours.

Nigel Barden commented on the winning producer: "St. James, our northern Gold Medal champion, combines excellent agricultural husbandry with the ability to create one of the great artisanal, seasonal products, which can vary depending on the time of year, the rainfall, the condition of the grass.''

He added: "These relaxed sheep are only milked once a day and the ensuing cheese is washed three times a week for a month, in brine, to produce a delicate orange rind and a two kg square cheese, about 2.5in thick, that was soft, gooey, spongy, sweet and yet also savoury. Complex and intriguing with an enticing rich and gently astringent nose."

Jane Rylands, Head of Marketing Communications for Britannia, said: "We’re thrilled with the volume of entries we’ve had from the north where we’ve been proud to host the Britannia Artisan Food Collection. From craft cider and beer to dairies, delis, and bistros, we’ve uncovered some hidden gems and hope people visit our map to discover the artisanal delights we’ve been lucky enough to find."

Martin Gott producer of St James said: "This award is really welcome especially at the moment as the plight of artisan cheese makers up and down the UK is dire at the moment, with many concerned for their future.

"Farmhouse and artisan cheesemakers are really struggling, especially after many lost most of their business overnight with the closure of the hospitality sector shutdown. Now more than ever we need people to support British artisan cheese makers and to buy farm made cheeses to help these passionate food producers survive," added Martin.