I was outraged at the idea that the East German border guard considered my piece of cheese to be somehow suspicious and subversive and therefore not allowed into the country. I can still feel the abrupt loss of pleasurable anticipation of munching the crumbly cheese on my way towards the unknown in Magdeburg.
This was a long a time ago, in 1984, and you might have thought the shock of seeing someone drop dead in front of me on the same day would have obliterated the memory of the lost Wensleydale, but then that would mean you perhaps don't appreciate Wensleydale cheese as much as you should.
To this day, Wensleydale cheese plays an important role in my life. Half a pound never lasts more than a couple of days, as it's my go-to snack. My family laugh at me because I differentiate between lunchtime and snack cheese and dinner time and treat cheeses, but they're all important.
So why am I waxing lyrical about this dairy delight in a blog that's supposed to be about ways to discover the Yorkshire Dales? The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes is a popular destination for many visitors, and a good place to go to learn more about the art of cheese-making and to watch Wensleydale cheese being made. There's plenty to keep children occupied, including 'driving' a mini milk tanker and clips of Wallace & Gromit films.
A lot has happened since Cistercian monks first made Wensleydale cheese at Jervaulx Abbey around 1150. Over time farmer's wives made it too and it became a mainstay of the Dales diet. An enterprising corn merchant Edward Chapman built the first creamery in Hawes in 1897, buying milk and making Wensleydale cheese on a larger scale. Perhaps the most famous character associated with Wensleydale cheese is Kit Calvert who helped to rescue the Creamery in 1935 after the 1930s depression. He eventually sold it to the Milk Marketing Board (any of you remember their milk and nursery rhyme cookery book distributed to children in the late 60s/early 70s?) and it was passed on to Dairy Crest. Dark times followed and Dairy Crest closed the Creamery in 1992 with the loss of over 50 jobs. Even worse, they moved production to Lancashire! Luckily a team of plucky ex-managers joined forces with a local businessman in a management buy-out.
Now Wensleydale Creamery is the Big Cheese (sorry, that was a very cheesy joke...), sourcing milk from more than 40 local farms, and exporting across the globe. They've won more than 700 awards and accolades, and after a seven year struggle managed to achieve European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in December 2013. This is seen as a guarantee of quality and authenticity, and recognised worldwide.
They now make Yorkshire Butter, Yorkshire Yogurt and Yorkshire Brie as well as what I think of as their mucked-about-with-cheese containing cranberries and other fruit.
If you visit the Creamery you can often see cheese and butter being made, as well as taste it in an imaginative selection of dishes in the cafe. If you do go to Wensleydale Creamery, don't forget to explore the rest of Hawes, a really attractive Dales market town with a huddle of good independent shops. Pop into Elijah Allen's excellent grocery shop and make sure you buy some cheese made by the other cheese-maker in town, Iona at Ribblesdale Cheese. They make delicious cheeses in their small dairy at the other side of Hawes (unfortunately too small for a visitor centre). Don't miss the Dales Countryside Museum to discover more stories about the life, landscape and people of the Yorkshire Dales.