Jo and David Clarke: The Rise of Sparkenhoe Red Leicester Cheese

Jo and David Clarke, the co-founders of Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company, have been handcrafting their signature Sparkenhoe Red Leicester cheese since 2003.

Using milk from their own 150-strong herd of pedigree Holstein-Friesians, the couple has carved out a name for themselves in the world of artisan cheese. 
At Sparkenhoe Farm in Upton, near Market Bosworth, several tonnes of Red Leicester cheese sit on beechwood shelves, wrapped in muslin cloths and coated in lard. The cheese is left to mature for up to eight months at a temperature of 12°C, during which time the cheese ripens. 
Every morning, milk is piped directly from the milking parlour into the making room. There, it's heated, stirred, salted, and cut. David explains that they constantly tweak the recipe as the milk's characteristics change due to factors such as weather and grass. The goal is to achieve some consistency while embracing the slight differences in each batch, which are part of the charm of handmade, artisan cheese. 
The journey to this point has been enjoyable but challenging. In 2000, the couple faced the harsh reality of needing to diversify as the farm struggled to make money. Initially considering options like fishing lakes or off-road trails, they realised they wanted to avoid parting with their cows. Inspired by meeting dairy farmers at the British Cheese Festival, they decided to make cheese to add value to their milk and create a brand. 
Today, Sparkenhoe Farm supplies many shops and has its own tearoom, open every Friday and Saturday from 9.30am to 2.30pm (and serving some of Britain's finest cheese toasties!).  
David's grandfather – who bought the cows that originated the Sparkenhoe herd in the 1940s – would undoubtedly be proud of their achievements! 

Photo credit: Andrew Brackenbury 

  1. Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Co.
    Jo and David Clarke established the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company near Market Bosworth at Sparkenhoe Farm in 2005. Their herd of Holstein-Friesians provides raw milk for Sparkenhoe Red Leicester and other varieties, including Battlefield Blue. The farm’s cheese shop and tearoom are open on Fridays and Saturdays from 9am to 2.30pm. Expect amazing cheese toasties!
    1. 1 Jan 202431 Dec 2024