Cheddar in Somerset - home of the caves and gorgeous cheese
Cheddar in Somerset is, indeed, the source of the famous English cheese - but now a type made around the world. It lies on the south side of the Mendip hills between Weston-super-Mare and the tiny city of Wells.
Cheddar Gorge, on the northern edge of the village of that name, is the largest gorge in the United Kingdom and includes several capacious show caves, in which cheese can be found maturing.
Historically, Cheddar's source of livelihood was farming and cheese making, for which it was famous as early as the 12th century.
The Mendip Hills are made of limestone, and full of caves and potholes. Those caves in Cheddar Gorge provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the locally made cheese to be rich and tasty.
Genuine cheddar cheese traditionally had to be made within 30 miles (48 km) of Wells Cathedral.
Before the First World War, more than 3,500 cheese producers were in Britain; though fewer than 100 remained after the Second World War due to the fact that, during the War, and for nearly a decade after, most of the milk in Britain was used to make a single kind of cheese nicknamed "Government Cheddar" as part of the war economy and rationing.
The name Cheddar has been adopted as a generic title for the type of cheese, and thus it is possible to buy a range of other 'Cheddars' from around the world.
Only one cheese producer still remains in Cheddar. But the reputation of both the cheese, the gorge and the caves mean tourism to the area is now a major source of employment. And you can still buy a locally made and matured truckle (block) of cheese to take home with you.
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