The Skyr’s the limit for Yorkshire Dales farmer

A pioneering Skipton farmer Sam Moorhouse is Britain’s first to make and sell a healthy Icelandic style super-yogurt.

Dairy engineer Thorarinn Sveinsson with Sam Moorhouse

Dairy engineer
Thorarinn Sveinsson with Sam Moorhouse

After completing his National Diploma in Agriculture at Reaseheath and spending time travelling Australia Sam knew he wanted to focus on the future of his family farm.

Sam of Hesper Farm at Bell Busk, initially launched Hesper Farm Skyr at the 2015 Harrogate Fine Food Show after researching ideas on how the family dairy farm could diversify.

Inspired by his research into the Icelandic cow and trips to Iceland to train in the art of making the naturally fat-free skyr, Sam recognised the potential of the product.

After extensive market research to confirm the demand for skyr in the UK, he took the product to Reaseheath Food Centre for initial trials to achieve his perfect formula.

Sam, 22, whose family has farmed locally for generations, is proud to be the first farmer to launch skyr in Britain and the first to bring skyr to the market with British milk. The skyr is produced onsite using milk from the farm’s award winning Airburn herd.

It’s currently available to buy from a host of farm shops and delis across the Yorkshire as well as being stocked by chefs and businesses via Wellocks wholesalers and plans in place for further expansion later this year.

He explains: “I started to read up on skyr when I was looking at ways we might be able to diversify. It really caught my attention because of its massive across Scandinavia and Iceland, and has really taken off in America too.

“It’s a really interesting product with great health benefits and I realised no-one was making it here. We are the first farm to make it onsite with our own specially-trained expertise, using our own British milk.

Baby the cow

Baby the cow

“The cow on our pots and logo epitomises what we are trying to do. It’s a drawing of a cow called Baby that I bought at auction a long time ago. I liked the look of her unusual markings. Her temperament means she always stands out from the crowd too.

She does exactly as she pleases and there is no persuading her otherwise! She’s been with us all these years and really represents our aim in doing something different and making skyr – we don’t follow the herd.”


Skyr (pronounced skeer) is a staple in Iceland and dates back to around the ninth century. It is made by incubating skimmed milk with live active cultures. The water contained in the milk – the whey – is then strained away. Per pot, about four times as much milk as an equivalent pot of traditional plain yogurt is used meaning it’s incredibly thick and creamy. It also means that the skyr contains more protein and calcium than standard yogurt.


Sam realised he would need expert tuition to learn how to make it, so set off for Reykjavik and asked around delis until he was put in touch with dairy engineer Thorarinn Sveinsson, who works for the Icelandic Farmers Union. Thorarinn taught him the labour-intensive process behind making skyr and then visited Hesper Farm once the new purpose-built dairy was finished to make sure the skyr Sam was producing was perfect.

Hesper Farm Syr range

Hesper Farm Skyr range

Thorarinn said: “I had been getting increasing numbers of phone calls from people interested in skyr but I was so impressed with Sam, I knew I wanted to work with him. He has taken the whole  process so seriously and has paid attention to every last detail. In fact he is using a heritage culture which originally dates back to 874,meaning his skyr is genuine Icelandic skyr – the real thing made in the Yorkshire Dales.

“Skyr is part of everyday life in Iceland. I am sure that with its delicious taste and the health benefits you’ll see it becoming part of life here too. I have loved my visit to the Yorkshire Dales. It is a truly beautiful part of England.”

With business going from strength to strength, most recently Sam featured on James Martin’s Home Comforts where he demonstrated his approach to skyr production.

For more information about Hesper Farm Skyr please visit



New career in the countryside for passionate conservationist Wendy

Reaseheath opened doors to a new career for Wendy Nulty after working for 12 years in the NHS.

Wendy Nulty

Wendy Nulty

With a passion for the outdoors and countryside conservation, Wendy looked to Reaseheath to help take her first steps with a career change by studying our Foundation Degree in Countryside Conservation and Recreation Management.  After just a year on the part time degree programme,  she was chosen to join the National Trust Ranger Academy training scheme, which she pursued alongside the degree.

Combining the academic knowledge and practical experience gained from her degree and the National Trust programme Wendy’s now a fully qualified Ranger, working for the National Trust.

As a Ranger, Wendy coordinates the day to day operational and land management of a number of National Trust properties across Cheshire, spanning Bickerton and Bulkeley Hills. The properties cover just short of 400 acres and contain a mix of woodland and lowland heath habitats. Responsible for a mix of practical estate maintenance, habitat management and visitor engagement, Wendy also manages groups of volunteers for 2-3 days a week. With no two days ever the same, she absolutely loves her job.

During her degree Wendy covered all the components of countryside management studying a wide range of topics from plant identification through to visitor management.

Said Wendy: “The opportunity to make industry links and the support from dedicated staff really helped me get the most out of my degree. I really enjoyed the variety of modules and the field trips helped to inspire us and see the importance of the content of lectures in the ‘real world’ of land management.”

“The flexibility of the course allowed me to work full time whilst studying, which was invaluable as I took the plunge with a career change.”

Wendy’s top tips –  careers in countryside conservation

  1.  If you want to get into conservation, having plenty of volunteering experience is essential. Look at role profiles of the jobs you are interested in and try and find volunteering roles that help you fill the practical or public engagement elements of it. It takes effort and perseverance to get into this sector so be smart about how you spend the little free time you may have.
  2. Whilst you are at college or on work placement remember you are meeting potential future employers or work colleagues so make a positive impression. I always remember the hard workers or those that take an interest in field trips to Bickerton. Likewise I always remember those that don’t make a great impression!
  3. Don’t be afraid to contact people who are already doing the job you are interested in. They can often give you valuable advice that can help shape your career path and tell you what to focus on.

Traditional agriculture – memories of a student

Brian Moore (agriculture student 1948-49) shares his recollections of traditional agriculture at the Cheshire School of Agriculture, Reaseheath

“Before arriving at the Cheshire School of Agriculture as a student in 1948, I had experienced various aspects of farming as a young boy, having been brought up in the heart of the Cheshire countryside.  I spent many school holidays on a cousin’s mixed farm in North Wales, helping with harvesting, potato picking and hand-milking. It was there that I first drove a ‘wartime’ Fordson tractor (on iron wheels*).

Reaseheath Roomates from 'Room 6' 1948-49 Geoff Ralphs, Tom Gorton, John Blackstone, Brian Moore and Jim Watson

Reaseheath Roomates from ‘Room 6’ 1948-49 Geoff Ralphs, Tom Gorton, John Blackstone, Brian Moore and Jim Watson

“At 18 years of age my first memory of Reaseheath was going there with my father to secure my ‘place’ on the 1948-49 course in General Agriculture.  We travelled from Chester on the Crosville bus (local bus company serving Cheshire and North Wales) where we had to alight at Nantwich aqueduct, walk along Welshman’s Lane and on across the Chester Road before finally reaching the entrance of Reaseheath, by the then women’s hostel. As we approached, corn cutting was in progress in the front field and I remember remarking to dad, “Oh look, they have a binder pulled by an orange pre-war standard Fordson” – I felt at home immediately!

I started as a student in 1948, accompanied by approximately 30 other male students (including one or two on poultry or horticulture courses) and around 15 female students.

Reaseheath Ayshire Herd at pasture (1950)

Reaseheath Ayshire Herd at pasture (1950)

“I recall a herd of large white breeding sows, which farrowed outdoors and a large number of store pigs. In those days pigs were fed on whey from the cheesemaking and swill collected daily from local hospitals etc…This had to, by law be boiled before use. The milking herd at Hall Farm consisted of 60 Pedigree Ayrshires housed in two shippons, milked into bucket units. Accompanying them were four work horses carrying out many duties in conjunction with the two tractors on site, a 1938 orange standard Fordson and a red Massey Harris 101 Rowcrop, which probably arrived from the USA on lease-lend during the Second World War. During my second year as a student (1949) a Ferguson T20, known as the ‘the grey fergie’ appeared, complete with much of the Ferguson toolbar equipment.

Brian Moore back at Reaseheath in 2015

Brian Moore back at Reaseheath in 2015

“Most of my lecturers took place in the buildings around the quadrangle, which had originally been a stable yard.

“On the social side of things, we weren’t allowed to leave the premises on weekdays and there was a 10pm curfew on a Saturday night. That being said, there were plenty of social events at Reaseheath, quizzes, table tennis and of course the dances. Students organised weekly dances in the grand Reaseheath Hall, where music streamed from a from a wind-up gramophone, playing ‘78s’.

“We all had the occasional excursion by coach (e.g. Boots Experimental farms at Nottingham, plant breeding stations, creameries of famous pedigree herds and the like).

“After my student days, I stayed at Reaseheath for two more years working with the pedigree Ayrshire herd as assistant herdsman and demonstrator, before joining the Ministry of Agriculture as a land drainage and farm water supplies officer.

“It also was during my time as a Reaseheath student that met my wife, Maureen, who worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at Berkley Towers, Crewe. We during a joint trip to Trentham Gardens in 1948. We have been married for 65 years, so that was an added ‘bonus’ of becoming a Cheshire School of Agriculture student.

“Since my time as student Reaseheath has grown beyond recognition, which is fantastic to see. I’m proud to have been a part of its history and will treasure my memories of traditional farming in the 1940s.”

*During the World War Two, due to the shortage of rubber – all tractors where produced with iron wheels.

WorldSkills UK heat tests landscaping skills

Future garden landscapers demonstrated their skills at the north west regional heat of the WorldSkills UK competition, run on campus last week.

Horticultural students and apprentices from across the region, including six of our own students, took part in the knock-out heat which was run by the Association of Professional Landscapers.

Following a similar elimination round in the south of the country, the highest scoring students will go to the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park for further training and to get used to appearing in front of big crowds. This year’s final will be held at The Skills Show at the NEC Birmingham in the autumn.

The competitors had to build a decked unit in a timed session and were marked on the quality of their work and attention to detail. We put forward Level 3 Extended Diploma Horticulture students India Hill, Jay Hevingham and Finin Talbot (from Year 1) and Joshua Camm and Christopher Shore (from Year 2). Last year’s finalist Richard Carden also took part.

The students have been preparing for the competition this term thanks to the efforts of hard landscape tutor Jason Hinks. They will hear who has been selected for the next round in May.

Jodie Lithgard, lead judge and trainer said: “The competitors produced work to a good standard. This is very pleasing as we are putting all our efforts into increasing the standard of skills coming into the industry.”

WorldSkills UK feeds into the Olympic-styled Worlds Skills final, held every two years to showcase the world’s top young talent in vocational industries.

Former Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture student Matt Beesley, 21, is in the final selection for this year’s international squad which will represent GB in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in August.

Matt, has progressed to become Director of Beesley’s Landscapes and employs two apprentices, both of whom took part in Reaseheath’s regional heat. Matt built a garden for RHS Chelsea Flower Show last year alongside Jodie Lidgard and this year will partner garden designer Sharon Hockenhull in the build of the ‘Light Catcher’ visionary garden at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park.

To find out more about our horticulture courses visit

Wise shepherd achieves her farming dream

Agriculture graduate Caroline Jellicoe took the plunge and moved to Cumbria to manage her own own sheep farm having completed her degree at Reaseheath.

Caroline was inspired back to education after visiting the Nantwich campus with her children during lambing season back in 2010.

Coming from a background in zoo keeping, Caroline has worked with a range of exotic animals in her career so far, but was keen to expand her knowledge of the farming industry.

Caroline prepared for her degree by completing an Access to Higher Education Diploma at Reaseheath, where she found her passion for sheep farming.

During the second year of her degree, Caroline bought an acre of land along with six zwartbles shearling pedigree sheep and a ram called Mr Gibbs. The 27th February 2014 saw the ewes give birth to Caroline’s first flock of lambs.

Toba, Caroline's youngest and most enthusiastic farm hand

Toba, Caroline’s youngest and most enthusiastic farm hand

She commented, “It was a long road to get to the of point of having my own flock of sheep – but it was all worth it.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the support of the Farm Manager Mark Yearsley and other staff, along with the opportunity to gain experience working on the College farm during my time at Reaseheath. This all helped me on my way to achieve my dream of owning my own sheep flock.”

On looking to the future Caroline said, “I am always looking for more land. I only wanted a few sheep at first, but since I visited a friend’s farm in Yorkshire and falling in love with it, I decided I would dream BIG – I am aiming for 1,000 sheep now. In one year I have gone from no sheep to 40 and I intend to grow and grow.”

With her experience working with exotic animals, Caroline is also the proud owner of an eagle owl, barn owl, tortoise, bearded dragons and goats. As a diversification programme to her flock business, she has set up a new enterprise ‘The Three Wise Shepherds’, a programme of  educational talks with her variety of animals. She has also begun to take the animals to children’s parties for petting along with ‘meet and greet’ experiences for children and adults of all ages.

Caroline has graduated from Reaseheath in 2014 with a Distinction in her Foundation Degree and celebrated her success along with fellow classmates at our graduation ceremony at St Mary’s Church in Nantwich. In December 2014 Caroline moved to a fell farm in Cumbria, where she now manages 200 herdwick ewes plus her own zwartbles flock.

If you would like to find out more about Caroline and her growing business ‘The Three Wise Shepherds’, follow her twitter handle @sheepstudent.  

Farm lead sets sights on new Forest Schools initiative

Pig and GeeseSteve Waterworth, the Reaseheath College Countryside department’s  student of year 2013 is putting his Diploma in Countryside Management to good use as the Farm Lead at Ladybridge High School, Bolton.

Ladybridge High is a part of a growing number of schools across UK offering outdoor educational opportunities, through running their own farm.  Steve manages the farmlands and cares for the range of animals onsite including; donkeys, pigs, goats, rabbits, ducks and hens. The farm is currently primarily utilised by visiting primary school groups, used to create an interactive learning environment to contextualise the teaching of ‘life cycles’ in plants and animals.

Aside caring for the farm’s animals, the role of Farm Lead requires Steve to maintain the woodlands and meadows surrounding the school grounds. Steve’s current restoration project involves revitalising the pond area at Ladybridge, which has suffered from some considerable neglect in recent times.  He will then be moving on to redevelop the woodlands and meadow lands, creating a nature trail with a den building and mini beast hunting areas.

Steve Waterworth at work at Ladybridge High School

Steve Waterworth at work at Ladybridge High School

Steve achieved an overall Distinction in his Level 3 Diploma in Countryside Management from Reaseheath,  returning to education after a break of nearly 30 years. Steve commented; “taking that leap back into education is the best decision I’ve ever made.  After 16 years in the motor trade and previous jobs as a printer and furniture maker, I’ve finally found my calling in conservation and countryside restoration.

“My time at Reaseheath has been an important part of my life and will always be grateful for the help and advice from my tutors, which as a result I have the job I wanted and enjoy”.

Moving forward, Steve has ambitious plans to establish a ‘Forest School’ at Ladybridge. The Forest Schools initiative is a national educational movement  that takes an active and immersive approach to learning in the outdoors. Steve mentioned: “ the farm and revitalised woodlands will be perfect to facilitate Forest School sessions. I’m excited to get this project off the ground and help forge more opportunities for young people to engage with the farm and their beautiful natural surroundings.”


Talented blacksmith helps Tattenhall remember WW1

War horse reduced MB and brighter

Last week, Alumni Officer Katie visited the workshop of talented Tattenhall blacksmith, Andrew Brian Smith.

Andrew gave Katie an insight into the life of a blacksmith and chatted about his latest commission for the Village of Tattenhall – their very own ‘Horse of War‘. Christened ‘George’ by local primary school pupils, the horse was created by Andrew to help Tattenhall mark the centenary year of the beginning of the First World War.

Andrew studied agricultural engineering at Reaseheath in 1978, back in the days when we were known as the ‘Cheshire College of Agriculture’.

You can check out George and some more of Andrew’s handy work pictured below, we think they are all brilliant!!





Careers in focus: Emily Cooke, BSc (Hons) Equine Science, 2012

BSC Equine Science 2009 Emily CookeClass of 2012 BSc (Hons) Equine Science  graduate Emily Cooke has been catching up with Reaseheath’s new Alumni Officer Katie Burt; filling her in on what she has been up to since leaving Reaseheath.
Here’s how they got on:

Hi Emily, great to hear from you – can you describe your current job role and responsibilities?

Since May 2013 I have been working as a rider at Paul Schockemöhle Pferdehaltung GmbH based in Neustadt-Glewe, north-east Germany (just over an hour from Hamburg and couple of hours from Berlin).  I work alongside over 25 riders at Schockemöhle’s and we’re all allocated our own specific list of horses to work with on a day-to-day basis. We work with and ride all of our allocated horses each day, which is approximately eighteen green horses (mares, geldings, and stallions) per rider. This process ensures all the horses are sufficiently exercised, ‘broken in’ and trained up to a professional showing standard.

 Your job sounds great Emily, can you tell me a little bit more about life as a rider?

It is crucial for each rider to take sole responsibility for our own allocated horses, ensuring they get the highest quality of care. It is our responsibility to consult vets, dentists and blacksmiths when necessary. Furthermore, it is our duty to ensure all treatments allocated to the horses are completed (injections, medication etc.).

 We have an important role to play as riders; at least once a week one of the senior representatives from Schockemöhle comes to our yard to check our progress and determine our horses’ proceeding careers; show jumping, breeding, sales etc.

 Wow, that’s impressive – so you have to do all this on your own?

Well, generally speaking yes, but we do have some support; every rider has around one or two grooms working for them, which is a great help. Along with this, we have two trainers who are always in the arenas to help us.

As you mentioned, you’ve been a rider since May 2013, what were you doing before this?

After graduating from Reaseheath, I went to work on a farm in Canada for four months (June 2009-October 2009) to ‘break in’ Welsh hunter ponies. This was fantastic work experience.  However, after the first couple of months, I realised that this role was a little too isolating for me. I worked a lot on my own and the farm location was somewhat in the ‘middle of nowhere’. As result, I headed back to the UK in search of my next venture.

I proceeded to spend some time back in the UK working as Sales Representative and did some office temping, whilst continuing to search for my ideal role within the equestrian industry…

How did you find job searching?

It is a bit of a lengthy process and can be rather disheartening at times. Regardless of the challenges faced, I continued to persevere and after some serious dedication to the job search I came across an advert online for a job as a rider at Paul Schockemöhle’s Gestüt Lewitz. I applied immediately and never looked back!

Do you find your job challenging?

I love my job as a rider, however sometimes it can be a very challenging environment to work in. The equestrian industry is generally a very competitive, on our yard alone we have thirteen riders and all are very talented. Everyone wants to train and produce the best horses. The trainers on site are very honest and can be quite brutal, if your work is below standard, they tell you. Many people come and go in a matter of months. The day starts at 7am; we feed the horses, muck out, lay clean straw and sweep before 8am. With roughly 130 stables on our yard, it’s quite a tough job with only around twenty-five people working – and that’s all before breakfast!

 What’s next for you?

 I’m always looking for continuing professional development and new riding opportunities. There is nothing more important to me than growing professionally and personally.  Initially moving forward, I would like to return to the UK for some time and complete my British Horse Society exams. Then, I’m off to Australia to work with Andrew McLean for three months at the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre (AEBC). I applied and was accepted on AEBC’s Working Pupil Program, a prestigious dedicated step-by-step training scheme, designed to support specific training goals for riders.

After Australia, I am considering an MSc in Equine Behaviour, otherwise I will continue working with horses around the world.

What advice would you give to our current students  looking to move into your industry?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Have faith in yourself and your ability. Going abroad was the scariest and most rewarding decision I’ve ever made. I fully recommend it! I didn’t even know how to say ‘Hello’ in German, when I got on that plane…

Remember – if it doesn’t work out, you can always go home!