A MARRIED couple who only turned their hand to cheese-making a year ago, are in the running for a national award.

Allison and Jonathan Raper, of Rokeby, Teesdale, took over Leaside Cheeses in January 2016, despite never having made cheese before.

The couple were approached by the business’ original owners Brian and Esme Dedman, who set it up in 2012 but had been outgrown by it.

And as Mr Raper’s family are dairy farmers at a nearby farm, the couple decided to take the plunge to help support them too.

Mrs Raper, 52, said: “When I had a look at the product it looked really promising so I approached my husband as we were looking for a rural business.

“My husband said it all looked good but there was only one problem – I had never made cheese.”

Mrs Raper took a crash course with Mr and Mrs Dedman before the couple officially took over the business, renaming it the Teesdale Cheesemakers.

Mrs Raper, who is also an author, said: “The first day we had the business we thought ‘what have we done?’ but since then we have just gone from strength to strength.”

The couple, who have five children between them, specialise in semi soft cheeses and are well known for their Barney Brie while they are currently working on their own Rokeby Red – a semi hard dale cheese.

The businesses has since won 18 awards including the Great Yorkshire Show 2016 and Great Taste Producer 2017.

They are now in the running for Best Artisan Cheese Producer in the Great British Cheese Awards – an achievement Mrs Raper said was "phenomenal” for such a small business.

The couple will find out if they have won at the Great British Cheese Awards in London, next month.