THE founder of Shepherds Purse cheeses, Judy Bell, has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award by the Guild of Fine Food.

Mrs Bell, whose business is based on the family farm at Newsham, near Thirsk, was presented with the honour at a ceremony this week, as the guild described her as “a human dynamo, with a huge thirst for knowledge and the ability to converse with everyone, ranging from high-powered politicians to the most taciturn of farmers”.

She began Shepherds Purse in the late 1980s to create quality dairy alternatives for cow’s milk allergy sufferers.

The firm is now led by her two daughters, Katie Matten and Caroline Bell, who continue the tradition of cheesemaking, employing a team of 35.

A shocked Mrs Bell told the audience at the awards ceremony that it has been an “amazing” three decades. “We started very, very small, touting cheese around the Yorkshire Dales and getting it into delis,” she said. “The support from other cheese makers was amazing.”