IONA Hill’s cheeses are so good that her first batch of blue cows’ cheese has sold out before it has finished maturing.

The former accountant runs the Ribblesdale Cheese Company on Hawes business park.

The blue, made from local Wensleydale milk, is gently maturing. It was pierced by hand for the first time this week.

Miss Hill said: “It is turned daily and will be ready in about another nine weeks. It’s wonderful our customers trust us so much that they have ordered it before even tasting it.”

Two more batches have since been made and a blue goats’ cheese is also maturing.

The company was founded by Iain Hill, Miss Hill’s uncle, at Horton in Ribblesdale in 1978.

He had been made redundant and bought two goats, Victoria and Maude, which turned out to be in kid.

A local vet suggested he make yoghurt and cheese from the milk – the result was a small, but highly successful, award-winning, cheese company.

At the time, Miss Hill was an accountant with KPMG travelling overseas.

She was close to her uncle and, in 2006, he asked her to value the business as he was unwell and wanted to sell up.

He was in hospital when she arrived and asked her to run the business while he recovered.

Unfortunately he died, but by then Miss Hill had come to love the business and see its potential.

On April 1, 2007, she formally took it over and made it a priority to start making cheese again.

As sales increased, she needed larger premises and created a dairy in the unit in Hawes in 2008.

Ribblesdale has dedicated suppliers of goats’ milk and it uses 150,000 litres a year, the equivalent production of 500 goats.

It produces 20 tonnes of cheese a year – 87pc goats’ cheese, ten per cent sheep and the rest cows’ cheese, made from Wensleydale milk. The new blue cheeses will increase production to 30 tonnes.

The cheese is sold to local shops, hotels and restaurants, and nationally through wholesalers.

Its fans include celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, and other customers include the Hilton in Liverpool and Booths food stores.

Alec Barnett is the company’s experienced cheese maker and Eddie Baker is head of wholesale. He is about to start a local delivery service, which already has 20 delis, restaurants and fine food shops signed up.

Miss Hill believes their success is down to their flexible, small-scale, hand production.

She said: “We don’t have fixed times or schedules so we cater for the idiosyncrasies of milk being different.

“Sheep, goats and cows produce slightly different milk according to the weather, the season, how happy and well fed they are, how they are housed, and where and how long they can roam.”

Miss Hill has been helped by Alice Amsden, Business Link business improvement adviser and former founder director of the Hawes-based Wensleydale Creamery. She offered business advice.

Stockists of Ribblesdale’s new blue cheeses will include Ken Warne, Richmond; Arthur Haigh, Thirsk; Bruce Oliver, Easingwold; Allens, Hawes; Campbells, Leyburn; Cockburns, Bedale, and Lewis & Cooper, Northallerton.