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Cheese Cave, Dorset

Working with M J Fry Engineering of Martinstown in Dorset, FP McCann has created an underground ‘cave’ near Dorchester to store and mature cheese. Designed and manufactured at FP McCann’s Gloucester plant, 67 prestressed Vertical Cantilever panels and 38 solid prestressed roof panels made up the bulk of the construction, together with the necessary ancillaries and panel foundation rebar needed to complete the project.

The ‘cave’ was installed after M J Fry Engineering had completed substantial groundworks, excavating a hole in the side of a hill that was deep enough to accommodate a 3 metre effective internal wall height, with an additional 3 to 4 metres of soil / backfill on the external top. This was integral to the 

design, to allow for an additional surcharge load from a light duty tractor which mows the grass on the top of the soil fill.

The client, Ford Farm, an award winning cheese manufacturer, is now using the cave to store and mature cheese. Some of the joints in the prestressed panels have been left unsealed to allow for nominal ingress of water into the cave; this assists in the maturing process of the cheese stored within it.

Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar has already won its Dorset producers several industry awards. 2012 wins included Reserve Supreme Champion at the International Cheese Awards, Nantwich, Best Dressed Cheddar at the National Cheese Awards and Best Cheddar at the British Cheese Awards.

The prestressed, man-made cave – along with the famous Wookey Hole natural caves – provide a fantastic environment for the maturing of Ford Farm cheese due to its constant humidity and all year round temperature which results in the cheese taking on a deliciously distinctive flavor.

Mike Pullin, Director at Ford Farm commented on the new cave: ‘Demand for our Cave Aged variety is growing every day and though we are now able to mature considerable volumes at Wookey Hole, we still need more space, particularly at busy times of year such as Christmas. The new Cave at Ford Farm provides additional capacity but also, most importantly, offers very similar atmospheric conditions to natural caves, enabling us to achieve the distinctive earthy, nutty flavour that characterises a traditional, cave-aged cheddar and that our customers love’.