A CHEESE company has been banned from maturing cheddar 300ft beneath the ground in Big Pit near Blaenavon - on health and safety grounds.

The cheese-makers have spent the last 15 years of getting their distinctive flavours by burying their cheeses down a shaft at the former colliery which is now Wales' national mining museum.

The cheese company now fears it will cost them £60,000 to move out of the site.

Big Pit bosses told the cheese-makers their underground storage is being axed - due to health and safety concerns at the national coal museum in Blaenavon.

The town was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 for its preservation of heritage.

Blaenafon Cheddar's maturing process is finished with rounds being taken down in the cage by winding gear to be buried at the pit for their final two weeks of aging.

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Founder Susan Fiander-Woodhouse said: "We have some really sad news that is threatening our business. The National Museum have withdrawn our formal partnership to us aging cheese in the Big Pit.


"They will not disclose the reason but have said it is to do with health and safety. I was told by the museum they could not tell us the reason in full."

The cheeses aged in the pit include the unique Black Gold, a traditional Caerphilly and signature award winning mature cheddar Pwll Mawr.

The firm is a family affair jointly owned by Ms Fiander-Woodhouse and husband Gerry Woodhouse. They are joined by their daughter Charlotte who is the production manager.

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Once every fortnight he does a cheese swap - taking the cheeses to the Big Pit, ready for maturing and recovering the batch which has been aging below ground.

Ms Fiander-Woodhouse said: "This is putting Welsh Tourism at risk, the town and our livelihood.
"They want to charge us for using our own images and some which have been supplied by the WAG. Our branding labelling, website, press and media will all have to be re written at a cost of about £10,000.

"I am absolutely devastated. We stand to lose up to 60 per cent of our livelihood and wonder about our survival. We are sad and exhausted."

The company now plans on aging the cheese in historic tunnels below the village's Lion Hotel - underground passages used by the Chartists in 1868.

A spokesperson on behalf of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales said it had an "informal historical arrangement" to store cheddar underground

The spokesman said: "Due to the pandemic, the cheese was removed in September 2020.

"We are now dealing with complex operational issues and have had to make difficult business and operational decisions.

"We agreed with Blaenafon Cheese Company this week that they could continue to use the trademark Pwll Mawr and have offered support to the company to transition to a different relationship with Big Pit including continued use of our images."

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