Sussex dairy presents cheese to Chelsea pensioners in centuries-old tradition

Chelsea pensioners with some of the Sussex High Weald cheese presented to them in an ancient ceremony SUS-150412-170232001

Chelsea pensioners with some of the Sussex High Weald cheese presented to them in an ancient ceremony SUS-150412-170232001

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Cheesemakers from mid Sussex have brought a smile to the faces of Chelsea pensioners by presenting them with some cheese in a centuries-old tradition dating back to 1692.

The family-owned High Weald Dairy, based in Horsted Keynes, donated 5.6kg of Saint Giles, Smoked Ashdown Forester and Brighton Blue cheese for the veterans to enjoy over the festive season in an annual ‘ceremony of the Christmas cheeses’.

The centuries-old tradition began in 1692 when the Royal Hospital in Chelsea asked a local cheesemonger to provide the pensioners with cheese as a tasty Christmas treat. Cheesemakers across the country have continued this tradition ever since.

And this week Mark Hardy, one of the owners of the Sussex-based High Weald Dairy said: “We chose Brighton Blue to donate as it’s nice to have a mild cheese for Christmas, while our Smoked Ashdown, which we smoke for 12 hours, is autumnal.”

Sandy Wilkie, chairman of The Dairy Council, said: “The ceremony is one of the most loved events of the dairy calendar, but it is also one of the most historic.

“British cheesemakers from across the country have once again done us proud by donating an outstanding 269kg of fine quality, nutritious and tasty cheeses to pay tribute to the heroism and sacrifice of our war veterans.”

Among the pensioners taking part in the ceremony was old soldier Derek Walters BEM who said: “The military is known for its traditions, but this is one of my favourites.”