Have you seen the Truckle Truck?

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A vintage van was the unlikely solution for cheesemonger Carolyn Hopkins – now she’s an unmissable regular sight at local markets. Rachael Rowe reports

The Truckle Truck – image Rachael Rowe

Carolyn Hopkins’ bright blue 1969 Citroen HY van (Susie) brightens up Shaftesbury High Street like a beacon attracting customers – but what it contains is more important. This tiny vintage truck is packed with a selection of delicious cheeses as it travels to markets around the Blackmore Vale.
When I met Carolyn, she had just finished judging at the Global Cheese Awards in Frome.
‘It’s part of the annual Frome Cheese Show. I’m one of the judges and we get all kinds of artisan cheeses there. It started off the back of Cheddar and just grew. It’s very well known within the cheese industry.’

Carolyn Hopkins: image Rachael Rowe

Tell us how you got started?
‘I used to manage Turnbulls in Shaftesbury (remember that amazing shop?). I was taken on one Christmas and I stayed. When it closed in 2018, I knew I still wanted to do something with cheese. This job means I’m selling cheese all day. I have my van (the Truckle Truck) as I can’t face putting up a gazebo at markets! The van also attracts people, too.’

How big is the team?
‘It’s just me!’

What’s flying out of the van?
‘My best seller is Gorgonzola. It’s young, soft, gooey … and I’ve sold out of it today.
‘There are also Cheddars from Westcombe Dairy and Montgomery. The tourists always look for Cheddar as they like to taste local cheeses. I’ve also got some artisan cheese here from Feltham’s Farm; I have Rebel Nun, but I think their new Gert Lush will turn out to be their bestseller.
‘We have some interesting Somerset cheeses – not just Cheddar. Pennard Ridge produces cheese mainly from sheep, goats and buffalo. And White Lake makes cheeses mainly from sheep and goats. ‘And then we have Dorset Blue Vinny, of course. Their’s is a fantastic story with how they found an old recipe in the garage and started producing what was a forgotten recipe, almost lost forever. And now they have a large business.’

A selection of cheese on the Truckle Truck: image Rachael Rowe

How do you choose cheeses?
‘Some of it is always here. I also like the very weird and wonderful. And then there’s the reliable stuff that people can’t get enough of. And also the cheese story, so people come to look at what else is here.’
Apart from the story behind Dorset Blue Vinny, there’s a lovely Princess Alisia Victoria from Switzerland. It’s made by three brothers who live in the same valley and is named after the princess who worked with the Swiss Red Cross during World War Two.

Your biggest challenge?
‘Adapting to a small counter and shelf space. I have to be really strict with myself. If it doesn’t sell, I don’t carry it.’

What are you most proud of?
‘Just the way people have taken to this business, especially here in Shaftesbury. They have really taken it to heart. People are almost possessive, saying “Here’s our Truckle Truck!”.’

The Truckle Truck outside Shaftesbury Town hall a regular spot – image Rachael Rowe

What’s next for Truckle Truck?
‘It’s tricky in the current climate. First, getting through Christmas. Then next year, I’m looking at cheese-related hot food like raclette. But there are quite a few logistics to sort out first.’

The Truckle Truck is at Shaftesbury Market on Thursday mornings and Wincanton on Fridays. Carolyn also visits Sherborne Farmers Market, Bowerchalke and Berwick St John. And if you want Gorgonzola, be early as it sells out fast!
thetruckletruck.com

Buying from Carolyn means your own cheese choices can be informed and entertaining:

image Rachael Rowe


Lincolnshire Poacher sits somewhere between a Cheddar and an Alpine cheese, with the buttery, savoury notes of the former blending into the sweet, nuttiness of the latter. Aged for up to 22 months, the Vintage develops a mellow bite to the finish.
Shropshire Blue is one of the mysteries of the cheese world. Originating in Scotland and now produced by Stilton makers, there are many theories behind the name. However it came to be, it’s a delightful cheese, smoother than Stilton and with a little sweetness to balance the blue.
Last, but most definitely not least, is L’Etivaz Alpage. We’ve had a few Alpage cheeses on the counter over the summer, and they’ve all been superb. This one is seeing the season out in style – flavours of sweet pear are followed by nuttiness and a hint of the farmyard to finish.

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