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A valley in Yorkshire, Northern England. Also a cheese. White Wensleydale cheese has a mild, slightly sweet flavour with a honey aftertaste, whereas blue Wensleydale is robust in flavour. Originally Wensleydale was sold either 'fresh' - white, or 'ripe' - blue. White Wensleydale cheese is only ripened for 3 weeks and is made from a lightly pressed, finely cut curd leaving a high moisture content giving a slightly crumbly, flaky texture. The celebrated Blue Veined Wensleydale requires six months to mature. It has a smooth creamy texture similar to Stilton but with a mellower flavour.

Of course, one feels compelled to add that Wensleydale is the favourite cheese of Wallace, of Wallace and Gromit fame. In A Close Shave, it turns out that Wendolene Ramsbottom is not the woman of Wallace's dreams after all: she can't stand cheese! Brings her out in hives, she says.

"Not even Wensleydale?" asks Wallace plaintively.

Wendolene shakes her head and turns away, accompanied by what's left of her dog, Preston.

Wallace and Gromit head in for a piece of cheese. Wallace waxes philosophical in his selfish little way: "All the more for us," he tells Gromit.

I'm telling you, it's stuff like this that make me insist that Gromit is the appropriate mate for Wallace - and, in his heart of hearts, Wallace knows it.

Wensleydale is a dale (from the Norse word for a valley), in North Yorkshire, containing the River Ure. The river flows down from Garsdale Head in Cumbria, where it is formed by the confluence of various becks, eastward into Yorkshire. (Although the upper bit appears, by inspection of an Ordnance Survey map, to be called Mossdale.) It passes through the town of Hawes, past the village of Bainbridge and the town of Aysgarth, and the village of Wensley, which gives the dale its name. It then turns south-east, past Middleham, with its famous castle, to Masham, home of Theakston's and the Black Sheep Brewery. Beyond here, the 'dale' apellation is lost, but the Ure eventually flows through Ripon and joins the Swale, shortly after which the combined river becomes known as the River Ouse.

Wensleydale is a beautiful area to visit, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It's one of the longest Yorkshire Dales, and one of the few not to be named after its river. Look out for Nordic place names in this area; Yorkshire was the heart of Scandinavian England.

Wensleydale Cheese is a white, crumbly cheese, more moist than Cheshire or Lancashire. It is available in normal, smoked, cranberry, ginger and other varieties, but most of these are purely novelties. The original green-waxed Wensleydale is the true Yorkshire cheese.

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