Leeds’s milk round revival

Milkman Gary Ingham on his round in Leeds.
Milkman Gary Ingham on his round in Leeds.
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Milk rounds are making a comeback according to one Leeds dairy. Neil Hudson finds out why paying a little more for doorstep pintas could save you money in the long run.

ANDY Cameron gets out of bed about 1am most days. He’s at work by two and by the time the rest of the UK workforce is in teeth-brushing mode, he’s almost completed his working day. In terms of early starts, it’s difficult to beat him. Andy is a milkman. If you thought that was a dying trade, think again. He is one of a fleet of milk delivery agents operating from the family-run F D Goodall dairy on the A58 Wetherby Road, about a mile beyond Leeds’s outer ring road. The farm has seven of its own milkmen and a further 18 ‘independents’ who, between them, cover most of north and east Leeds, distributing the 5,000 litres of milk the farm’s herd of 200 cows produces each day.

Andy has around 660 customers on his round and that figure is growing every year.

Being an early riser has its consequences. Aside from the usual urban fox and deer sightings and the walking wounded staggering home as he trundles through Headingley, over the years he’s also happened on burglaries and even saved a few lives.

The father-of-six seems genuinely nonplussed by his nocturnal working pattern.

“I’ve not seen a soap opera in 20 years,” says the 41-year-old, adding: “But I don’t think I’ve missed much.

“It doesn’t really affect me in terms of not having time with the family because when I go home I have breakfast with them and then I get some sleep in the day and wake up in time to collect them from school. I probably go to bed around 10 or even 11 o’ clock.

“I remember once pulling into a road and I just saw these three men wearing balaclavas loading things into a truck. I called the police and the men disappeared.

“I’ve had other occasions where I’ve gone to deliver milk and, because you get to know your customers and their habits, the milk was still out from the previous day and so I’ve had a look through the windows to check everything is okay and on a few occasions I’ve seen people collapsed on the floor in need of help.”

It’s that slightly nostalgic image of the ‘traditional milkman’, a friendly chap in daily contact with his customers, all of whom he knows by name, which lingers in most people’s minds and there’s no denying aspects of it seem anachronistic. Surely then, that way of life has gone the same way as red telephone boxes and coal deliveries, hasn’t it?

In a retail world dominated by big supermarkets selling milk as a ‘loss leader’ - four pints for a quid - surely milkmen selling it at 62p a pint cannot compete, even if they do deliver it to your doorstep?

Not so, says Gary Ingham, another milkman who gets up when most of us are going to bed. “If you think about it, having milk delivered could actually save you money. Most of the time when people jump in their cars to drive to Sainsbury’s or wherever, they’re going to get things like milk and bread but by the time they’ve got to the till, they’ve got 25 other items in their basket and they’ve spent £50.

“We’re not about stopping people going to the supermarket but if they had milk delivered, a lot of the time they wouldn’t need to and as a result they’d be better off.”

And it’s not just milk the modern ‘milky’ delivers - these days drops can include eggs, cream, yoghurts, cheese, pop, fruit juice, mineral water and even bread.

“There’s something else,” adds Andy. “The taste - it’s totally different to what you get in the supermarket. I almost think sometimes if I could get people to just try some of our milk, then they’d be won over straight away.

“I know there’s a difference in price but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big, not when you consider people are happy to pay for takeaway food and set up direct debits for Sky, water, electricity and so on - our milk costs 62p a pint but for that it’s delivered straight to your door so it’s there when you wake up on a morning, it’s fresh, it tastes great and you know where it’s come from.

“If all the people I deliver to were to jump in their cars and go to Tesco to get some milk, just think of all the damage that will be doing to the environment, whereas I’m just one person doing about 60 miles a day.”

His round is far from small, taking in a large chunk of East Leeds, from Roundhay and Colton and reaching down into Headingley and almost to the city centre and what’s more he knows every customer by name.

“That’s another thing,” he says with fresh enthusiasm. “People who do have their milk delivered like that aspect of it.

“Quite often, when I see a house which has been empty for a while and someone has just moved in, I’ll leave them some milk with a note on top . I’ve had a lot of customers that way - some of them didn’t even know we existed, they kind of thing you’ve invented the trade or something. At the end of the day it’s something people appreciate.”

Victoria Goodall, 43, a former RAF air traffic controller, has worked at the farm for six years, running it with brother Edward, 41, who has been there for the last two decades.

The firm was formed by their grandfather, Thomas Dunwell Goodall and has been on the site 74 years but even before that he was delivering milk in a churn, ladling it out into customer’s jugs.

Victoria is passionate about the milk they produce.

She said: “We make about 5,000 litres of milk a day and have to buy in about 10 per cent from local farmers. It’s all processed and bottled on site. Cows are milked twice a day, the milk being processed the same day.”

But, she said, a major change in the way they do business is just around the corner.

“Next year we are almost certainly going to have robots milking cows. Essentially, they will milk themselves.

“If they want to be milked more than twice a day, they will walk into the milking area. Robots will then use lasers to locate their teets, clean them and milk them - the robots will also be able to remember the difference between each cow, so it will remember where the teets are. It’s already been used successfully on other farms. Hopefully by this time next year we will have our first robots installed.”

It’s a far cry from the days of churn and ladle but perhaps self-milking cows might pique people’s interest and lead to a home delivery revolution.

DOORSTEP DELIVERY STATS AND HISTORY

T D Goodall’s herd of 200 cows produces around 5,000 litres of milk a day. The milk is processed and bottled on site and delivered to local houses by a fleet of seven in-house milkmen and a further 18 independent operators.

The farm was founded 74 years ago but its history reaches back 100 years to Thomas Dunwell Goodall, who used to deliver milk in a churn and a ladle on the back of a horse and cart.

Typically, the cost of a daily pinta delivered to your doorstep is around 62p.

Next year, the firm is considering introducing robots to enable cows to ‘milk themselves’.

Modern-day milkmen tend to start work about 1am, ending their shift about 8am or 9am.

A typical milkman can deliver up to 145 gallons of milk a week, taking in hundreds of houses.

T D Goodall Dairy, Beechgrove Farm, Wetherby Rd, Leeds LS14 3HQ, telephone: 0113 289 2229, email: enquiries@tdgoodall.co.uk

Contact Andy Cameron at: andycameron72@yahoo.co.uk

Contact Gary Ingham at: gary.ingham@hotmail.co.uk

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