Made in Devon: Bella Capella soaps from goat milk

PUBLISHED: 13:40 28 August 2020

Claire Tilley and her goats: 'The ingredients are 100% natural so it doesn’t get much better than that'. Photo: Steve Haywood

Claire Tilley and her goats: 'The ingredients are 100% natural so it doesn’t get much better than that'. Photo: Steve Haywood

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Milk from Claire Tilley’s free range goats goes into her handcrafted soap bars

Claire Tilley and her goats: 'The ingredients are 100% natural so it doesn’t get much better than that'. Photo: Steve HaywoodClaire Tilley and her goats: 'The ingredients are 100% natural so it doesn’t get much better than that'. Photo: Steve Haywood

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd, Lay ee-odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo! Well, not that lonely actually and I am not absolutely sure it is a particularly high hill but I’m not going to let facts get in the way of a good opening line!

Claire Tilley is the proud owner of a herd of goats and a company called Bella Capella. How it all started is a story with which many parents will be familiar. Already an animal-loving family with dogs and horses, her daughter, Anna, decided she would also quite like some goats. Like many a parent, keen to satisfy a child’s desire, they were soon joined by a British Saanen called Bronwyn and an Anglo Nubien called Miss Nuggets.

Keen to explore how best to care for the goats, a good deal of research about breeding followed and the discovery that goats’ milk actually has some fantastic properties for your skin.

Then last year a soap-making business was born as Claire explains: “Initially a friend of mine went on a soap-making course that used water. Together we tried it at home but I wanted to use goats’ milk instead of water and slowly my recipe came together.”

Bella Capella uses milk from goats to create natural beauty products. Photo: Steve HaywoodBella Capella uses milk from goats to create natural beauty products. Photo: Steve Haywood

As you might expect there was a lot of trial and error with the recipe, along with plenty of friends happy to test and try and give Claire their feedback until perfection was found: “I sourced local honey for the beeswax and all our ingredients are natural and as local as we can get.

“But the really exciting part is that goats’ milk is known for soothing eczema and psoriasis. Along with the other ingredients the soap bars also contain vitamin A which is wonderful for tissue repair. Our product report was passed last year and since then we’ve been full steam ahead on getting the product out there.”

This is a business that started, literally, on the kitchen table but is now growing fast so workshops are being built and storage facilities are falling into place so that the business can fulfil its potential.

All the soaps are handcrafted in small batches at Claire’s smallholding in Ashburton. The goats are free to roam in the fields, living harmoniously with both her dogs and horses, enjoying an organic and sustainable lifestyle.

Daughter Anna is still involved – proving that this wasn’t some teenage fad – and happily helps out with the milking, which at the moment is done by hand. However, with kid goats Juno, Edith, Abbra and Audrey now part of the team a milking machine will be required next year!

Claire and Anna have really thought about who might want their soap and being eco-friendly was always part of the plan: “All our packaging is sustainable and recyclable. The ingredients are 100% natural, so it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made it easy for any business, never mind a small one that is trying to grow as Claire shares with me: “Obviously with many local shops shut it has been hard so we have focused our energy on getting the product online and getting it known through social media. We love our goats and think they are beautiful; and their milk produces gorgeous natural soap that we want everyone to know about.”

If the goats’ milk soap goes well then Claire is already thinking about the next product they could make using their precious resource: goats’ milk liquid shampoo. Something that might well be worth getting in a lather about!

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