Battling illness with the healing power of a 99. . .

Paul & Zoe Clarke with the Ice Cream Business'Burton Fleming'PA1124-10a'Paul running off the next batch
Paul & Zoe Clarke with the Ice Cream Business'Burton Fleming'PA1124-10a'Paul running off the next batch

THE sudden onset of a crippling illness turned Paul Clarke’s world into a nightmare.

For five years he has battled against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, brought on after a bad attack of salmonella poisoning wrecked his immune system.

Paul & Zoe Clarke with the Ice Cream Business'Burton Fleming'PA1124-10f'Paul & Zoe

Paul & Zoe Clarke with the Ice Cream Business'Burton Fleming'PA1124-10f'Paul & Zoe

There were, and still are, times he can’t get out of bed, needs a wheelchair, and pain caused him to black-out up to five or more times a day.

A cocktail of powerful drugs left him a zombie as doctors tried to control the little-understood disease under control.

At one point life was so bad he seriously considered assisted suicide.

Today, Paul, 44, and his wife Zoe, 43, a design and technology teacher at Driffield School, his helper, carer and rock, are able to lead a slightly more normal life, but he will never be the fit, former martial arts instructor and one time professional footballer for Brighton and Hove Albion at the time of Justin Fashanu until a knee injuury ended his prospects.

Nowadays his medication is less harmful, he still has bad days, but helping him fight back and battle on is his passion for ice cream - not eating it, but making it.

Yorkshire Wolds Dairy Ice Cream, making old fashioned natural ice cream the way it used to be 80 years ago, is now Paul’s passion and life-saver.

“It is something I can do at home, something to aim for, something I really want to do,” he said.

It was born out of co-incidence.

When struck down by CFS work as production manager for one of Europe’s leading suppliers of ice cream to household brand names throughout the world had to end.

But Paul knew how to make ice cream.

Zoe also had an ice cream connection.

In the 1930s her German great grandparents had a fleet of 15 ice cream vans serving their home made ice cream to the people of Sheffield.

Zoe still had their 80 year-old secret recipe.

They moved from their cottage in Wold Newton 18 months ago where Paul could no longer manage the stairs, they settled into the single storey Holly House Farm on Front Street in Burton Fleming, and set to work founding their business.

“I wanted to make real ice cream as it looked and tasted, as it ought to be. No artificial ingredients, no E numbers, and no air pumped through it to increase its bulk which is how major commercial producers do it, and all sourced in Yorkshire,” said Paul. That has also included honey from is own beehive.

They invested around £50,000 to create a production dairy behind their home and a freezer storage facility and bought a 1930s style ice cream seller’s tricycle and a refrigerated delivery van.

Slowly ice cream was produced, with the villagers being the test market.

“They loved it,“ said Paul.

Soon people wanted him to make ice cream for special occasions, and in a wide range of flavours.

To date he has tried around 65 different ones including bubblegum for a children’s party.

“It was bright blue due to blueberries with a natural bubblegum flavour,“ said Paul.

Wedding parties also wanted his unique taste, heavier, richer and more filling than anything they had tried before.

One bride and groom had a lot of Irish guests and wanted Guinness ice cream.

There have been many more made to order requests.

His range includes all the usual fruit flavours or just plain vanilla or chocolate plus many more among them Tutti-Frutti from an original Sicilian recipe, and Baileys, and Amaretto, even liquorice.

Appearances with the bicycle and van at a few local events started a trickle of orders.

Enquiries came from hotels and restaurants, retail outlets and even the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust who sell it in their Doncaster shop.

They also came from supermarkets, but Paul does not want to go down that route.

“It is commercially viable, but I won’t let it get too big. I do not want to sell my soul,“ he said.

They continued to test the water at trade events and now belong to the Guild of Fine Foods and the Deliciously Yorkshire quality standards organisations.

Next week is the official launch of “Old Fashioned Lemon Curd” at the Harrogate Speciality Food Show at the Great Yorkshire Showground.

Like other flavours it is naturally made in the old fashioned way.

Paul still needs regular visits to hospital in Leeds, and most days are a struggle - but he also has ice cream to make to help him get through.

Despite a possibly uncertain future he has another dream in mind, to open an ice cream parlour in the village.

“It is something I really want to do. I know it is helping me stay alive and battle on,“ he said.

There’s more about about what they can offer and the full menu of ice cream, and sorbets, on www.yorkshirewoldsdairyicecream.co.uk