Rise of the customary milkman's round as Yorkshire sees sudden surge in demand

Consigned as a relic to the realms of lost fashion, the customary milkman’s round has been greatly diminished by the passing of time.

Milkman Andy Walker, aged 33, on his rounds in Pudsey, Leeds, delivering milk and Veg boxes for the Modern Milkman. Picture: James Hardisty
Milkman Andy Walker, aged 33, on his rounds in Pudsey, Leeds, delivering milk and Veg boxes for the Modern Milkman. Picture: James Hardisty

Now the familiar whir of a float and the gentle clink of glass bottles once again welcomes the dawn, as demand surges country-wide.

The nation’s very first delivery drivers, it seems, were simply ahead of their time.

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“It got lost a bit, maybe, as people got busy,” said Simon Mellin of the Modern Milkman, a digital delivery service which has seen a huge boom over recent weeks.

Milkman Andy Walker, aged 33, on his rounds in Pudsey, Leeds, delivering milk and Veg boxes for the Modern Milkman. Picture: James Hardisty

“There’s a lot more care in the world right now.”

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While those times are long gone, the foil-topped glass bottles which were later to become so associated with the trade have seen a massive resurgence.

It’s the Blue Planet effect, say dairies, which saw tides turn in the war against plastic as consumers became more environmentally-aware following David Attenborough’s show.

Milkman Andy Walker, aged 33, on his rounds in Pudsey, Leeds, delivering milk and Veg boxes for the Modern Milkman. Picture: James Hardisty

Then came lockdown, and suddenly it seemed everybody was looking for a milkman.

“It has gone through the roof,” said Victoria Goodall, of family-run dairy TD Goodall in Scarcroft near Wetherby.

“Every Christmas we see a surge, now the milkmen are saying it’s as busy every day.”

Family tradition

Milkman Andy Walker, aged 33, on his rounds in Pudsey, Leeds, delivering milk and Veg boxes for the Modern Milkman. Picture: James Hardisty

The milkman’s story here had begun in 1913, when eight-year-old Thomas Dunwell Goodall would deliver on his way to school in two-pint churns, before progressing to a horse and cart.

A century on, and three-generations later, TD Goodall’s still waves off 22 milkmen every morning on their routes around Wetherby’s villages.

The traditional order book may have been replaced by contactless tablets, says Ms Goodall, Thomas’s granddaughter, but the use of glass bottles remains the same.

And over three months, the dairy she runs with brother Edward has seen milk sales rise 60 per cent, with up to 30 per cent new customers.

Some of its milkmen have had to halt new clients, others have doubled their working hours. One, new to the dairy, has built a route from scratch in the space of a few weeks.

“The number of eggs we are selling has gone up six-fold, as has yoghurts and cottage cheese,” said Ms Goodall.

“There is a generation of people who have never had their milk delivered. They didn’t even know it still existed until now.”

The Modern Milkman

The Modern Milkman, says chief executive Mr Mellin, doubled its customer base in the space of a month.

The digital app connects buyers with dairies across the North, using Dales Dairies at Grassington for its supplies of milk and orange juice for Yorkshire.

Modern demand, he believes, for contactless services, for veg box and bakery deliveries alongside the dairy produce, is fuelling the drive.

And as images emerged in March of farmers pouring away milk usually reserved for coffee shops and restaurants, people became more aware of supply chains.

"It was coming back anyway, people were already moving back towards the more traditional ways," he said. "Lockdown has massively accelerated it.

"When you look at the milk round, it was the first doorstep delivery of packaged goods. It is so ahead of its time, but it was overlooked as people wanted the convenience."

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