As we emerge blinking into the light of 2023, freshly minted resolutions in hand, we’re full of good intentions about what we’ll do less of. What we’ll do more of.
Perhaps we can help.
If 2023 is the year you’ll spend more time outside in nature, then why not start in our vineyards? The neatly pruned rows of vines may be dormant for now, but there’s plenty of interest as you take in the 35-minute walk from The Nest, up Boot Hill before circling down towards the Saxon shore way.
Our winter workforce – around 350 sheep – is currently in situ, helping keep the weeds in check and the soil healthy. In Sussex, the sheep have grazed the Selhurst Park Estate ever since the vineyards were planted. In Kent, the gorgeous flock of Romneys is back with us for their second winter. These sheep are especially well known for their heavy, long fleece, as well as the famously delicious salt-mash lamb meat.
Local farmer Ed Lovejoy, along with his shepherd Will, brought the Romneys over in mid-December. The sheep will be enjoying the pasture, keeping the grasses trim – and the ground fertilised – until early spring when the vine buds burst. (The new buds would be too tempting for sheep.)
If it’s a particularly rainy start to the year – there’s not much dry about January in our part of Kent – then the soil really feels the benefit. The sheep tread lightly, which is much better for the land than mowers and tractors, which compact it. Our Chief Vineyard Manager, Jon Pollard, explains:
“They keep the grass low during the winter, which helps delay the start of mowing in the spring. They also reduce the abundance of some of the weeds underneath the vines, eating some, trampling others, which delays the first round of undervine cultivation in the vineyards. Overall, it means there’s less need to run the tractors early in the spring - and less chance of soil compaction occurring,” he says.
They’re a restful, bucolic sight, contentedly munching their way down the rows. Take your time as you wander past them. Enjoy the views over towards the Romney Marsh. Feel the potential of all the vines, waiting to spring into life. And – so long as it’s not breaking any resolutions – join us in The Nest for a glass of sparkling once you’ve stretched your legs.