All fine wines come with a sense of place, the singularity of their origin. In our case, it's the ancient flint and limestone village of Appledore in Kent, a handful of miles north of the English Channel, that adds its character to our sparkling wines. It's a spot worth exploring on your visit to Gusbourne Estate.
Here, amongst the big skies and fragrant meadows that surround us, the village of Appledore lies within the rolling hillsides of the Garden of England. Geography blesses our wines in this sunniest part of the country, just as it has naturally informed the history of Appledore as it grew from ancient settlement into village. Particularly important was its proximity to the sea.
Seas, of course, bring mixed fortunes. In 892 a Danish war party landed and sacked the burgeoning settlement of Appledore. Over the centuries, the village developed into a small tidal port for the River Rother, and in 1086 the Domesday Book noted not only its church and dwellings for 300 souls but also its fisheries. Edward III granted market status in 1359. Through the Middle Ages, Appledore was known as a maritime town and a destination for trading fleets.
Marshes and more
A report from the mid-16th century sadly records that "Appledore, once a goodly town, is now decayed by reason that the water is gone from it". The cause was the centuries-long process of land reclamation that created Romney Marsh. This began in pre-Norman times with the Great Wall of Appledore, a long earth rampart, stretches of which can still be seen on the Marsh today – along with the sheep, farmed here since medieval times.
Being only a few miles inland and on higher ground than the Marsh, Appledore retained its importance as a point of defence against invasion by those with marauding intent. In the 19th century, the village became a staging point in the construction of the Royal Military Canal. It took 1,500 men five years to cut this 28-mile stretch of protective water from Hythe to Hastings during the Napoleonic Wars.
Before the creation of the Marsh, the Channel would once have lapped at the edge of what are now Gusbourne's vineyards. Today the Royal Military Canal does border our land. Our sense of place here runs deep. And how about this for a timely connection? Construction of the Canal began in 1804, and exactly 300 years later in 2004... we planted our first vines.
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