There were grapes galore at the vineyard as the year’s crop was harvested.
Volunteers at Warden Abbey Community Vineyard near Old Warden picked an impressive seven tonnes of fruit on Saturday and Monday.
The vineyard was first planted by medieval monks at the Cistercian Abbey of Warden. It reverted back to farmland after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The Lyttel Vineyard was replanted by the Whitbread family in 1986 and it was taken over by the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC) three years ago.
It is now run as a community venture. On Monday volunteer George Derbyshire said: “Today it’s all hands to the pump but usually there are six to 10 people here. There’s a hard core of people and others drift in and out.”
The volunteer work looks good on job seekers’ CVs and the vineyard is also used for horticultural therapy and for education. It is even toured by local groups.
George added: “We’ve got four different types of vine, all of German origin because the climate is the same.
“2010 was a small harvest but it was our first one. We called the wine The Reformer.
“In 2011 the whole harvest was wiped out by the frost so we didn’t get a thing. Last year was a difficult year but we did produce The Paragon, which we are now selling. It celebrates 60 years of the BRCC.
“This year is looking very good. We’ve not only got reasonable quantities but the quality is good as well.”
The different types of grape are blended depending on the amounts harvested so each year the balance changes, resulting in a different wine. This year it may be possible to make two different types of wine.
Last year’s harvest created 1,200 bottles of wine but this year there should be 5,000.
The vineyard is always looking for more volunteers. Project manager Jane Markham said: “We probably had 100 volunteers involved in different phases of the year. In January we start the pruning. We train people up on what to look for. It’s one of my favourite activities. It’s nice bringing order from chaos.”
To volunteer call Jane on 07981 113714. The Paragon is on sale at Cambridge Wine Markets in Ampthill, Woburn Country Foods in Haynes, at Luton Hoo Hotel and at shows.