Vineyards need to work together

Forty Hall Community Vineyard volunteers from London visit Warden Abbey Vineyard
Forty Hall Community Vineyard volunteers from London visit Warden Abbey Vineyard

A group of volunteers from a London vineyard visited Warden Abbey vineyard on Tuesday to share and learn from their volunteering experiences.

Led by Ian Hardwick, a former Shefford resident, volunteers from Forty Hall in Enfield, London visited their counterparts to share best practice and swap hints and tips along the way.

Both vineyard managers are keen to foster links between the two sites as, unlike most vineyards, they rely on volunteers all year round to help with every aspect of the grape growing process, from winter pruning to autumn harvesting.

Warden Abbey Vineyard Manager, Jane Markham, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to have two groups here today and the sun has even shone for us.

“There is so much we can learn from one another and that is what community vineyards are all about, working together and learning from each other.”

Forty Hall is the first commercial scale vineyard in London since the Middle Ages and produced its first wine, both still and sparkling, in tiny quantities in 2013.

Warden Abbey has been producing wine for much longer, but the older vines at the site (and the historic environment in which they grow) present their own challenges.

The visitors were given a tour of the vineyard which is supported by the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity and then enjoyed a tasting of Warden Abbey wines.

A lunch of Bedfordshire clangers delivered from Gunns Bakery in Sandy was also arranged.

Volunteer Ian Hardwick said: “I grew up in Shefford and now live in north London. I’m a regular volunteer at Forty Hall and a friend of Warden Abbey and helped with the harvest at both last year.

“There’s not that many community vineyards so the idea is to forge links with places like Warden Abbey.

“Coming from Bedfordshire this vineyard is particularly important to me and it is great to get our two communities together to discuss the art of wine making.”