Sustainability at Frome Valley
Looking after our land has always been at the heart of what we do.
We are one of the first small vineyards to join the new Sustainable Wine GB project.
We work consciously on a daily basis to tread as lightly as we can, situated as we are in rural Herefordshire, on the edge of the Malvern Hill Area of Outstanding Beauty.
We work within, and where we can beyond, the requirements of environmental legislation. We minimise waste and the use of energy, water and other resources.
On our property, we grow most of the food we use; all our heat comes from biomass and our photovoltaic cells contribute to the UK’s renewable energy total. We use LED lighting throughout the property and have motion sensitive lighting where appropriate.
We are part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme which is designed to encourage environmentally useful practices. Over the years, we have planted new hedges and replaced those that were badly damaged. As they mature, we have had them laid in the traditional West Midlands manner, providing local employment. We maintain a sizeable natural pond which contains some rare flora and fauna. We manage two areas of woodland and have a programme of planting new trees. We maintain 2/3 of a mile of river bank through judicious coppicing and replanting to the benefit of local wildlife.
We planted our cider orchard in 2006 with traditional Herefordshire varieties. It is entirely organic, although not registered as such. No chemicals of any kind are used in it. It is grazed by our small flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep. Our pastures are grazed, have no other added fertilisers, and we maintain them as permanent grasslands, sequestering carbon. Our flock eat the grass they evolved with, so emit vanishingly little carbon gases, and fertilise the land at the same time. The hay that comes off our fields is enjoyed by all who eat it, and the sheep themselves, when we do put some in the freezer, are also delicious!
We have several top bar beehives to aid general pollination (although not the vines which are wind pollinated). And our bat boxes are a roaring success.
Climate change is affecting viticulture like all other areas of agriculture.
We have joined the recently formed Sustainable Wine GB (SWGB) programme which aims to work towards ever more sustainable ways of growing grapes and making wine across the whole UK. We are at the stage of benchmarking our current position and look forward over the coming years to increasing our sustainability.
We are experimenting with different mulches for under-vine weed control and promotion of the health of the vines; a healthy well-fed vine, like healthy well-fed person, grows better and can fend off disease more easily. All our pruning, winter and summer, is done by hand, as is our harvest. However, although we keep spraying to a bare minimum and use essentially what the organic farmers use, disease control is a key area for progress.
We have recently won a scholarship from SWGB to study the effects of incorporating biochar (like charcoal but purer) into the vineyard which will run through 2022 and 2023.