As some of you may know Mark (and our son Archie) have been away fulfilling a life time dream of sailing across the Pacific. Whilst I did the first part, Colombia to Galapagos via the Panama Canal, I’ve missed out the big, scary middle bit of almost 3000 miles and am going to join them for the last bit. Someone has to be at work! It’s meant that I’ve been a ‘solo boss’ for the last 6 weeks and, don’t tell Mark, I’ve really enjoyed it. Also don’t tell him that on sunny days I drive around the Estate too fast with country music blaring!
I am late with this blog and in trying to justify this, I am relying on some thinking I have been doing over the New Year period, that in fact started before with our visit to India.
I decided to switch off from all emails and even from the news whilst we were away. I haven’t done that for over 10 years and it was quite a revelation. Somehow things that seemed so very urgent, suddenly weren’t and it was quite true to say ‘I lived in the moment’. I actually stared aimlessly out of the window while we drove, read my book before I slept and when I woke up (as I used to do as a child) instead of checking my ipad and generally found myself reflecting in an aimless, yet I’m sure, useful way.
A couple of weeks ago I had a new experience at Rathfinny. I came along as a ‘client’ to our very first yoga retreat, arriving at the Flint Barns in the early afternoon on Friday to be greeted by a delicious smoothie as I met the others who had decided that they too, needed a weekend away. There were 9 of us in total, a mix of local people and a couple who had made the journey all the way from Belgium, as well as my 17 year old son who decided he too needed an ‘escape’ from his A level revision.
As we started harvest on Monday, I was thinking about our workforce. I always say our team, now about 30 people, are our greatest asset. Everyone, and I mean everyone who works at Rathfinny, comes to work genuinely engaged in their job and, best of all, seemingly proud and committed to be working there. I love it.
It’s always been important to us to build a local workforce and despite some scepticism from some quarters, we seem to be achieving just that. It has been hard and we’ve had a few false starts, but now we are building up a team of local people who come not only to harvest in October, but to prune in January/February.
Who knew how long it takes to do a new website? Well I do now and it’s a very long process that has seen me sitting concentrating for hours on end on spellings, making sure links go to the right place, consistency of style and so much more. Basically all the things that bore my husband to bits.
Which reminds me that this is what I spend much of my time doing at Rathfinny – checking other people’s letters, blogs, all our literature and documentation because for some reason or other, we seem to attract a lot of people who can’t spell (dyslexics by another name!) When Jamie joined us, I thought – yes, someone else to share the burden – until one week later he confessed that he couldn’t help on that front and in fact would be adding to my work load as he too is … dyslexic! I can forgive all this however because I know first hand the great other qualities dyslexics bring to the workplace, not least their ability to think creatively and tackle problems from a different angle. (By the way, I must quickly add that I do not include Richard in this category and he helps out on the checking too.)
The classical music Festival 2016 at Rathfinny is cancelled.
Let me start by wishing you all a very happy New Year. It’s a time of reflection and of resolutions (I’m on a dry January though no one will be surprised to hear that my husband is not!) and I have done much reflecting and thinking over the past fortnight and have come to one of the hardest decisions since we started Rathfinny 5 years ago.
As we looked ahead to what will be an incredibly busy year, with major building works due to start in June, constructing a wine processing and storage facility, and as we edge ever closer to launching our first Sussex sparkling wine, we took the time to muse on the past year. After a lot of thought and with a heavy heart we have decided not to go ahead with the annual Festival of classical music with the London Conchord Ensemble.
I’m aware I haven’t written a blog for ages, so apologies all round. I thought I’d give a quick ‘catch up’ that cover my areas of the business (all the client facing part) – though with Mark sailing somewhere across the Atlantic – it’s all mine for the next few weeks!
Dickensian evening, Alfriston – this Saturday, 21st November from 2pm (please note, the roads nearby will close from 1pm but there are park and rides available – check www.alfriston-village.co.uk). The Gun Room will be open until 7pm, serving our traditional Dickensian drink, Sussex Sparkling with a homemade spiced syrup to warm you up. The shop is full of all our new stock so make the time to have a browse.
Wow! What can I say? What a weekend that was! Can I first of all thank everyone who came and supported us, for those who trusted me when I said – Conchord are exceptional, Conchord at Rathfinny will be special – you won’t be disappointed.
“I cannot recall a musical occasion that I have enjoyed so much and I have been to many.”
“I think that was simply the happiest and most stimulating weekend I have had for at least 21 years!”
“Rathfinny proves to be the PERFECT backdrop for Conchord–and LIFE!
Nothing creates a sense of place like live music, so when Sarah and Mark invited my chamber ensemble, London Conchord, to become the resident ensemble at Rathfinny we jumped at the chance to bring music into the stunning setting of the Estate and to make Rathfinny our musical home. As a group and as individuals we have played all over the world in venues such as the White House and the Wigmore Hall, but never in a Winery. The acoustics are perfect!
If there is one thing I have learnt over the past four and a half years, it is that we are on a steep learning curve in so many ways! Not only with the world of wine and creating the perfect Sussex Sparkling but in relation to starting a business, taking on a staff (now 19), opening a shop, understanding PR and branding, designing websites, fitting out Flint Barns (recently described by Sawdays as a ‘poshtel’!) but I have also learnt more than I want to about planning applications, bats and waste water treatment plants!
We’ve had a really busy time in the Gun Room preparing for Christmas and re-arranging the layout. Regular visitors will notice that we now have two new, dedicated sections on the Estate Tours and the Flint Barns and they’ll also notice the brand new stock.
Come and see for yourself!
We’ve having an ‘Open House’ on Sunday, 7th December, 10.00 am until 4.00pm, where you can enjoy a glass of English Sparkling Wine as you browse and take advantage of the 10% discount that we’re offering. In particular, look out for
- Estate Tour Vouchers – perfect for those people in your life that you always struggle to know what to buy.
“ The whole experience was uplifting, informative and motivational”
- You can buy a voucher in a beautiful presentation box for either a Winemaker’s Lunch or an Estate Tea Tour. As part of a small group (maximum 16) the Tour includes a walk through the vineyard where our experts will talk not only about Rathfinny and our vines but also about the land and the wildlife on our part of the South Downs. See our brand new presses and shiny stainless steel tanks and learn about the process of making Sussex Sparkling wine before having a super lunch or tea in our new Tasting Room. This really is an exclusive offer; whilst there are footpaths across the land there is no other way to see the vines up close or the Winery and Tasting Room.
- Winemakers Lunch Tour £55 per person and Afternoon Tea Tour £35 per person. If you come along on the 7th December and purchase vouchers you will receive 10% discount. http://rathfinnyestate.com/visit/tours/ Alternatively if you can’t come and see us you can book vouchers online (discount only applies in store)
- Flint Barns our “home from home” is nearly open- come and chat with us about how you can come and stay in the Flint Barns. Our website goes live in the New Year.
- Our section aimed at the man in your life – gifts he will really appreciate this Christmas – cufflinks, cocktail bar (!) and much more
- Delicious treats, luxury chocolates, slow baked Dottato Figs, Grape Nectar, Ouse Valley jams and chutneys. We’ll happily make up hampers at no extra charge.
- Our books on wine – there’s something for everyone from World Atlas of Wine to Wine Makes Mummy Clever!
- Brand new range Noble Isle is a high-performing bath and body range that uses the finest fragrance and natural extracts, and the best of British design, to create a lasting sensory impression.
- For the woman in your life – try our luxury Caudalie range. All the ingredients come from grapes, vines, leaves and seeds and are transformed into these luxurious, premium products. Hand crafted pots, prints by local artists, a warm blanket to snuggle up in front of the fire with – the list goes on – you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!
Sarah Driver – shop dresser extraordinare
For those of you who regularly read our blog, you may have noticed a distinct absence of news from me. It is not because I have been doing nothing, but rather that I have been doing a lot and I am shamelessly hijacking our Rathfinny blog to tell you about it!
Many of you will know that I have been actively involved in the world of dyslexia for many years now, that our Trust is part of the national Dyslexia SpLD Trust and that I have lobbied hard to change the way teachers are trained in this country. It is estimated that 10% of the population are dyslexic, that’s 3 children on average in every class.
The Fish in the Tree report http://driveryouthtrust.com/index.php/reports/ that we published last year, showed that 74% of teachers didn’t feel that they’d been trained with the skills necessary to teach those with dyslexia, yet 84% thought it was important that they had this training.
The problem isn’t just about dyslexia – it’s about teachers having the skills to teach any child who struggles with literacy. The national statistics show we have a problem:
- 1 in 4 children fail to master the basics of writing in primary school.
- 1 in 9 children fail to master the basics of reading in primary school.
- A third of pupils did not reach a grade C in English GCSE last year.
- We have 6 million functionally illiterate adults in the UK, unable to read a tin of baked beans!
Over the past 5 years I’ve been working with Ark schools to put in place a literacy programme that addresses this. It’s called Drive for Literacy. None of it is rocket science but what makes it different is that it addresses the problem from a whole school perspective, from senior leadership recognising the need for their teachers to understand that some children have literacy problems like dyslexia and that there is merit in addressing this. Teachers are trained, children are screened, interventions are put in place and parents are consulted. So far, it’s had really encouraging results, with these children with a SEN (special educational need) achieving almost as well as other children without issues do nationally on their phonics test, and over twice as well as other children with SEN in our country.
Today, we’ve launched a website www.driveforliteracy.co.uk that details Drive for Literacy and offers easy to access, free resources for teachers, parents and dyslexic pupils. There’s a series of short films, the most poignant I think is ‘What it feels like to be dyslexic’ – and you may recognise some of the participants!!
Why am I telling you this? I need your help to spread the word to schools and teachers you know, parents of dyslexics and other dyslexics.
Join the campaign:
The Trust is encouraging everyone to support the campaign:
· Tweet using the hashtag #YouKnowADyslexic – take a picture!
· Follow @DriverTrust on twitter
· Download free resources from www.driveforliteracy.co.uk
Tell all your friends and especially any teachers and parents with children with dyslexia about this free resource.