Osmosis is usually the movement of a solvent through a semi permeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one. In wine making they may refer to reverse osmosis which is a technique sometimes used to reduce the alcohol in a wine without altering the fruit flavours or profile. For the purpose of this blog I am taking neither of these definitions and I am using the term to reflect the gradual assimilation of ideas or knowledge – and I promise this blog will get ‘lighter’ (thank goodness I hear you cry!)
In our recent postings on social media we have hinted to the explosion of colour on our Estate as the weather warms up and the wildlife wakes up. So I’m going to highlight a few key aspects in and around our vineyard which I hope will be of interest to our guests staying at the Flint Barns, to those passing through on our Trail or visiting our Cellar Door or Tasting Room.
There have been a few reports in the press about the sustainability of vineyards and just how positive they can be for wildlife. So many vineyards work closely together and I’m sure through osmosis we can all benefit from each others knowledge and expertise in different areas.
The first and truly exciting wildlife wonder is…
I know it’s a rather dodgy image taken into the sun of the side of our purpose built Winery with our Bottling building in the back ground. However, the amazing addition is the fuzzy black shape towards the left of the image above the Winery roof which is planted with native wildflowers…
A skylark. I know I will win no awards as a nature photographer and Mr Attenborough will not be quaking in his boots – but this is the male just returning from a calling flight to the nest where they have young!! Breeding skylarks four stories high, now that has to be a winner in my book. If I had the technology I could play you his distinctive call and more amazingly the high pitched chirpy call of the young. Just glorious.
Moving on to our Trail. I personally led a guided walk to illustrate the ‘depth’ of our Estate – producing internationally renowned Sussex sparkling wine is at our core, and in doing this we are also seeing a blossoming in the diversity of wildlife on the land. Guests on this walk were given a sneak peak of what to expect later this year and more excitingly what we may see long term.
If you look closely at this image you (hopefully) will see a difference in the colour and composition of the grass between the left and right hand side of the photo. The right has been grazed by Exmoor ponies that we have had to draft in to assist us in managing our banks for wildlife. This bank is the southern edge of Cradle Valley and as it gives its name to our still wine we’ve got to ensure its looking its best! Due to TB issues we can’t use cattle on this site so utilising local knowledge (that’s the osmosis again) we are using the ponies as our management tool. On the guided walk we discussed various management techniques and looked at the flowers currently seen from the Trail and also what we expect to see when the ponies have finished. This summer and next spring there will be some wonderful colourful additions to our bank.
Again my photo skills have ensured that the only thing in focus is my thumb and the flower on the right – which is ok. This is mouse-ear hawkweed, which may appear to resemble a flat dandelion but two key identification features are its pale lemon colour and then when you view it’s undercarriage it has distinctive red flashes. The name mouse-ear comes from the basal leaves which are dark green with pale edges and covered in a plethora of long white delicate hairs.
The purple flower on the left was viewed by guests on the walk on the edge of the more wooded section of the Trail as well as out in the grass. This is ground ivy and is a vital food source for many species so early on in the season. The leaf of the plant on the right was visible on the walk and it is in full flower now and is the horseshoe vetch. The name coming from the shape of the flower head i.e. the formation of the yellow flowers in a semi circle pattern resembling the shape of a horseshoe. It is fantastic to see this plant on the banks as it a vital larval plant and nectar source for butterflies such as the Adonis blue and chalkhill blue.
So next time you’re sitting on the balcony of the Tasting Room, walking on our Trail or enjoying the warmth and tranquility of the courtyard at the Flint Barns you may see, smell or hear the wildlife as a ‘backing group’ to the precision planting of our vines.