Over the years many people for many reasons have carved figures into the chalk – from the Cerne Abbas Giant, Long Man of Wilmington and White Horse in the Cuckmere Valley near Alfriston, these dramatic ‘carvings’ have become both iconic and in some cases mysterious.
Rathfinny Estate are on a journey to produce internationally renowned sparkling wine, and now we have our own chalk work of art.
Ours is steeped in local history. Firstly, the shield itself – this has come from the Sussex county flag which depicts six martlets (these are heraldic swallows, and I can’t help thinking of the scene in Monty Pythons Holy Grail when they discuss air speed velocity of a Barn Swallow flying with a coconut – I’m not sure a heraldic swallow would get to Africa wearing a gold crown!). I digress.
So, we’ve taken the Sussex flag and changed the martlets for six grapes and on this shield we reveal the chalk underneath. This is because the geology of the area plays a vital role in the establishment of the vineyard. On the rest of our branding the grapes themselves are chalk white and the shield is usually red.
In a further ‘nod’ to our local community the current White Horse which sits proudly on the National Trust land above the Cuckmere River was cut in 1926. In a wonderful quirk of fate the great grandson of that particular ‘landscaper’ in 1926 has completed our shield today – the “wheel has turned full circle”.
Moving on from swallows with crowns, I’ve been continuing my survey work on the Estate for beneficial insects. The accommodation has been provided, food is a plenty and now….well….I’m trapping them to see what we have got.
Working alongside Janine, a Phd student from Sussex University, under the supervision of Professor Dave Goulson, we are pictured below (earlier this year) placing a series of pots filled with water and some Fairy washing up liquid (other washing up liquids are available).
The different colours are representing different flowers and thus attract different insects. This is done in conjunction with a series of net sweeps along the vine rows to catch those still flying. I can then collect the little critters and we can assess what we have. It’s going to be a long project but will produce a great deal of really useful information both for us and other vineyards (here and in Europe), all this information can then be published in peer reviewed professional journals. Watch this space or follow me on Twitter for more up to date information (@rathfinnyrich)
Last month I undertook a guided walk for 40 members of the Seaford Natural History Society which was a great way to view the Estate and enjoy the Rathfinny Trail. With this guided walk and around a dozen presentations and two tutored wine tastings this year, I’ve managed to donate £2000 for the Trevor Mann Baby Unit which is based in the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton – so thank you to all those involved.
And finally. Many of you will be aware that the Estate covers a fair tract of land. Which is why I have invested in a new mode of transport (or as my wife may say, “not another bicycle!”) Of course it’s British, and I’ve added some bling to give it that personal touch.
Please note the stylish bird shaped bottle cage and the coffee mug holder which is especially useful for trips to the Gun Room and our café at the Flint Barns. The Flint Barns café is now open for the summer 7 days per week from 10am to 4pm, so for all those fellow cyclists and walkers looking for a hit of caffeine (or something to replace your energy) drop off the Downs and pay us a visit.