Rathfinny will always be more than ‘just’ a vineyard. As you will have seen from our website the Estate is still part vineyard and part arable farm at the moment. So what are we doing that is ‘outside’ the usual realms of establishing a vineyard and winery?
In 2012 we joined many farms on the South Downs and signed up to the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) administered by Natural England. We may be different having a vineyard on the Estate but like many farmers we strive to make a place for nature.
“So what?” I hear you cry.
By committing to HLS we now have a legal obligation to continue to conserve wildlife and enhance it where we can. It is now that I should go off on a tangent and explain that there is one huge problem with conservation – there is an utter plethora of acronyms!
We are in the HLS and ELS, we have a SSSI and a SNCI and while claiming for SPS to the RPA we are mindful of our HK7 and soon we will be harvesting our OSR. All of this is done under the umbrella of NPPF and SDNPA while awaiting for changes resulting from CAP reform.*
Round leaved fluellen in our arable margins
“So what?” I hear you cry again!
What we are aiming for is to enhance the whole landscape so wildlife can thrive. So far we have done this by creating strips for arable plants such as the rough poppy and Venus’s looking-glass. Clearing unwanted scrub for downland flowers to spread like the rounded-headed rampion and devils bit scabious. And we are providing seed and tussocky grass for farmland birds. Already the results are being seen – and we have only really just begun.
Marmalade hoverflies on poppy
As the vineyard expands our agreement with Natural England becomes more tailored and we will be able to explore more exciting ways to work with nature. Just last week I had a fantastic meeting with Kew and their Millenium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst. More on that to follow as we investigate how we can really make a difference.
Perhaps the title above should have read “On my soap box!”
(* deep breath – ELS Entry Level Scheme, SSSI Site of Special Scientific Interest, SNCI Site of Nature Conservation Importance, SPS Single farm Payment Scheme, RPA Rural Payment Agency, HK7 Restoration of species rich grass, OSR Oil Seed Rape, NPPF National Planning Policy Framework, SDNPA South Downs National Park Authority and CAP Common Agricultural Policy – and relax)
by – Richard James – why not follow me on twitter @rathfinnyrich