With so much of our wildlife either taken leave for warmer climes or hunkered down against the chill, my work load has changed somewhat.
Winter is the ideal time to plant trees and hedges – both of which we are doing at Rathfinny. A new hedge of mixed English species has been planted near the Flint Barns, this will in time, provide shelter for the building and its visitors and also a wonderful habitat for a wealth of species. We’ve also made great progress in establishing our new entrance road. A sense of place is slowly becoming apparent as we’ve ‘installed’ 36 Whitebeam specimen trees. They link together with the new whitebeams at the Winery and the Flint Barns. These will provide a formal back drop to the real stars of the show which appear in a few weeks time – the vines!
In the foreground we have planted a mix of native species which all have varying leaf colour, blossom or fruit so through out the year we have a cornucopia of colour. Bordering our concrete road you can just make out the specimen whitebeams with their wooden stakes. This image also shows a line of trees on the other side of the main tarmac road, ‘encrusted’ with ivy. These are off the Estate and alas will sadly soon be removed by the council due to Dutch Elm Disease and the danger they hold to road users.
It was because of this that I was keen to ‘give something back’ to the local area and more notably the Cuckmere Valley. This will be in the form of a belt of elm trees as you enter the Estate. So many elms have been lost here, like those pictured, and elsewhere in Sussex due to Dutch Elm Disease. This has no connection to clogs or daffodils. It’s more a case of a fungal disease which attacks the Elm and is spread by an Elm beetle which enters under the bark (It was Dutch scientists that identified the issue hence the name).
I always like a story and a theme – in this case we are using an Elm with a scientific name of Ulmus columella. Firstly, it should be disease resistant, but more excitingly (for me!) is that Lucius Columella (AD 70) was a prominent Roman scholar with writings in agriculture, arboriculture and……viticulture! (It excited me anyway)
And finally. Two new invaders to the Estate have recently appeared. The first in the form of a garden escapee which was found during our fencing work – I’ll keep a watchful eye on this unwanted guest – Chinese lantern – pictured below. Very pretty flower but also pretty invasive!
The other invader (invasion?) is my tribe (aka my family) which has moved onto the Estate. Amongst other things, Spike has a partner in crime in my dog Harry. They have already explored the vineyard like a scene from Brokeback Mountain.