Outside of the house in Peasmarsh, East Sussex that Ben Walgate has moved into, there is a wild vine. This year it has yielded a surprisingly big crop of, as yet unidentified, red grapes. Its unruly fruitfulness seems somehow symbolic of the wine adventure that Ben is embarking on, a mixture of detailed planning and last-minute improvisation. The hub of the project, a house, and various outbuildings, is situated off a winding lane, amidst fields and copses on a slope leading town to the Tillingham River which meanders down to Rye. Ben has planted a vineyard next to a winery, and will bring in ancillary income eventually by means of renting out accommodation, opening a restaurant, conducting wine tours and generally revitalising the remainder of the farm (some 70 acres in total). The home vineyard is a work in progress. Organic compost has been applied to five acres of former pasture, cover crops – radish, mustard and vetch have been sown, and the headlands and surrounding areas have been planted with a mix of rye and clover to help with soil structure, whilst sheep will be introduced into these areas in the spring, and the first biodynamic prep (500) has already been applied in order to engender greater microbial life in the soil.
Since then Ben has planted 10,000 plants comprising thirteen grape varieties (so far). More are in the offing.