Harvest time in a Covid Landscape

The English Wine Harvest is upon us, with its gloomy skies, occasional showers and nip in the air. Yes, autumn is upon us. We desperately cross our fingers that the grapes will ripen before the mould gets them. The glamour of an English vineyard! It is my sixth harvest at the Rothley Wine Estate this year and still my favourite time of year. Happily, it’s good, wholesome outdoor volunteer work. The rows of vines are well spaced. We can safely work socially distanced from our fellow volunteers. Therefore the whole thing is well within government recommendations. Good job because the only thing more depressing than the relatively paltry harvest (thanks to a May frost hitting much of the first growth) would be letting all the bunches drop to the floor for a lack of manpower to pick them.

This year we have two vineyard dogs to help us. Bouncy Mabel has been joined by the enthusiastic not-so-baby Ivy. The two English Pointers take great delight in bounding up and down the rows as we pick. They do an excellent job of keeping the rabbits away. The vineyard hens also make the most of the unexpected bounty, timidly following pickers’ wheelbarrows looking for a dropped grape or a curious worm to peck on.

Wine Baby

And one of the days I went along, we took Bam Bam for her first harvest . Naturally this made me the very proud parent. The vineyard was the first place she ever visited (except for home and the hospital) when I had to go and run the wine tastings. So if she ever fancies a career in wine, she can certainly say it’s in her blood! I think next year will be more fun but certainly harder work when she is mobile. Jowever, I am really liking taking her along to places like this for new sights and sensations. And so I can take cute photos. Also so she can meet new people (albeit from a distance).

As ever we were treated like royalty by winemaker Liz. She provided coffee and warm croissants in the morning as well as a satisfying hot lunch, again all doled out with every regard for Covid-safety. And you go home with something that goes clink after a session of volunteering! If you want to get involved, there are still some harvesting weekends left to go this season. Plus of course there are jobs to do all year round at the vineyard. Just send Liz an email at rothleywine@btinternet.com to join the list. If you get a newsletter but don’t fancy any of the dates, then you just don’t reply – it’s as simple as that. And with occasional flashes of brilliant sunshine, and the sound of the Great Central Railway’s steam trains gently huffing out of the station in the near distance, it really is as close to a slice of English paradise as you can get.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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