Thursday, 28 May 2009

Not just “Beau séjour” but “Bonne dégustation!”

Is Budleigh really trying to tempt French-speaking visitors to the town with that Town Council’s motto of ‘Beau Séjour’ (literally ‘Have a great stay!’)?

If so, it might as well add ‘Bonne dégustation!’ For winemakers – or should we say viticulteurs? – Alan and Faye Pratt are ready and waiting for oenophiles – that’s winelovers to you and me – at their Lily Farm estate in Knowle, just a few miles west of Budleigh.

Above: Alan and Faye Pratt proudly show off a bottle of their Lily Farm Vineyard wine.

The first day of Budleigh’s Gala Week celebrations last Saturday also marked the showcasing of the couple’s wine from their celebrated red grapes. The event coincided with Devon Wine Week, which is part of English Wine Week. A vineyard tour and wine-tasting were on offer to visitors, with a small charge made to benefit Devon-based charity Hospiscare.

The couple amazed fellow vineyard owners recently when their first ever crop was ready for harvesting a month before anywhere else in the UK. They harvested their first crop of Rondo grapes in early September 2007, but the variety is not usually picked until early October. Above: Lily Farm vineyard, Knowle
Mr Pratt, a part-time financial advisor and part-time nurse Mrs Pratt bought the Lily Farm land 17 years ago from another grape-growing enthusiast who owns a vineyard in the centre of Budleigh. They started their own vineyard in Knowle by planting 200 rondo vines in April 2005.

Above: The flourishing small vineyard next to St Peter's Church in Budleigh

Another 200 vines were planted two years later, and in May 2008 the couple planted 950 extra vines on their two-acre site allowing them to grow grapes to produce not just red and white but also rosé and sparkling wines.
Lily Farm is ideally sited on a sloping south-west facing hillside, but vine-growing is not the easiest of occupations, being highly labour-intensive. “We’ve had to net the vines to keep birds away, and wasps are also a problem as the grapes ripen, but as far as possible we’re using environmentally friendly ways to deal with predators,” said Alan Pratt.
Right: Visitors to the vineyard are greeted by the sight of beautiful arum lilies
growing on the banks of the nearby brook.

There are nearly 400 commercial vineyards in England and Wales covering approximately 2000 acres of land in total, ad producing around 2m bottles per year. Nearly all are in the southern half of England and Wales. Most English and Welsh vineyards are small (less than 5 acres), many very small (less than 1 acre). Only a small number exceed 25 acres and just a handful 50 acres. The largest, at Dorking, Surrey, has around 200 acres of vines under cultivation.

More information about Lily Farm can be found at

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