Vineyard facing threat of closure issues plea for funding
11th May 2023
London’s Forty Hall Vineyard, which produces award-winning still and sparkling wines says it has suffered three poor harvests and is in need of vital funds for pest control and a reliable tractor.
The vineyard, which claims to be London’s only commercial-scale vineyard, has been hit by adverse weather conditions, devastating powdery mildew and a lack of adequate resources to control it.
Without urgent funding for improved equipment and additional resources within the next few weeks, there is a very real risk to the 2023 harvest. Another poor vintage will mean no more wine to sell and the end of the vineyard, Forty Hall says.
Originally planted in 2009, the vineyard is certified organic and largely cared for by a team of passionate volunteers. It produces its wine from a unique North London terroir, in partnership with winemaker Will Davenport.
As a social enterprise, all income from the wines is put back into maintaining the vineyard and supporting its work as a community asset, delivering health and wellbeing benefits to local people.
“Can’t survive another year”
Head of operations, Emma Lundie says: “This year really is make or break for us. We have managed ourselves well to keep the project going, despite three poor harvests and a pandemic, but we cannot survive another year and be sustainable in the long term without the right infrastructure in place to manage the vines.”
The vineyard needs to crowdfund £85,000 in order to be self-sufficient. The biggest element of the investment is a reliable tractor, which would allow timely application of organic sprays to protect the vines from disease, as well as other essential vineyard maintenance.
Emma explains: “At the moment we share a tractor with Forty Hall Farm, where we are based, and it is not always available on the very specific days when we need to use it for essential spraying.
“The tractor we use also has a nasty habit of breaking down at crucial times. We simply cannot operate as a sustainable vineyard without our own tractor, that is fit for purpose.”
The vineyard has over 100 registered volunteers who carry out all tasks throughout the year, from winter pruning, through weeding and mulching, to harvesting the grapes. It also offers one-off team days, community lunches, and has Garden of Sanctuary status.
The loss of Forty Hall Vineyard would mean an end to its community outreach work with groups such as the local Ukrainian refugee women’s support group.
Karen Cunningham who has been part of the Forty Hall team since 2016 said: “For us volunteers, the vineyard is about more than making wine. For some, it helps with personal challenges like loneliness, depression, bereavement and anxiety; for others it’s a place to meet, be outdoors and work together as part of something worthwhile.
“After all the effort that many people have put into this so far, and after all our successes, it would be such a loss if London’s vineyard disappeared.”
Visit the fundraising page here: https://localgiving.org/appeal/tractorfund/