We manage our small patch of countryside to be as wildlife-friendly as we can, because it feels right. But it's also good for vine health. Varied plantlife means a balance of insects and an overwhelming insect attack less likely than in a vine monocrop, making insecticides unnecessary. The alleys between our vine rows are natural sward which hasn’t been ploughed, fertilised or sprayed with anything since 1985. We let the grasses come up to seed each year, delaying summer mowing until July when plants have seeded and insects and small mammals have finished breeding.
The vineyard floor is now species rich, capturing carbon and nitrogen and providing habitat for small creatures that in their turn attract birds. The vineyard is alive with insects, including darters, damsel and dragonflies and many varieties of butterfly in summer. We have roe deer, badgers, hares, rabbits, moles, voles, foxes, buzzards, sparrowhawks, barn and tawny owls, swallows, goldfinches, green and spotted woodpeckers and many more. In 2015 the BBC Natural History Unit visited to film our hornets, which are apparently getting increasingly rare. We like them because they eat wasps and don’t attack us unless threatened.
We have not sprayed herbicide strips directly under the vines since 2013. We no longer use any herbicide and control weeds with mulching, strimming and mowing.
Our ancient, species-diverse, banked hedgerows are cut only once every 8 years, providing habitat and berries for animals, birds and insects. The bottom of the vineyard is bounded by a small willow-lined stream, home to frogs, toads and eels
We are allowing natural areas of rough grass next to the vineyard to rewild, to give a habitat for wildlife, supporting small and larger mammals, hawks and owls. The hawks help keep blackbirds in the hedge, away from ripening grapes. Natural scrubby areas and native woodland are regenerating and we are self-sufficient in wood for the house fire (dried under cover for 2 years, of course).
Pictured below, a goldfinch nest in one of our vines, a hornet stealing a spider's prey, a buzzard perching on one of our vine posts