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Driving into Spring.

Updated: May 8

When – in the dim and distant past – your correspondent decided to plant a vineyard in England, there were a number of things that we didn't see coming. Chief among them was that farming is quite an heroic occupation. A fairly close second was that we would be sharing our summers with the general public, and that the vines would require such close attention during their growing season.

These are challenges that we have warmed to pretty quickly and still really enjoy. It's lovely to share our little bit of paradise with new people, and who wouldn't want to spend the summer stood in the sunshine with 16,000* of their best friends? In hindsight, it should probably have been fairly self explanatory that attempting to grow sickly plants in a tricky climate, that are planted in a tourist destination would be fairly time consuming in summer, but one lives and learns, eh?

*Okay, 14,500 best friends, Bacchus is like a moody teenager.

While summers have become as rewarding as they are exhausting, it does mean that we have to physically be here throughout the customary English holiday period. This has left us with a hole for fleeing – well, your correspondent being frog marched off the premises by three exasperated family members – the country in February or the run up to Easter. As Easter fell early this year, we took the children away at the start of the month, just as the vines were having a serious think about starting to grow.

If you are at all familiar with vine growing in the colder parts of the world – in Europe, we can perhaps imagine a line from somewhere around central France and all parts north of this line – you will immediately be shouting that it is absolute folly to be running away from the vines at this time of year. Any self respecting grower of grapes should be stood looking at a weather station and panicking about frosted vines!

Well, nearly, but not quite. Due to a little judgement and rather a lot of luck, we don't have much trouble with frost. Our, ahem, unique site is more of a magnet for high wind and flattened trellising than it is a frost magnet. These two things are related – probably much more on this when I am yet again knocking in posts to replace the broken ones – suffice to say here that it is a trade that is absolutely worth making.

I digress. Shortly after the Easter festivities, I peeled off my workwear – that was at least three parts mud to one part actual clothing – put some clothes on that were less likely to embarrass the children and climbed aboard an aeroplane on the 4000th consecutive day of rainfall in Devon.

What a difference a week makes. Not to me of course, a week's worth of late nights and wanton over indulgence had wrought damage that was as customary as it was predictable, but everything looked absolutely spectacular when we arrived back. The growing season has started wholesale when we weren't looking once before, about ten years ago when were in Spain, but when it does, it's the most perfectly magical thing. The trees were all in leaf, the vines were out and racing along, you could walk across a field without disappearing into it, the sun was out, and it was warm. People constantly eulogise about spring, but man, it isn't half joyous to see evidence of it after three quarters of the Atlantic Ocean has deposited itself on you over winter.

So what's next, now that the growing season is underway and the winter pruning is done? Before the vines start growing with astonishing speed in June, this is a great time to cross our fingers and hope that it is dry enough to attempt to get a vehicle and some posts onto the land to do the aforementioned trellis repairs.

This is always a tricky balancing act at this time of year. I'm an expert at getting pickups stuck in fields, it is a very unusual year indeed when I'm not at some point sat in one, digging an increasingly large hole in the ground as mud rains down on the roof of my inextricably stuck chariot. If one is to leave it too late, however, that means whacking enormous posts into ground that will swallow neither pickup nor post without great effort. Timing is everything, and I believe that my window is this week.

Expect photos of a half buried Ford Ranger presently as we go driving into spring.

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