Dartmoor National Park conjures up images of open moorland, burnished bracken and rocky high tors but not necessarily vineyards.
Yet here nestling in a primrose filled valley near Bridford on the south east facing slopes of the Teign Valley, six miles to the south west of Exeter is a small ten acre vineyard planted with champagne grape varieties producing handcrafted sparkling and still wines.
A pretty stone bridge over the River Teign leads up a tiny deep lane to the vineyard where in 2012 following a move from London Ben and Caroline Goulden ambitiously embarked on the vast and at times terrifying job of nurturing 10,000 plants into well trained, highly productive vines producing great English wines. Having gained viticulture qualifications and prepared the site, a crack team of laser-guided Germans drove in and planted every vine in one day. “It seemed easy until the crack team left and the really hard work began.” When we visited recently they were hard at work pruning by hand each one of those 10,000 vines.
“It’s been a steep and and rewarding learning curve and now six years later we feel that the fun is really beginning. In 2017 we built a bespoke tasting barn at Swanaford, creating an amazing space for the public to come and learn about the challenges of growing grapes in Devon and to taste some of our wines!”
Lucky garden festival goers can try Swanaford’s latest vintages as Ben and Caroline are coming with their recently converted horsebox from which they will sell glasses and bottles of their Devon wines. The 2016 classic Cuvée for example – “a beautifully balanced wine with delicate citrus, brioche and floral notes.” A real treat for visitors after walking the festival site and buying lots of wonderful plants!
And if any gardeners are interested in visiting the vineyard (or even staying there) and seeing just what it takes to produce really delicious Devon wine then Ben and Caroline offer tours and tastings. Such a beautiful setting by the river and the vineyard is a haven for wildlife too.
And here’s a bonus. Toby’s Garden Festival goers can book a vineyard tour at the event for a reduced price too – £10.00 per head saving £2.50 on usual price. www.swanaford.com