Sheffield vineyard set to open to the public following successful harvest

Volunteers harvested a bumper crop this year following an unusually hot summer
Volunteers harvested a bumper crop this year following an unusually hot summer

A charity-run vineyard in Sheffield, which has previously produced an award-winning wine, will be open to the public next year thanks to a long, hot, summer. 

This year volunteers for the Whirlow Hall Farm Trust harvested over three and a half tonnes of grapes ready to be made into wine, after an exceptionally hot summer led to their most successful crop to date.

Volunteers Simon Baddeley and Derek Henry, pictured in the vineyard with bottles of wine from a previous crop

Volunteers Simon Baddeley and Derek Henry, pictured in the vineyard with bottles of wine from a previous crop

And, thanks to the bumper crop, members of the public will be able to sample the home-grown tipple, as the trust revealed that as of next year they will be open to the public, offering vineyard tours and the chance to buy the wine. 

Ben Davies, Chief Executive of Whirlow Hall Farm Trust, said: “Over the past say, around eight years, the harvest has been up and down, we’ve had good years and we’ve had bad years.

“Last year from around 350 kilos we produced just under 500 bottles. The only time we got to the heady heights of triple digits was in 2015 when we harvested just over a tonne of grapes. 

“This year we harvested almost three times as many - 3.35 tonnes across the three different varieties we grow Phoenix, Solaris and Rondo. It has been a great success, it just shows what can be done.

The grapes will be sent off to be made into wine, ready to be sold next year (Picture: Alison Fawcett)

The grapes will be sent off to be made into wine, ready to be sold next year (Picture: Alison Fawcett)

“This means that next year we will be able to sell red, white, rose and sparking wine at a scale that makes it worth while to sell. It will be a great income scheme for the trust.

“We will also be able to start vineyard tours next year, which will provide a beautiful setting for us to talk about the work of the charity and the good work of the trust.”

The vines are lovingly tended throughout the year by volunteers Derek Henry and Simon Baddeley, who have taken ownership of the vineyard and tried various different techniques to ensure year on year success.

Once harvested, the grapes are sent to Halfpenny Green Winery in Staffordshire to be turned into wine and bottled before arriving back in Sheffield a year later.

Volunteers harvested a bumper crop this year following an unusually hot summer

Volunteers harvested a bumper crop this year following an unusually hot summer

It is then distributed to the individuals and organisations who sponsor the vines, as a thank you for the thousands of pounds they give the charity each year.

That money helps the trust continue to provide opportunities at the working farm for thousands of children and young people each year, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

However, next year will be the first time the public will also have to opportunity to buy the wine and contribute to the work of the trust.

Ben said: “The bottles come back in June each year, and the wine club who sponsor us then get to sample it. All being well we will be selling in mid summer.”

Throughout the years the trust have developed to find ways to fund their work as a children’s charity.

Ben added: “The traditional sources of income dried up, so we had to diversify to keep going and meet costs. We began selling Christmas trees, we have the butchery, we just had to find ways that people are willing to support and that are sustainable. 

“We invested a lot of time and effort into the cafe and butchery, we host events almost every week both private and public to raise the profile of the trust and bring in money.”

The vineyard was originally set up in 2010 by trust Hugh Facey, owner of Sheffield-based manufacturer Gripple, which makes the products used to tether its 3,000-plus vines.

With the farm standing 263 metres above sea level, the trust claims to be the nation's highest grape grower, and is possibly one of the most northern in the UK.

As well as running school visits, educating youngsters about where their food comes from, the charity supports young people with autism and those who have been excluded, or are at risk of exclusion  from school.

To keep up to date with the latest news about the vineyard, visit the Whirlow Hall Farm Trust website