31/01/2023 // Paul Harrison

Ewe heard it here first!

‘Ewe’ heard it hear first: woolly guests flock to Saffron Grange

Anyone who has joined us on one of our tours will know about our journey to improve soil health, avoid chemicals, and encourage a thriving, biodiverse ecosystem.

This passion for regenerative viticulture is what led to us recently welcoming twenty Southdown rams to our vineyard. The sheep will be our guests for a few weeks during an exciting new experiment, which we hope will transform the way we conduct vineyard maintenance, and further our sustainability drive.

The beautiful sheep are free to graze amongst the vines, enabling a natural ‘closed loop system’ that will reduce our carbon footprint by avoiding the need to bring any equipment or products on site. Sheep are highly efficient lawn mowers, whilst their droppings act as one of the best fertilisers around and will improve the overall quality of the vines and eco-system.

The trial period is expected to last for three to four weeks, after which, if all goes well, we are expecting to open the vineyard up to even more sheep, hopefully, including some lambs!

This novel approach is starting to be more widely adopted by vineyards, with some even deploying geese, chicken and ducks. It stems from more traditional approaches to agriculture before the post-World War II fertiliser boom. Avoiding artificial fertilisers and synthetic pesticides wherever possible has always been a priority for us, as it helps protect the delicate balance in the soil – which contains all the nutrients and micro-organisms we need to grow the best quality grapes.

The sheep, who are on holiday with us from their usual home at the Linking Environment and Farming – awarded E W Davies Farm Ltd in Thaxted, will be penned into different areas of the vineyard in a ‘mob graze’ approach that means we’re able to track where they have roamed to ensure good coverage.

Fortunately, the vines are safe from these hungry beasts during the coldest months, until bud burst later in Spring, after which the sheep will be safely transferred back to their farm.

So far, the sheep have been exemplary guests, and we are hopeful that they may soon become a regular feature in the colder months.