SO SO SO proud of my very old (as in long-standing) friends The Drivers who have managed to do something extraordinary in the South Downs. Sarah and I grew up together in Hong Kong and she was lucky enough to spend much of her childhood on tea plantations in Lantau, so when Mark, her husband, first started talking about his big plans, she was the perfect partner to work with having been used to farm projects all her life. They began to create their shared vision for a Wine Estate which has been literally coming to life before my very eyes over the last few years. We were there to plant the first vines a few years ago when there was nothing but a couple of derelict old barns and some land…now, they nearly have wine, they have healthy crops, they have wine tasting, teas, functions, concerts and they have also just completed the restoration of the original farm house of the Rathfinny Farm and created the “Flint Barns” to a level that is far superior to most people’s homes. I would certainly move in there full time if they could trust me not to drink all their wine.
It is a very posh hostel (a “Poshtel”?) that will not only feed and accommodate the Rathfinny team during the harvest and winter pruning, but is also available for private hire. I would highly recommend it if you’re looking for a space for a family weekend, party style gathering or corporate trip away, this venue would be perfect – it sleeps around 46 people in a number of different style rooms. They have a resident chef who produced the most delicious pie I’ve ever had on the night we stayed and there are also laundry facilities, hair dryers, ensuite bathrooms, towels, bedding, lovely rooms, wine, fabulous views, a great sitting room, games, books, you can even bring well behaved pets…it’s all been fabulously well thought out.
I was there on Friday with my son, Sarah and the Driver team, some other friends and some journalists – for dinner, to stay the night and then trial the trail in the morning…the launch of their “permissive” trail – a 2k saunter around their land so that you can have a good old peek at all the vines and what they’re up to. All that was missing was the cutting of the ribbon.
So here is a photo diary of our time there just to give you more of an idea of what it all looks like:-
The communal space – the lovely comfortable sitting room:-
and the super sociable dining room:-
The hallway and stairs up to the rooms:-
This was the 8 bunk room my son and I shared – with two little ensuite shower rooms – again – better decorated than my own bathroom and with a splendid shower head:-
The view from our window and chocolates!:-
My own ensuite:-
We chilled out in the sitting room for a pre-dinner drink and then ate a hearty meal all together which was truly delicious – all prepared and cooked on site and sourced from local suppliers where possible:-
The hungry group:-
Pudding was ginger and something ice cream with local rhubarb. Loved it:-
Breakfast the following day with Downland Butchers local sausages and the rest from Dymock Farm just over the hill!
So the next morning we met at the bottom of the hill to walk the new permissive trail. This is generally unheard of that landowners provide the walk, rather than the National Trust insist on it! This takes them another step further to providing a full experience for visitors and creating further narrative around the wine and their story.
Ready, steady, Go:-
Complete with sheep:-
Back at the ranch for coffee and lunch:-
View from the first floor of the courtyard facility:-
You can find all the useful information on their website www.rathfinnyestate.com