Since having children, I have met a lot of interesting mums living in and around Bishopston. However, until recently, I had never met someone who owns and manages her own vineyard!
Ingrid Bates lives in Bishopston with her partner, Stephen and two daughters (4 and 2). Ingrid, is the owner and manager of Dunleavy Vineyards, which is situated in Wrington Vale in Somerset. She planted the vineyards in 2008 and is due to be releasing her first wines in 2013.
I wanted to interview Ingrid to learn more about Dunleavy Vineyards and the wines she will be releasing. I feel it is important to promote locally produced wine, especially wine that is produced by a local Mum! I also wanted to hear about Ingrid’s thoughts and experiences as a mum to young children in Bishopston. I hope you enjoy my interview with her!
1) How did you come to start a vineyard?
After graduating from Uni in London I managed (after much effort) to get a job at the BBC Natural History Unit as a researcher. I thought it would be my dream job but after a couple of years decided it wasn’t really for me and started wondering what I would enjoy doing. I got a job as a gardener at Ston Easton Park in Somerset; from there I moved to Thornbury Castle where they have a small vineyard.
That’s where it all started really. I found I really enjoyed the cycle of events in the vineyard and gradually I decided I wanted to have a go at running my own. I love working outdoors (usually!) but am also interested in marketing and branding – running Dunleavy vineyards allows me to combine these things.
2) Had you always wanted to set up a vineyard?
No. A lot of people who have vineyards have arrived at that point because they love wine. I do love wine but am also really interested in the growing and the horticultural side of things. I am passionate about English Wines as a product. They are really good! It’s an exciting time because the public are gradually realising this too. I’d like to add to the success the industry is experiencing.
3) What does setting up & managing a vineyard involve?
Setting up a vineyard involves a lot of thought and planning. The site needs to be chosen, the soil prepared, vine varieties chosen and then planted. You need to think about what sort of wine you want to make and, therefore, what type of vines to plant.
Get rid of any romantic notions you may have about vineyards. The work is hard and quite monotonous; if you like that sort of thing, as I do, then great. But if you tend to procrastinate, the vines won’t wait and you could end up with an overgrown mess! The main bulk of the physical work happens during the spring prune around Jan-Feb time, and again in mid-summer with the canopy management, but there is always something to do at most times of year.
As a general overview, I suppose you need to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades – able to do the physical work in the vineyard as well as promoting and selling the wine at a later stage.
4) How do you manage a vineyard and childcare?
My children go to nursery two days a week so I have to squeeze everything into this time. I still manage the small vineyard at Thornbury Castle as well as my own. Two days doesn’t sound like much but I can generally keep on top of things because I am pretty good at organizing myself and working hard when I have to.
In the summer I sometimes do the odd evening when things get busy but I’m normally quite tired after being with the children all day so try and avoid doing this! My parents have been a great help to me in my own vineyard – they usually do a day a week but this will change once my children start school. I have two girls who are 4 & 2. My eldest is about to start school in Bishopston this September.
My partner Stephen has his own business as well. He set up Humble Bee Films a few years ago. They make wildlife documentaries. He helps with the childcare as much as possible but his work sometimes means he has to travel abroad to film for a few weeks at a time. It was quite tiring when the children were younger but the older they get, the less tiring it gets… I think?!
5) What are your ambitions re your vineyard?
I’d love for my wine to win awards and be well thought of. The winemaker I am using regularly wins International Awards so I am pretty confident the wine will be great. I like the idea that I can be part of the movement toward getting more people to drink English wine.
6) What type of wine do you hope to produce?
I grow Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc. Pinot is a red grape. It is hard to grow and doesn’t always yield huge crops but the resulting wine is often something special. Seyval is a white grape. It tends to produce bigger crops of equal quality. It is often used in sparkling wine production instead of the traditional Champagne varieties. I hope to produce both sparkling and still wines from my grapes.
7) What do you think the advantages are of raising children in Bishopston and surrounding areas?
I love Bishopston. I love being surrounded by like-minded people who are all at the same stage of life as me. There are so many great baby clubs, groups, parks and things to do in the city and, unlike the countryside, everything is in walking distance so you don’t need to get in the car to do something. I live just off Gloucester Road and use all the little shops every day. The interaction that you have with the shopkeepers helps give this area a really good community feel that I suspect a lot of people don’t have. Most of my friends live within walking distance, which is really nice too. I feel quite lucky to live here.
8) What do you think the disadvantages of raising children in this area are?
Sometimes it is nice to get into a big open space where there are no other people. To do this, we need to drive for about 15 minutes to get out of the city. I get my fix of this at the vineyard every week where I often work on my own all day – not sure if my children are aware of this sort of thing yet. I can’t actually think of disadvantages other than the competition for school places. A lot of my friends have started moving out of Bristol for this reason. I am in a good spot so am not so affected by it. I grew up in rural Somerset & remember feeling quite trapped in my village until I was old enough to drive.
9) What playgroups and classes that you have taken your children to in the area would you recommend?
Music with Mummy with Sophie Lincoln at Quaker Meeting House, Gloucester Road.
Piglets Play Group at St Michael’s and All Angels Church, Gloucester Road (Pigsty Hill)
Emily Baker Dance at David Lloyd Leisure Centre, Westbury on Trym
These classes are my mainstay. I love Redland & St Andrews Parks as well as Cheltenham Road Library. I sometimes go to the school holiday gym classes at the big Gymnasium on Gloucester Road or the White Tree playgroup near Waitrose in Henleaze. There is a lot going on but I don’t like to be too booked up – I have a border collie that I have to walk every day as well!
Anyone interested in following the progress of Dunleavy Vineyards can follow Ingrid on twitter for regular updates or sign up to her newsletter.
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