Over recent years there has been much interest in what English vineyards are growing. As English produced wines become more popular, Ealing’s very own community vineyard could be the next big thing in English wine.
Every year, the community run Horsenden Grape & Honey Farm in Greenford holds its annual picking and juicing of its red and green grapes that have been growing on its vines. This year’s event took place on a very hot and sunny 6 September 2023 and saw more than 30 people attend including local Councillors Aysha Raza, Amarjit Jammu and Muhammad Iqbal.
The farm, which is also connected to the Horsenden Allotment and Garden Association (HAAGA), started in 2017 after it successfully crowdfunded £33,089 from 35 backers. This included £10,750 from Ealing Council as part of the Transform Your Space project and £10,000 from the Mayor of London.
With the money it has enabled them to transform a derelict plot of land in Greenford’s Whitton Avenue into a thriving vineyard. Over the past six years they have also had many volunteers to help them as well as businesses keen to show their support to the local community.
This year like in previous years, the grapes are made into both juice as well as wine.
Those who attended also had the opportunity of treading of the grapes, an ancient tradition which dates back to Roman times and sees the grapes crushed by feet.
During the grape picking event, EALING.NEWS had an opportunity to find out more about the farm and those involved with it.
Joseph Mangar who started the vineyard explained more how it came about from what was derelict land. He said: “I started the vineyard six years as it was was ideal location to have it here. It is sloping and south facing. And there’s no better aspect for a vineyard than a slope and south facing.
Mr Mangar explained more abut how they got people involved. “I’m part of the Ealing allotment partnership. I’m a governor of school. And with that I have meet lots of people within our group and our local councillors have also spread the news about our vineyard.”
As well as grapes, they will also be producing local honey. Mr Mangar said: “Eventually there’ll be honey. We’ve got a site ready available to use. We just need some help and volunteers because we are a community project.”
Mr Mangar explained the type of grapes they have. “They’re green and red. The green grapes are solaris. And the red grapes are regent. The soil here was tested six years ago, and we sent the results of that test off to France and they came back with two types of groups that were suitable with this climate and the soil. The solaris I sourced from Germany. It’s quite a continental mix of things.”
Two types of wine are produced, Horsenden Classic White and Horsenden Classic Red and there are even plans for a sparkling one as well. Mr Mangar explained: “We harvest them and we ferment them, and we bottle them. It takes about six to eight months before the wine has matured. So next year we will be selling wines. Before we’ve given them away and sponsored the first prizes of raffles all over Ealing and the prize was a bottle of classic white and classic red.
With wine being available next year, residents can sample the grape juice now. Mr Manger explained: “Well, the grape juice will be available now. But they only last three days. But when we take that up to the Hill, we all pasteurise it and that bottle grape juice would last for up to a year but once opened you have to drink it.”
Along with Councillor Amarjit Jammu, Councillor Aysha Raza took part in the stomping of the grapes. Councillor Raza said: “It’s lovely to see the grapes actually on the vine because I remember the freezing cold day when we were literally stood here, getting things up and running. And today, let’s just look at them. They’re glorious, aren’t they? I don’t think I’ve seen so many grapes before.”
Councillor Jammu also said the project had been a real success with local people from all backgrounds coming together and helping to grow and pick the grapes.
One of the organisers is Roshni who explained they are also looking for people to help them. “We’re always looking for more volunteers, and especially people with different skills as well. We’re also looking for people who are good at fundraising, because we are so busy doing the work that we don’t always have the time to go out and actually look for where there may be resources.”
92-year-old Eddie Weston is president of the Horsenden Allotment & Garden Association and was one of the many people who took part in the stomping of the grapes. Mr Weston is encouraging anyone to take part to help them and you don’t need any experience.
He said: “We need people to help out on Wednesday afternoons, just for the general work through the winter months. Pruning the vines back, cutting the grass and taking the weeds out. There’s always plenty to do and no experience is needed. We would be very pleased to see anyone who wants to come along Wednesday afternoons from 2:30pm to 4:30pm.”