Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard

Roy Cook and his wife Irma, from Germany, inherited 10 acres of land in Sedlescombe in 1974, and they decided to earn a small income from organic vegetable farming, as self-suffience was all the rage then . However, they soon latched on to the vine revival spreading across Southern England and realised their land had all the right conditions for viticulture.

The Sedlescombe Vineyard has won numerous awards for their wines whicch are all from hand picked fruit, grown and made under organic standards. In 1979 Roy and Irma started with 2,000 vines across one and a half acres. Now they own three vineyards spread over 12 acres and rent another two, totalling 11 acres.

Sedlescombe Organic Vinyards at Bodiam Castle

My Favorite White: the 30 Years Old Vine (Vieille Vigne). An elegant, light wine reminiscent of ripe bramley apples and limes, with exotic grassy flavours.

Sedlecombe Organic Vineyards produce an average of between 20,000 and 25,000 bottles a year, based on a method they unearthed in a German Gothic textbook written by Dr Julius Nessler in 1885. He advocated a radical departure from conventional wine-making wisdom. Roy and Irma kept their knowledge a secret for many years, but now their wines have won many awards, they’re happy to share it.

Roy and Irma are offering hobby winemakers a piece of their pioneering vineyard at Cripps Corner, Robertsbridge, by becoming a member of the Rentavine wine club at England’s oldest organic vineyard. Hobbyists can participate in growing organic grapes, making English wine and enjoy broadening their knowledge of this fascinating and pleasurable subject. All the fun without the risk.

Roy & Irma Cook, in association with vineyard manager Inga Keck, are since 2010 applying the principles of Biodynamic agriculture as laid down by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, on all 22 acres of their organic vineyards.

First Release (Biodynamic & Organic)
Bronze Medal – UK Vineyard’s Association ‘Wine of the Year’ competition 2011. First Biodynamic English wine, crafted from hand-picked Bacchus, Solaris and Rivaner grapes. Concentrated fresh aroma, with tropical, zesty flavours of gooseberry, grapefruit and lemon grass. Drink now, within 5 years – or auction in 50 years!

On becoming Bio-dynamic, Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard will apply to join the prestigious world-wide groupings of Bio-dynamic Vineyards as a member of “Return to Terroir”. This group, founded by Nicolas Joly, seeks to re-assert the individuality and difference of wines produced in different regions and in different localities and to set itself apart from the faceless blandness and conformity of the products of international wine conglomerates.

“Our vineyards, organic for 30 years, are now teeming with wild-life”, says Roy. “Insects are attracted to the flowering green manure cover crops grown to improve soil fertility, and in turn they attract birds with resident pheasants enjoying the cover these crops provide”. Since the biodynamic conversion the organic vineyards are also in tune with the earth’s rhythms. The aptly named ‘First Release’ is a dry white whose label features the moon – a nod to the incorporation of lunar and cosmic rhythms in their ‘new age’ farming methods.

This self-built house in the vineyard was built by Constructive Individuals in three weeks time, using Walter Segal’s system of post and beam construction.

In 1986 Roy and Irma Cook built the bungalow to replace the old caravan on the land they inherited in 1974, but these plans were turned down by Rother District Council, and the “vineyard couple” faced eviction.

They had to show within two years that their business was viable. Well, we now know that it is!

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The Queen’s Head — Sedlescombe

The Queen's Head, Sedlescombe

Sedlescombe is a village and civil parish in the Rother District of East Sussex, England.The village is located seven miles (11 km) north of St. Leonards-on-Sea, on the A21 to London.

The parish lies within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The River Brede and its tributary the River Line flow through it; and Powdermill Reservoir is nearby, however difficult to access if you’re not fly-fishing. It has a population of approximately 1,500.

The geese house, behind the Queen's Head Inn

The village traces its roots back to Roman times. The oldest house in the village (Asselton House) was formerly called Asselton Bath and is reputed to be on the site of a Roman bathhouse. The surrounding area is rich in Roman remains, including the headquarters of the Roman navy in Britain just four miles (6 km) away at current day Beauport Park in St Leonards-on-Sea. This was the location where the Romans exported their local iron products from.

Three geese, the watchdogs of the Queen's Head Inn

Sedlescombe grew up around the village green close to the river that had brought the earliest pre-Roman settlers here in search of the iron ore. The iron industry was expanded by the Romans who also built the road through the village still known as “The Street”. Many centuries later, at the end of the 15th century, the introduction of the blast furnace allowed cast iron items, including cannons and cannon balls, to be made in local forges and furnaces. By the 18th century, Sedlescombe was making gunpowder and was said to have produced “the best gunpowder in Europe”. Both iron and gunpowder production relied on good charcoal which was made locally in Petley Wood until the end of the 20th century. The only signs of the iron industry nowadays are waste slag that can be found in the fields, small ponds oozing soft black mud and the listing of a few archaeological sites on a map.

Schoolkids on their way home. In the background: the Pumphouse on the Green

Fifty years ago the village boasted two pubs, a butcher, a bakery, a newsagent, a blacksmith, a garage, two eateries and two general stores. Only the village store remains, and then, to the joy of all of us, there is still the inn, the Queens Head.

"Metropolitan Drinking Fountain -- Horse & Cattle Trough's Association"

The Queens Head, as it stands today, is an ancient pub that was built in the 14th century. Its location however, on the side of a Roman road, suggests that the pub might have a much longer history. It was also used by the notorious Hawkhurst Gang, and the Smuggler’s Tunnel can still be seen from the cellar.

Elizabeth I was once stayed at the Queens Head and in celebration, the villagers planted an oak tree on The Green that is still there today.

This is the way English Heritage describes the Queen’s Head Inn: “C15 timber-framed building, refaced with red brick on ground floor and tile-hung above with a slight bellcast between and trace of a bressummer beneath this. The south end and the centre portion project slightly with gables over. Tiled roof. Casement windows with small square panes. Brick chimney breast with shoulders on south wall. Two storeys. Five windows. Panelling inside.”

Jean and Boris, after a walk near Powdermill Reservoir

Sedlescombe is a pleasant place to live. Despite losing so many shops, arguably residents have never been so well provided.

The Post Office

The shop/post office/off-licence supplies most dayto-day needs. It sells and delivers newspapers, sells confectionery, cigarettes, groceries, greetings cards, bread and hot pies, stationery, household goods, videos, reading glasses, chemist sundries and lottery tickets. Dry cleaning, laundry, shoe repairs and photo developing can be left at the shop. Photocopying and send/receive fax facilities are available. Banking facilities are available and a cashpoint is expected to be available during shop hours soon. Milk is delivered throughout the village. There is a daily post collection including Sundays and post deliveries on Monday to Saturday.

'with apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves"

The future of the Primary School seems to be secure with rising numbers of children coming from Sedlescombe and surrounding areas but shortage of space is a problem. If, however, numbers on the school roll were to fall below a certain level, funding would be withdrawn possibly resulting in reduction of staff. Secondary school pupils still attend Claverham and, increasingly, Robertsbridge. The price of houses locally and the natural urge to move away from home usually means that older teenagers do not stay in the Village for long. Sedlescombe’s population is increasingly elderly and very elderly and the shortage of warden care or care homes is a concern.

The Bar of the Queen's Head InnFire Place in the Queens' Head InnThe Lounge of the Queen's Head InnPretty Fine Dining in the Queen's Head Inn