St Mary’s Vineyard Owner Seeking Volunteers As He Battles With Birds

Robert Francis' vineyard at Holy Vale

Robert Francis’ vineyard at Holy Vale

The owner of St Mary’s new vineyard says he didn’t expect the islands’ birds to be so determined in their attempt to eat his grapes.

So Robert Francis of the Holy Vale Winery is hoping to find two volunteers who’ll help him put down thousands of pounds worth of netting covering his 2 hectares and 7,000 vines.

The birds have already started on Robert’s early Pinot Noir grapes and as the Chardonnay ripens he’s fearful that they’ll move on to that too.

Robert has had lots of islanders advise him on how to discourage the birds. He’s tried methods such as model birds of prey and recordings of birdsong, but says some ideas might not go down too well here because of the noise.

It seems like costly netting is the only option.

Robert says he failed to grasp the size of the resident bird population on the islands when he started the venture. And dealing with the problem isn’t as easy here as it would be for some vineyards on the continent – in Spain and France he says birds are “dispatched and go on the menu.”

Robert says his biggest disappointment has been that he hasn’t been able to sell his own wine to vineyard shop visitors so far.

He hopes to harvest in six weeks and although the weather has been good this year, the activity of the birds means he doesn’t expect to produce his upper range of 7,000 to 10,000 bottles.

But all being well, there’ll could still be a St Mary’s Pinot Noir rosé available by Christmas.

If you’d like to volunteer for a few months vineyard work, you will have meals and accommodation provided. Applicants should be able to cope with physical, outdoor work.