Burnham Beeches is an area of 220 hectares, located close to Farnham Common, Burnham and Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire and approximately twenty-five miles to the West of London. Owned and managed by the City of London Corporation through the City's charitable trust, I recall regularly pushing a pram through the beeches when we lived at Dorney while bringing up our three children, near Windsor. In beautiful sunshine we were greeted by our guides, Jeremy and Jake, two incredible experts in ancient woodland management and preservation. We learned a great deal from them about the important art of pollarding,vital to preserve the beech trees, some of which have only survived through pollarding to be over five hundred years old.
We walked some four miles within the woods and learned that during the second world war, at the instigation of Winston Churchill, it offered brilliant camouflage for military vehicles, keeping them out of sight of the enemy.
The management of the Beeches is designed to keep the whole area self sustaining, but also encouraging the natural return of heathers, funghi and wild flowers that would have been there originally. It was delightful to see cows and forest ponies assisting in this regeneration.
Famous for being the setting for a great many films including Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, it transpired that all financial proceeds from the filming traditionally went back to 'City Cash' until it was negotiated that this daylight robbery should remain with the Beeches management! After our excellent walk in glorious sunshine we retired to the nearby Crown Inn for a pint and a well-earned lunch.
Fortified, we then adjourned to Past Master John Petersen's nearby home, Dropmore Farmhouse to have an offered tour of his extensive vineyard. We learned a great deal about the viticulturalists busy year - wine making is clearly not just about picking grapes - and not only had the opportunity to test the sugar content of grapes for their readiness but also some of the possible leaf signs for chemical imbalance. This vineyard was all the more remarkable for being fairly newly planted on former paddock land - it had clearly been set up with some considerable expertise and knowledge. It only remained to sample some of the excellent Dropmore wine - a white and a blush met with full approval. 10,000 bottles this year, I believe, will be produced this year.
Retiring eventually to the house for a superb tea with Feona, we left after enjoying a really superb social day in the fresh air away from the City - which I suppose was exactly why Burnham Beeches was originally acquired for the people of London.
|Dropmore - proudly shown on the map of UK vineyards|
|A busy year|
|A variety of grapes being grown|
|Busting with grapes!|
|Very neat well spaced rows|
|Sampling the produce - excellent!|