Things might have calmed down in Vineyards across England after the frantic Harvesting of Grapes throughout September and October (and what a bumper harvest in 2018), but for the Team here at Kenton Park Estate, the “Woolly Cru” Season is only just beginning as of the beginning of November.
Here on the Estate, they have a breeding Programme for a very rare Breed of Sheep - the Swiss Valais Blacknose.
These Sheep have a very distinctive appearance with their curly fleece and very dark black faces, so dark that you cannot see their eyes, with black circular patches on their legs.
Its been a hive of activity since the arrival of a magnificent looking Ram in mid-November. The Estate Team have been kept busy keeping an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t escape into a neighbouring field of sheep. He’s a very handsome male with the most incredible horns. He’s known as “Kenton Cool” as he struts around the pasture/paddock with the female Ewes in tow often seen skipping behind him.
When he first arrived, the “girls” ran in circles for hours to keep away from him and now if he even wanders more than a few feet away, they run to be back near his side. What a guy .... and what an appetite!
He will be staying with the Ewes as “Guest of honour” until the middle of January when he will the leave the Ladies in peace so they can quietly get on with their pregnancies and hopefully the arrival of Lambs in March (if all goes well).
They are fed on the very best diet including a special mix of oats prepared here on the Estate.
The Team constantly worry if they will be warm enough especially after the significant drop in temperature last week when it went below zero to -2 degrees. This was then followed by quite an intimidating Thunder & Lightning storm where the crew rushed out to try and usher them into the Barns to shelter only to discover that they didn’t seem bothered at all. These are Swiss Mountain Sheep after all and the breed thrive in the rapidly changing mountainous conditions.
Jayne Oliphant-Thomposn, Founder of “The Woolly Cru” Brand (a collection of Fashion Accessories made from their beautiful curly Fleece) and Co-Owner of the Wine Estate, explained that having spent many years out in the French Alps in the mountain town of Chamonix before taking on the restoration of Kenton Park Estate & Vineyard, the Family loved the sound of the large alpine bells around the necks of the cattle high up in the mountains and after one particular high altitude walking trip in the nearby Swiss Alps (Vallorcine) climbing up to the high mountain Refuge Hut at Le Loriaz, they had fallen in love with this particular breed of sheep as the sound of their neck bells tinkled magically high above on the craggy mountain paths.
Therefore when the opportunity came to welcome sheep to graze their land just outside of Kenton, there was no other choice of breed they wanted than the Swiss Valais Blacknose with their lovely, gentle nature. They also have an important role in the Vineyard between November and the end of February keeping the weeds under control.
The sheep are very inquisitive and love contact with the Family. They are very rare here in the UK and the Estate is thrilled to be breeding these beautiful animals with their fabulously soft curly fleece - just like Mongolian wool.
The Woolly Cru
So the next few months from the early part of December are a busy schedule of checking on the welfare of the sheep daily and then working in the Vineyard on the major task of pruning. All 15,000 Vines need to be pruned (a vigorous process) by the end of February/early March, before the magical growth phase of the Vines starts all over again in April to coincide with the arrival of the newly born Lambs.
The Sheep will be sheared twice a year usually in early June and again around the end of October/early November and their Woolly fleeces are taken to the Natural Fibre Company in Launceston, Cornwall and transformed into a collection created exclusively for the Estate including Cushions, Ladies Clutch Handbags, Weekend Travel Bags, Pom Poms for Key Rings and for Woolly Beanie Hats with their unique curly wool design.
Their fleece is also converted into a form of insulating packaging for when Cases of the Estate’s Sparkling Wine #sparklingwine are dispatched all over England and further afield, helping to ensure minimum breakages and being part of the cycle of no waste.
Wool has amazing insulation properties and can keep the Wines chilled or warmed or just simply protected from the possibility of breakages.
It’s a lovely surprise to open your Case of Wine and find the Fleece fibres inside tucked around each bottle without creating any extra weight and customers are given the opportunity to recycle the fleece once more by returning it to Kenton Park Estate in the pre-paid enclosed envelope.
It’s a very happy environment for the sheep who share their space with so many Pheasants, Partridges and Ducks that roam freely across the Estate.
To experience this Lifestyle and meet this beautiful breed of Sheep you will be able to enjoy a short 3 day break in one of our quirky Cabins arriving in 2019.
If you are interested in having a few of these Sheep for yourself, then please enquire about the Breeding Programme at the estate by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Typical cost for a Ewe Lamb is £2,500 or a pair of Ewes (they love company) £4,500 but you will need to join the waiting list as the Estate breeds only a few for actual sale each year.