In these months of condensed days, when things grow slowly, if at all, considered productivity can be afforded: steady days to restore order following hasty, high-season movements and to put ourselves in good stead for more of the same. Remnants of summer cleared, soil fed, beds, paths and schedules prepared ahead of welcoming post-6pm sunlight, warmed soils and the demands of sow, weed, harvest, weed, repeat: plans on paper delivered as crates of veg and flowers to the restaurant and bar.
It’s quiet now but still we harvest kales, autumn planted salads and roots extracted from iced soil, soft sunlight lingering on our historic brick boundary.
With a few more lessons in our pockets from the year behind us, our space is redesigned, crop plan streamlined and more hands assigned. Over the cold months the soil has been nourished with cover crops, manure, garden/kitchen and woodchip composts. Thanks to a local tree-surgeon, mounds of wood chips are aging around the farm: a propagation and broadscale compost in the making. Our general compost is made from kitchen veg scraps, balanced with cardboard from emptied wine boxes, straw and wool from the grazers of our currently dormant vineyards. Wool is also an excellent mulch. Water retaining. To be stockpiled should last year’s rain deprived situation repeat itself.
Reset and plans sealed, it will be just a week or two before we begin sowing the first seeds of the Tillingham Walled fourth season.
Words & image by our Head Gardener, Becca Davidson

Vintage Report 2022

The year got off to an early start with buds swelling in late March, with Chardonnay bursting bud by 3rd of April. Frosts were mercifully light in number and severity. Flowering went smoothly, a stuttering start but finished well: very early flowering varieties suffered a little with uneven pollination due to some showers and colder days, but on the whole flowering weather was favourable. The vintage was defined however by unprecedented drought, through June, July and August there was very little rain and looking at the bunches when we came to harvest, in areas where there was less topsoil, we saw some bunches aborting or not filling out at all. Based on comparative bunch weights from good blocks our bunch weights were 30% down. Areas where there was drought stress also coincided with some disease incidence, with some small, isolated outbreaks of powdery mildew. Heartbreakingly just before harvest, there were some significant losses of Ortega to birds, wasps and badgers, one theory I have heard is that this could be a symptom perhaps of vines in stress producing more simple (and moreish) sugars.

Overall I have been really excited to see the quality of the varieties across the 6 blocks of vineyards we have here. An exciting window into what lies ahead here at Tillingham. Bear in mind that in our previous two vintages we have only had enough fruit to make field blends, never enough of one variety to vinify it on its own. Our production this year was 20 tonnes, and plenty of volume of our major varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, so plenty of red and white and rosé from those three. Also the first time we have seen meaningful amounts of more experimental grapes such as Gamay and Pineau d’Aunis. Initial indications are very positive.

We bought in another 35 tonnes, largely from our main growers in Essex and Suffolk. Quality here was very high, some of the Essex fruit was significantly lighter than anticipated, again due to drought stress. While in Suffolk the yields were only slightly below what was expected.

As with 2020, the lower acidity across the board has meant that traditional method sparkling will represent only 7% of production. Interestingly, a lot more red wine than we’ve ever made before, with around seven wines in total. Skin contact whites have been less of a feature this year due to, a lack of availability of suitable grapes and my own personal taste changing, meaning we will be making more delicate and pristine whites. Looking at what we have in tank, barrel and qvevri etc, its  looking like there’s a good 20 individual wines to come, among them nine originating from our own soils.

I’ll sign off with a thank you to all of those here amongst our ranks that have helped throughout the year and to all those who support us and continue to make it all possible. You know who you are.

BW 02.11.2022

Regenerative Farming at Tillingham 15.06.2022

Over the last five years of farming at Dew Farm, there has been much to learn, about our farm and how best to farm it. Regeneration // regenerative agriculture, which is gaining more and more traction, best describes our journey and how we will continue to farm. This blog entry aims to outline the main principles of regenerative agriculture and how this is put into practice here. The overall approach to farming, winemaking, and other aspects of the business are best described as holistic, this refers not just to practices and procedures but to how synergies can be built across different facets of the company to maximise efficiency, minimise waste, and reduce the volume of materials, packaging, and other items that could otherwise be produced here on the farm or avoided altogether.


The principles of Regen Ag

Regenerative agriculture is a way of farming that acknowledges the need to rejuvenate and restore the soil and wider farmed environment. Regenerative agriculture is a response to the damage caused by industrial farming with its reliance upon chemical inputs and the depletion of our soils and biodiversity which are a direct result of this approach, with its wider environmental impacts.

Some of the key elements of Regen ag are as follows:

  • Conservation
  • Building topsoil and a healthy living soil
  • Increasing Biodiversity
  • Integrating livestock
  • Use of cover crops
  • Promoting nutrient cycling
  • Improving water retention
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Building soil organic matter
  • Avoiding cultivation & herbicides (no bare soil)
  • Reducing farm input costs

The fundamental motivations for Regen Ag

The goal of regen is to restore the soil to a living healthy state, by this we mean a soil where the biology is intact and alive and has a good structure, which is aerated and permeable: with the ability to absorb and retain water. Healthy soil is a prerequisite of the soil food web performing its role of cycling nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) and storing carbon. Plants rely upon myriad and often reciprocal relationships with microbial life to uptake nutrients from the soil. In addition to providing essential and complex nutrition, the role of soil biology in the operation of the plant’s immune system cannot be underestimated. The counter to this is a soil that is repeatedly cultivated and treated with herbicides, the soil biology, and soil organic matter are disturbed and impoverished, as a result, a plant is more reliant on chemical fertilisers and sprays for its nutrition and to prevent or cure diseases. This is a route of diminishing returns and an inevitable decline in the health of the whole farm system and arguably human health. The environmental impact of this approach; releasing carbon, growing chemical toxicity in the soil, reduced biodiversity, decreased resilience to climate events, soil erosion, and chemical residues in food, are just some of the main reasons we need to radically alter our way of farming.

Regen is not just about the soil. The success, viability even, of a farm is about the myriad relationships above the ground too. The more types of plants we have, the greater the diversity of insects, birds, and other animals. Predator-prey dynamics on numerous trophic levels can play an important role in pest control.

Regen will result in a reduction of inputs, the theory being that once the soil is restored and the wider environment is in balance then the vines won’t need us to add these things, it will be there already. Adding nutrition to the soil or throwing it at the vine – when in nature, a plant will take what it needs when it needs it from the soil – is an inherently wasteful approach, especially in a time where the costs of all inputs are soaring dramatically.

The argument that abandoning conventional viticulture in the UK due to increased disease pressure (tricky climate) because it is too risky, is a fundamentally wrong supposition. Regen offers a viable route to a better way of farming. The healthier the soil, the better positioned a plant is to withstand disease pressures. Regen does not mean the stabilisers are off, it means the bike will eventually ride itself, and for sure there may be the odd wobble along the way!

The Regen journey at Tillingham


I wish I had known then what I know now! The journey into Regen at Tillingham has been complex, with plenty of mistakes along the way, as well intentioned as they were. The desire to foster soil health and eschew cultivation etc and increase biodiversity was motivated by a combination of gut feel and a basic knowledge of Biodynamics and its benefits, but with scant scientific grounding.

I arrived at Tillingham convinced that through a biodynamic approach with elements of permaculture, agroforestry, and livestock integration we would get somewhere towards healthy soils and better wine. I was mostly unaware of regen 5 years ago and all the incredible research, insightful podcasts and YouTube tutorials that to this day inform what we put into practice here at Tillingham. Taking advice from others has also been key, viticulturalist Luke Spalding and Regen consultant Ben Taylor Davies have both been instrumental in the journey so far.

The beauty of regen, outside of the unavoidable fact that this is the best hope for a viable way of farming for the future, is that it allows and encourages a gentle and sympathetic transition away from the industrial. The cold turkey alternatives of Organic or Biodynamic conversion are off-putting for most, with the potential for crop losses and the risk that brings to what are often already financially perilous farming businesses. Reducing inputs and reaching an end point of good soil health and ecosystem balance will not happen overnight. One must also accept that not all farms are created equally and what we inherit can vary enormously. Another attraction of Regen is that it is science-led and evidence-based, the confidence that this can bring aids in making the move that many of us feel that we must take. Just because there are sound scientific grounds for adopting Regen and a certain flexibility about how we get there doesn’t mean it will always be easy and that some things won’t work. The complexity of environmental systems and the infinite and unfathomably complex relationships that exist in the natural world means that we have much to learn while at the same time accepting that there will be things that we may never know.

We can only try our best, observe and listen.

I thought it would be helpful to run over some of our successes and failures as well as goals for the future here.

The mistakes:

  • Avoiding cultivation and planting vines into a soil that was compacted and with nutritional challenges, delayed the establishment of our wines. Localised or Strip tillage may have been a better route. (2 years of conventional first?)
  • Blanket use of cover crops at planting – this resulted in excess competition and slower establishment of the vines.
  • Better analysis of plant nutrition. Vines will have been better off (less disease) if we had had a better view of the vines’ real-time needs.
  • Vineyard design – alternative to VSP of a high trellis with lower input costs and the ability to integrate sheep year-round
  • Eschewing herbicide and all systemics during establishment // transition

Successes and the future:

  • Compost and rotted wood chip spreading/mulching
  • Johnson-Su compost reactors
  • Cover crops
  • Sap analysis
  • Biodynamic preps (500 & 501) + compost preps
  • Weather monitoring & Moon position as part of disease prediction (science & voodoo)
  • Zero cultivation
  • Direct drilling of cover crops
  • Minimal herbicide use*
  • Alternative spray program (goal of no nasties)
  • Livestock integration (sheep and chickens, (mobile chicken hotel))
  • Better pasture management and mob grazing
  • Reinstating historic field boundaries & crop rotations

*In May 2022 we used an herbicide application Finalsan (Pelargonic acid) with a low rate of glyphosate (2l/ha) and citric acid. This was to knock back grass sward in order to establish new cover crops. After this, we aim to not repeat this and revert to mechanical weed controls: crimping & mowing. A small step back for a giant leap forward in terms of biodiversity. Defra, the Biodynamic Association, and our distribution agents have been informed. Our conversion to BD began again this month.

Regen and Biodynamics


In some ways unlikely bedfellows: Regen the science/evidence-based approach vs Biodynamics with its often spiritual leanings. The goal of both schools however is aligned: to build healthy living soils and a holistically managed, balanced system. We will continue to integrate Biodynamic practices into our Regen approach (such as the field sprays BD500, BD501, Nettle tea, Horsetail tea, Dandelion tea, and essential oils as well as using Biodynamic preps in our composting). After 2 years of conversion to BD, we recently had to do a reset due to the one-off use of glyphosate to initiate a cover cropping rotation. Choosing to pursue this rather than cultivation as the lesser of two evils for soil quality and especially fungal networks which are so important to vine health.

Ben Walgate 15.06.2022

A new year: a blank page. After two years many are glad to see behind us, an endemic optimism fills the air.


This is a quiet time on the farm, the wines slumber and reluctantly bubble onwards, transforming from opaque, zippy juveniles into adolescents, giving better indication of their potential at maturity. During this time, we turn our energies towards the vineyards. Making measured, painstakingly considered and often frosty steps through the vines. With every cut we are shaping the future forms of not just the vines, but of the fruit that they will proffer forth. After one month of pruning, we are a little over halfway through our task. Not a race, but the end always in sight as the sap will inevitably rise and buds will swell, another vintage to chaperone and nurture. Frost is the first threat looming as spring comes around.


As we quietly and patiently make our progress out in the fields, the restaurant and hotel have recently reopened. Our team returned, refreshed and renewed after a welcome break over the holidays, positivity and the warmth of hospitality fill the air. I am pleased to report that the rooms and restaurant are buzzing on the weekends. We are now open six days a week: tranquil Tuesdays through to bustling yet pastoral Sundays. The farm has been flattered in recent days with pinky purple sunrises and the Tillingham valley brimming with icy mist, we look forward to sharing it with you.




Hi everyone, Eloise here!

Usually you can find me serving food and drinks in our busy restaurant, but since the summer I’ve also been working to implement sustainable practices across the business.

As a regenerative, biodynamic vineyard and farm, respecting the environment is hugely important to all of us at Tillingham and as a result I’ve been working to ensure that this respect is continued throughout the restaurant and kitchen. Reducing our impact on the planet has never been more important, so I have been looking for ways that we can do this across the business, some of which I wanted to detail in this journal…


In addition to composting our winery waste (grapes etc), we are now composting all of our fruit and veg scraps from the kitchen along with the tea and coffee grounds from the bar. These will go onto the heap in our walled garden to be used to enrich the soil for next year’s harvest!


We pledged to reduce our single-use plastic use by 2022, so with the help of our wonderful suppliers, most of our deliveries are now coming in reusable crates and containers. Coldblow Coffee are sending us coffee beans in refillable tubs, and Hook & Son now deliver our milk in refillable glass bottles.


Whilst some packaging is unavoidable, we have been finding creative ways to reuse them. Plastic olive tubs have now become storage in the kitchen, whilst our empty wine bottles are being repurposed for candles and flowers. In the restaurant, bar and kitchen, we are recycling anything we can’t compost or reuse, aiming to send minimal waste to landfill.


We are now making many of our refreshments in-house, including seasonal cordials, herbal teas from the garden, and homemade oat milk and apple juice, all of which eliminate the need for single-use plastic! Watch this space in 2022 for kombuchas, pickles and cocktails too…


Reducing plastic and waste in hospitality is by no means an easy feat, and we are still working to reduce single-use plastic for good in the kitchen and bar. This means saying goodbye to clingfilm, j-cloths and plastic cleaning-product containers. 


Finally, I thought it would be nice to share a festive zero-waste recipe with you all!

This one is a great way to use up leftover citrus peels, from squeezed lemons to clementine peels, everything can be chucked in!


  • citrus rinds, weighed
  • caster sugar, equal to weight of citrus
  • optional aromatics – rosemary, bay or cinnamon are all lovely additions


Stir together your equal quantities of citrus and sugar, adding herbs or spices if you fancy, and pop into a large glass jar. 

Leave overnight on the side. When you return, the sugar will have extracted the citrus essential oils, leaving you with a delicious fragrant syrup. 

Strain through some muslin and pour into a clean bottle. 

Stored in the fridge, this will keep for at least 2 months.


You can drink this like a cordial with sparkling water or add it to a cocktail of your choice!


All the best, 

Elo x

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