Nestled between the picturesque villages of Old Warden and Cardington, vines were first planted on this beautiful Bedfordshire field in medieval times by monks at the Cistercian Abbey of Warden. Centuries later, the Whitbread family re-planted the monks’ “Lyttel Vineyard” in 1986, and went on to produce award-winning wines right up to their last vintage in 2008.
Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity now lease the vineyard in an ambitious project to provide a unique community and educational resource – and are carrying on the tradition of making medal winning wines.
The community vineyard is a not-for-profit venture. We work with other local charities, organisations and local schools to offer:
- a unique setting for horticultural therapy
- learning and skills development
- help for people into employment or voluntary work
- a range of volunteering opportunities for local people and community groups, and a great chance to be involved from vine to wine
- wildlife and heritage projects
We offer a mix of practical activities, discussions and role-play with cross- curricular interest including history, English, maths, science and technology.
Bedfordshire’s Forgotten Abbey
These sessions are currently aimed at Years 7/8 high attainers and might typically include
- the story of Warden Abbey and the Reformation,
- what life would have been like in the Abbey and who did what,
- the herbs the monks would have grown and why,
- making “tussie mussies” – a posy of flowers and herbs used in medieval times to hide horrible smells!
- testing sugars in the grapes.
- Illustrated letters/calligraphy
Please note: we cannot currently access the former site of the Abbey itself as it is operated as a holiday let by the Landmark Trust.
Other activities/age groups
- Practical sessions doing seasonal tasks
- Vineyard tours covering the vineyard year, the local food agenda, the community project and role of our volunteers.
- Putting science into practice e.g testing grapes for sugars, estimating yields
- Doing observational drawing/photography
“The community vineyard provides a rare opportunity for students to participate as a large group, and our students have benefited from:
- Experience as a volunteer. This helps fulfil our aim of providing community activities to supplement academic achievements on the students’ CVs;
- A sense of satisfaction and achievement in working to support a worthwhile community project;
- Getting out of the classroom and urban environment, and experiencing working outdoors in the countryside, which is unfamiliar territory for many;
- Carrying out a whole day’s physical work helps instil the work ethic.”
– Michael Leasure, Stratton Upper School, KS5 Coordinator
“I loved picking the grapes and I got to press them into juice and drink it.” – Robert Bloomfield Academy Student (Year 8)
“I found it really interesting and loved listening about the history of the Abbey.” – Robert Bloomfield Academy Student (Year 7)
“I loved tasting grapes with Alastair – he always got the dodgy ones.” – Robert Bloomfield Academy Student (Year 8)
“It involved everyone and was interesting but fun.” – Robert Bloomfield Academy Student (Year 8)