by Carla Scarano D’Antonio
A recent fundraising event at High Clandon vineyard staged by Woking’s Lightbox gallery and museum was a pleasant occasion to spend an evening in the astounding, peaceful beauty of the Surrey Hills. The vineyard and gardens are rarely open to the public so it was an opportunity not only to taste the multi-award winning exquisite sparkling wine, but also a chance to visit the art exhibition that Bruce and Sibylla Tindale hosted in their atmospheric Glass Barn and in the gardens.
The vineyard is tiny, only half a hectare and produces 1,500-2,500 bottles of High Clandon English sparkling wine a year. The wine is made by Bolney Estate in West Sussex from the trio of champagne grapes cultivated at High Clandon: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, grown on the chalky limestone of the Surrey Hills, the best soil for wines.
Moving from South Africa to England 40 years ago, Bruce and Sibylla were fascinated by the beauty and peace of the Surrey countryside. Sibylla’s skills and passion for gardening prompted the project of the vineyard, which started in 2005. It took several years to produce the first bottles as the sparkling wine has over four years’ maturation. They are sold mainly locally and taste delicious, sparkling and light. Besides the classic High Clandon Halycon Cuvée, vintage 2014 at £37, they also make Magnum Cuvée, vintage 2011 at £110, and Essence Liqueur, £27.
The pictures, craft and sculptures on display have a delicious local taste as well. They are all made by local artists and are sold for an average price of £300 but it can be over £1,000 for bigger sculptures. The artist receives 90 per cent of the sale and the rest goes to Cherry Trees, a local respite centre for children with learning difficulties. The interaction with art not only raises money and gives artists an opportunity to exhibit their work, it also adds an impressive tone to the gardens.
Interesting pictures, craftwork and small sculptures are displayed inside. They have striking colours and delicate manufacturing with a variety of styles from figurative landscapes to abstract and dream-like symbolism. The small bronze sculptures represent dancers, nudes, portraits and horses.
Outside, the wildflower meadows are rich with varieties of daisy, buttercup, cowslip, mignonette, poppy, kidney vetch and wild herbs; they are scattered with small and big clay and metal sculptures. It is extremely pleasant to walk around them. They look slightly unusual but never provocative or shocking – conventional and original at the same time. There is humour in some of them, such as in ‘Birthday boy’, featuring three men drinking and singing, in ‘Burdened but unbowed’, a heavily dressed lady carrying shopping bags, ‘Grumpy Tortoise’, a metal giant tortoise, or ‘Pug and Pugilist’. Others are elegant and appealing such as the sinuous body of the female nude ‘Beginnings’ and the metal bright ‘Peacock’ or ‘Backdiva’ near the pond.
The chalky subsoil and environment friendly surroundings not only allow excellent quality wine and wildflowers but also attract a rich variety of wildlife such as the rare ‘Little Blue’ butterfly, and other insects, birds and small mammals. High Clandon is a paradise, delightful in its simplicity and fascinating in the art display, taste and natural beauty.