This year, the 10th annual PwC One Firm One Day (a chance for PwC employees to take the day off to volunteer in their local communities) was held on Friday 17 May and supports PwC’s Empowering Communities Strategy, with a particular focus on social mobility and mental health & wellbeing.
Around 40 of our Sales and Marketing team headed out to Forty Hall Vineyard, an exciting social enterprise which has established a new 10 acre organic vineyard in North London. Here’s what we got up to!
Behind Forty Hall Vineyard
As London’s only commercial-scale vineyard they are proud that profits from sales of the award winning wines are put back into the project to enable them to deliver health and wellbeing benefits to the local community.
They deliver this through their ecotherapy project, which provides volunteering opportunities in the vineyard. A recent report Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health by the mental-health charity, MIND, details the scientific research which confirms that people with physical and mental-health problems really do benefit from participating in outdoor activities.
Forty Hall’s aim is to improve mental and physical health through working outdoors in a green environment, being socially connected and engaged with horticultural activity and the production of their wines. I think this is such an important scheme and talking to the volunteers at Forty Hall brings home how important and well respected this is within the community – some of the stories are amazing!
You can read more about their social impact here.
Our experience volunteering
It was an early start for some travelling from all over London (and further afield) but when we arrived we found that it was absolutely beautiful – we could tell it was going to be a good day. Even Laura’s parents turned up as honorary members of the sales and marketing team to help which was brilliant!
The day kicked off with an introduction to the vineyard and an explanation about what we were going to be doing for the day. We then collected wheelbarrows and tools and made our way down to the vineyard to get started on task number 1!
The first task involved bud rubbing, an important part of the process that directly impacts the way the grapes develop. We all put on some gloves, split into pairs and took a row each to remove the shoots and buds that were starting to grow on the lower parts of the vine, to help send all of the energy and nutrients into the grapes. It was an interesting task that we all got stuck into and as we were such a large group we were able to cover a lot of ground which was fantastic!
We then split into smaller groups to tackle a few different tasks.
I was on weeding duty first with some of my colleagues. We all took a hoe and were allocated a row, focusing on removing any stinging nettles, thistles and weeds to clear the areas for the vines to grow. This was one of my favourite tasks of the day!
This was all about shovelling compost into wheelbarrows and then laying down the compost between the vines. I took a shovel and put my gardening skills to test. We got quite the rhythm going – we just needed more wheelbarrows to fill! Great team work in completing this task.
Tour of the vineyard
In our smaller groups we also had a tour with one of the volunteers, Pat, who explained the history of the vineyard and how it works. We learned that they grow their grapes naturally, with as little intervention as possible, so that the wine produced from their grapes truly reflects the characteristics of the place. the soil and its microclimate. The vines grow in a living soil, free of chemical residues, drawing optimum levels of minerals from the soil, becoming stronger with better natural resistance to disease. These vines will produce fruit for years to come.
I think for a relatively small vineyard in north London, it’s amazing that they produce award winning wine. It was really interesting to hear from Pat that although they could sell their wine in shops at £90 a bottle, they don’t want to as they don’t want to break down the relationship in the community. I think this is really important and demonstrates their commitment to their purpose.
We also found out that they have 60 regular volunteers who keep the vineyard going, with many more filling the gaps, and it’s purely down to the dedication of those who work and volunteer their time who keep it going. I think that’s also why it’s so important that groups like ours can go and help out during different times in the year to boost those numbers and help make a difference. Working on a vineyard is no mean feat, it’s a 365 day a year job!
Of course it wouldn’t be right if we ended the day without tasting the wine so we headed back to the volunteer base to have some lunch and wine tasting. Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes produce their sparkling wine which was absolutely beautiful and ready to purchase so I think a lot of people ended up leaving with a bottle or two to take home! Bacchus and Ortega grapes produce their two single variety still dry white wines. Unfortunately these weren’t ready to buy but I think they are due to be ready in June!
We all had a fantastic day giving back to this project and look forward to hopefully returning next year. A big thank you to Ollie for organising! I would certainly recommend this if you’re looking for an opportunity to volunteer.
For more information and to volunteer visit the Forty Hall website: https://www.fortyhallvineyard.com/.