November 2007: A SMALLHOLDING couple in the West Country caused amazement when their first ever crop was ready for harvesting a month before anywhere else in the UK.

Alan and Faye Pratt, both 53, from Budleigh Salteron in Devon, picked their first crop of Rondo grapes in early September – but the variety is not usually harvested until early October.It is believed the Pratts’ crop is the earliest recorded picking of the grape in the UK. Mr Pratt was unaware of the phenomenon until he posted the news on the UK Vineyard Association web forum and received a flurry of emails back from stunned growers.“People were saying ‘how have you done this?’” he said. “Some people were saying it was not possible to harvest this early, so we were very anxious. We didn’t want to lose the grapes as it was so early, but they were definitely ready.”Lily Farm Vineyard is sheltered from strong winds and sited on a south-west-facing slope. The land, bought by the couple 15 years ago and used as a smallholding, now has two of its four-and-a-half acres dedicated to grape growing. The grapes will be ready to drink next year.

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