850-year-old Forest of Dean farm to be transformed into a vineyard and winery

Plans have been submitted which could see an 850-year-old farm in the Forest of Dean transformed into a sprawling 34-acre vineyard, complete with a winery, restaurant, farm shop and events venue. SoGlos spoke to owner, Peter Cooke, to find out more.

By Sarah Kent  |  Published

If plans are approved, a sprawling destination winery and vineyard could soon be opening in the Forest of Dean, at Flaxley — a medieval farm with over 140 acres of land, near Newnham.

The Flaxley estate will house the vineyard, named Kingsthorne, which already has 34 acres of established and newly-planted vines in readiness for the launch of the new wine label and forthcoming facilities. 

Alongside the vineyard, the estate will consist of a winery, restaurant, farm shop, visitors' centre and events buildings for holding wine-tastings and vineyard tours.

In addition, 25 acres of wildflowers have been planted to attract wildlife and create a nature haven, where visitors will be able to walk around the grounds and enjoy the countryside.

Gloucestershire entrepreneur, Peter Cooke, purchased Flaxley farm in 2020 and founded Kingsthorne wines five years ago. He said: 'If we get planning permission by the end of the year, we're looking at an 18-month to two year-build, so we're hoping to be up and running by the end of 2025.'

Flaxley farm has existed since medieval times, with the imposing Flaxley Abbey (now a privately owned home and not part of the proposed plans to the farm) originally a Cistercian monastery dating back to 1154. The estate consists of 140 acres of grassland, wildflower meadows, woodland and vineyards, with rare breed White Park cattle grazing in fields and managed beehives dotted around.

A large number of beehives are planned in addition to the ones already established at Flaxley, with a Gloucestershire beekeeper looking after the bees and plans to make mead and honey to sell in its farm shop.

It is hoped that a perspex hive will also be installed, to allow children and visitors to see the bees in action, with the on-site beekeeper providing beekeeping courses and educational events for children.

When plans are finalised and signed off by the Forest of Dean District Council, existing listed and historical buildings on the farm will be carefully restored and converted, with a farmhouse dating from the Georgian period planned for the visitors' centre; a 200-year-old-barn renovated into a restaurant and bar; and various other former stables and grain stores earmarked for the farm shop and wine-tasting facilities.

A number of modern but sympathetic additions will be added to accommodate spaces such as the kitchen and bathroom facilities, along with sustainable energy systems such as a biomass boiler.

Cooke, who is also the chairman of Sanctus, a leading environmental consultancy and contractor based in Quedgeley,  said: 'I've always enjoyed wine and I'm hugely patriotic, so I thought a vineyard would be a nice thing to do in my latter years. I first bought a small five-acre vineyard in Upton Bishop in Herefordshire, and then bought nine acres next to my house and planted vines.

'Once I'd bought Flaxley, we planted 22 acres of vines to start with, and then started looking at all the farm buildings, which are in terrible state and haven't been used for 30 or 40 years.'

Flaxley wine and cider is already in production under the expert guardianship of Kingsthorne winemaker Simon Day, the former chairman of the Three Counties Cider & Perry Association, with stocks being built in readiness for the new label's launch.

'We've got a sparkling white, a sparkling rosé and a still red. The sparkling wines are superb and the English red is excellent. We wanted to build up quite a stock before we go to market, and the sparkling wines, in particular, are better after three to four years, so we're building that up and finalising labels at the moment; and it will hopefully be on sale by the end of this year' said Cooke.

Until the restaurant, bar and farm shop at Flaxley are finished, Kingsthorne wines and cider, once ready, will be for sale on its website and through local businesses.

Cooke also revealed exciting plans that he is hoping to open a wine and tapas bar at a location in the Gloucester Quays in the not too distant future, serving Kingsthorne wines and small tapas plates throughout the day.

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