ONE of England’s longest running vineyards is set to halt production as climate change and Covid-19 take their toll on the business.

This year marks the 42nd anniversary of Bothy Vineyard’s establishment in Abingdon by Dorothea and Roger Fisher.

But instead of celebrating their success, the site's owners Sian and Richard Liwicki, will raise a glass to wave a sorrow goodbye to their loyal customers.

The couple, who began growing grapes on the site for the first time 18 years ago, confirmed they will grub up the vines in the coming months.

Explaining their decision, they said: “This year has been memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“Covid-19, political upheaval and the two nights of -5C frosts on May 11 and 13 devastated the flowering shoots of our vines.

“We are writing to tell you, with very mixed feelings, that we have decided to grub up our vines.

“We are leaving just two long rows representing all the varieties that we have nurtured on site.”

While they have wine stocks to last for another couple of years, the Bothy brand will slowly fade away to make way for a new wave of English wine.

But the Liwickis will not retire – instead, the couple have decided to plant around 850 oak and hazel trees on the site, and expand their wild flower areas.

Sited in what they describe as "an especially botanically diverse part of Oxfordshire", they are striving to build yet more biodiversity – and hope to plant more trees as their ‘modest’ contribution to fighting climate change.

They added: “Ironically, climate change has not been kind to us.

“Milder winters encourage early bud burst but there has been no let-up in the short and hard frosts in May, which often disappear before most people have arisen.

“In the past 10 years we have had some degree of frost damage every year except 2018 when the 'Beast from the East' kept the vines dormant until the frosts had passed.

“Frost protection measures are very expensive and often not very environmentally friendly.

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“Our main block of venerable vines is getting old.

“The vines were suffering from trunk disease and slowly weakening in the face of this onslaught.

“Every year we have taken out some vines and tried to layer replacements with limited success.

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“Really, the whole block needs replacing, but this additional investment in a frost-prone site is just not sensible.”

The wine makers revealed that they will be organising a ‘last hurrah’ during the summer with Covid-19 restrictions if necessary.

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This is to show their gratitude to their ‘cheerful, supportive, loyal, brilliantly diverse and sometimes eccentric’ network of customers, who have become their friends over the years.

They said they would begin planting the trees as early as January, so they may get in touch with their customers one last time to ask for help.