Family-run Shrewsbury vineyard 'optimistic' about future post Covid

A family-run vineyard in Shrewsbury has welcomed back its first customers with optimism following a "challenging" year of forced closures.

Hencote co-general manager Mark Stevens
Hencote co-general manager Mark Stevens

Hencote took its first six guests on a tour of its winery on Monday, which also marked the reopening of its balcony restaurant and glamping facilities.

The tour, which was accompanied by co-general manager Mark Stevens, would have usually been 20-strong but current guidelines have seen this reduced significantly.

But despite the alterations, Mr Stevens said they were looking forward to a busy year, with a particular focus on 'staycations'.

The business has invested in its outdoor and glamping facilities

"We noticed the impact of staycations after reopening for a short time in July last year," the 29-year-old said.

"The uncertainty of people being able to travel abroad means we're seeing a boom in staycations nationally.

"I think that's a big appeal for us. We're centrally located in the country and we're finding lots of people are coming for a break from surrounding cities as well as London."

The business in north Shrewsbury has invested in its outdoor facilities in light of the pandemic.

The business has invested in its outdoor and glamping facilities

"We have a large focus on outdoor dining being available and we've made some changes to our balcony area including parasols and heaters," said Mr Stevens.

"We've had to introduce a number of safety measures including social distancing, which has decreased our capacity in the restaurant by 50 per cent.

"We've also heightened our glamping experience and reduced our wine tour members from about 20 to just six – which actually offers a more intimate experience."

Mr Stevens, who manages the business with his brother Charles, added: "Over the past year the biggest challenge has been working through uncertainty.

Hencote co-general manager Mark Stevens

"We've had staff trained and got all the stock ready just to find out we have to close again in two days time, which many businesses would have experienced.

"Last year we also had most of our private events postponed or cancelled, but each time we've reopened the demand has been strong.

"We're quite optimistic, especially now there's light at the end of the tunnel, that this may be the last time we have to reopen."

Hencote is preparing to launch a host of new wines with upcoming celebratory events once lockdown is eased further.

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