Sitting on the sun-drenched terrace of Cornwall’s Camel Valley Vineyard overlooking row after perfect row of vines, you’d never guess that a plane crash led to the peaceful scene before you and was the start of this thriving business.
But the Bodmin vineyard is a blooming example of what family teamwork and determination can achieve, no matter what setback you face. Ex-RAF pilot Bob Lindo and his wife Annie moved to the 82-acre sheep farm back in the mid-1980s after Bob seriously injured his spine in a mid-air collision.
“We were tail-chasing in the sky above Helmsley in North Yorkshire,” he says. “That’s when the other chap’s doing loop-the-loops and so on, and you stick on his tail, about 100 yards away – no distance when you’re flying at 600-700mph.
“Instead of just missing him, we went smack, and my tail was knocked off. I was a squadron commander at the time and had a student sitting beside me. I told him to eject. He said: ‘Pardon?’ I’d always promised Annie I’d never be found dead in an aeroplane so I ejected. He got the message.”
All three made it to the ground alive, but the force of the impact broke Bob’s spine and ended his RAF career.
The couple moved down to Cornwall, where they already had 80 cattle and 300 sheep, and Bob set about the long business of recovery. At first, he could barely stand, but the electric fences needed fixing and plenty of other bits and pieces, so he got stuck in and eventually recovered.
Somewhere along that long road to recovery, Bob and Annie noticed what a sun-trap the farm was, which was when they decided to have a go at making wine – just for fun. Thirty odd years later, and Camel Valley is considered the UK’s number one estate and winning plenty of national and international winemaking awards. Not bad, for a bit of fun.