Gilbert White described a rather unusual feature of his beloved garden, a mound, made from the spoils of his HaHa with a spinning port barrel on top, finished with a thatched roof. A replica of such a contraction has been a common site in the gardens of Gilbert Whites House for many decades. Local councillor David Ashcroft a regular supporter of the Museum, commented on how good it would be to see the ‘Wine Pipe’ spin again; which prompted a project amongst garden staff and volunteers. However upon looking more closely at the barrel, that has survived many years of English weather, it was clear that a more drastic repair was needed.
Councillor Ashcroft gifted over £300 as part of the Councillor Community Scheme to the project, and the garden team at Gilbert White’s set out on finding an old fashioned Port barrel that was big enough for someone to easily fit in. Gilbert White famously shared the port from his barrel with the local Selborne vicar Mr Etty; the garden team headed by volunteers Peter Holdaway, Andy Jones, Arnold Jarman and Garden Manager Rose Malyon, weren’t as fortunate. Eventually they struck luck when Scottish distillery, Speyside Cooperage, donated an empty barrel. Peter Holdaway developed a new safe way for the barrel to rotate slowly, and it has at last been erected in its former glory.
The Wine-Pipe was used by Gilbert as a place to sit and observe nature, protected by the elements White was able to turn the seat to get a 360 degree view of the natural world around him; and now visitors can too. ‘Gilbert White’s Wine-Pipe is such an important part of this landscape’ said Judith Bowles co-director of the Museum ‘It’s the thing people remember vividly from visits, even decades on and is such an integral part of Gilbert’s story, and for engaging the community with nature.’