Like a revered piece of Banksy grafitti, the writing had been on the wall for a couple of years and was beginning to fade, so it was inevitable that we would have to find new premises, and quickly. The clock had been ticking for a long time.
The site of our new home came as a bit of a surprise though. Not because it was a hidden gem that we just suddenly chanced upon, more that we had known of the place for years and the fact that it was available for us to take over was a very pleasant discovery.
Wakefield Country Courtyard is a former dairy farm just three miles North of Milton Keynes, and a similar distance South of Towcester racecourse, just off the A5 Watling Street at Potterspury. The courtyard is part of the Wakefield Lodge Estate, a former hunting lodge of Henry VIII, and its owners had converted it to a farm shop and PYO site in the late 80s. The farm shop had a great following, with a large butchery and enormous selection of cheeses as well as fruit and veg and a very popular tea room. Over time a collection of shops appeared on the site and currently includes a spa, bead studio, stained glass studio & art gallery, and a home & gift store rammed with brilliant gifts and furniture.
Over the past 7 years trade in the farm shop had dwindled, particularly hampered by the closure of the PYO, and passed through several hands before the opportunity came up for us to take it over and create our new home. With keys in hand on January 11th 2017 we opened the door to a new chapter in the history of Virtual Orchard and Wharf Distillery.
Having been a farm shop for so many years it seemed a shame not to continue selling some food items so we decided to create the distillery deli focusing on quality locally produced foods and drinks as well as other speciality foods from farther afield. At the same time we reserved some space to create the distillery tap room, known as Foreshots Bar, to showcase our growing range of spirits, ciders and liqueurs.
The distillery is now all in place in the former butchery alongside our cider presses and oak barrels. Production is well under way and new stills have arrived to allow us to increase production for ourselves as well as to help us manage the growing number of contract distillations for other cider-makers and local breweries.
The final big change during this transition is that we decided to lay our original brand Virtual Orchard to rest in the orchard. Having served us well for many years we felt that with the distilling now taking up more of our time, that Wharf Distillery was a much stronger identity. So Wharf Distillery is our new future, but carries with it that unbreakable link to our past, and four great years on the Galleon Wharf.
Please come and see our lovely new home. We are open Tue-Sat 10am-5pm, and Sun 11am-4pm.