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Welcome to my blog, inviting you behind the scenes of my life and home and sharing anecdotes from my everyday life at Highclere Castle. The world of Highclere still exists with its own community of Chefs, Gardeners and Housekeepers, Colin the Butler and Jo the Groom as well as all the other people who make the ‘Real Downton Abbey’ a welcoming place for visitors today.

From Paris to Billiards.

Everyone at Highclere has been touched and heartbroken by the terrible tragedies that unfolded in Paris. The destruction and grief that has been continuing around the world in the wake of these endless attacks is awful as people live afraid, “strangers … in a world they never made” to quote A E Houseman. It is the merciless and random nature of the violence. At the same time, there have been some amazing moments of unity and kindnesses which it would be wonderful to “bottle”.  Let us hope they continue.

In between everyday life here at Highclere, I still find moments to [...]
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Winchester Lodge

The old approach to the Castle used to be from the south leading towards the ancient city of Winchester. There is a narrow pass under Siddown hill, with a steep hillside falling away and, as the land flattens, the entrance is marked by a lodge and gate, unsurprisingly called Winchester Lodge.

As usual it was in dire need of repair so it has been one of our projects over the last six or seven months. It is the same team of delightful stone masons who worked on an earlier lodge, led by Eric from Heritage Building Conservation.

My husband, Geordie, and I are getting quite good at [...]
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Texan Travels

I have just returned from Texas, a world away from Highclere but where I was met with such warm greetings from those who love Highclere (and Downton) that I immediately felt at home. My first port of call was Houston; 95˚C and not a cloud in sight. I was very fortunate to be invited to meet President George H. Bush and Mrs Barbara Bush at their home. There were some similarities in that Mrs Bush was about to mend a leaky roof and was most concerned and sympathetic about the extent of our leaky roofs!  She also loves dogs but [...]
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Fish & Chip Wednesday

At some point each day I look in on our biggest building project – the renovation of the Castle Estate Offices. There are always a few building works trundling along at any given time but this particular one is marked both by its longevity and its remarkable ability to absorb money at a great rate.

One of my roles at Highclere is to act as a sort of cross between an agent and project manager.   It is not the easiest job as one of the main tasks is to try to keep teamwork going amongst the craftsmen by continual “critical path [...]
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What is a weekend then?

Far removed from the decorous characters elegantly reclining on the sofas of Downton Abbey, weekends at the Castle tend to be a whirlwind of activity, rushing around madly in several directions all at once.  Saturday was its usual busy self but Sunday was particularly special.  It began at 7:30am with the set up for the 10km Highclere run in aid of Multiple Sclerosis.

We have hosted this for perhaps 12 years and it is a great community event. As well as firing the starting gun, my husband usually runs in it as well, although in recent years this decision tends to [...]
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It definitely feels autumnal here at Highclere. The trees are beginning to be edged with ochres and reds and the horses are already rugged for colder nights in the park fields. We still have some figs to collect, and a lot of cooking apples to pick, use and freeze. I am not sure the quince tree looks very happy: I think it may have quince leaf blight which can partly be managed by raking and collecting all the dead leaves and thinning the tree out. Sadly I can see no quinces!

In the diary we have a few private weekends coming [...]
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Coming and Goings…

The spaniel puppies are now nearly 10 weeks old and the first sibling is leaving Highclere Castle for his new home. He is optimistic, cuddly and courageous and I have packed his backpack ready to go.

He probably associates the Castle’s front hall with chasing his brother round the pillars but it is, in fact, rather a lovely entrance. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1870 who was also rebuilding the parish Church in Highclere for the 4th Earl of Carnarvon at the same time. Scott was a most respected architect and chosen, for example, to design the Albert [...]
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Downton Abbey crew and cast finally departed from us on about July 9th. For the last six years a substantial part of Highclere’s year has been dominated by the requirements of being a film set: working with the actors and actresses as they filmed in the same familiar rooms, corridors, stairs and galleries as well as exploring new shots and locations in and around the gardens, lawns, follies and cottages. It has also been about liaising with the film crew, the production staff and the location scouts. There have been endless recces throughout; questions about when various parts of the garden would be in flower, and [...]
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Highclere Plane Search Team

10.30 am and the Highclere plane search team had congregated by the Castle tearooms for our next expedition. This time we were joined by an eye witness: Colin had lived at Highclere as a young boy throughout the Second World War and actually seen some of the planes go down into the hills and woods over the Estate.

His father, Jack, was something of a legend and had held on to the ropes of Geoffrey de Havilland’s plane as it was preparing to take off for the first time here at Highclere in 1910. I was watching Colin as we drove [...]
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Battle Proms at Highclere Castle

On the first Saturday of August each year Highclere hosts a concert with fireworks and cannons known as the Battle Proms.

The day before it all begins, my most important job is to ensure the horses are safely away from all the brouhaha in distant fields, including of course, Sheila the sheep.

Over the last 14 years the concert has built up a wonderful following and this year nearly 10,000 people arrived to picnic, watch the displays and listen to the music. Magically the overcast British skies cleared just in time and it was a beautiful evening. Everyone had flags and balloons [...]
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