The official website of the Countess of Carnarvon

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Welcome

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.

Welcome Home

Vero Beach, Florida was a marvelous place to visit – lovely weather, some incredibly generous, community spirited people and delicious meals including perhaps ironically, one of the most delicious English Sticky Toffee Puddings I have ever tasted.

I am now back at Highclere. As usual I got a particularly warm welcome from all the dogs who are always kind and enthusiastic, even in the early hours of the morning when perhaps one’s family is less so!

 

They are friendly to all our visitors and I am lucky, since there are so many of them, that they rarely bark except in  the excitement [...]
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Travels in the USA

I have been lucky enough to spend the past few days in the USA where I am giving a series of talks.

I flew first into Houston, Texas and sadly brought the English weather with me. My visit there was two days of marvelous contrasts.

The first evening I spent at the Rodeo – a huge enterprise and yet one run by 31,000 volunteers.  The success of the event means that, through its charitable arm, it is able to support a number of educational enterprises and thereby help an amazing number of children and students. It was most extraordinary and humbling to [...]
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I have a new job….

Reading the Pipe Rolls (a collection of financial records) from about 1270 for Highclere, it is clear that some things do not change. Walls were being mended, mangers for horses and stables repaired, stone and chalk pulled by bullock cart to shore up some building, trees were hewn and there were always missing tiles from the roof.

Highclere was quite an economic centre during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. A village lay just ½ mile to the north of the Castle, there were rabbit warrens, a deer park and horses grazed the park.

We still have horses grazing the Park, some pet [...]
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Diversity

Despite being no great distance from London, Highclere remains a calm green breathing space not just for visitors but for a diverse wildlife as well. I love the spectacular Castle but I love the landscape just as much: the trees, hills and valleys that are so particularly English. It is humbling to realise that we are simply a small part of a long line of people who have made this area home. There may well have been a greater variety of plants, birds and insects in the past but our predecessors would still recognise the sheep, horses, arable fields, woodland [...]
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Highclere’s kitchens

From poring over old maps and outlines, I would guess that the kitchens have stood in the same spot at Highclere for several hundred years. Originally, they would have been separated from the house to help contain the risk of fire. The older house seems to have been L-shaped with a medieval church to the west and the kitchens lying slightly to the south west. There are water wells on either side.

At the back of the kitchen was a great hearth, the fire for cooking which in later centuries became the first cooking range and today a modern set of [...]
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Upstairs Downstairs

In any day I spend a lot of time looking for people or perhaps they spend quite a lot of time looking for me. I go up one staircase and John Gundill our Castle Manger down another. He then asks who has seen me, and is told I have gone to see Pat the decorator on the top floor. He heads on up, (which is a fair climb), and is then told by Pat and her team I have gone downstairs.

John goes back downstairs during that time I gather he is looking for me and so I go to his [...]
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Good Gully

At the coldest time of year we try to get ahead and make sure, in advance, that we have ordered in heating oil ahead of time for the Castle, associated houses and some of the Park cottages. In fact the Castle oil tank is on a sophisticated system which should alert the oil delivery company that a reserve level has been reached and we need the tank to be filled. Except that it didn’t.

Of course it was a weekend, a Saturday , and one of the coldest days. It was Les to the rescue ringing up for emergency deliveries of heating [...]
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Curses!

One of the girls in the office walked into John, our Castle Manager’s office, white as a sheet. Immediately concerned, he suggested she sat down and asked her what was the matter and how he could help?

It turned out that she was most worried about the curse of Tutankhamun. The media reported that there had been a little accident in the Cairo museum and apparently his beard had fallen off and been glued back on with superglue!  It so happened that, unfortunately, I also had a little accident the same day as this news. At the time, it looked much [...]
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It is all very Highclere

Gales and rough weather have battered Highclere this week, cedar trees have lost limbs but it is nothing like the desperate situation in Lebanon with refugees facing freezing conditions, sheltering in cedar forests without the solid walls that Highclere’s stone face affords us. The instability and unhappiness in this crowded area have probably helped spark the tragedy in France.

To distract ourselves from leaky tiles, cascading guttering and wobbly walls we went to watch a young horse, a two year old filly, being broken in.  We always ask Gary Witheford, an English horse whisperer, who is near Highclere, to help. His [...]
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New Year at Highclere

January is often a difficult time of year; it is both and end and the start. It is a time for reflection and a time when people resolve to improve some aspect of their life, or to eat less or to drink less. It can make one feel a little downcast…..where are the bubbles? More seriously, it is a sobering and sad time if you are coping with recent sudden tragedies or just trying to survive in a war zone, hoping not to be forgotten. Supposedly January is named for the two headed God Janus looking both ways, forwards and [...]
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