Downton finished filming a big scene last week and cleared out much of their kit of cables, lights and props so that we could prepare the Castle for the Easter public opening. It was still early when Charlie from the Downton props team scrunched in his white van, on the gravel underneath my window. He came to remove the last of the various small outdoor props so we could replace with bins and signage.
Downstairs I could hear Diana, our Head Housekeeper, busy hovering away, I know that Ana and Chloe will arrive in the next hour and after their morning cup of tea they will help Diana with the rest of the Castle. It is extraordinary how much dust accumulates every day, it is impossible to tackle when there is so much filming equipment here, so I know Diana will be pleased to finally get into all those small nooks and gaps.
There is a lot to do in preparation for public opening, John Gundill our Castle Manager and Robert begin checking that all the signs, bins, loos, mats and kiosks are all in place (the essential if unglamorous aspects of running Highclere).
Over the last week, the gardeners took various opportunities with the sun out to mow the lawns over the Downton lunch-break so that the noise of the gang-mowers didn’t compete with the actors.
This year we are trying out a small plant shop which is just outside the tearooms, plants and flowers play such an important part of Highclere Castle and gardening is something I am very passionate about, so I wanted to share some of the key plants that are much admired by visitors and often requested.
The gift shop has got some a new till system with new bar codes in place, I tried to use it when some friends from the USA wanted to amuse themselves in the gift shop. Obviously it went wrong to start with, so my husband was not impressed and ended up calling Duncan our computer colleague to come and rescue me. Computer and scanning problems aside, my friends enjoyed the gift shop and stocked up on presents to take back with them, I signed more books for their friends and families and I rather more successfully prepared some tea and hot cross buns for us all!