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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, Luis our Butler and Maggie the Groom as well as all the other people who make the ‘Real Downton Abbey’ a welcoming place for visitors today.


At Home at Highclere Goes Beyond the Castle Doors

We are pleased to announce the completion of Lady Carnarvon’s new book ‘At Home at Highclere’ which is now available for you, our dearest readers, to buy and enjoy. Read more

 

 

Roads are made for journeys not destinations (Confucius)

Saturday afternoon I set off on my bike with the dogs down the drive in the Park to “Redpools” where there is old sunken woodland, paths that are never straight and a pool or small lake that merges with rushes and marshy saplings.

Summer, such as it was here, has definitely slipped away and I had remembered a sweater. Nevertheless, it is a magical time of year, “seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness” and I had looped a bag over my handlebars hoping for the very last blackberries or more likely crab apples and pears [...]
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Dancing at Downton in Rain and Shine

What a weekend!  We have just held our September “Garden Party” for the second year in a row.  The first thing to say is that, given the vagaries of our weather, this party was not focused around the gardens but around the house, costumes, music and entertainment. Still a garden party does not seem right without marquees on the lawn and we had three: two for dining and one for dancing.

Of course, the most famous Garden Parties are held by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in London and at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. They recognise extraordinary effort and contribution given [...]
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Wildflower Meadow

­­­“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” AA Milne

The wildflower meadow is coming to the end of its summer. The flower heads are turning brown, but are still, I think, rather beautiful. They give height and texture to the meadow, gently cascading down the slopes beyond the south lawns towards the Park.

There is a broad, winding mown path running though the meadow diagonally for visitors to enjoy. Just walk quietly, listen out for all the noises of the insects – it is so busy and an extraordinary testament to the flower meadow’s success. It is also [...]
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GB2HCC

It is summer in England so it must be raining and, on this particularly damp Saturday evening, I found myself sitting in our tearoom marquee whilst Robert (security) and Paul (parking) tested the reception and call signs for our new temporary amateur radio station.

Given my heritage is partly Scottish, and Robert (security) is Scottish, it is important to note that it was a Scotsman who first predicted the existence of radio waves (James Clerk Maxwell), although the theory was developed by a German (Heinrich Hertz). Radio itself was then apparently invented by the Italian Guglielmo Marconi who sent [...]
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Keepers’ Café

The first part of my morning bike ride is downhill all the way. I head off slowly as the dogs run round in excited circles and we avoid the early cars, all of which have to stop, as the dogs bounce up to say hello and are convinced that they should be patted. This is their walk as well as my exercise, so I watch as they happily disappear into an old piece of hedgerow, tails wagging, before bounding into an old dew pond area, emerging with muddy legs.

Carrying on another 100 yards, I turn in to the back of [...]
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Monopoly Cards

Like any multi-faceted business we have a number of different bank accounts, some of which are in a better state than others. The estate account is particularly prone to fluctuations. In the early days I used to ask my husband every so often how bad it was – never a good topic – but then I decided I would like to help. My husband is probably slightly ambivalent about this as, whilst I can think of ways to bring in money, I am also rather too good at finding ways of spending it.

The estate account is all about the [...]
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Combine Harvester

When I was growing up I can clearly remember a song which began “I’ve got brand new combine harvester and I’ll give you the key …” It was sung by the “Wurzels”, in thick West Country accents, but it did actually top the charts. It came straight back to mind when I climbed up into our combine harvester as part of my efforts to understand a little more about our farm and how it works.

Brian, who drives the combine through the weeks of harvest, put me in the driving seat and, with a sunny word of caution – “The edge [...]
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Pots and Gardens

When Geordie and I initially began to think about what visitors might enjoy at Highclere, one of the first things we considered were the gardens. I had read somewhere that 80% of National Trust visits were due to interest in gardens. This may or may not be an accurate figure and, unlike the National Trust, we remain, fundamentally a family home rather than a “museum”, but the gist of the statistics lived with me.

Creating gardens has a long history at Highclere. In the 18th century, one of Geordie’s ancestors, Robert Herbert, designed a more traditionally formal garden here with follies and [...]
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Costumes and Dress Codes

I grew up and went to school in London. During weekends my sisters and I explored (sometimes under duress) the various museums that London has to offer. The one that I never needed to be persuaded to go to was the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. I would head straight towards any exhibition of fashion and costumes – they have an extraordinary collection depicting what we wore that spans at least four centuries. You could stare for ages at the tiny waists, beautiful, delicate lace, the velvets, dresses with enormous hoops, the shoes and the wonderful hats. Admittedly [...]
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Journeys in Time

Journeys in Time

I have never been very keen on heights: I have to tell myself to breathe and climb steadily as I go up ladders or, indeed, on ski lifts. Much to my surprise therefore, I remained remarkably calm as I climbed a very long ladder to look at the restoration work currently being done on an ancient barn on the Estate.  So many visitors and guests admire the Castle, its setting, the landscape and gardens, yet that only represents a proportion of what Geordie and I are restoring and sustaining. This is not a “normal” investment with a chance [...]
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