A Change of Pace

As summer turns to autumn, the pace and diary at Highclere changes. Public opening finishes for a time and the Castle welcomes smaller guided tours and groups which work better around our traditional commitments of game shooting and other events such as charity runs, garden tours and small dinners. The office team try to snatch some holiday after a very busy summer and as John (our Castle Manager) and I sign off holiday forms, we wonder if we may be cooking or answering the phone or whether we should put in our holiday forms as well.

We are also now planning our Christmas season and, as ever, are trying to balance numbers of expected guests against realistic guesses about how we can park people if the weather turns against us. Sally is busily planning Christmas in the gift shop with new baubles and candles and a new colour scheme for the staircase garlands which lead down into the Saloon.

School term starts and my regular tennis game resumes each Monday with three other mothers. It is played with much pleasure and enthusiasm, if less ability to sprint to angled shots than we exhibited twenty years ago. Luckily we have an uncritical audience in terms of excited dogs running around outside the court and a few of the horses who simply stare at us over their fences. This week, during tennis, the blacksmith arrived to shoe and trim various hooves. In the midst of it all, Sheila the sheep exited onto the lawns and we hastily downed rackets to persuade her to return to her field before she began to forage amongst the flower beds.  Robert from security appeared at just the right time, waving his arms around happily as it was his birthday, so he has been renamed the dancing Scotsman and his timing was perfect to help hold the horses and run after the sheep. We then resumed tennis.DogsSheep

Louise, a new member of our office team, thought she would take a more peaceful moment to familiarise herself with the Castle since she had not been able to do so over the summer.  Luis, the banqueting manager, offered to show her round and was busy making up stories about secret passages and painters called van Pickle and finally pointed out a huge silver salver (which relates to the 6th Earl) claiming instead that I had won it at Wimbledon tennis. At that point, Louise, who had seen my tennis, realised that that she had been led up the garden path.LuisOur summer gift shop stockroom has been cleared out and returned to an older identity.It is now again the Beater’s Room for the shoots, although it was also the pub in Downton Abbey. Eddie, the head keeper, arrives early in the morning surrounded by his dogs, to cook breakfast as the loaders and beaters arrive.  We now have a few clearer days in which we can complete other jobs, for example our tree surgeons had advised us we needed to thin out a magnificent cedar on the lawns before it was caught by autumnal winds and winter snow. They arrived and set to work and, although I had lots of other office work to do, it was utterly fascinating watching them and we filmed a short video which we have also posted here.





45 Responses to “A Change of Pace”
  1. Judy Laschober says:

    I am very sorry that I will not be able to attend the holiday fare, since I am arriving in the UK on 12/15. What a marvelous idea…I will make a note and make sure I can attend another year. Thank you for doing the blog. I have just discovered it, and I know the past archives will be enjoyable.
    Best wishes from California

  2. Linda lomas says:

    Its a beautiful day and life is good

  3. Ruth says:

    Thank you for sharing this lovely place with the world! Most people do not realize the huge amount of work required to keep historic properties functional and interesting for visitors. I work at a small historic site in the states and we depend greatly on our volunteers. My job as office manager entitles me to do everything from secretarial work, to creating signage, to cleaning restrooms, to demonstrating various skills from the 18th century. It has to be a labor of love to keep the historic places vibrant and relevant to our day. Thank you for all you do!

  4. thomas c glander says:

    It looks like a nice fall day there. Here in Alabama it’s Hot and Dry. Hotter than normal especially for a guy from Minnesota. Love that cedar tree.

    • Marilyn Slagel says:

      I’m hoping we Alabamians have some cooler weather by the weekend. So hot down here. It makes me wish for a trip back to Highclere and a walk on the grounds among the trees.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      The cedar trees are amazing they are story unto themsleves

  5. Natalie Graham says:

    Loved the story of chasing livestock around while in the middle of tennis… too bad there isn’t a video of that!! 😀

    Lovely post as usual, Lady Carnarvon. I love the giant trees on the grounds and it is indeed fascinating to watch skilled arborists do their job! Here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, we have giant live oaks that need the same type attention to keep them healthy and prevent damage from storms.

    It is so nice to get a glimpse of what is going on at Highclere. Have a great rest of the week.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Neither did I manage to video the dancing scotsman – Robert – that was just surreal just above the tennis court!

  6. Katherine Morehouse says:

    Thank you, Lady Carnarvon, for our wonderful visit on September 26. It was the highlight of my 17 day visit to England in September.

    For me, one of the best parts, was the chance to briefly speak with you when we entered your lovely house.

    Katherine Morehouse
    Alamo, California

  7. Charlotte Cole says:

    Wonderful to read of the changes autumn brings to the Castle! We all have our “yard work” to do, be it raking leaves, pruning branches and putting flower beds to rest for the winter. Thank you for sharing your lovely view of it all!

  8. Penelope Carlevato says:

    Love your sense of humor! Thanks for sharing your views of how you spend your days keeping Highclere looking wonderful! I so enjoyed meeting you last month and drinking my morning cuppa remembering the wonderful time I had at The Garden Party!!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      It is those moments in time which helps one enjoy the more mundane times – I thought the garden party was very special and everyone looked wonderful

  9. John Johnson says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon.

    A brilliant post as always. I loved the idea for you chasing the sheep around. How naughty of Luis telling all those tall tales!! Was it the tree the one where the Dowager and the Countess had tea in Downton?

    I enjoyed the tree video. I’ll be ordering one of he Christmas bauble.


  10. David says:

    Another beautiful word picture painted with your magnificent writing style. After seeing the video of you and the tree surgeons, I began to wonder what it would be like to hear you read your blog post aloud. I can just picture you, sitting by a warm fireplace or on garden bench, reflecting your written thoughts. I, for one, would love that.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Some of my historical books are on audio and these diaries or blogs I think might be a fun book /audio – so I rather agree…

  11. Paula says:

    Another delightful post…loved the video and enjoyed greatly the story of your tennis match. Thank you for sharing your life In such a real way. A visit to Highclere is definitely on my bucket list!

  12. Maria Augusta Pinheiro says:

    La vie est belle.I love that cedar tree.

  13. David Charles DuBois says:

    Lady Carnarvon, I am so looking forward to meeting you and Lord Carnarvon on my next visit to the UK. I will plan a trip out to Highclere Castle as a highlite of my holiday. More like 2017 as when I’ll be available to travel. Cheers!

  14. Jean says:

    The end of summer here brings much work work to do in preparing the harvest for winter – canning, freezing, pickling. It’s a flurry for a few weeks and then a time to relax and savor the beauty of changing leaves and cooler air – anticipating that first day of snow. God does give us time to prepare for the winter winds and snow by clearing the lawns of outdoor furniture, covering the pool, gathering firewood, and battening down the hatches. That was very interesting to watch prepping that magnificent cedar for winter – a thought we don’t do here. Usually we clean up in Spring after the winter has knocked down any dead stock.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      We have apples to eat and collect plus I have a tray full of quinces sitting on a table here and I mean to make some quince jelly this weekend. We have had a good summer with sun and warmth so I am also looking forward to autumn.

  15. Bernice Andersen says:

    What a wonderful site, I have only just discovered it. Being a late but avid fan of Downton Abby, having only watched the full series over the last 12 months , I find this is filling a void that the series has left in my life. Such a beautiful place with so much history. As I am an Australian with Scottish and English ancestry I am enthralled with the way of life there. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog Lady Carnarvon. Thank you. Bernice Andersen,
    Queensland Australia.

  16. Kathy Stewart says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon, thank you again for sharing Highclere Castle’s daily adventures. I like to think I am there being part of all the activities. It is the beginning of Fall weather in New York State, so nights are thankfully cooler than they have been. Our stores and children are in Halloween mode and foliage color is appearing. Thank you so much. Kathy Stewart

  17. Lori says:

    Like always I enjoy all of your blogs.Although I don’t live in a castle,but with your blogs it shows me the never ending tasks to keep the castle still going,as well as liveable.I live in a 1930 art deco bungalow and with its age it’s a never ending task to keep it up to date,as well as the restoration’s we’ve done to it.While I sit in my chair in my front room I envision the trees turning there at Highclere castle and what a pleasurable sight that must be.In the future I plan on reading more of your wonderful blogs. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Mary Beth says:

    Thanks for another interesting blog…Love your laugh!!

    Mary Beth

  19. Louise says:

    Thankyou for sharing it brought back my happy memories of visiting my cousin’s ivy and Johnny and thinking how many of my family down the generations have seen that tree

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      How lovely – I remember visiting them too – they looked after my husband’s dog didn’t they?

  20. Dianne Wasgatt says:

    Thanks again for a lovely description of a day at Highclere . I have visited Highclere twice and hopefully will be back next year..I bought Highclere calendars from the gift shop back to the states with me and gave them to friends as much appreciated gifts..any chance we can order them from the gift shop or can we order them from another source?
    I just received the set of postage stamps you proudly wrote about in your last blog..congratulations you must be very proud .

  21. Victoria Greene says:

    My sister and I visited this summer from over the pond. What a treat!!

    Along with taking a tour of Bampton, and having a wonderful
    dinner at Rules, a good time was had by all.

    Highclere is gorgeous!

    Victoria Greene

  22. Patty Reeves says:

    What a sweet read. We don’t experience Fall here in the tropics but reading about them elsewhere reminds me that seasons bring with them external changes and internal ones as well. *I hope Sheila didn’t fill up on flowers* what a clever addition, and I’m so happy for the ease this time of year brings to you and staff and friendships and tennis and quieter times. Now you may enjoy things a bit more instead of the afterwards and asking, ‘Did all go well?” which comes with being Hostess. (smiling)

    Happy Autumn to you. Very much enjoy reading your blogs. and the Youtube video was also fun. It’s like sitting at a window looking out from Highclere Castle which is in VERY good hands.

    I’m baking Apple Butter Bread at the moment and if I was there I’d slice off warm bits and share with the new staff and the tree trimmers and you and maybe Sheila.

    Warm regards,

  23. Lady Carnarvon says:

    Sally in the gift shop would be delighted to send you more calendars – just email her from the web site! She is updating the web site with photos whenever she can at the moment but she is also doing a stocktake before launching towards Christmas. I poured her a glass of champagne this evening to encourage her counting!

    You are right, I am proud of Highclere being on stamp – I had to keep it a secret for ages and thought it was a great “present” for my husband!

    • Dianne Wasgatt says:

      Thank you for your reply. I’ll be in contact with Sally and can’t wait to replace my 2016 calendar with 2017..

  24. lorraine talla says:

    Good Day Lady Carnarvon I wanted to ask when you started with horses and what horses you have had over the years

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I and my sister Sarah rode round Hyde Park in London from the age of 5 or 6 or so I think. I do remember that our grandmother used to buy us beautiful tweed jackets and yellowish jodhpurs with gloves and we all looked smarter than I do now! I rode in the country later and horses and ponies have always been part of my life. It is beautiful today and I have biked round the fields to take all the rugs off which seemed to please them. They teach me so much and it is wonderful learning to read their body language.

  25. Stella says:

    Dear Lady Carnavon, Looks like you were having beautiful weather for a beautiful day to do seasonal work before winter sits in. Our weather is cooling down, most fairs are over, pumpkins are being placed outside for fall decorations, and thoughts are rattering around in the back of our minds just how close Christmas is showing up on the calendar. You are very blessed with everything in your life, for instant 20 years of being able to play tennis and for keeping those friends for 20 years. Dogs and horses were your audience how funny. I enjoyed hearing your voice in the video on tree trimming. Thank you for sharing your life.

  26. Lady Carnarvon says:

    If I am doing some yoga in the garden the dogs also try and help out. But I do like trying to take some exercise outside and they are loving and uncritical!!!

  27. Janice says:

    I am disabled and find your blog to be fun, informational, and chatty. Wish I could visit Highclere as a tourist, but that won’t be happening. Thank you for lightening my day, now and then.

  28. Ann C. Flood says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon,

    As Fall approaches great things are happening at Highclere Castle. I so enjoyed this post. Your description of your tennis games were hilarious. I’d like to comment though that you should be glad I am not playing with you ladies. One sight of my playing would get your dogs howling and then you would be to distracted to play! (laughing) Happy Fall to you and your family.


    Ann Catherine Flood

  29. Cynthia Thompson says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon, getting ready for fall and the holidays has always been my favorite time of year. The changing of our surroundings and anticipation of special events has been made even more special through your daily and seasonal preparations. Thank you for sharing and your wonderful blog.

    Time well spent,

  30. Patsy Arnett says:

    I’m so happy my favorite tree at Highclere is well looked after! I just love that tree. It just demonstrates all the hard work that goes into keeping up a castle and the grounds that surround it. It truly does take a village.

  31. Mary Hendricks says:

    As others have stated it is always a pleasure to read your blog. It has been a desire of mine to visit for many years. I have been to the UK on at least two occasions in recent years but always at times the Castle was closed to visitors.

    I live in Tennessee and Fall is a beautiful time of year in our area. The mountains are full of color and there are always leaves to collect in our yard.
    Hope to be able to visit the castle on a trip very soon. Stay well and keep blogging so we can hear of the many happenings even if we live far away.

  32. Marc says:

    I stopped by the castle yesterday as I am on business in the area. I was going to walk along the paths to try and take some pictures.

    I didn’t realise it was closed to the public, but from what I saw it looks beautiful. I really hope I can make it down again some time when it is open to the public.

    When would that be?

    Healthy Regards

  33. eMoov says:

    This a beautiful place to see with your family. A day in Highclere will sure to be filled of fun and memories. Hope it will be opened to a lot of people soon.

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